If you do not know, Reinhold Messner is as extreme a human who has ever lived. He is a mountain climber. Although he is still alive and three years younger than I, ‘was’ is more accurate than ‘is’. What he did requires physical abilities that deteriorate sooner than those required by what I do.
It would take more space here to list his accomplishments than I want to use, but he set many, many records, including climbing Everest solo and without oxygen. I don’t even know how that is possible.
I write of him now because in this last week Guinness has put an asterisk by some of his achievements due to studies done by someone who should have spent his time better that indicate that on some of Messner’s climbs unintentionally he might not have actually reached the summit of mountains. Missing by a matter of a few feet.
He is contesting this.
I have a better solution.
When I completed my first circumnavigation, I knew I had set a world record for the fastest circumnavigation in a monohull, beating Francis Chichester’s time by more than three weeks in a much smaller boat that I bought myself. Chichester’s was given to him by a newspaper.
I did not hold a press conference. I did not contact Guinness. I did not need validation from anyone else. I had needed to prove to Webb Chiles that he was what since childhood he thought he was. I had and I have steadily added to it now for a half century.
I am a writer and so I wrote about the circumnavigation and after a while Guinness in the form of Nobby Clarke, who then kept the sailing records for them, contacted me.
So I have advice for Reinhold, though he will never learn of it. Forget about Guinness. You know what you are. That is all that matters.
As a side to this, a friend has commented that I am too modest when I say I may have led an epic life but that it is a matter of opinion.
I have been concerned over the years that I was too brash in STORM PASSAGE, though hardly so compared to what is today accepted behavior, and I may be overcompensating.
So while it might be a matter of opinion, my opinion is that I have led an epic life, quantifiably provable, a life that I expect will be forgotten by the tribe to the tribe’s loss.
I have also written that debts are chains.
I have an unsought debt to the species in that through its genetic lottery it gave me exceptional gifts at birth. Obviously I did not seek these anymore than I sought to be born about as far from the sea as possible. But it is a debt I have felt and it is a debt that I believe I have repayed.
To go back to Guinness.
If you have been here a while, you know that I have a five year plan. So assuming I am still alive in 2026-7 and still healthy, I will set off on another voyage that might set world records for age. I promise you that I will never google to see if that is true, and I will be very disappointed if you do and tell me. So please don’t. I do not believe that records of age, young or old, by a few days or months, say anything worthwhile about the human spirit, particularly those of the young who were given their boats. I may have written this in the journal before. If I am still alive and healthy enough I will sail when I will sail not to impress others, but because it fits the rhythm of my life.
I am not immune to praise or approval. I confess to being pleased that ‘legend’ is routinely applied to my name. But I believe one must live to be true to him or herself, not to impress others.
I am trying to figure out how to become Kent and Audrey’s grandson. The difficulty is that I am a generation older than they, and grandchildren are traditionally expected to be younger than their grandparents. People lack imagination.
Kent and Audrey are about Carol’s age and they have a granddaughter who has already been on boats on the water at I do not know exactly what age—a year, maybe two—but certainly more than twenty years younger than I was.
Most recently she and they toured the salvaged parts of the MONITOR at the Mariner’s Museum. I did not know that parts of that truly epoch changing boat had been recovered. I envy the replica of the captain’s cabin, which is considerably bigger than the captain’s cabin on GANNET.