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Sailing Promise: A Journey of Self Discovery


by Alayne Main

reviewed by Elaine Weeks

"Will you marry me and sail around the world?"

Little did Alayne Main realize how her acceptance of this unusual marriage proposal would alter her life. She had been married just two years when she said goodbye to her medical career, her family and her friends to honour this marriage promise to her husband. Three and a half years later, they returned, changed in ways she never anticipated.

main3.jpgIn her book Sailing Promise, published by Base Camp Books this past March, Alayne recounts the hair-raising experiences of this voyage, an odyssey that was not only a physical test for herself and Alec, as they battled the forces of nature, but an unexpected examination of the strength of their love.

Despite the threat of pirates, horrific storms at sea, a collision with a whale, and the tremendous strain put on their relationship by their conflicting reactions to these extreme situations, the couple accomplished their dream and returned to Canada, their relationship still intact.

Born and raised in Windsor, Alayne and Alec who grew up in Ottawa, are now land-locked on the shores of Lake St. Clair near Puce. Alayne, who has resumed her career as a doctor in between giving birth to two children, now operates a medical practice in South Walkerville.

In her spare time, she is promoting her book to help benefit anyone, sailor or not, to appreciate that life is full of choices and who may be inspired to take risks after reading about her experiences.

"When we decided it was time to make the voyage," explains Alayne, "we waited until the last minute to tell certain people because we didn't want them to worry about us and try to talk us out of our decision. Some people take years to prepare for the kind of voyage we took but we only needed five months. If we had spent more time preparing, we may have found reasons not to go!"

While reading Alayne's book, I found I could appreciate the motivation for such a journey but I constantly wondered how she could have endured day after terrifying day in gale swept seas.

main1.jpgMy husband and I experienced many long and treacherous bus rides in third world countries during our own year long journey backpacking around the world, but I had never even remotely entertained the idea of circumnavigating the globe in a small boat.

"Madeline leapt off the wave crests smashing into the troughs below, her rig shaking violently. Inside, I anxiously listened to the hulls creaking and the sea hammering her amidst a cacophony of sounds. My whole house was flying through the air and then free falling, coming down with a crash. Wave after wave she flew over. Everything shuddered and shook. It was relentless."

At one part in the journey, they are joined by Alec's dad who proves to be just as fearless as Alec. Instead of feeling heartened by another hand to help negotiate rough seas, Alayne's insecurities about herself are intensified.

"̣I feel myself weakening, crumbling and sick with fear. I'm disappointed in myself. I thought I was made of pretty tough stuff but I have to accept I'm not like the men. I'm just not cut out for thiṣ Regardless of my choices, I just needed someone to comfort me, someone to hug me and tell me it would be all right. Where was my daddy? Where were my girlfriends when I needed them?"

Alayne would often retreat to the solace of her bunk, where she would write in her journal and cry.

"Alec came below furious, 'What are you doing?' he asked rhetorically. He told me I was acting as if I was crazy; that I wasn't making sense but I couldn't stop the fear and the dread that was building inside me. I told him I wanted out. I told him I would jump overboard. In a rage, he ordered me, "You are doing no such thing!"

main2.jpgWhen the weather would clear, it was almost as if a type of amnesia would take over and Alayne would begin to forget how awful the passage had been. But the nagging feeling that she had done some irreparable damage to her relationship with Alec would linger.

As the journey neared its end, Alayne and Alec finally learned how to communicate with each other. They begin to comprehend that the things that had attracted them to each other, Alec's romantic fearlessness and Alayne's spunky competitiveness, were the things that were making the voyage so difficult for them emotionally. Alayne learned how to live with her fears and Alec learned not to let Alayne's emotional upsets disturb him.

"I'd explored, and I knew myself for the first time. I could see the character traits that had driven me to keep my sailing promise and that might make me yearn to do something similar again."

Alayne and Alec's global odyssey was more than a trip around the world; it was an exploration of each other and their place in that world. Sailing Promise is a story of an incredible physical journey; and a metaphor for the journey called life.




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