A lot of people dream about seeing the world, but very few actually do it. When you think of someone setting sail with the goal of traversing many of the Earth's oceans, you probably don't envision someone from the middle of the prairies, Estevan Saskatchewan to be the one to accomplish the feat. But of course, this article would not be written if that was not the case.
Bert TerHart was at sea for a total of 267 days in total. No small feat regardless of a sailor's experience.
"I've been busy. It's been a bit of a nonstop and a whirlwind that's for sure. You have to get used to being on land again, so there's a physical adjustment. Mentally of course I'm not on the boat 24/7 so there's am adjustment to not having to worry about everything under the sun."
He has been busy with a multitude of things ranging from a bunch of open houses at his boat on the water, talking to sailing schools, fixing up the boat, and of course many many media interviews. He said the continuous interaction with people and the media can be tiring.
One piece of his life that still has not returned to normal is his sleep pattern which he said likely doesn't help his already persistent fatigue of late. On the boat, he would have to wake up every two hours twice and was then awake for the remainder of the day and is still the rhythm his body is in at this time.
For TerHart, the main challenge he said he would have to overcome on a recurring basis is being beckoned. He explained that the setbacks it could cause can end up being massive.
"By far and away it's the most difficult thing, especially as the trip went on because it's mentally torturous. This is because you're not going anywhere, you're just getting abused. You're going through food and all the resources you're trying to store, muster or save and you desperately want to be moving. Even if you're moving slowly it's better than drifting aimlessly around or going backward or in the wrong direction."
He explained that he was beckoned more than he or anyone could have predicted. Learning to accept that you were stuck and couldn't do anything about it was a very difficult thing to do. Even with all of the things that could go wrong, few did and he was only subject to a setback that he could navigate rather than something much more serious.
"I was really fortunate in that the boat stuck together well. Other than some minor injuries to me, the biggest setback was when the halyard broke, So the most powerful sail on the boat I couldn't use. I had to take it down and store it. That easily cost me two weeks coming back."
TerHart was below the Chatham islands south of New Zealand when the issue arose. Luckily he was able to adapt and overcome the issue for the rest of his journey.
"Getting up the Pacific took maybe eight to ten weeks and adding another approximately 20 percent to that made a difference. I was constantly wondering if I could fix it, if I could get it up and that sort of thing."
A trip such as this could really have someone come to terms with death and the fragility of life, but that was not the case for TerHart who said his time to come to terms with his mortality was in the Canadian armed forces.
"Never did I think I was throwing my life away and that I would never come back or that I was doing something very dangerous that would give me a low chance to service... to be perfectly frank, I never thought I would see 21 because the life expectancy of a platoon commander at that time was less than a week. You come to your grips with your mortality when you're in eastern Europe and you're staring across at your counterparts in the eastern block and tank to tank. At that time I came to grips with my mortality."
He said that having that experience at such a young age gave him the belief that he knew he would make it home, giving it a likely 99-percent chance when he first left the dock. However, he did say that whether he would return on the same boat he felt sort of 50-50 about.
The time spent in the military also helped him stay disciplined while sailing. He was very conscious of what needed to be taken care of each and every day.
"I was disciplined enough to sleep when I needed to sleep, eat when I needed to eat, and do what I needed to do when I needed to do it. If you don't have the external driver pushing you then the discipline has to come from somewhere."
TerHart said there were many times when he was scared. To him, there were lots of things to worry about and have fear about too. Whether it be because he thought the weather getting worse, falling overboard or the boat literally coming apart.
"You know that you need to do something and that something can be simple. The example I like to use is getting your boots on. The motion on the boat can be so extreme it can take 10 minutes to get on a single boot. The motion has to die down a bit so you can get from 'A' to 'B' inside the boat and then you have to somehow detach yourself because you're glued to the boat, if you don't have proper contact with the boat you'll get thrown."
What he means with this example is that something as simple as getting on boots can prevent you from moving ahead with other tasks. At those times you have to persevere and keep moving to ensure that you will survive and keep moving forward.
He explained that once you get these small tasks done you can move on to the next one, and the one after that- until you have taken care of everything you need to. It's about being proactive rather than reactive. He said that is something he aimed to master his whole life. Completing those tasks can benefit you in the long run and allow you to make fixes and problem solve better the next time it arises.
One of TerHart's many favourite moments came from a time in the south Indian Ocean. The stakes were high and he was able to have a period of time of pure bliss.
"It's one of the most dangerous places on the planet for sailors because you're deep in the southern ocean, you're thousands of miles away from anywhere and anybody. The ocean there is very dangerous because you're close to the Aghulas Current which is very strong. The temperature gradients are great which means there is very cold water next to very warm water so the weather is extreme."
"I came out on deck one day and it was absolutely perfect, absolutely stunning. Perfect sailing conditions, I was uninjured and feeling great and I looked around and thought how fortunate I am to be in this incredibly alien place and very few humans get there."
And now TerHart has completed his nonstop journey across the world. He is still proud to call Estevan his home town and is always happy to come and visit home.