The Man Who Jumped From A Ferry - Epilogue


Now I’m out of hospital, homeostasis is not an option. Keeping things, the same in my life will not address the fundamental sources for my depression. During the three months in hospital, I had plenty of time to evaluate how I live. With the help of my CBT therapist, I clarified the changes, when made, I determined would help keep me in robust good health.

Change can be challenging. Remaining within my comfort zone may seem safe, but doing so, continues to expose me to the familiar, and thus comfortable, elements which may stunt my recovery process. In much of my life, I haven’t been content to remain in my comfort zone. My many sea kayaking adventures are a testament to this. There were innumerable moments during these expeditions where I could have taken the safest path but instead chose the more arduous. The rewards for doing so were always incredibly richer.

I identified the key element in how I live which hinders my pursuit of joy in life as being loneliness. I miss day to day contact with others. I miss seeing my friends. I miss having friends to visit and stay. I miss sharing my love of the outdoors with friends and others. My outgoing and richly blessed online life cannot sustain this for me. There are many occasions where I find myself aching to meet Twitter friends for real, to chat, to share time with. Yet, it is through Twitter where I find my most intimate connections with others. It is where daily, I am recognised and valued. Of course, it is not possible to meet people in reality – I would have to travel the world to do so.

I can make changes in how I live which will enhance the possibilities for me to connect with others. The fundamental change is one which carries the greatest potential for loss and sadness for me. It requires me to give up on what I have long believed sustained me but in fact, I have sadly identified, is a major limiting factor in my life.

This is living on our yacht.

We have therefore decided to move ashore. The key reasons for this huge decision are these. I am isolated from others when I’m aboard on our mooring in Tobermory Bay. There is no chance of anyone dropping by and there are times when I can spend a week on board without any contact with others apart from my wife. The only contact I have is an online virtual one. This then leads me to become attached to my laptop, searching my timelines for any recognition for my existence. Although I purport to live a free and healthy outdoor life, this is in truth not the case. I am often cooped up in our saloon, sitting in the same spot all day. Only moving to make coffee or visit the heads. My wonderful photos often trawled from my numerous photographic catalogues. Of course, I do get out and about. I take the dog for a walk and there are times when I get my act together and go kayaking.

Yacht Life

This leads onto another debilitating factor regarding living on our boat in the bay. To get ashore we must row one of small dinghies. This means anything we need to transport ashore must be packed to keep it dry, and loaded in the small boat, rowed ashore, lumbered up onto the shore. There are many times when arriving at the shore, I have realised I have forgotten something on the boat which needed to be brought over. For example, the scutter in taking stuff ashore often demotivates me to the point I’ll choose not to go kayaking. Additionally, if I do go kayaking, there’s not much room aboard to dry my wet kit. All this occurs when we are on the mooring. In the winter months, we are berthed alongside one of the pontoon docks in the harbour marina.

This leads into another aspect which I have increasingly found challenging for me. Living on the boat through the winter. Winter is not a good time of year for me at the best of times. It’s when my mood is most likely to lessen to the point where I’m bordering on a depressive episode. Winter here in Tobermory can be tough. The winds often blow from a quarter which makes living aboard uncomfortable because of the noise and movement. When one of the many winter gales passes through, I can be guaranteed very little sleep. Another major factor which I’m increasingly finding challenging is keeping on top of dampness through the winter months. Condensation is a problem leading to things becoming mouldy and damaged as a result. We attempt to keep on top of this but it’s a never ending task. In the mornings I can be woken by large drips of condensation falling on my head from the window above me. With the heating we use, the boat is generally warm and cosy. We don’t suffer from being cold but with heating comes condensation.

Finally, I have come to accept I’m not a worthwhile handy-person. There are innumerable maintenance tasks which are required to keep the boat functional. For some reason, I find it extremely challenging to keep on top of these and ultimately perform them to a high quality. I accept I’m self-critical of myself, but this aspect does weigh heavily on me. It is an issue which I ruminate about and can build within me as a negative force.

