Making Landfall

Making Landfall

By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, Tx

My first time at sea was in 1987. I was a crewman aboard a 43-foot sailing vessel that sailed from New York Harbor to Bermuda, and then on to St. Thomas in the U.S Virgin Islands. I’d done a lot of sailing and racing in the Great Lakes before that, but discovered that once you’ve gotten sea water in your blood, there’s nothing like sailing across an ocean.

Captain Ed Mapes drives Voyager in a fresh breeze during a ocean passage.

Captain Ed Mapes drives Voyager in a fresh breeze during a ocean passage.

To leave the safe confines of a protected harbor for an ocean passage means taking on the sea and the elements with only the equipment on board and your seamanship abilities. There’s no help in sight, and none will be in sight for days no matter how badly you need it. That for me is the lure that keeps bringing me back.

Over the years I’ve logged over 97,000 ocean miles, and made port into many foreign lands. My business was called Voyager Ocean Passages, and we taught people interested in learning ocean seamanship how to cross oceans. They sailed as crewmembers aboard my boat, Voyager, and experienced the challenges, the misery, the absolute joy, and the pride of making landfall after crossing hundreds of ocean miles.

Now imagine that you are a crewmember, sailing across a thousand miles of empty ocean. You’ve never been away from the mainland before, and are frankly terrified of the passage and yet it’s something you’ve dreamed of doing since childhood. You come to know the ways of the boat, and what it takes to get through a day at sea. Nighttime is another adventure – yet another barrier for you to surmount; a dark night on the Atlantic Ocean – trusting in your boat and the skipper to get you through until sunrise. You see the vastness of the sea, and come to understand the unbelievable power that it has over you
As the hours and days slip past, so do the sea miles. You watch the little dots on an ocean chart progress from your point of departure toward landfall, and it’s a great feeling to know that something incredible is being accomplished.

The end of another day at sea; next comes darkness and night watches.

The end of another day at sea; next comes darkness and night watches

You sail on through gale force winds; feel the wind-blown seawater against your skin. You endure standing watch in the middle of the night when you’re usually tucked securely into a motionless bed at home. You battle through seasickness and sometimes struggle to keep down food. You learn to overcome equipment failures, making repairs on the fly, and how to maintain a steady course. You work together with your mates toward a common goal – landfall.
And then at last, far away on the horizon, you see it; a tiny puff of land is actually in sight! There is to be an end to this journey after all!

landfall3

The first sighting of land (left), even the small outline of a distant island, after a passage at sea is an emotional event. It brings about feelings of joy, relief, and a sense accomplishment in knowing that all the preparation abilities to cope with the unforeseen have paid off huge.

Now imagine what runs through your mind after an adventure like that. You experience relief. You feel joy in the knowledge that before long you’ll step off the vessel onto a solid dock. You are proud of your accomplishments. And you feel immense gratification in knowing that your efforts have borne fruit.
I can attest to all of these feelings, because I’ve lived them so many times, and I’ve seen so many sailing students make that step from the boat to shore with those same emotions. That feeling is why I sail.

Now envision if you will the sensation of knowing that you’ve taken someone’s dear pet that was sick or broken into your care. With the technology you’ve put together and your own hands, you make that animal better and watch as it walks out the door – making landfall.
That feeling is why I’m opening this hospital.

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