Date posted: 8/05/2020 5 min read

What three years on a boat taught Michael Gale CA about isolation

Michael Gale CA spent 3½ years circumnavigating the globe. He learned some useful lessons for the COVID-19 lockdown.

In Brief

  • Michael Gale CA circumnavigated the globe for 3½ years on his motor yacht.
  • Gale was inspired to undertake the monumental journey by a quote from American writer Mark Twain.
  • He says being at sea teaches you resourcefulness and to take pleasure in the simple things – useful lessons during COVID-19 lockdowns.

By Joshua Gliddon

Three continents, 187 days on passage and more than 45,000 litres of diesel fuel. Those are the raw statistics from Michael Gale CA’s adventure circumnavigating the globe over 3½ years. However, those stats don’t reflect the real-life lessons he learned, and how being isolated at sea prepared Gale and his partner, Caroline, for New Zealand’s level four COVID-19 lockdown.

“We departed Auckland on 14 May 2016 for Brisbane via Lord Howe Island,” says Gale, a CA who initially qualified in South Africa before relocating to New Zealand some years later. “Three and a half years later, on the 13 October 2019, we arrived back in Brisbane after circumnavigating the globe on our motor yacht, Liberty II.”

Gale was inspired to undertake his monumental journey by a quote from American writer Mark Twain. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do,” wrote Twain. “So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.”

So that’s exactly what Gale did. But instead of sails, two Cummins diesel engines were powering the 52-foot motor yacht. Otherwise, things were exactly as Twain decreed. Gale indeed threw off the bowlines. He didn’t want to regret not sailing around the world.

What three years on a boat taught Michael Gale CA about isolationPicture: Michael Gale CA snorkelling on Christmas Island.

How lessons learned at sea apply on land

Some of Gale’s friends and relatives thought he was crazy leaving everything behind and going to sea. Others, he says, would have liked to do it themselves but lacked the wherewithal to undertake such a journey.

Being at sea teaches you resourcefulness, and a capacity to take pleasure in the simple things in life, says Gale. It also teaches you how to make do with what you have.

“It’s a lot like being in lockdown,” he says. “If you go to an island and they don’t have what you need, then you make do with what you have.”

In some ways, being under lockdown is easier than being isolated on the boat. Their time on Liberty II taught Gale and his partner to live in confined quarters, and to get by with minimal exercise while they were at sea doing a passage between locations.

What three years on a boat taught Michael Gale CA about isolationPicture: Michael Gale CA and his partner Caroline.

“The house is bigger,” he says. “You can do exercise at home because on a 52-foot boat there’s not a lot of space.”

The adventure also taught him lessons he’s brought home to his work as a business systems manager and CA.

“It’s made me brutally honest,” he says. “With an adventure you learn a lot about yourself, your likes, your dislikes and your strengths and weaknesses.”

“It’s made me brutally honest. With an adventure you learn a lot about yourself, your likes, your dislikes and your strengths and weaknesses.”
Michael Gale CA

He points to one stage of the journey when they were undertaking a 12-day passage between Lima, Peru and Easter Island. It became “a learning exercise” when the alternators on the engines packed up. Gale had to rewire parts of the boat, get on the satellite phone and talk to an engineer to get things running again so they could see land and find replacement parts.

“I think the greatest lesson I learned is to appreciate life’s simplicity,” he says.

What three years on a boat taught Michael Gale CA about isolation

Departed Auckland on 14 May 2016 for Brisbane via Lord Howe Island – from Brisbane I day-tripped up the east coast of Australia single handed until Cairns – then “around the top” of Australia to Darwin – Christmas Island – Cocos Keeling – Gan, Addu Atoll, Maldives – Mauritius - Durban, South Africa – around South African coast to Cape Town – Walvis Bay, Namibia - St Helena Island (mid-Atlantic) – Cabedelo, Brazil - St Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana – Carriacou, Grenada – Curacao – Bonaire - Santa Marta, Columbia – Panama – Peru – Easter Island – Gambier Archipelago – Tahiti – Mo’orea – Huahine – Vava’u, Tonga - Fiji – Noumea, New Caledonia – Brisbane, Australia (13 October 2019) – See our Facebook page “Liberty Adventures”.

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