After a shorter-than-expected journey, I’m back home in Southern California. It was a wild ride during the three-plus months we were out at sea. When I arrived back home, I was greeted with more than a few looks of relief from folks who have been following my blog (“Whew, he survived!”). Others wanted to know why we returned home so soon, rather than sail further south to New Zealand and Tasmania as planned. The answer lies in more than a few unexpected lessons learned.
The best-laid plans
As many of you know, I had anticipated an idyllic one-year sail in the South Pacific. My goal was to return to the islands I had visited 40 years ago and report on the changes, both positive and negative. I had also hoped to travel to some of the more remote atolls that I was unable to visit the first time around.
I saw this as a wonderful opportunity. Under the majestic backdrop of the South Seas, I could spend time with my children talking about their lives and future plans, share stories and laughter with friends and family, and have some quiet time away from the noise of civilization to reflect upon my time with Nutrilite and my 80 years on this planet.
All good ideas, but sometimes the best-laid plans are not meant to be.
At the whim of El Nino
We prepared for over two years for this journey, finding the boat and bringing her up to specifications, securing an expert crew, planning our route, training for any medical emergency, and countless other details. But in the end, we couldn’t prepare for what would derail us: El Nino.
The recent El Nino and its turbulent aftermath made our travel especially tough, slamming us with violent sailing conditions from the start and forcing us to change our itinerary. Strong and erratic wind and storm activity dictated that we avoid marginal anchorages and stick to established sailing routes, which dashed my hope of visiting any remote atolls.
A traveler rather than a sailor
While refurbishing the Double X for our sail, we discovered a few technical and mechanical issues that took longer than expected to fix. This prevented any serious sailing training for those of us with little current sailing knowledge, including my family and me. While we were sailing, the turbulent weather made any training next to impossible. Rather than manning the fore-deck and actively sailing we were confined to the cockpit, keeping watch, monitoring instruments, washing dishes and trying to be helpful with minor chores.
This was not my original intention, not by a long shot. I wanted to be a working member of the crew. To me, it’s always more fun and rewarding to be part of the action. But when you don’t have the proper training, protocol dictates safety first.
Maybe I didn’t need a Ferrari
The Double X is no casual weekend sailboat. She is a majestic 78-foot cutter with a 100-foot mast that reminds me of a fast sleek racehorse. Having such sailing power means that those sailing her have to be skilled and attentive at all times. Unlike the Firebird, which needed only one person at the helm, the Double X needed two at all times to monitor conditions and make adjustments as needed.
Dreaming of a comfortable bed
Warm ocean water (up to almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit at times) heating up the boat below deck and rough conditions made sleeping a test of endurance at times. The situation got the best of my lovely Francesca. One evening she turned to me and made a good humored confession that made me laugh and cry at the same time: “When I go to bed at night, I close my eyes as tight as I can, and I hope that when I wake up in the morning I will be in my own bed at home.” She was such a trooper to join me on this trip, only to suffer so many unexpected challenges.
It was clear almost from the beginning of our journey that the rising water acidity and temperature was taking its toll on sea life. The fish population had dramatically declined, perhaps in part to migration to cooler waters, and the coral reefs were dying. I had seen all I needed.
Life back home calls
Although my son Rod was able to join us for the Pacific crossing, he had to return to his job shortly thereafter. As for the rest of our children, they were busy with their own careers, which made it tough for them to join us (probably a good thing, given our conditions). Francesca and I decided to return home so we could be with them and the grandkids. I was also eager to see how the business was doing.
Of course, while we were at sea, the U.S. election was picking up, creating a polarizing atmosphere. I felt that I could do more from home to help make sure the environment remains a high priority in our national consciousness.
One world, one people
Back home, another important issue needs more awareness: the human genome project. To me, this is one of the biggest breakthroughs on our planet, yet I believe the people who would benefit the most are not getting enough information.
I believe that, if we are to solve the problems of today’s world, we must first recognize that we are all the same people, the same genome. This 5-minute DNA Journey video shows just how connected we are.
By embracing our similarity, we develop respect and love for each other and a recognition that we are all in this together. We all deserve the same opportunity for education and health and a meaningful life full of love, work and play. It’s a mindset that allows us to better work together on important issues like climate, economy, health and peace.
A timeless message
Another reason to get back home is to help bring more awareness to the importance of sustainability, a message that I have been passionate about for decades. More than ever, this planetary boat we call Mother Earth needs us. We only have 1,000 years to figure this out, says renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, or we will need to move to another planet. He certainly makes a compelling argument.
A shining example for the planet
Once I settle in back home, I plan to visit our farms in Washington, Mexico, and Brazil and our Nutricert farms around the world to increase awareness of how the land is stronger and more productive because of sustainable practices. I see these farms as a shining example of what we could do for our entire planet.
Of course, I’ll continue to champion the importance of being a “product of the product” and community involvement. How Rich and Jay and the DeVos and Van Andel families have worked to rebuild Grand Rapids is an enormously good example of this. It is the same for the communities on our farms, our Power of 5 program, and other programs aimed at giving everybody an equal opportunity to achieve their human potential, whatever it may be.
Hope fueled by laughter and song
Since my first visit to French Polynesia, I have found great joy in how the people recognize that we are all in this together. On this trip, I continued to marvel at how people from all walks of life gather together at local events to fill the air with laughter, song and ukulele playing. It gives me great hope that at the heart of every person is the desire to be happy, to have healthy children, to laugh, and to have joy and love in their lives.
My next adventure
With the end of our Double X journey, I’m ready for a new adventure. I’m still going strong at 80 (thanks in great part to my lifelong Nutrilite habit), so I want to take full advantage and continue being part of the action. For me, the proposition that healthy living can help me live up to my genetic potential, perhaps enjoying another 10 to 20 years of productivity, is quite exciting.
Thank you for following along on this sailing adventure. I hope along the way you found inspiration to not only learn more, but take action.
Although we’ve wrapped up this sailing adventure, I may continue this blog to post updates on what’s coming up next. We will see. In the meantime, I wish you and your families a most magical holiday.
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