God, a Man and his Boat

The following story is a fascinating one, that of a man who carried a unique connection with the ocean. As a solo sailor, he circumnavigated the globe several times, facing the aggressiveness of nature with great courage. His name was Bernard Moitessier.

As a French national born in Vietnam in 1925, he developed a close connection with the ocean during childhood already. He is best known for his 1968 participation to the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, which he eventually abandoned by carrying on with his circumnavigation, unable to break his natural symbiosis with the vastness of the ocean. The race would start in Plymouth, UK, and each sailor would have to head South, double Cape of Good Hope, and circumnavigate the Globe via an Eastward route.

Bernard Moitessier – Apr 10th 1925, 5:30 PM UT-7, Ha Noi, Vietnam – Geocentric, Placidus, Mean Node [RR:AA] – SOLAR FIRE v9.0.26 I Source: Astro Databank

What emerges from Moitessier’s birth chart is the tight Sun-Neptune trine in Fire signs. Neptune is known for its illusory qualities which, if used constructively, lead to unimaginable levels of creativity. Sun-Neptune aspects are common among navigators of all times, and it is worth looking at why this is the case.

Where the Sun shines in the natal chart, one’s ultimate purpose lies; this refers to one’s best expression of individual identity or, if we prefer, a description of one’s most authentic direction in life. When the Sun forms specific aspects with Neptune, that very purpose meets the demands of the Blue Planet. This means that a person’s life then appears to be closely related to an immense level of sensitivity. Oftentimes, factors which include education, upbringing, culture, religion, or simply one’s decision, do not allow for the most authentic side of Sun-Neptune aspects to be expressed without fears of downfall, therefore we encounter situations in which such natal configurations play out in very negative ways. This was the case with President Richard Nixon, for example, who was born under a Sun-Neptune opposition which, when activated by transits in the 70s, became the ultimate face of the Watergate scandal.

Going back to the more creative side of Neptune, Bernard Moitessier lived in extreme symbiosis with an habitat in which he could encounter his True Self. In other words, the happiness he would gain by experiencing absolute loneliness in the middle of the ocean, was incomparable.

Born under a Sun-Venus-Chiron triple conjunction in Aries, Moitessier embodied the image of a lone warrior gifted with intense idealism; he in fact engaged in an anti-war campaign which promoted the de-nuclearization of the Pacific. With Venus and Chiron accompanying the natal Sun in Aries, one’s life path appears to be linked with a constant search for beauty, however such beauty comes from the understanding and acceptance of pain. It is not a surprise, astrologically speaking, that Moitessier felt like a unique individual, perhaps little understood during his time, who could probably be regarded as a new-age mystic. Neptune is mystical indeed, and here it forms a prominent trine to the Sun-Venus-Chiron configuration. With Aries and Leo involved in this harmonious configuration, both individual achievement and creative pursuit are described. Moitessier blended those two aspects of life by engaging in his record-breaking adventures, during which he could find the inspiration needed to write books of immense poetic value. Also, the triple conjunction in Aries formed a square with Jupiter in Capricorn; the intense level of Cardinality in Moitessier’s chart made him a person who loved, or at least attracted, challenges. Any Sun-Jupiter aspect involve philosophical views, and oftentimes an elevated sense of spirituality. Long-distance travel, either expressed or wished, is generally part of the process of self-individualization for people born under prominent Sun-Jupiter aspects. It is worth remembering how Neptune and Jupiter are connected to each other via their co-rulership of Pisces; therefore, Moitessier carried a strong sensitivity towards the sense of oneness offered by the sea. This generally goes way beyond the dogmatic experiences of religion, unless a strong Saturn is involved in the same natal configuration. Moitessier was a very spiritual man indeed, who found his haven away from land, in the vastness of the ocean. Also, wherever Neptune gets engaged within the natal chart, dreams and imagination thrive. With angular Pluto on the Midheaven, his public image would be linked with the intensity of his own individual nature. Moitessier was both inspired and frightened by his own dreams, a typical effect of the ethereal experience of Neptune and its uncontainable magic…

“There are two terrible things for a man: not to have fulfilled his dream, and to have fulfilled it.”

