A smashing final

IMG_9228

“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. 

 IMG_9235_LI.jpg

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. 

 IMG_9281.JPG

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. 

 IMG_9253.JPG

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. 

 IMG_9223

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. 

 IMG_9233

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

IMG_8769.JPG

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.

 IMG_8803

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.

 IMG_8820

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.

 IMG_8796

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.

 IMG_8795

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

IMG_4402

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.

A naughty mast

IMG_8717.JPG

My alarm went off at 0140 and I sleepily turned it off. Instead of spending those extra two minutes in warmth as I had done the last few nights, I jumped out having faith that the beautiful sunset meant there would be some stars in the sky. Since leaving the Azores, we had nothing but clouds and an icy cold North wind. I don’t mind bad weather, but taking away my stars is like putting me in prison.

 

It was still a cold icy North wind. I had put my own foul weather jacket underneath the large one that was issued to me by the boat. Before I went up to the cockpit, I was given a fender cover to use as a blanket for my legs because it really was that cold. It reminded me of the best sleep that I had in the cockpit when we were on charter in Trade Wins. We had taken the dinghy cover off for some reason and we wrapped ourselves in that so we weren’t touched by the wind. Us sailors are creative! Anyway, I trooped up the stairs, happy to see that the Universe gave us her stars that evening.

 

After handover, I went to sit on the comfy sofas to do my stargazing, but they were soaking wet and the wind wasn’t really protecting me. I managed to find a corner that was ok. Then the bilge alarms kept going off, so I eventually sat by the helm where my watch partner was in order to turn them off quicker and give everyone the rest they so badly deserved. The wind was bitter cold, so I slouched down and put the humongous fender cover on the side of me and over half my head to protect me. I was feeling all nice and cosy and ready to watch for falling stars.  I looked up and saw a piece of the masterpiece that is the sky and was so happy. That was…until I noticed the spreader was swinging dangerously. I quickly popped up and got my headlamp out. I looked up and holy shit it was broken!! I showed my partner who’s response was to give me the radio to call the Captain.

 IMG_8746

The engineer came up first. He had turned the lights on before he came up and before he was all the way up, he swore and ran down for a torch. He came back up followed by the Captain. We turned on more lights, which are as bright as a football field lit up at night and we could see the spreaders were ok. The rotating mast was just rotating MUCH more than it should. We prepared to drop the sail, put her into the wind and I pulled down on her with all my might, swinging in the air to put as much weight on it as I could. I just wanted it down because these masts weigh tons and could do some serious damage to the boat and cause death or life changing injury if they crash down on anyone.  We spent a tense 45 minutes securing the boom to take the swing out, which could cause further damage. It is hard to de-mast a boat with healthy rigging, but it’s possible.

 

During those 45 minutes, the GPS alarm kept going off saying there was no signal. Yep, we lost the GPS. Luckily there was a back up one and with those good old smart phones, they give GPS coordinates so we could plot them on a chart in the worst case scenario. There is a metal tube that holds the wires of the electronics as well as preventing the mast from rotating too much and that welding had snapped off breaking the cables and allowing the mast to swing freely.

 

Of course this happened at 2.23 am, as all bad things happen on a boat between 2 and 3 am, so we didn’t know this until the morning. My watch partner and I spent a stressful two hours steering and praying that the boom didn’t fall on our heads. The boom is directly above the wheel. I talked out an escape strategy if it all went bad.

 IMG_8745

I woke up after my shift and was happy to see that the mast was still there as well as the stay sail, so it couldn’t have been all bad. Then I went outside and saw the beautiful sunshine shining down on a gorgeous deep blue sea. There was a big gentle swell with white caps accentuated by the sea blue. I thanked the Universe for keeping us safe the night before and for giving me this beautiful scenery to celebrate living another day. I was so energised and invigorated that during my watch I steered for three hours. The waves were so beautiful and I was loving perfecting my technique of sailing over the waves while keeping within five degrees of the course.

 

There are many reasons why I love sailing. It’s nights like the one we had last night that remind me to appreciate every single second of my life because we never know when it’s going to end. It makes the colours of the world so much brighter because without being morbid, I appreciate how close we are to death and that I have the choice to live life to the fullest. I reflected on my life today and realised that I am living life to the fullest and what an amazing adventure I’ve had so far!

Sailor’s drunken debauchery

IMG_8688

Do you ever wonder why we use the term drunk as a sailor? Or why so many sailors tend to get legless when they arrive on shore? Maybe not, but the psychologist in me has.  When I woke up at 8 am on Friday morning, I could see the islands of Pico and Faial (The Azores) in the distance with their majestically volcanic beauty. It was a partly cloudy day, but the sun was shining.  I was looking forward to having an explore, a few drinks with my crew members to celebrate an amazing 12 day journey and then SLEEP! I wanted an early night so that I could wake up to the sun rising and do a full yoga session, instead of the seated and lying down routines I was doing during the sail.

