Singlehanded sailing through life

This morning I awoke from a lovely dream about Susie. I was tinkering on the boat at the marina, no doubt triggered by the fact that Arriba is currently lifted out of the water for maintenance. Susie came walking down the dock with lunch in hand and joined me on board. We ate outside at the cockpit table, enjoying the sunshine and each other’s company, chit-chatting as we’ve done a zillion times. One can too easily take for granted these spontaneous encounters with loved ones, unless one strives to live in the moment. Susie excelled at that; I wish I was better at it. It was a simple, short dream, but very telling of how thoughtful Susie was. When I was working from home, Susie would frequently bring home a surprise lunch, such as sushi or a Vietnamese roll, knowing full well that I got bored eating leftovers and sandwiches. In truth, I probably whined about it once too often, as Google’s cafes spoil you!

Susie was not just my mate, she was my first mate on Arriba. She was always helping me out, even more so on land than at sea. For example, I’ve lost count of how many times she would drop me off or pick me up at the marina or provision our supplies for extended sailing trips. Susie could sail too, having learned to sail with me when we lived in Santa Cruz, California. When we were learning she was much better at maneuvering the boat in tight spaces under power than me. Susie didn’t love sailing quite like I do, but she learned for me, for which I’m very grateful. While it was not her thing, she joined me on sailing trips from time to time.

Our last sailing trip together was 4 June 2017, incredibly almost 3 years ago. I’ve sailed dozens of times since then and it saddens me greatly that, for various reasons, none of those subsequent trips included Susie. I remember that 2017 trip very well though, as it was one of those perfect cruises. Although it was winter, we had sunny weather with light winds and flat seas. It was just the two of us and Susie loved it. We sailed across Gulf St Vincent to the site of the proposed Windara Reef shellfish reef off the coast of Yorke Peninsula, accompanied by dolphins several times along the way. Our goal was to test a tow-able underwater camera sled I’d made from cheap PVC parts. This was prior to me quitting Google and committing full time to AusOcean. That on-water testing was instrumental in helping me validate the idea that low-cost tech could transform ocean science. It was really AusOcean’s first “expedition” and I could not have done it without Susie, nor could I have started AusOcean without her support. I wrote about that trip on the AusOcean blog here.

After completing our camera tests, we moved to Black Point for the evening. It was cold, but after firing up the catalytic heater Arriba’s interior became toasty very quickly. There is something deeply satisfying about being cozy inside your boat, or your cabin, fending off the elements. I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch some squid for dinner. Thanks to Susie we had a full fridge and pantry and did not go without sustenance. We enjoyed each other’s company over a bottle of wine, as we’ve done thousands of times. Susie and I always did have great conversations over “Happy Hour”.

Knowing that I will never again enjoy Susie’s company, nor her acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, makes me incredibly sad. Yet over the years I’ve become proficient at singlehanded sailing, which is sailing without a mate or crew. I’ve even come to enjoy it. Now I find myself on the most challenging voyage of my life, namely sailing through life without a mate. Wish me "bon voyage".


PS Susie is Susan Myers, my beloved wife of 27 years and my loving partner of 30 years, who died from brain cancer on 12th February 2020.


  1. Dear Alan,

    I for obvious reasons don't know you, but have enjoyed your articles as one of many sources of inspiration to follow my dream of spending more time on the water... in my case for the moment on an older Grinde from Danish designer Peter Bruun. But that is totally irrelevant... don't even know why I am writing it.

    Your last post left me speechless and very touched. I admire your courage and strength to write about the leap into navigating life singlehanded... an involuntary leap that no one ever will be fully prepared for. I shed tears... couldn't avoid it... and once I could see clearly again I just wanted to reach out to send you my utmost support albeit it being on a distance and in a virtual context.

    As said... I don't know you, and I am sure you have good friends and family around you to take on parts of the role of your beloved mate and crew... but should they one day not be enough or should you just want to chat with a stranger about life and beyond, I hereby hand you the offer.

    Trust in that new fair winds eventually will carry you along.

    All the best

    1. Thanks Christian for the heartfelt reply, and for the generous offer. Yes, an involuntary leap is exactly what it is. Fortunately I'm optimistic by nature. In fact, Susie used to think me wildly, unrealistically optimistic. I have been known to sail off into a storm thinking the weather was about to the change for the better. In fact, I did that with Susie once, and the weather got worse, not better! I never lived that one down, but even that is a memory that I will now cherish forever - and learn from :-).

  2. Good to hear your optimism is intact. And as said... if any dark cloud should be darker than you wished for, reach out.

    All the best

  3. Love your blog Alan. Stay Strong.

  4. Thank you for reminding us how precious life's small moments can be.

  5. Lovely post. Sorry for your loss and thank-you for the reminder to treasure the time we have with loved ones.


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