Overcoming fears & facing challenges sailing the South Pacific
by Anna Kirtlan
This is the story of a women who meets a man with a boat, and sets out on a voyage battling two forces: her total lack of sailing experience and ability, and her struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder and bouts of anxiety.
She leaves behind her beloved cat Ollie and, with her partner Paddy, sets off on a 6-month voyage around the Pacific Islands, in a steel-hulled 18-tonne yacht called Wildflower.
The constant struggle with weather, seasickness and day and night watch keeping, and several sailing emergencies, brings on many episodes of severe anxiety, but with the help of Paddy’s calming presence she triumphs over all of these things.
From being totally domestically challenged she learns to prepare food in the rolling, heaving galley of the yacht and even gets to swap recipes with fellow yachties. She experiences the camaraderie between crews of other yachts heading north at the same time, learning that whatever help you needed, someone would always be there, trusting that if they in turn had a problem, you would help them.
Anna Kirtlan paints a very real picture of life in the remote areas of Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Along the way the couple have many interesting adventures, including climbing an erupting volcano in Vanuatu, diving through an underwater tunnel into a beautiful cavern in Tonga, and visiting several Islands that were badly damaged by the tsunami that devastated much of Samoa.
She comments on tensions that have built up between the indigenous people and the administrations in power in their country, and how hostility disappeared when it was realised that she and Paddy were from New Zealand.
The book is written in a light and readable style, with many touches of humour that make light of the inner struggle she must have been going through. I appreciated the photographs in the book, although they are not of good quality because they are printed on plain paper and have not reproduced well. However, they can be viewed in colour on the website of the book, and more can be found on Anna’s Facebook page.
The final chapter tells of the struggle they both had on returning to ‘normal’ life in Wellington. She makes the comment that, when sailing, you tend to remember only the good times, and these memories make you want to do it all again. In the case of Anna and Paddy, they are planning to sail to the Pacific again in 2016.
I wish them bon voyage in advance, and look forward to reading the account of this next voyage.
Author: Anna Kirtlan
Publisher: Bateman Publishing