 

When we knew that we were going to be on land in the next 24 hours, the deckhand expressed her interest in drinking herself “into a coma.” The other crew members agreed they were also looking forward to a drink. I was cool. One or two was all I needed since I had such a great time in a peaceful place and really liked the state of mind I was in. The Captain and Engineer were talking about getting shitfaced and the chef and other delivery crew were looking forward to a party. I sat there thinking how I would probably be the only one rested, with a clear and pain free head on Saturday.

 

Let me just tell you something you probably already know, states of mind change.  I too was hurting on Saturday.  We got to land and when I was ready to turn my phone on, I was bombarded with messages. I had actually debated on staying off social media since I told everyone I would be offline for about three weeks.  I was just going to send my family an email saying I was the happiest I’ve ever been. Then I took my selfish hat off and realised that there were other people who would really like to hear from me too and I didn’t have their email so I should go on social media. For me, it’s an adjustment and slight shock coming back to society after being outside of it, I mean totally outside of it for a couple of weeks. I just replied to what I could handle and then went off.

 IMG_8689

I can only imagine how the sailors of the early days felt when they hit land. My conditions are brilliant. I have a huge comfy bed, a nice big shower with endless water (we have a watermaker), fresh gourmet food that’s cooked for me, clean dry clothes and a dry boat. Back in the 1700 and 1800’s, they had leaky boats where they were constantly bailing water out of the bilges (worst job on a ship), no showers, limited water and dried food that lacked variety. Many people became sick and I don’t even want to imagine the smell inside those boats. They carried live animals, were damp, musty and the scent of body odour must’ve been overwhelming.  I can imagine why the first thing sailors of those days wanted to do when they got off a boat after months or sometimes years of being on sea, is to get drunk and have sex. Makes sense.

 

For me, it was almost a mourning of leaving a beautiful place. Even if people were crabby or there were tense situations, I stayed in my own bubble of happiness and deflected the negativity. Being on land, I receive so much more energy that I have to deflect and most often times, fail at. It leaves me low on energy and sometimes struggling to keep afloat.   

 

Anyway, I went off with the deckhand exploring the beautiful, quiet and quaint town of Horta. It’s not very big so it didn’t take very long. She has a degree in fashion so we went into some shops and she was teaching me some things about how clothes are made.  Then she said, “I want a drink.” I did too. We had two mini beers and thought it was weird we weren’t feeling the effects of alcohol after two weeks of not drinking. We had another mini one and a shot of the local liquor and thought, “Oh ok. Now we are.” The rest of the crew had gone off to do their own things, so we had all agreed to meet in Peter’s, the famous sailor’s bar that most people go to when they arrive. We merrily made our way there in the rain, debating on whether or not to stop off at some more local pubs. We decided they may be wondering where we went off to, so we splashed through the rain to meet them.

 IMG_8690

Everyone was already there so we joined them at the table where they quickly discovered what our Horta tour consisted of.  The captain ordered some big beers and a round of tequila shots to celebrate our safe arrival on land. Let’s just say it went uphill from there. Even though we spend all this time together on a boat, we don’t really get much time to chat. We are all on different schedules because of the watch pattern.  The odd times we did eat together, it was a quick meal and then one or more usually went off to bed.  At the pub we were busy chatting with lips made loose from alcohol about life stories we may not have shared otherwise. There was lots of laughter going around, lots of funny little dares to do. I would pop outside now and again and start chatting with whoever was outside smoking. It was great fun!

 

The deckhand and I went out with another sailor to a club somewhere. That’s all a bit hazy. I remember being in a car thinking I should probably be going to bed instead of out dancing. We got to the club and I remember thinking it was cool and how I really was quite legless. The deckhand told me we both spilled more beer than we drank, a good thing for us! Then we decided that the rest of the crew needed to join us, so we went back to the boat to round them up. The dock is a lot lower than us, like about two meters, so how we managed to stand on the wobbly steps and jump up to the boat without falling in, is a mystery to us!

 IMG_8691

We struggled to unlock the door for about 20 minutes and as I was about to pee my pants, the Captain came up behind us to say that we were opening the wrong door. We laughed hysterically as it took him three seconds to open the right door. Next thing I remember, I woke up the next morning wearing only my pyjama shirt and underwear, my clothes strewn everywhere on the floor and the shower door open. I guess I thought I needed a shower to wash off the alcohol!

 

The next morning we all slowly woke up and have yet to fit all the pieces of the evening together, but we had great fun sharing the parts we remembered. I had fun hearing what I missed after I went to bed!  We suffered together as we worked on the boat so that we could sit down and rest again. There was talk of going out again. Only the two people who managed a nap that afternoon went out again. The rest of us stayed in pretending that we were going to go out while we curled up on the sofa watching movies.

