Finding that peaceful place

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The other night I was sat on the boat getting a new perspective of Palma since we are up high on the dry dock, and I noticed a beautiful old city on the horizon. A horizon which is within walking distance and always has been. I finished my evening meal and decided that Sunday was going to be spent exploring.

 

As I walked through the narrow medieval old streets, seeing Palma in a new light, I realised that I was so busy not liking the city, that I didn’t even try to find something I liked. That was so unlike me. Normally I see new places with open eyes and find lots of little things I like. I spent two weeks here with the catamaran and I only went to the places that were around the marina we were in or wherever my crew mates wanted to go. I really enjoyed twisting and turning through the narrow streets, looking at the buildings, taking photos and imagining what life must’ve been like when this was first built. There were so many flowers, lots of bright purple which seems to be the flower colour of the Mediterranean. It’s beautiful and really stands out against the clay coloured buildings.

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I came up to a really old Church tucked away in a corner of the old city. There was no one in that street. I could hear the TV of one of the flats echoing through the tunnel the narrow street created. As I entered the courtyard, I saw an old man quietly talking to someone in a car which was parked in front of the church. They were too involved in conversation to notice I was there so I quietly sneaked in to the Church. Ahhh….a deafening silence. I stood there for a moment breathing in the musty smell that old churches have and letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. It was a hot day, yet the Church was nice and cool. I tip toed to the nearest bench in the back and involuntarily took a deep breath. Then the tears just started flowing. I didn’t even know they were there.

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Religion has always been very important to my family, so I went to a Catholic school, mass 1-2 times a week and religious education classes when I switched schools. I hated it. I didn’t understand why anyone could want to be a part of this.  To me every second of being in a Church was pure torture. I had to sit and listen and just be quiet. Then I had to go to confession once a month and confess my sins – a list that never varied because I wasn’t ever going to tell the truth of what I really did!! Not only that, but it was full of rules. Those who are close to me know that any rules I’m given will be purposely broken as soon as I can manage it. Give me freedom and I flourish.

 

I don’t know how my Mom put up with it, but she was persistent. Years and years and years of fighting to get me up and going to Church every single Sunday. I would argue, say horrible things about her faith and make up excuses of why I couldn’t go.  The only response I got was, “When you turn 17 and have your confirmation, you can make your own decision, but while you are still a child in God’s eyes, you will go to Church. ” I must’ve started the countdown when I was three years old!! Sure enough, I had my confirmation and that was the last time I went to Church on a weekly basis.

 

I haven’t found the Catholic faith, but I’ve found the yoga philosophy. I quite like it because it has general guidelines of how to live life that I can interpret and incorporate into my life in my own way. This suits me much better! Now I’m grateful that my Mom stuck with the fight, because I get it. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was saying in the teenage voice, “Do I have to go to Church with you on Christmas???” when my Mom said, “It’s my peaceful place and if you don’t want to be there, it won’t be peaceful. I’m not going to make anyone go who doesn’t want to be there.” It all the sudden made sense. She wasn’t trying to stick the religion down my throat, she was trying to teach me that we all need a peaceful place where we can go to when we need to breath, feel comfort, cry or just be. Sounds like something I believe in… What a beautiful gift she gave me. I’m sure she’s happy that her efforts were fruitful, even though it was years and many battles later.

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For me, that place can be my yoga mat depending on where it is. I have had many a breakdown on my mat.  I have spent lonely times sat in child’s pose for extended periods of time focusing on my breathing and feeling some comfort from my mat and the earth below it. However as yoga has no temple to speak of, I discovered that churches can give me that peace too.  

 

When I went travelling, my boyfriend at the time broke up with me over email and I was devastated. I was sharing a room with three strangers and had nowhere to breakdown. I wandered around the city with my sunglasses on hiding the tears. Then I stumbled upon a church and thought that was a good place to cry. So I went in and just sobbed. That was the first time I went into a church without hating it and feeling as though I was going to instantaneously burst into flames due to my sinful ways. It was so quiet, calming and had a warm energy. It became my go to place when I was feeling lonely, sad or lost whilst on my travels.

