Canadian Bert terHart returns home after setting sail from British Columbia in late October last year to embark on a months-long solo journey circumnavigating the globe. On July 18, the married father of four arrived at Saxe Point Park in Victoria, B.C., where he was welcomed by family and friends — and promptly thrust into the realities of life under COVID-19.
BERT TERHART: For the last nine months, I've been sailing around the world by myself in the most extreme oceanic environments that exist on this planet. But when I got back, the first thing I said, what did I miss?
I started from the West Coast of North America, in particular Victoria, British Columbia, last October-- October 28. And I sailed around the world non-stop, solo, in a small sailboat through the Southern Ocean. And arrived back in Victoria, July 18, 2020.
I was actually really anxious about coming back. I had some idea of what was going on with respect to COVID. But you can't fully understand it or fully grasp it until you actually are immersed in it.
Personally, am I going to be quarantined? I was anxious about that. I was anxious about what the world might look like. We realize that people are very cognizant of the social businesses so they're constantly moving away from you. It's a really, really harsh and brutal introduction to the new world. And I understood some of it, but not all of it.
And then, of course, it's seeing your wife, again. Seeing your family and friends. It was unbelievably overwhelming.
I definitely wasn't the safest person in the world, by any stretch of the imagination. Other than the singular of COVID.
The person who coined that phrase-- as far as I know-- is not a sailor. Sailing itself is incredibly dangerous, just because the weather is so extreme. The waves are so big. The water is so cold. And, of course, you're so far away from help.
But, to be honest, I never felt isolated. Because I was always writing something. My philosophy was if you can email me, then I answered you. Which got to be a bit of a challenge. Because towards the end, when I could have been sleeping, I was writing emails, like, there are a lot of emails.
How I've changed or what the biggest impact on me was, I think, that the longer I was away, the noise of my normal everyday life began to fade away. The things that you shed, the things that end up away from you are unimportant.
One of the things that's really nice is not being strapped down into your bed with a seatbelt. Not sleeping with all your clothes on because it's just too hard to get undressed and dressed when the weather's terrible.
People have asked me, did you ever think about turning round and coming back? And the answer to that question is no. I never would allow myself the luxury of saying, well, I can always-- at any stage, I can quit. That was just never going to happen. So part of that you're never going to quit is that you're always going to be alone, until you actually finish. And then you won't be alone anymore.