What Covid did for us, all of us, is give us a glimpse into the life of the Seafarer. The claustrophobia of isolation. The uncertainty of when we will next see the ones we care for and love. The fear, occasionally rising to terror, that the best laid plans of reunion would be scuppered by a new policy or a powerful new variant. For them, our Seafarers, of course, this is another day on board, only amplified by the merciless magnifying lens of the pandemic. For the rest of us, this is a painful but necessary lesson. The more we know what those who serve our needs and desires forgo and endure, the better to understand and serve them in return.
As the summer drew nearer, so it was for my family and me. Time was spent sharing moments with, saying goodbye to friends who were moving to greener pastures. Also, the preparation for our long-awaited return to Europe to see friends and family for the first time in four years. Swimming took a backseat. How could it not? Yet, I still swam. Alone, with friends and family, all of us wishing and hoping that the trip would finally materialise.
For Europe, I had plans. Sunrise swims in the historic Bay of Marathon; battling the waves of the English Channel (not across it, just in it); sharing the deep blue of the Aegean with passing ferries and sailboats; the achingly wild beauty of barren islands peppered with homes overlooking the majesty of the Greek seascape. Some of these homes were rewarded with a returning Seafarer. Some still wait. The deck, the bridge, the engine room, they require sacrifices if they are to deliver on our demands. Sacrifices that even the most Covid-stricken of us can hardly comprehend.
In my plans, I partially succeeded. Swimming had to, again, give way. Nevertheless, this is as it should be. The early morning golden hours had to be dedicated to my mobile office so that the rest of the day could be meaningfully spent with friends and family. That was the priority. Just like a returning Seafarer would. Talking, hugging, crying, laughing, sharing, eating and drinking. All things that cannot be done or said remotely.
I practised living in the present. There was nothing but the present, for it was a gift we spent years fearing would not be given to us. I failed a lot, but I took to the challenge with relish, especially the eating and drinking. Every meal and drink was communion with loved ones, making sure every meaningful moment was savoured. Swimming helped in that regard. How can it not? The breath, the kick, the catch, the pull. They require that you be and stay in the here and now. Like the four strokes of gargantuan engines propelling steel behemoths across the seas, feeding our dreams. Again, I swam. Not as much as I would like but chipping away. With friends, with family, alone, in pools and glorious seas.
Eventually, I returned to Hong Kong. I have taken to swimming more regularly again. The first few weeks have been dedicated to re-habituating a now overweight body to the vigour of daily long swims, made harder by still soaring temperatures and oppressively high humidity. I am now back to almost daily swims. Sometimes in sunrise, sometimes under the searing midday sun, sometimes at dusk. The sea continues to give what she gives. Occasionally clean and flat, often murky and violent. One can expect no more or less. You learn to get what she gives you.
So, where does this leave me and those following this journey?
At the time of writing this, I am a month out from my self-imposed deadline. We are closer but, perhaps, not close enough. Time and the sea will tell. After all, I am but a middle-aged working man, not an adventurer athlete. A healthy amount of donations has come in. More are needed.
In terms of raw numbers, I have now been swimming for 456 days. With the financial, moral, and physical support of loved ones, or just the curious, I have now swam 954,753 metres. With just over a month to go, I still have 693,043 metres to swim. On average, this means 21 kilometres a day, IF I manage to swim every day. Insurmountable perhaps but there is no choice but to press on. In honour and recognition of the Seafarers in whose name this challenge was created. They have no choice; the world never ceases to await the wares that they provide. And so, I must too.
This would not have been possible without the help of those able and willing to help, whether by jumping in the water or clicking on the link to donate to the Mission To Seafarers (or kicking me out of bed). Thank you. I am grateful for the support. There is absolutely no comparison between the dedication and resilience of our Seafarers and my clumsy effort. Yet, like them, in some small measure, I have been toiling invisibly in the background. In their service. It has been some time since you have heard from me but I will continue to do so.
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A Metre for a Mariner | Charity Fundraising | The Mission to Seafarers
Support Dim, the son of a seafarer, to swim 1,647,500 metres in 489 days in support of seafarers worldwide. In the…
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