Ever wanted to sail off into the sunset in search of your true destiny, just you and the sea... embracing your inner 'salty scallywag' by island hopping your way around the earth on a magical adventure? Liz Clark is an amazing individual that has been living on her boat on a solo voyage doing just that. Liz is a surfer, writer, environmentalist, and ambassador of light and love who has captained her 40-ft sailboat, 'Swell', 15000 miles around the Pacific. Being somewhere out there in the big blue I managed to communicate with her via the technology of our modern times and asked Liz some questions:
Where are you right now in the world?
Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
What equipment do you use and how important is it to your work/travels/lifestyle?
Great question, as my life is filled with important equipment! I have a range of sails for different wind speeds, kind of like a quiver of surfboards for a variety of waves. Plus, there are a lot of different components that keep the sails where they should be—like the mast, boom, cables, halyards, sheets, and blocks. It sounds complicated, but once you are around it for a while, it’s easy to see how they all work together to move the boat along. The ‘windlass’ is a motorized winch that pulls up the anchor. With almost 100m of 10mm steel chain with an 18 kilo anchor on the end, I rely on the windlass to get all that anchor gear back on the boat when I want to pull up and go. I also have big winches for trimming the headsail. These winches are not electric, which means I have to turn them myself, but they are big enough to give me ample mechanical advantage to trim the sails even when there are huge amounts of force on them. I also have a davit for getting my outboard on and off the dinghy. It’s a simple 7:1 pulley system that allows me to pull up and lower down the 75lbs of my outboard motor. Simple pulleys make up a lot of my techniques for doing heavy lifting alone. Even my ‘bosun’s chair’ (which is a seat designed for going up the mast) is equipped with a 3:1 pulley system that allows me to pull myself right up the mast. It’s great because I’m 1/3 as light and don’t need someone to raise and lower me while I work up the mast.
My electrical system includes four batteries, two 85-watt solar panels mounted on a rotating pole, and a 3-blade wind generator. I generally have no problem supplying all my electrical needs (lights, stereo, computer, refrigerator, camera battery charging, and my SSB and VFH radios) between these two green energy sources! I have a small portable Honda generator for back up charging and running power tools. That brings us to tools: I have a LOT of tools. Throughout this voyage I have learned that you don’t necessarily have to be big and strong to do a difficult job, often, you just need the right tool! So I have tools for all sorts of jobs.
I have an amazing modem that works through my long distance radio to send and receive text emails while I am in remote areas or at sea without internet. This enables me to keep in touch with family and friends in my often isolated world…
I also have a GPS chartplotter for navigating, a heavy duty sewing machine for repairing sails and canvas, fiberglass repair essentials, fishing and spearfishing gear, and a scuba setup, photography equipment and a couple GoPro cameras, back up anchors and ropes and spare parts, dry bags…the list could go on and on!
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by everyday people who love what they do, by extraordinary people who raise other people up with them, and by people who stand up when they believe in something. All the great spiritual leaders who have encouraged humans to live for each other, the Planet, and for a greater good inspire me. I find inspiration in small acts of kindness from strangers and in the unconditional love from my family. To name some names--Roz Savage, St. Mother Teresa, Pema Chodron, Amma, Ghandi, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dali Lama, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, H.D. Thoreau, Mark Twain, Bernard Motesseir, Yvon Chouinard, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
And where do you draw your inspiration and courage?
I draw my daily inspiration from nature. Even a weed growing from a crack in the sidewalk can inspire me! Living close to nature provides me with small daily joys and infusions of inspiration that come to me when I’m in natural surroundings. The stunning wild beauty I witness both en route and arriving to remote island destinations, along with the surfing experiences they provide, are enough to balance out the often uncomfortable time at sea, frustrating equipment repairs, and the scary uncertainties. As the ocean grows more and more polluted with plastic, void of life due to overfishing, and wacked out from climate change, I’m all the more inspired to sail myself to some of the remaining corners of Earth’s wilderness, for it is in these places that I feel the most energized, inspired, and close to the Source. The purity of nature is so humbling, refreshing, and attractive to me!
Courage is something we all have; I think we can develop it by using it more often…
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a book that details the more personal journey that I’ve taken on this voyage. But I’m out sailing around north eastern French Polynesia right now, so that project is moving slowly for the moment. While underway, I’ve been doing eco-talks in schools on the islands where I sail to raise awareness about local environmental issues (like pollution, plastic, and ecosystem conservation). I keep a blog at www.swellvoyage.com where I share my experiences, hoping to inspire others to appreciate nature, live their passions, and become conscious of their daily impact on the Earth. I’m also working with The Clean Oceans Project this year in an effort to bring the latest ‘Plastic to Oil’ technology to the South Pacific in order to close the ‘waste loop’ and turn plastic into a resource rather than trash.
I can imagine that this experience has been life-changing, can you share with us in what way?
Living this dream has given me a perspective of how everything is connected—especially how we as humans are connected to each other and to the rest of life on Earth. It’s made me more patient. I’ve learned how to enjoy giving and how a positive attitude can entirely change the way you experience life and what you attract into your life. It’s also taught me to appreciate simple things (like hot showers and fresh salads) and realize how lucky we are (not only to be surfers) but to be born into lives where education and ‘freedom of choice’ are standards for women. I’ve also learned that nothing comes in life without a lot of hard work, but that we must constantly seek balance between work, play, socializing, and giving back to our body, mind, spirit. I’ve learned that blissful highs are almost certainly accompanied by difficult lows, and that how we deal with the latter has a lot to do with the path our lives will take. We can either pity ourselves, wondering ‘why me?’ or we can see adversity as an opportunity to learn, and go forward positively. The sense of peace that comes with accomplishing a great challenge is something I wish everyone could feel for themselves, which is why I keep doing what I’m doing and trying to inspire others to face the fears that impede them from living the life they really want to be living.
What has been the biggest challenge to over come?
1. The fear of failure when I first left on the voyage.
2. The fear of being alone.
3. Finding and repairing the mysterious leak that kept me in the boat yard for 11 months out of 2008-2010.
Can you foresee yourself sailing and living on the ocean for ever?
Maybe…but I’d love to find a place where I could have the best of both worlds—A little plot of land to grow my own food, and Swell moored out in the bay, and of course a few good waves nearby…
What would you like to share with the readers? any advice to readers as to how they can make a difference?
Start small, but dream big. Enjoy time alone with nature. Pay attention to your positive and negative thoughts. Engage only the positive ones. Be a conscious consumer. Get involved in your community. Discover gratitude!
If we want to change the world today, instead of pointing fingers, we must look in the mirror. We all spend too much time complaining and judging others, when there is never enough time to work on our own faults. By adopting this perspective, I have learned a lot about myself, and now see how much we are all struggling with the same issues. This makes it easier to be compassionate and see our human connection.
In my mind, our global environmental issues cannot be solved in a world full of ‘me-first’ people. We need to care about each other. Maybe it takes looking at how we are all similar to develop a compassion for each other and all living things that will allow us to create a better world.
Do good things for yourself, other people and the Earth, and you’ll not only feel happier, you’ll be part of something great!
Photographic credits to Voyage Of Swell, Bali Stickland, Mckenzie Clark, Ryan Hargrave, Dominic Mosqueira