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Self-taught sailor riding waves for Indigenous literacy lands safely in USA

Andrew Brazier enters marina in Los Angeles

Land at last: Andrew Brazier, a young doctor from the Blue Mountains, completed his 15,000km solo journey from Sydney to Los Angeles to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation earlier this month; and thumbs-up from the sailor. Main photo: Patrick Dwyer.

HELEN of Troy may have launched a thousand ships, but it was the hope to see Indigenous people read a medical script that launched Andrew Brazier’s ship to Los Angeles.

The young doctor from the Blue Mountains completed his 15,000km solo journey from Sydney to Los Angeles to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation earlier this month.

The former Brisbane Catholic and self-taught sailor left Sydney on March 24 and arrived in Los Angeles on the busiest weekend in the United States – the Fourth of July.

“There was just a quiet contentment that it all worked out,” Mr Brazier told The Catholic Leader while in the United States.

“I had to deal with the necessary break-up with the sea, which was harder than I thought.”

Mr Brazier said he left Sydney with “visions of conquering an ocean” but what he experienced was significantly more rewarding.

“When I got to LA, I realised I didn’t conquer an ocean, I had a new friend,” he said.

“I had the idea it was all about fighting the sea, and fighting the way across, but I ended up just yielding when I had to and not fighting the storm, just riding with the storms, capturing the gentle winds.

“People want to hear about the storms but the storms were a rarity.

“The consolations of the ocean are far more frequent than its trials.”

However the journey wasn’t without its complications – the 27-year-old managed to dislocate his shoulder 10 days into his journey while trying to turn off his satellite radio.

Despite the excruciating pain, he documented his ordeal on his website, www.aloneinthepacific.com.

A resident doctor at the Nepean Hospital, Mr Brazier performed a self-diagnosis before attempting various treatment plans including the textbook method to “grasp the patient’s affected limb, flex the elbow to 90 degrees, gently apply external rotation to the shoulder joint while applying inward traction to the elbow”.

After contacting the New Zealand rescue authorities to locate any nearby signs of life, Mr Brazier called his sister, a trained vet, and “tried everything”. At that stage Mr Brazier was alone in a radius of 400km.

He eventually managed to relocate the shoulder using three bottles of rum as sedation and a 5kg weight tied to his arm dangling down the cabin to tire the muscle.

He reached Wellington and was in recovery for nearly two weeks before pointing his boat again towards Los Angeles on Monday, April 23.

Eighty days later Mr Brazier was finally in LA where friends and strangers greeted the adventurous doctor with hugs and congratulations.

“Dealing with the rush of people wanting to hear about me was a little overwhelming,” he said. “I was so used to things not mattering, time frames not mattering.

“The rush of the world caught me again.”

As well as being alone at sea for more than 80 days, the devout Catholic also sacrificed any opportunities to frequent the sacraments while on his solo journey.

“As a cradle Catholic, I’ve always had the sacraments,” Mr Brazier said.

“(Sacrificing the sacraments) leads you to understand in a deeper way what a real effect the sacraments have and the real need they are in your spiritual life.

“It really solidified in my mind the absolute generosity of the sacraments and their need, or at least that I need it.”

He made his first confession in more than 80 days on July 7 in Pennsylvania.

He will spend the next few months in Pennsylvania assisting a building project for the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the community where his sister lives.

He spoke to his sister, who has been chosen to start a new community of Carmelites in Wilcannia-Forbes, for the first time in seven years on July 6.

Throughout the trip Mr Brazier recorded updates on his website, continuing the literacy theme that initially launched him into the ocean.

“It got to the situation where it was a daily routine – I’d think about what I wanted to write about, which would be in the back of my mind for most of the day, (and) at four o’clock Greenwich Mean Time I opened up the laptop for the first time of the day and started writing.

“The entire theme was really literacy, but for me I was inspired through all the different aspects of my life but mostly by reading different accounts of different people.

“I’ve been inspired by other people writing what they did, and passing on to write about what I did.

“Hopefully people can be inspired to do amazing things from this.”

While Mr Brazier recognises some Indigenous Australians won’t be able to read his blog, he hopes his journey can support a charity helping remote communities close the literacy gap.

His trip has already raised $16,546.48 for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation with the goal to reach $100,000.

“This was the cause that launched a single ship, and it was well worth sailing across the ocean for,” Mr Brazier said.

“To my mind, whatever happened was just a wonderful thing I could do for the foundation.

“The trip will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I’ll happily accept donations for the rest of my life.

“I’m really blown away by the generosity of people.”

Mr Brazier said he was unsure if he would sail back to Australia in his boat Perpetual Succour, which is now docked on the other side of America.

But he is certain that anyone who wants to sail across the ocean can.

“I think that the most beautiful thing about a trip across an ocean is not so much a triumph of skill, it’s a mark of dedication,” Mr Brazier said.

“With dedication I think it’s a reasonable thing to say most people could sail around the world, and that applies to a lot of aspects of life as well.”

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