There will be a huge amount I’ll miss about living on the boat. The first one, and this is probably the key one, is my loss of identity. I’m known as LifeAfloat to my many followers in my online world. Moving off the boat removes me from this attribution. I will personally miss acknowledging myself as a yacht live-aboard. An important part of my personal identity will be given up. This saddens me.

I will miss the elemental aspect of living on the boat. This is the deep connection I have developed with the weather, the sea, the tides, the birdlife and the boat herself. I will miss falling asleep to the movement created by the swell. I’ll miss becoming intimately knowledgeable about the weather and living my life, so I’m prepared for it and not too discomforted. To a certain extent I’ll miss the challenges the elements present because they remind me of my place in the world.

I’ll miss the opportunities to drop the mooring and sail off into the wide blue yonder. The itinerant lifestyle, not feeling anchored to one place. However, to be honest, we don’t do this half as much as we would like.

So, it’s with an extremely heavy heart, I’ve decided to bring to end my living on a yacht. It has been seven wonderfully interesting, joyful, challenging, and rewarding years. I’ve learned so much about living a simple life. I’ve learned much about myself too, namely I’m keen to live adventurously despite my age. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed the alternativeness of my lifestyle to the point it became a completely normal existence.

We are moving into a delightful terraced house looking over Tobermory Bay. We’ll have a garden which will offer us uninterrupted views across the bay, the Sound of Mull beyond and then the mountains of Morvern in the far distance. It’s a comfortable house with plenty of room. We were extremely fortunate to find this house, because rental accommodation in Tobermory is rare.

So, what are the opportunities?

I will have a room as my ‘office’ where I’ll write without having to clear my stuff away when we need to eat. We’ll enjoy all the aspects living in a house as opposed to living on a boat. Namely, no condensation. We’ll have a spare en-suite guest room.

There are many Twitter and Facebook friends I want to meet and get to know. Additionally, it’ll be so much easier to then share some wee adventures together; kayaking, walking, exploring Mull.

The latter is extremely important! We hope this will mean we no longer live in isolation with no visitors. We make this room available to all our friends, even those we have not yet met. I am particularly keen our house becomes a hive of visitors where we share time together and connect. There are many Twitter and Facebook friends I want to meet and get to know. Additionally, it’ll be so much easier to then share some wee adventures together; kayaking, walking, exploring Mull.

There will not be scutter involved in rowing everything ashore before I can enjoy a day out kayaking or walking. I’ll simply open the door and walk down to the quay. At the end of the day, I can wash and dry my salty wet kit without stringing it out in two small cabins. I think this means I’ll get out on the sea far more often.

When winter arrives, I won’t be struggling with the gales and the darkness as much as I would be on the boat. This will be good for my mental health.

I will invite friends around and folks can drop by. My life will become less lonely and this too will be good for my mental health.

Finally, our dear dog, Ziggy, is becoming stiff in his legs and no longer jumps with the youthful confidence he once had. Living in a house where he doesn’t have to jump into or out of the saloon will certainly benefit him.

Although I will no longer be a live-aboard, I’m not relinquishing my LifeAfloat moniker. It is my intention to spend more time on the sea in my kayak than I have ever done before. There are huge swathes of coastline for me to explore. Additionally, I will buy a traditional clinker built sea going sailing skiff. I have my eye on one already. I will do this once we have sold our yacht.

The View We Will Enjoy

This leads into the final point. The money we’ll realise from the sale of our yacht will not disappear into the general pot. We’ll divide it equally for each of us to realise our adventure dreams. I’m formulating a huge expedition to take place in a few years. Karen for example, has always wanted to trek through Iceland on a pony. There are many other aspirations we wish to fulfil. The key here is the spirit of ‘Anna-Maria’, our yacht, will live on through our commitment to enjoy adventures from her sale. This fills me with excitement. The possibilities!

We have no further plans than the immediate ones we have made. We aspire to live a life with as small a footprint as we can. This move into the house is a stepping stone towards our next life adventure.


Yesterday I did something which was beyond my normal character – I tweeted an angry tweet and referenced the organisation I am angry with. I then followed this tweet up with another, again referencing the organisation and made an unsubstantiated accusation they were discriminating against me on the grounds of my mental health struggles.

