Sometimes when you sail offshore, the horizon disappears,
and you can't tell
where the water ends, and the heavens begin. You feel like you are
floating in space. Once you're out of sight of land and the sun goes
down, there's blackness beneath you and the Milky Way above. Billions
of galaxies twinkle in the darkness and surround you on all sides.
A feeling of mystery and oneness with the universe descends on you as your
yacht sails on through the night.
Did you ever want to leave your earth-bound existence behind and travel in
outer space to the far reaches of the galaxy? I have felt that way too
many times to count, and I suspect the thought has crossed your mind as well. The good news is that you can do it - sort of. I'll
When astronauts blast off into orbit on the space shuttle, they end up
only a few hundred miles above planet earth. In the space station they
are less than three-hundred miles from the nearest land (directly beneath
them). When I blasted off across the Pacific Ocean in Exit Only, I was
fifteen hundred miles from the nearest land as I sailed to French Polynesia.
My crew and I were on our own; there was no mission control to guide us on
our way. Just like the space shuttle, we had to be self-sufficient in
all areas. Although we didn't have to carry oxygen like space
travelers, we had to take food, water, and enough survival supplies to last
several months in case something went wrong.
I realize Exit Only isn't the Millennium Falcon and that we are traveling
at substantially less than the speed of light. Nevertheless, we are
out there on our own in our small part of the Milky Way Galaxy. The
fact that we are floating on the interface between two fluids (water and
air) does not diminish the adventure we feel as we travel through near
space. The fact that we are flying at only six knots on our journey
does not erase our sense of achievement when we return from near space and
place our feet on dry land.
Although most people don't think of themselves as intergalactic travelers,
all of us are living on spaceship earth. Our planet hurtles through
the galaxy at thousands of miles per hour. When city folks look up in
the sky at night they can't see the stars because of the light pollution,
and they forget they traveling on a spaceship. Sailor are different.
When sailors look up in the night sky, they know that they are space
travelers immersed in the Milky Way.
Just because you're not riding in the space shuttle doesn't mean you are not
an astronaut. Every time you weigh anchor and sail into the unknown,
you blast off in your spaceship. An astronaut in the space shuttle and
a sailor on a dark night at sea both see the same thing. Although the
astronaut is in near space, and the sailor in nearer space, both of them see
millions of miles in every direction with their naked eyes.
Those of you who feel like your life is going
nowhere need to go out in wilderness far from the cities and look up into
the night sky. You will instantly understand what I'm talking about.
You'll forget about your woes, and a sense of awe will overwhelm your heart
and mind, because you too are a space traveler. You might even give up
your land-locked existence and explore the galaxy in a spaceship of your
own. Just raise your sails and point the bow of your small ship toward
the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, and before long, near space will
be your home.