On the day America celebrates it’s independence, a young doctor from Faulconbridge, who knows firsthand the true meaning of independence, docked in the harbour at Los Angeles.
It had been an almost four-month and 15,000km journey alone across the Pacific on a 10m sailing boat.
The final 48 hours of Dr Andrew Brazier’s mammoth adventure were sleepless as he dodged cargo ships in the shipping lanes around Los Angeles.
“All the fatigue disappeared once I hit dry land and I felt like I'd just finished something very special,” he said.
Dr Brazier was greeted by a friend at the dock, and his family in Faulconbridge had been intently following his progress for the previous 10 hours.
“We sat up all night, staring at the tracker, until he actually docked. The friend meeting him sent me a text, confirming he had arrived. I was ecstatic!” said Andrew’s mum Georgina Brazier.
“I tried so hard to stop Andrew going. Now I can't stop feeling so proud of him. He has astonished us all with his calmness and his capabilities and his courage.”
Living on dehydrated food, Dr Brazier only lost 2kg during the trip, and enjoyed focusing on the simple things in life like eating breakfast, making a cup of tea or reading a good book.
“Walking away from my boat was very hard, and I shed a little tear as I realised it would be a few months until I could be back on her. Suddenly time has meaning again, and to the world a few days seem very important. Whereas out at sea, a day here or there has less significance,” he said.
There was plenty of time for contemplation.
“Removed from distractions in everyday life, the first thing that happens is that many failings in your life become starkly apparent, be it relationships, decisions at work, or many other facets of life. Part of the journey was coming to terms with this and accepting what is in the past, but also learning from them as they came to mind,” he said.
The journey wasn’t all smooth sailing. He dislocated his shoulder with no help within a 400km radius, and got knocked around during a ferocious force 10 storm in the Southern Ocean.
But Dr Brazier considers the final few weeks the toughest as he fought constant head winds.
“I also only had about 12 hours of sun during these three weeks and was quite close to the cyclone belt so I was checking forecasts every six hours,” he said.
“Fortunately I never got closer than 800 miles from an active cyclone, but it was quite stressful to add to the constant pounding from headwinds and swell.”
Regular messages from family and friends, and his Catholic faith kept the 27-year-old going during times when he needed cheering up.
Within days of being back on land, Dr Brazier was in Pennsylvania undertaking a stone masonry course, to then spend a few months volunteering to help build a monastery using traditional techniques for the Carmelite foundation.
His sister who is involved with the sister organisation asked him midway through the trip if he’d like to take part, and he thought ‘why not’.
The Nepean Hospital doctor isn’t planning a return to medicine until early next year.
“I'm contemplating how to return to Australia, but a ocean voyage is certainly not off the cards. Perhaps I might visit some islands and take a crew for the return trip,” he said.
Dr Brazier has taken on this solo challenge to raise awareness and funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
His proud mum said: “He really wanted to do something to help people and improve the world … To battle through a world of illiteracy is far harder than to battle the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Andrew has made people aware of that.”
The foundation’s executive director Karen Williams said: “Our enormous thanks go to Andrew for his courage and endurance. We don’t get many fundraisers who undertake such heroic deeds and we’re extremely relieved that he has arrived safely”.
Dr Brazier has raised $17,000 and hopes to reach $100,000. To donate visit: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/solo-pacific-crossing