By John Willacy
The winter nights are drawing out, bodies are refreshed and minds are looking forward to the season ahead. Ideas are forming and plans are being laid. There are islands to be rounded, channels to be crossed.
But as we anticipate the adventures to come, we need also to take a time to consider the challenges and implications involved. The sea is not just a big swimming pool; it is not always flat, nor heated to 25 degrees, there isn’t a useful handrail all around the edge.
It has no respect for us, nor allows for our skill or reputation. It doesn’t care a fig that we may have a strong desire to complete our challenge or that we are raising money for a worthy cause. The ocean cares not for a desire to set a record, to make a name, or just ‘because it is there’.
A strength of purpose can’t overcome all open water adversity; only if you have gills and are invulnerable to hypothermia.
We need to be completely frank when we consider our abilities and limits, and we need to understand when we are pushing close to them. Let’s try not to fall for our own hype or worry too much about what others are doing. Pride, ego and a long-term future are not necessarily best buddies in this game.
We have a duty to ensure our skills are practised and sharp; that our mind and body are fit; and that we are honest with ourselves. Just because we got away with it before, doesn’t mean that we did it the right way…or that it will work out the next time.
We should be wary of an unquestioning belief in technology, or the seduction of marketing promises. Batteries run out. Breathable fabrics can only do so much. Helicopters break down and Lifeboats take time. We need to plan, prepare and anticipate, rather than manage and react. Take responsibility – self-reliance is important, experience is key.
But there is adventure to be had out there: limits to be lifted, challenges to overcome, accomplishment to be won and reward to be found.
However whatever we do, we should not forget that when the spraydeck goes on next time, it takes us one step nearer to our next swim – all of us…