Bert ter Hart has been sailing his entire life, and in November he embarked on a trip of a lifetime.
The former Estevan, Sask., resident, who now resides on Gabriola Island, B.C., is on a mission to sail single-handedly around the world using only celestial navigation.
Ter Hart has not gotten off the boat since he left in the fall and has been following the stars to get him through the five capes — Cape Horn in Chile, Cape Agulhas in South Africa, Cape Leeuwin in Australia, South East Cape at the southernmost tip of Tasmania and South Cape in New Zealand.
Leah, his sister, explains that her job of handling his social media has turned into a much bigger role than she thought.
“There’s been a lot of emotional phone calls, too, because it’s scary out there and it’s dangerous and he’s very tired and he’s on a lot of limited rations just to make sure his food will last. So it’s been quite the journey overall.”
Ter Hart has very limited resources when it comes to communication, but through email he described what it has been like watching the coronavirus pandemic from afar, as well as his thoughts about returning home to a world that is much different than the one he left six months ago.
“It is rather strange in that everyone has expected me to return a different person whereas no one thought the world would be so vastly different when I returned,” ter Hart said. “It is not I who will return different, but I will be returning to a completely different world. What that looks like is still a question mark.”
He explains that with the feeling of isolation, it is important to choose to be happy.
“The toughest part about being so isolated is understanding completely what it is that you have control over and what it is that you do not. If you focus on those things that you have no control over you will be overwhelmed very quickly by conditions and circumstance.”
Part of his journey has been dedicated to ocean research. Ter Hart is helping scientists understand the current state the ocean is in, and looks forward to sharing his findings when he returns home.
He stresses that there are sweeping changes taking place in the world’s oceans, and these changes will have a direct impact on our environment.
“Things like currents, the number of calms and gales, the direction and strength of the wind, iceberg limits, etc. Conditions where I have been are vastly different than the pilot charts would indicate. It would seem then that the climatological means are much different than the conditions now.”
Ter Hart is preparing for his arrival home to be a strange experience. His journey will wrap up in July and he is most excited to see his family.
“I have no idea what to expect when I arrive home with respect to COVID-19. I imagine that Customs and Immigration will, ironically, make me self-isolate for two weeks!”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.