It is not in my character to seemingly rashly lash out. Invariably when I think I have done so; I feel considerable guilt and either attempt to make amends with mollifying follow up tweets with asinine photos, or remove the offending tweet altogether (though I realise it is never truly deleted).

This time though, my anger is tangible, it comes from deep within me, and I feel no guilt whatsoever for lashing out yesterday. This is telling for me.

In general, the responses I received from my wonderfully caring group of Twitter followers was as gratefully expected; warm, supportive and shared in my indignation. There were a few folks while sympathising with me, cautioned a more reasoned response on my part, inviting me to consider not making allegations before clarifying the situation with the organisation’s HR department. At least, this is how I’ve interpreted those responses. I understand and appreciate their concern. After all, I have more than once offered similar advice to others who have tweeted their ire when it seemed prudence would have been a more beneficial consideration.

The fact I am feeling no shame or guilt with the two tweets tells me my anger is authentic.

As I understand it, we have four core emotions; anger, sadness, fear, and joy. It’s depressing, but from an early age, many of us learn to not express those four emotions in their authentic fullness. As children we learn to hold our anger in, to not cry when sad, to not be fearful when frightened and with joy, to curtail our exuberance. These traits of adaptation towards our innate emotions are carried forward into our adult lives. It is said with considerable authority, that people suffering from depression do so because of locked in anger, anger which is turned inwards against the ‘self’ rather than being expressed authentically, in the moment, when it occurs.

I was angry yesterday and I am still. I expressed my anger through my Twitter feed and in doing so, I think I have challenged the perceptions some have about how we express anger and where it is appropriate to do so.

Whether Twitter is an OK forum for me to express my anger or not, isn’t the issue for me right now. The fact I think I have been challenged for being angry, is. I am ‘rubber-banded’ right back to my early years in my life when I was learning to hold my anger in, not to show it, not to be ungrateful, to always consider the other, to be meek and submissive.

Normally, I would be meek, expressing a measured response, where it’s clear I’m accounting for the other in the dispute. Therefore, because of this, I feel guilty if ever I believe I have rashly lashed out on my social media. I’m more than ready to account for my part in a dispute and to apologise with genuine remorse if I understand my error in judgement or assumption. This is true for this incident now, if this is the case. However, I’m writing about this because my interest has been piqued by two things. The first, the genuine depth of anger I am feeling and my willingness to express it, and second, how in doing so, I have elicited cautionary responses from a few folks. I once again find myself fascinated by the human condition and how best we live with our authentic selves and express our authenticity.

I remember in one of my psychotherapy groups someone saying – to be human, it’s necessary to get messy sometimes.



The past month or so has been dreadful for me. My clinical depression has had me firmly in its grip, so much so, I’ve been literally fighting powerful urges to complete my suicide. I think this stark statement may come as a surprise to many who have seen me on-line in my Twitter and Facebook personas, posting lovely photographs and typically Nick type cheery comments. This is the nature of my beast,


Last year during my ‘Three Peaks by Kayak’ adventure, I found myself inspired by the various experiences I encountered to make meaning of my depression and understand how I can live with it. There was one particular moment when fighting against the tide in the middle of the expansive Luce Bay off the Galloway coastline, when I came to the enduringly powerful realisation that the discomfort I was experiencing at the time was not permanent, and when the tide I was fighting against changed in a few hours, it would soon pass. In that moment, I instantly embodied this awareness because of its powerfully analogous pertinence to my depression recovery process. In this moment of enlightenment, I finally believed what the many caring professionals had been telling me for many years - “This will pass. Given time, you will become stronger and feel better.”

Making the decision to believe the impermanence of my depression did not lead me to believing I would eventually be cured of it. Instead, this allowed to me to accept I will live with depression all my life, and it’s the deep depressive moments which will come and go. Likewise, the thoughts and beliefs I have about taking my life are associated with these deep low periods and I was now able to counter these with a belief that they are impermanent. I now understood the notion of making a permanent decision based on an impermanent feeling.