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Actually, recently, a good friend of mine reminded me of that fact when I was feeling down and lost. She suggested I go there to find some comfort. I was drawn to that church on Sunday. This lifestyle can be very lonely at times and I’m really feeling it at the moment. Stepping into that Church reminded me I’m not alone and that all I have to do is trust and keep going. It also gave me that space to have a moment to not be ok. Something I don’t always do when I’m in new situations because I “must be strong!” I thanked the space for giving me comfort and walked out feeling much lighter and dare I say, with a gentle smile on my newly relaxed face…

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A smashing final

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“Trim stay sail!!!” “Upwind. Keep it upwind. Shit ok, ease the main!! Ease the main!! Quick! Ease the main!I was in awe at how many orders the tactician was calling out in seconds.  The boat was heeled so much that I was standing on the vertical part which the guard rails go into. As the main sheet was trimmed too tightly, the boat was heeling more and more until the cooling sea water gently kissed my bare feet and I was desperately looking for something to hold onto. I looked at the crew member next to me,smiled and said, “Oh my god this is soooo coool!!!!” As they eased the sheets, the boat came up above the water line. 

 

My adrenaline was pumping. We crossed the start line too early so we had to do a penalty 360 and fell boat lengths behind the others. However we steered such a good course that we caught up with everyone and were nearly bow to bow with the boat in 1st place. “What the fuck is that guy doing??,” shouted what I like to call, the conductor (tactician). I looked around and saw a boat from a different class barrelling towards our port side. Our crew started shouting at him, “Starboard!! Starboard!!” 

 

He’s not moving and we can’t move because we are in between the winning boat and the committee boat that is marking the finish line. We are so close to the winning boat already that we could jump on to it. The conductor is still shouting instructions at the helmsmen as he can see better what’s going on. 

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As the bow of the other boat gets closer to our stern, the crew in the cockpit start jumping over things and towards the middle of the boat. The helmsmen keeps his cool and manages to keep a straight course as he casually walks around to the other side of the wheel to avoid being speared by the oncoming anchor. His 12 year old son is screaming and shaking. As I’m closest to him, I put my hand on him in a feeble attempt to calm his fear that his father is going to be killed. He looks at me with a deep look of helplessness as the anchor crashes into our port side stern. We are able to bear away a tiny bit, but the boat is still too close and hits us again scraping away the stern lifelines and leaving behind a scar of his blue paint. 

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That was the final knock and we cross the finish line second, in total shock as to what happened. “Why did Anna Bollina not bear away sooner???,” we all wondered. My captain asks if everyone is ok and then says, “They’ve crashed into another boat I was on, they should be banned from all races.” The owners’ son is left shaking and crying just wanting to get to land. 

 

We quickly gather our composure to bring down the sails and motor in to the bay. We are all in shock, the excitement of a close finish after being last by boat lengths tumbled into the sea. 

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However, this was my first time in a regatta and I refused to let their stupidity ruin one of the most exciting sailing experiences I’ve ever had! 

 

We completed three races and came second overall. A great result with a crew where only two people had ever raced before. There is so much excitement, adrenaline and manoeuvring going on it’s incredible. Each of us had a specific job and as we were all inexperienced, we listened to the conductor waiting to be told our instruction. Everything needs to be done quickly and the boats are so close to each other at the start and finish that a crash seems imminent! Sadly we know it can happen… 

 

The boat is heeled the entire time and those who aren’t involved in trimming the sails sit on the rails to get the boat down so that the keel is in the water to move faster. I watched the speedometer and at some points we were going 12.5 knots. The boat loves to sail and allowed us to get back in the race after we thought we lost it. She is a beauty and I have the utmost respect for her. The race appears to finish as soon as we begin, yet 1-2 hours have passed. 

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The noise of the sails going up, down and tacking seems as though she is going to break, but I know it’s just sheer power and she will hold. We had great wind for the last two races and I enjoyed the wind whipping through my hair and my feet being plunged into the sea as I pressed the electric winch and worked the code zero and gennaker halyards

 

The job hasn’t turned out to be how it was described to me (or the Captain), but then again, nothing is perfect. Captain T (for talent) is a skilled and experienced Captain who understands my learning style and has already taught me so much. We’ve learned quickly how to work and live together so I’m going to stick it out. It’s only for the summer and the experience and knowledge I’m gaining will last a lifetime. 

