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Stoneways Marine 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Can a place so isolating as the ocean bring us closer?

by The 59º North Quarterdeck 1 Aug 20:03 UTC
Can a place so isolating as the ocean bring us closer? © The 59º North Quarterdeck

Last night on Southsea beach, fish and chips and sparkling wine in hand, my friend Will and I toasted our beloved friend Chrissie. It had been a year since Chrissie passed. Her first signs of cancer revealed themselves in China, during the Clipper race, after we had raced 5000 miles from Australia.

In her last days, her sister would wheel her out to the cliffs so that she could watch the waves and breathe in the sea air. As it is for so many of us, the ocean was a healer for Chrissie. Even on her deathbed, the sensory experience of the ocean helped her to feel alive. Sitting on the seashore as the sun set, I realised that the ocean is indeed a conveyor - connecting us to each other in both the literal sense around the globe, and a spiritual one: helping us feel closer, even to absent friends.

For hundreds of years, the ocean has been an anchor for a community - of sailors and seafarers. And what a paradoxical community this is: we must travel, work, and play in the most isolated places on earth to build our most meaningful relationships and find a sense of belonging.

In October 2021, Andy and I discussed this at length over a rainy weekend in the UK (not as damp - I should add - as his three-day upwind stint down the North Sea in the days prior). Over a roast dinner and a few cask ales we chatted about our passion for our community - about how lucky we felt to have each other's friendship, and about how amazing and interesting our colleagues and fellow crew members are.

Andy is a great person to bounce around ideas with. He is an optimist and is excited by a challenge (you have probably noticed...). So, I told him that I had an idea. An idea to broaden our community. To de-isolate us. The idea was born both from an innate sense of responsibility that I have had since I first started sailing to make sailing more accessible and inclusive, but also from a selfish perspective - to meet even more inspiring people who will develop our sport even further.

Side-discussion: is seafaring a sport, a way of life, or a means of travel? Or something else?

My idea was this: I wanted to build a resource platform online - to help dissolve some of the barriers that keep people away from sailing, grow our community and provide a 21st century solution to learning about seamanship. A library of videos, blog posts, articles and more could provide a contemporary and affordable alternative to joining a yacht club, or paying the high price of a sailing trip or course.

The beauty of the internet is that it doesn't matter what you look like, what your job is, where you come from or how good you are at sailing - it's a place that can be truly inclusive. On this platform there would be a place for everyone: the long-standing sailing nerds (like us), the wannabe sailing nerds, and even those who have never even had the opportunity to see the ocean before - to learn, earn, and discuss all things seamanship.

Andy replied, "we should 100% do this together. We have the basis of this already formed (Quarterdeck) and collaborating on this could be perfect."

So, eight months later, here we are. We opened the cookie jar that weekend and weren't quite able to put the lid back on. We all - August, Emma, Mia, Andy and I - feel that this platform really has potential to be the go-to resource for learning seamanship and all things related, long into the future. We hope you agree! So, watch this space.

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