Saskatchewan

Canadian man nears end of epic round-the-world sailing journey without electronic tools

While the world has been dealing with a pandemic, Bert terHart has been sailing through troubled waters of a different kind. He's nearly completed a single-handed solo sailing trip around the world, only using traditional navigation tools.

Former Estevan, Sask., resident expects to finish solo sail around the world this Saturday

Bert terHart left Canada in October, setting sail on his boat the Seaburban. (Facebook/The 5 Capes, Seaburban Around Alone)

While the world has been dealing with a pandemic, Bert terHart has been sailing through troubled waters of a different kind.

terHart, who was raised in Estevan, Sask., and now makes his home in B.C., is on the cusp of completing a nine-month solo sailing journey around the world, navigating with only a pen, paper, charts and a sextant. He embarked in October and hopes to reach Victoria Saturday to achieve his goal of becoming the first North American to make such a trip using only non-electronic navigational tools.

"The thing I'm doing, a solo non-stop circumnavigation via the five great capes, is extremely difficult to do," he told CBC's The Morning Edition via satellite phone from sea.

"I chose to do something really difficult to make my mark, I suppose, on a personal level. On a more profound note, I was hoping to inspire people to choose and seek careers in oceanic sciences… to solve the problems we need to face if we hope to succeed as a species," terHart said. 

Bert terHart, who is originally from Estevan, Sask., and who now makes his home in B.C., is nearing the end of a journey to sail around the world that began last October. (Facebook/The 5 Capes, Seaburban Around Alone)

His father, who first taught him to sail on Boundary Dam, was a bit dubious when he heard about the voyage, saying he thought his son was smarter than that. 

Now, terHart says he's about to prove that he may not be smart, but he is persistent.  

Listen to Bert terHart's conversation with CBC's The Morning Edition here: 

An Estevan man has been sailing through life for the past eight months -- literally. He has been navigating around the five southernmost capes of the world, alone in a sailboat -- with just the most basic tools to chart his path. 7:51

He's faced dense fog with no idea of exactly where he is and turbulent weather that led to "wild" sailing conditions.

"I have to constantly remind myself that I can't let my guard down. I'm not home," he said. "The challenges are always constant and always changing. So I'll feel at home when I'm right up to the dock."

He's been referred to as the champion of social distancing. Many have asked terHart about what it's been like to be living in isolation. He said being alone is not the same as being lonely.

"Alone and quiet, bathed in splendour, you can almost feel the pulse of the world. There is not much between you and the heartbeat of the universe," he wrote to his followers on social media. 

The view Bert terHart has had for months has been of kilometres of open water. Even as he approaches Canadian shores, he says he has to be on the guard for changing conditions. (Facebook/The 5 Capes, Seaburban Around Alone)

He's learned that many things — certain relationships, the noise of the world, everyday routines — are not as important as they may seem and can be shed away like a snake's skin.

"What's left are those things that are truly important to you, those things that you were truly passionate about, the people you cared most about and relationships that are the most important to you." 

Bert terHart says the first thing he'd like to do when he arrives back in Victoria is to shake the hand of his father, Jan - who first shared his love of sailing with his son. (Submitted by The 5 Capes, Seaburban Around Alone/Facebook)

It's those people, like his family, that he looks forward to seeing again now, including his father.

"I want to shake his hand and and look him in the eye and say I did it," he said. "To see those people you truly care about is going to be a thrill of a lifetime and it will be a moment in my life I'll take to the grave."

About the Author

Janani Whitfield works on CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition. Contact her at janani.whitfield@cbc.ca or on Twitter, @WhitfieldJanani.

with files from The Morning Edition

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