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The sailing world is still male dominated and sadly the racing world even more so. However I understand. A lot of strength is necessary. We have electric winches making jobs for women possible so instead of being disappointed that my chances of being on deck are slim in a more professional race, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in this race. Whether we won or lost was never important to me. What I wanted to experience was the teamwork involved and the excitement of being in a race.  That is exactly what I got!

 

The Magic of the Spanish Coast

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Last night around 8 pm, we could see the continents of both Africa and Europe. To me, it was completely surreal. Two totally different continents that are so close yet have such different cultures, landscapes, economic statuses, races and religious practices. There was something very humbling about that view. They were both mountainous yet one side was full of lights and the other almost nothing.

 

Unfortunately we went through the narrowest part of the strait and past the Rock of Gibraltar when it was night time so I wasn’t able to see that beauty this time. This will not be the last time I do a crossing so it’s better that I don’t see all of the magic the first time.

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I had been doing yoga on the sofas upstairs in the cockpit, but this morning I pulled out my yoga mat and did yoga on the deck as the sea was calm and there was hardly any breeze. I could feel the energy and power of the sea and the mountainous Spanish coast seep into my lungs as I inhaled deeply. I exhaled out all of the negative energy I was holding and let it go into the sea. Spain and the Spanish people have always taken care of me, they will do it again. There is no reason to worry or stress, I am in a beautiful place with beautiful people. I will be taken care of and there is something great waiting for me here, I know it. I don’t know what it is, I will be patient and just breath until it comes my way.

 

When I was on my 2-6 a.m. night watch, I suddenly realised that we would be passing the coast of Nerja. Nerja is a place where I holidayed for four years when I was with one of my ex-boyfriend’s. It’s a very very special place to me and my stomach got butterflies thinking that I would see it again after an eight year break. However I would be seeing it from a different view, with a different perspective on life and with different company. I estimated about when we would arrive and I set my alarm perfectly.

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I woke up at 9.10 and I jumped up to look out my cabin window. I could feel it, Nerja was right there. I got dressed and popped upstairs to look at the GPS chart. Sure enough, we were just coming to the edge of it. I ran up to the cockpit with excitement and shared why I was so excited with the crew members that were up there. As we slowly passed it, all of the memories came back. The days lying on the same beach chair owned by the same guy who always remembered our names. The yummy paella and pasta that we had at the beach restaurant served by a waiter who never forgot my ex-boyfriend because he had been going there for 10 years. The run to the shops to buy vodka and orange Fanta for the beach. The romantic walks in the city along the cobblestone streets. The tapas and beer we had after a day on the beach and a nap.  I remembered his friend’s villa where we always stayed. Perhaps the fondest memory I have of Nerja is when my parents came with us. I had never seen them so happy and carefree, so in love and enjoying all of the new experiences we were showing them. It was the first time I had the opportunity to show them a new place, to take care of them (I speak Spanish, they don’t) and to show them a part of my world. They looked so beautiful and alive and I was so happy to be able to bring them this joy.

 

I sat in the cockpit by myself away from the others just reminiscing about those times, how good they were, how good all of my life has been. As we passed Nerja, I continued to think about life and how good Spain has been to me. It’s not just Nerja that has a piece of my heart, it’s also Toledo where I spent three weeks on a University course studying archaeology. In those three short weeks, I made friends with some of the locals and felt like I was a part of their community. Then there was Madrid and Barcelona, where I had to smoothly talk a Police Officer out of arresting my boyfriend (same one as discussed above) for mooning cars while we were going across a crosswalk. I had forgotten how many special memories Spain holds for me.

