Chris Ayres was 66 when he moved aboard his yacht “with a circumnavigation in thoughts”. He had examine folks setting off on adventures. “I assumed, let’s strive it. I preferred the concept that you could possibly simply get on a ship and head off.”
He was able to sail when the pal who was to hitch him as crew backed out. “I’d sailed solo earlier than, however just for a day or so. Not like heading into the ocean, the place you’re crusing for twenty-four hours,” he says from his house in Sheffield. A map of the world hangs on the wall beside him.
At first Ayres felt spooked, nervous. There have been squalls, hissing lightning. However he sounds entranced when he says: “For those who get away from the coast, you realise the water’s blue. You recognize? It truly is blue.”
Ayres, 73, is separated and has two grownup kids. When he was a young person dwelling on the sting of London, he fell in love with the mountains moderately than the ocean, on a visit to the Lake District. “I might stroll throughout tough floor and it didn’t really feel tough. I felt at house,” he says. He subsequently labored as a climbing teacher and mountain information.
So he likes the concept of commanding the weather? “The weather are in command,” he replies. “Not you. They’re the boss.”
Dealing with them, then? “It sounds a bit humorous however … The awesomeness of nature. There’s the identical feeling in massive mountains as there’s within the seas. Some extent of feeling freedom,” he says. “Chart-reading and navigation is one other hyperlink.”
Ayres’s first expertise of crusing got here when his pal Don Brown, whom he’d met climbing, chartered a ship and invited Ayres to hitch him. That was in 2001, when Ayres was 53, and he knew instantly that he needed to get his personal boat. “To be an entire particular person – an entire sailor – moderately than simply another person’s crew.”
He had at all times thought crusing was “out of attain. I by no means had sufficient cash … There’s a notion, largely true, that crusing is for the wealthy.”
He purchased a small boat, a Sadler 25, and after his dad and mom died, an even bigger one. The brand new vessel, Sea Bear, had a formidable solidity. “It dawned on me: I might do issues on this boat. I might sail around the globe. It woke up this lengthy pushed-to-one-side dream.”
As a baby, Ayres beloved journey tales. The cabinets of the household house “groaned with books”. One month, his dad and mom’ guide membership despatched Determined Voyage, a memoir by John Caldwell, set on the finish of the second world warfare, which Ayres devoured. “He had a spouse or sweetheart caught on the opposite aspect of the world,” Ayres says. With no expertise, Caldwell bought a ship and sailed to her.
I had assumed that being alone was a part of the attraction of crusing for Ayres, however he says not. After boarding Sea Bear in 2014, he sailed to Spain, Portugal, Cape Verde, throughout the Atlantic to Martinique, after which explored the Caribbean. His son joined him for a couple of weeks within the Galapagos islands.
“All these fantastic locations and also you’ve bought the satisfaction of understanding you’ve made it there by yourself steam, because it had been – powered by the wind. It’s fairly unbelievable actually. When you’ve bought the boat, it prices nearly nothing. You’ll be able to lie on Caribbean seashores and swim within the sea, and go to all these fantastic locations that may take half a lifetime of annual holidays.”
He had crossed the Pacific solo and arrived in New Zealand when Covid-19 hit. By then, Ayres had been voyaging for six years. He put Sea Bear on a ship and took a repatriation flight house. Each await their subsequent voyage.
“I’d do what I did over again,” he says, however ideally not alone. “I miss with the ability to share issues with somebody.”