However, when my clinical depression takes hold of me and I sink into a deep and dark low, my ability to cognitively function is impaired by the wide ranging self-destructive and self-hating thoughts and beliefs I find myself struggling with. I find myself literally fighting for my life, voicing out loud (when alone), reasons why I shouldn’t kill myself. This is an internal battle which rages in my head and through my body. Thoughts and feelings merge to be expressed in my language, how I think, how I feel emotionally and how I feel physically. My energy and personal resources are expended on this battle and too, in masking this fight from the world around me. I do not want the ordinary world to know of my pain. There may be hints, or I may put out a Tweet which may be more explicit, but generally, I continue post lovely photos with asinine words. (At least I think they are at the time). Likewise around and about in my lived world, people will probably not be aware of the self-destructive thoughts I have running through my mind when I meet them in the street or when chatting over a pint or a coffee.

There have been a few moments recently when I have desired hospitalisation because the struggle to overcome my thoughts of suicide have been more than I could cope with. However, there’s always been one reason or another why I didn’t explicitly seek this and I continued to fight on my own. In a way, the now embodied adage “this will pass”, enabled me to remain with my distress in the knowledge that it was likely to diminish over time. I continued to live my life in the public realm as unobtrusively as possible, hoping few people would cotton on to the mask I was wearing. Karen was totally aware of course and lovingly supportive. Likewise, my C.P.N. was happy to see me twice a week for lengthy appointments. I wasn’t totally alone.

I’m often asked what the causes are for a particular bout of depression, something I can pinpoint as the originating source. Generally there is none. The malaise takes root, deepens and insidiously manifests itself to the point where I become overwhelmed by it. I’m aware of its early presence and determine I will not allow it to take hold of me, but despite making efforts to stall the process by undertaking health enhancing activities, the depression is the stronger. My mood sinks and I am engulfed with beliefs of self-hatred, self-loathing, and uselessness. No matter how heartening the reassurances from friends and family about my worth, these messages of genuine warmth and love fail to reach my core. I find it easy to counter them with the all to predictable response - “Yes, but…”. This in turn serves to make me feel even more unhappy, because then I add the belief I’m an unnecessary burden to those who love me.

Having met with a psychiatrist, I am on a new medication regimen which he is confidently hopeful will help me raise my mood and begin to feel the joy in life again. To be truthful, I detest taking anti-depressant medication because I have found the side-effects to lead me to feeling more unhappy than the opportunity for a cure. Feeling sluggish, doped, constipated, lost libido and other minor conditions, all serve to reinforce the futility I feel about my life. For the last eighteen months I have been medication free, determined to live with my depression in an organic, self-sufficient manner. To all intents and purposes I think I managed to do this successfully until the point this year, just after Christmas and my mood slipped past my ability to self manage myself. Even then, it took some insistence on the health professionals’ part to encourage me to consider taking medication again. It’s early days still.

Despite this desperate bout of depression, I have looked forward to the future, and found within myself a desire to plan for another kayaking adventure. Not only this, I have chosen to invite a new friend to share the adventure with me thus breaking with my usual process of kayaking solo. In getting to know Jack on-line and then meeting him recently, I have discovered a friend who shares my understanding of the world and a passion for exploration by kayak on the sea. Our common ground is our connection to the R.N.L.I. and it is the charity which forms the basis of this expedition. You can read more about this here.. Sharing a kayaking expedition is going to be a renewing experience for me because it’s many years since I last headed off into the wide yonder with someone beside me. I’m really looking forward to Jack’s companionship.

Today the sun is shining and the sea is calm. It is the last day of March and early this evening we move out to our summer mooring in the bay. I’ve readied the engine, checked the electrics and filled the water tank to the brim. Propane gas bottles for cooking and heating are charged, and the inflatable dinghy we use as our tender has been spruced up with a wash and a new seat. There is something in this transhumance experience of mine, moving from our winter berth to our summer one, which excites me and reminds me of the resurgence of life. Around and about there are the signs of spring. The cormorants are gathering materials for their nests on the nearby cliffs, the trees are beginning to show signs of green and the sea is becoming translucent again. I feel my blood moving within me, a sure sign that life is returning and soon the shackles of this depression will be shaken off. With the help of my medication, I’m hopeful in a few weeks I’ll be noticing the colour of the world around me again.