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I couldn’t stop admiring the view, I was totally mesmerised by the breathtaking view in front of me. Sailing along the Spanish coast was the absolute perfect way to end the sail of a lifetime. The sunshine was shining brightly, the water was calm with sparkles of sunlight dancing on the surface. I was sitting up top with the sun warmly kissing my windburned smiling face. I was in pure meditation mode, I didn’t notice who was around me, I was so involved in the scenery. The Spanish coast is gorgeous. The Sierra Nevada is similar to the Colombian Sierra Nevada. It’s peaks jagged and rough reaching up to gather the energy of the sun and towering over the sea. Some of the peaks look like crinkled suede or  intricate woodwork carvings. There are hills upon hills within each peak creating tiny valleys for rivers to flow. They are full of different shades of brown and green.

 

A bit further down are many towns and farms. The farms are polytunnel farms so they can grow food throughout the year and faster. This requires a canvas, quite often white or light green which is spread out in sections over the sides of the mountains, close to the coast. One of the crew said it was an eyesore and maybe it is, but I could feel the energy of the nutrient earth. All of those vegetables that are (controversially) grown to give nourishment for bodies to function in this chaotic world.

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Those nourished bodies were in the cars I could see driving along the highway snaking around the mountainside. In between the hills there are bridges for them to pass over quickly. I saw lorries, cars, buses and trucks speeding along carrying people to work, a holiday destination or vehicles bringing goods and products to another part of the country or continent. It was so much life to see after so much endlessness of the sea. It didn’t feel overwhelming this time, it felt like I was an observer to a beautiful system of living. A system I wouldn’t mind being in for a short time before setting sail again.

 

Further down the mountains were the beautiful coastal towns. Some authentic and original, others built up with hotels. There were lighthouses on the scattered capes that reach out into the ocean as though they are drinking in the purity and vitality of the ocean water. These points are the connection between sea and land. I always find these capes so beautiful in their raw ruggedness. Their ability to be connected to both land and sea at the same time. What a powerful energy to hold. From time to time a brown sandy beach would pop up, sometimes with visitors sunning themselves and others only with the crashing of the ocean waves.

 

I am looking forward to the new story that awaits me in Palma. I will accept whatever opportunities may arise, however positive or challenging they will be. For there is always beauty, there is always the memory of a beautiful life I have had to date. In fact, it’s been so incredible that it’s hard to remember all of the beautiful times until I am placed back there. Life has such an amazing way of bringing us to where we need to be at exactly the right moment.

 

Making dreams come true

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My heart goes out to people who look at me and tell me that I’m lucky to have my life. They must truly believe that they don’t have the same choices I have or that they don’t have control over their life. They are really missing out on their full potential.

 

I do have a good life. It’s not necessarily the life everyone wants, but some people envy the freedom and lack of responsibility I have. Guess what? I’m not lucky, I made choices to be in my position. They weren’t always easy choices, I didn’t always have the agreement of my family, but I made them and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Since accepting the job on a motor yacht back in February, I have received a few messages from friends saying they admire my ability to take risks. I love taking risks because every time I have, something incredible has come out of it. Whether it’s meeting an incredible new person or going on some cool adventure, something positive is always the result.

 

On the surface I appear to be excited and ready to jump with both feet forward, but to tell you the truth, the inside isn’t like that. My close friends will tell you. They will ask me how I am or if I’m ready and most of the time the response is, “I’m scared shitless and I don’t know how to be ready, so I’m just going to go for it because it always works out.” I normally have one or two days of sheer panic that someone close to me will hear about and have to comfort me and remind me of all the risks I took before and how they worked out. I will have personal moments of wondering if this is really a stupid thing to do and if I’m mentally stable.

 

Then I just close my eyes and jump. Sometimes I land on my bum first and have to wait for the bruise to go away, sometimes I have to turn around and go back but most of the time a beautiful story develops. The end result is that I always end up on my feet, exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’ve been all over the world, I’ve met incredible people, locals and other travellers that have touched my heart forever. I have experienced living in other cultures, I have seen the night sky in the middle of the Atlantic. I have known what it’s like to love numerous people. I have learned how to deal with heart break, ending relationships and moving on. I have found my place in the world. To wander free and endlessly like the beautiful waves that are crashing over the side of the boat and threatening to soak my computer!

 

The point is, we all have choices. Maybe we don’t like some of those choices and it prevents us from doing what we want to do now. That’s ok, just modify the plan to suit your current lifestyle. Dreams can always come true if you truly want them to become reality.