Paul McSorley, Derry, N.Ireland
When I grow up I would like to be a sailor. Whilst my chosen profession as an anaesthetist doesn’t easily lend itself to a life on the ocean wave, I am a keen yachtsman and have been sailing, cruising and racing for over 25 years. I am currently based in Derry, N.Ireland and sail Viking Lord a 35 ft Westerly Falcon, which is berthed on Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal. Although I have mostly sailed in coastal waters, I can boost a crossing of the Tasman Sea between Melbourne & South Island, New Zealand in a 33ft yacht some years ago. Further experience of the deep blue has remained an ambition. On turning 40 I set a goal of crossing an ocean before I turned 50. Well a decade was drawing to a close when, last year I read about Lord Nelson’s Sail The World expedition.
My particular inspirations have been yachtsmen who have circumnavigated alone. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston- the first person to circumnavigate the globe, single handed and non stop- is a personal hero. For those circumnavigators the Southern Ocean- wild, remote and empty- defines their passage. To them Cape Horn offers a turbulent and fearsome gateway to their passage home. This is a classic route for sailing vessels of old, when sailing was the only option and the Panama Canal remained to be built. Yet now there are few vessels working this stretch of water and rounding the Horn.
So the JST and Lord Nelson offered the right ocean at the right time and a square-rigged barque appealed to another inspiration- that of classic sailing. The timing allowed me to meet my end of decade ambition with a few months to spare (no cake on board for me). All boxes were ticked. My wife, Sandra and daughters, Eimile, Aoife & Roise were supportive and I was able to take unpaid leave from work. I can’t say I miss work but leaving loved ones behind has been the most difficult bit so far – even worse than Happy Hour.
I met Lord Nelson for the first time in Auckland and was immediately mightily impressed with her. She looked simply magnificent. Having been at sea for over a month and as we close Cape Horn, I am continually impressed with the dedication, professionalism and helpfulness of the permanent crew and volunteers. She is a happy boat and I cannot imagine a finer team of voyage crew with whom to share the experience. It has been an inclusive experience to date with many magic moments (eg ringing in the New Year) and unique experiences (tying gaskets on the fore t’gallant yard in near gale).
I must applaud the JST for their vision and courage to take on this challenge and give to so many of us – young, old, able-bodied and those with disabilities- who have an inkling to voyage and adventure, the opportunity to realise the dream. I will take away many fabulous memories and am very grateful.
One further step to growing up and being a sailor.
Go Raibh Mile Maith Agaibh (a thousand thanks)