Bernard Moitessier, The Long Way – Goodreads

Born under a Moon-Saturn conjunction in Scorpio, Moitessier also carried a very different side of himself. Astrology, when dealt with psychologically, allows us to explore the inner realm in powerfully instructive ways. Any Moon-Saturn configuration can be difficult to accept, because the demands of the latter are quite different from the essence of the Lunar fluctuations. The delicate emotional realm meets the demands of a strictly regulated world, which oftentimes does not allow for the free expression of feelings and sensations. With the conjunction being placed in Scorpio, Moitessier carried a profound emotionality, gifted with the ability to understand and possibly endure the darkest effects of the human experience. His long periods of retreat would powerfully awaken his need to explore the inner side of life, as demanded by a powerful Moon-Saturn conjunction in Scorpio.

With such aspects, one’s early life is emotionally intense, generally speaking. This normally manifests with the presence of a strong, powerful and demanding mother-figure, who is likely to impose great limitations onto the child’s expression. If his birthtime record is accurate enough, this would also be enhanced by the all-inclusive mother-figure described by the angularity of Pluto on the Cancerian Midheaven. This is obviously an experience of life, and it is not to be regarded as “negative”, nor should we ever “judge” any astrological aspect. Moon-Saturn aspects are powerful and robust, because they ultimately foster inner integrity and the ability to withstand periods of great difficulty. Moitessier was a tough man indeed.

“I hate storms, but calms undermine my spirits.”

Bernard Moitessier, The Long Way – Goodreads
“The approximate positions of competitors in the 1968/69 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race as of April 10, 1969. Knox-Johnston was closing on the finishing line; Moitessier, having sailed around the world, and in a strong position to win both prizes, delivered a passionate rejection of materialism by sailing on, well into a second circumnavigation. Tetley, suffering damage, was heading home with relief. On this day, Crowhurst re-opened radio contact, reporting himself as having crossed the Indian and Pacific oceans, and heading for Cape Horn; in fact, he hadn’t left the Atlantic” – Quoted from Wikimedia Commons

During his most famous adventure, the participation to the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, he performed an action which made him historically renowned. After doubling Cape Horn, and having circumnavigated the globe for months, he decided to turn his boat “Joshua” towards the South and head for Cape of Good Hope again, leaving behind any commercial aspirations and competitive pursuits. He strongly opposed the commercialization of yacht races; after all, his connection with the ocean was one of a spiritual type. During his passage through the Indian Ocean he had started considering the option of staying away from Europe, using Yoga to overcome long periods of depression. The long voyage was for Moitessier a way of emotionally purifying himself, a cathartic experience, we can say.

The way he abandoned the race is highly indicative of his intense idealism. This story presents us with an utter manifestation of the resignation of individual will to the forces of the “greater whole”. His renunciation was,at least partly, a powerful Neptunian experience. As he described in his book ‘The Long Way‘, he fired a message by slingshot onto the deck of a passing ship:

“Parce que je suis heureux en mer et peut-être pour sauver mon âme”

“Because I am happy at sea and perhaps to save my Soul”

Bernard Moitessier, translated by William Rodarmor (1974). The Long WayAdlard Coles Nautical, UK

During the race Saturn was transiting the sign of Aries and, more precisely, the area of his natal Sun-Venus-Chiron triple conjunction. The “hermit experience” is therefore quite a literal manifestation of this transit, which simultaneously activated his natal Neptune by trine and Jupiter by square. Moitessier’s innate connection with the spiritual realm was being reawakened. Pluto in Virgo was still opposite his natal Uranus in Pisces. During the previous years, Uranus and Pluto had formed a prolonged conjunction in Virgo; this is known as the main generational factor which corresponded with the enormous changes which society experienced during the 60s and 70s. During a time of intense social developments, Moitessier had become involved with the ongoing transformation by breaking the boundaries of his own spirituality, seeking redemption and peace among the raging forces which dominate the oceans.

“Joshua drives towards the Horn under the light of the stars and the somewhat distant tenderness of the moon. Pearls run off the staysail; you want to hold them in your hand, they are real precious stones that live only in the eyes. The wake spins out very far behind up the slopes of the seas like a tongue of fire and the close-reefed sails stand out against the clear sky, with the moon making the sea on the quarter glisten. White reflection of the southern ice. Broad greenish patches of foam on the water. Pointed tooth-like seas masking the horizon, dull rumbling of the bow struggling and playing with the sea.

The entire sea is white and the sky as well. I no longer know how far I have got, except that we long ago left the borders of too much behind.”

Bernard Moitessier, The Long Way

Cover image: Pexels Media Library in WordPress

References: Bernard Moitessier – Wikipedia


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