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Guest blog: Robert’s adventure with Oceans of Hope… So where was I?

Posted on: June 22 2017

rm-pic-1.jpgIn May we continued the series of guest blogs from Robert Munns. Robert is involved with the Oceans of Hope Challenge, which is an adventure like no other for people affected by multiple sclerosis. In this series, Robert is taking us on a journey right from his own diagnosis of MS, through to now, when he is sailing and supporting others. So, time for the next installment…

Ah yes, deep deep in the South Pacific waving goodbye to the dark clouds of accepting MS into my life....

As I said before, going on this long trip was a challenge for me. I wanted to catch a fish, kill a fish and cook a fish. I wanted to climb the mast and learn how to use a sextant.

None of that happened! instead I went in an odyssey of discovery and acceptance. I wrote and listened. Being in the Pacific heaven that I was inspired me to write the following. ( this is an excerpt from my on board blog which is still available on www.sailingsclerosis.org)

'My future is still very unclear, at the moment, I like it this way....the more time that is spent on this vast ocean, slowly consuming the hours and miles ahead of us, my mind wanders back to the Mediterranean.... mia secundo casa :) I appreciate the wealth of experience and knowledge that my time on board Big Smile gave me.

My flirtation with MS took away this confidence and sent me down a path that maybe wasn't the best available. To the people that I let down during this time, I am sorry :)

I hope to jump back into those Mediterranean waters again soon. I enjoy life at sea, in all forms: For example, making everyone on board feel safe, comfortable and happy, fixing a lunch at anchor, dealing with tiresome customs officials, washing the boat down, negotiating for a berth in an exclusive marina, sourcing spare parts or even just buying the right tomatoes from the local market.

rm-pic-2.jpgThese are all things that I am good at and I really miss doing them. As we draw nearer to our destination. Over 3,500 miles since Galapagos. As the moon has come out from behind a cocoon of clouds to the East of us, I've spent a little time thinking. I'm feeling a lot more at ease. I'm feeling a lot less distracted and unfocussed. I am clearly still battling towards a new section of my life, a section where contentment has to be sought out and pursued with vigor and passion. I will strive to move towards that goal. I do however need to put this MS into my own perspective. At present I think of it as a rat in my flat, hiding under the floor boards. It’s not scurrying around making noise, or coming into my kitchen to eat my food and defecate on my table, but I know it's there.. silently seeking out a space that it can squeeze through and invade my life again. I don’t like rats.'

I promise more tails of adventure next time

Rob

Guest blog: Robert’s adventure with Oceans of Hope...

Posted on: February 07 2017

image1-1_0.jpgIn November 2016 we introduced the first of a series of guest blogs from Robert Munns. Robert is involved with the Oceans of Hope Challenge, which is an adventure like no other for people affected by multiple sclerosis. In this series, Robert is taking us on a journey right from his own diagnosis of MS, through to now, when he is sailing and supporting others. So, time for the next installment...

Since being accepted on the Pacific leg on Oceans of Hope, I have really changed my attitude to life again. It’s an opportunity for expanding outside of my comfort zone once more. Since my last year as skipper of MY Big Smile, I've not really been the confident Robert that I used to be. It’s been a real boost to have this goal to look forward to and plan for.

For those of you reading this blog that know me, planning for things is not my strongest attribute. But this trip has been on my mind, right at the front since meeting Mikkel in Brighton marina.

Since having made my mind up last year, I have been more relaxed with life and happier to make decisions. One of these decisions was to go and get another MRI scan to see how my brain was doing. Since seeing the additional scars/lesions I realise life is far too short to waste time not crossing the road for fear of being knocked down. I now appreciate how paralysing this state of mind can be. It's very simple… I can walk, I can talk, I can jump and I can swim. Most importantly, I can still swing a golf club!!!

My family and friends have watched me succeed and fail at life, love and all the other stuff too. For these highs and lows, they have always been there for me. This was most apparent when I had my attack in 2008. I do not know where I would be if they weren't there for support, comfort, strength or just to make me laugh when I thought I could not.

Having this opportunity is amazing for me and is unbelievably timely. I have given up my job for this and have no idea where my path will lead afterwards. I have useful and valuable skills that will still be there when I return, but for the time being, that is not going to worry me.

So I got on a plane from Gatwick to Madrid, stayed over in a budget hotel for an early flight to Equador. This was the first culture shock of landing in South America, a continent that I had never been to before. Equador's Capitol is Quito, where I landed. I had then organised a room in a family B&B somewhere in the city near the airport. I arrived in darkness and got picked up a stranger who took me into his home. To be honest, I forgot his name, but he cooked me some food and we shared a conversation over a beer and I found out quite a lot about the country and its biggest economic concern... The price of oil and how this black gold and its huge reduction in market price was killing the national economy.

I also learnt about the country's relationship with my destination, the Galápagos.

These islands that have been such an important place in the Theory of Evolution and I had no real concept of the Galápagos apart from David Attenborough programs and glossy holiday magazines.

But when I landed, I was hit by the shock and awe of the opposites and contrasts of this unique group of islands.

Whatever the brochures say; whatever the amazing pictures; yes it's all there in it's amazing technicolor magnificence. It really is!

However what we don't see in the brochures is the small and underfunded country struggling to keep up with the ravaging tourism going on there.

I'm not going to show you the glamorous pictures but a couple of images of the crafty islands fighting to keep up with this "progress".

blog1.jpgThe infra structure was unable to keep up with the thousands of small coaches and mini buses that transfer people from the airport. The main road is a mud track that is constantly in use and constantly being eroded and patched up repaired. It's awful and was truly upsetting.

The place needs a break from tourism. It needs to be left alone for a while to have a chance to responsibly cope with the demand. The country needs to stop chasing the $100 per person tourist tax and come up with some kind of solution. Or they will destroy one of the most
important natural areas of the world.

blog2.jpgSo upon arrival, I found my way to the main town and sort out the boat. She was safely anchored in the main bay. After 72 hours of travel, by foot, by bus, by train, by plane and now by water taxi, I finally arrive on Oceans of Hope! In retrospect, this yacht has given me and so many people since so much hope; she has changed so many people's lives. Such an amazing, amazing yacht and it was awesome, so incredibly awesome to finally arrive. My aims for the whole 4500 mile trip were purely physical, I feel I needed to be stronger and a good influence on the whole crew; I wanted to fulfill three main ambitions:

  • Catch a fish, kill a fish and cook a fish
  • Climb up the mast and scream in the middle of the Pacific 1600 miles from land.
  • Learn how to use a sextant.

You'll find out next time that none of these happened and my trip became an odyssey. You will also meet my fellow crew mates, our Captain and Bosun. An incredible bunch of people who taught me a lot and helped me put my MS into perspective.

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