Last week there was a film screening event at the Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay. I didn’t know anyone there but soon found myself chatting to an elderly couple whose fierce pride of Scotland was immediately clear. We chatted about the Moray dolphins and the house that they planned to build with a view out to sea. It was the sort of life I was looking for myself.
The film was “Vitamin Sea”: an hour long documentary that followed ocean advocate and veterinary surgeon Cal Major as she attempted to be the first person to journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats by Stand Up Paddleboard. Cal was raising money for Samaritans and Vet Life in memory of her best friend who lost her battle with depression. I didn’t realise there is a high suicide rate among vets and not enough is currently being done to support them. Cal was also raising awareness of plastic pollution – scooping up hundreds of plastic bottles along the way – and showing how beneficial nature, and the ocean in particular, can be for our emotional wellbeing. If we spend time in an environment and form a relationship with it, Cal says, then people will want to protect it.
What I love about Cal is her positivity. While topics such as plastic and climate change can often bring doom and gloom, she discusses positive solutions and encourages us all to do little things that bring great benefits. Throughout her 900 mile journey Cal meets countless people who donate to her cause, help out with litter picks and show their support in so many other ways. Even in places like Manchester, where plastic pollution was at its worst along Cal’s route, spirits were high and people clearly showed their passion for protecting their natural environment.
At times the film was very moving. Cal revisited a place where she spent a holiday with her lost friend, and at times broke down from the combination of finding so much litter and experiencing sheer exhaustion. The constant struggles and exertions only made reaching the finishing line more emotional. After two months on the water with a sole purpose, it seemed almost anti-climactic when Cal touched land at the end of her journey. Overwhelmed with emotion, she debated staying with nature at sea and letting it continue to “heal” and “wow” her.
What resonated with me was the “profound sense of joy” that comes with being on the ocean surrounded by natural beauty. Many of us feel an undeniable pull to the ocean – that beautiful, unpredictable element of nature that compels our love and respect. Seeing so much litter clogging beaches where seals and birds roamed was difficult, but knowing that people like Cal are raising awareness with a positive message is so refreshing.
As we watched a drone’s eye view over mountains and stretching ocean at the end of the film, the man beside me leant over and asked, “Do you think you’ll go back again?”
I really don’t think so.