 IMG_8687

I guess that doesn’t really answer why us sailors engage in drunken debauchery, but it’s a little glimpse into it! Perhaps it’s our way of acclimatizing back into society, relief that we didn’t die at sea or maybe to fill a guilty conscience of being away and out of contact from family and loved ones for so long. Or maybe those of us that engage in it are secret alcoholics who have to make up for all the days they lost at sea! Who knows, all I know is that it can help bond crew (sometimes probably break them too!) and as long as no one gets hurt, makes for a fun way to celebrate making it to land safe and sound. Let’s hope the arrival in Palma is just as positive….       

A dance with the Atlantic

IMG_8524

It was 1.59 am and I sleepily popped up to the cockpit for my watch. I saw that Ross was steering and thought, “Oh, oh! Something happened to the autopilot.” He told me it had started acting up a couple of hours before. He told me what course to steer and off he went to bed.

 

I took the first hour of our four watch. It was still dark although the nearly full moon peeked out from under the clouds every now and again illuminating the control panel and the sails. I had already tried out the helm the second day so it wasn’t a stranger to me. I like to really feel a new boat and steering is the best way. The waves were coming at us from the port side and she was relatively easy to stay on course. I was still waking up, so after 10 minutes I sat down and when I was comfortable steering from seated, used my foot instead of my hand. Memories of Captain Cool and Trade Wins started flooding back….

 

Malika took the second hour. I got something to drink, had a stretch as my back has been a bit stiff lately, did my daily squats and arm exercises and had a break from the wind. Then I went back up to watch for ships and the night sky. Oh how the stars fall continuously in the open sea with no light pollution. I will never tire of the breathtaking beauty of the stars and planets. It really is stunning and I feel so privileged to experience it.

 

The third hour came and it was my turn again. The moon was still shining brightly behind us.  In front of us the morning sky was turning a pale gentle blue mixed with light pink and bright orange. I could see the waves more clearly now and I had fully woken up so I stood at the helm. The hour seemed like five minutes and I told Malika I was having fun and unless she really wanted to steer, I would keep going for a while. The “a while” lasted until the end of our watch.  

 IMG_8735

The boat stayed on her course so easily. As the moon shone brightly, a memory of my second trip with Captain Cool shone just as brightly. It was about 1 in the morning and we had just left the mouth of Cartagena bay. It was a windy night with big rolling waves (much like this morning’s) and the autopilot kept acting up. Eventually CC said that it was best if he steered us past la isla because there were a lot of reefs we could hit if we didn’t stay on course.  

 

I remember sitting in the pilot seat watching CC in absolute awe. He was standing with his legs wide apart, gracefully bending each knee as the boat tipped from side to side with the waves. He would look up at the sails and to the side where the waves were coming from. Then he did a beautiful dance with the wheel to ride over the wave and keep close to the wind while keeping course. He looked so beautiful, so peaceful, so at one with the boat. I felt like I was interrupting an intimate moment between a couple deeply in love. I watched him thinking, “I want to do that one day.” I kept silent, just watching and taking in his movements and how he worked the boat as if it was one of his limbs. I wanted to memorise it so when he taught me how to steer, I could do the same.

 

We made it past la isla and he put the autopilot back on. I said to him, “That was one of the most beautiful dances I’ve ever seen. Please teach me how to do that.” He just put his hand on my knee and smiled. He later told me that it’s not about teaching, it’s about feeling.  Not long after, he taught me how to steer and then I had lots of practice during those 15 months our autopilot was broken. I started to understand how to feel for the waves, how to work with the gusts of wind and how to dance with the sea.

 

This morning the image came back to me. Not because I was trying to remember how to do it, but because I realised I was doing the dance. Not as masterfully as CC, but I was doing it. My legs were wide apart to keep the balance and to feel her movement better. I was swaying from side to side with the boat never losing balance. As the sky lightened, I could see the waves more clearly. They were coming from port side and from the stern. It was so fun being lifted up from the stern by three and four meter waves and watching the bow becoming air borne before sinking down back into the sea. I watched the bows of the hulls and made small movements to keep within 5 degrees of my course. I was relaxed, I wasn’t even thinking that hard about what I was doing. I was watching the sea and the compass and after about 20 minutes, became an extension of the boat and it felt so beautiful. The waves, the wind, the gusts, the sails, the rudder, the wheel and I were all one, dancing a beautiful dance.  

 IMG_8618

I’ve been doing yoga and/or meditation every morning from about 4 a.m. That’s the benefit of being on a big catamaran! This morning I was going to do some meditation from 5-6, but realised that steering was the best meditation for me this morning. When the sun squeezed through the clouds. I closed my eyes for a second, took in a deep breath of fresh salty sea air and smiled. I expressed my gratitude for having had such a great sailing instructor, to have the willpower to pursue my dreams and to the universe for putting these opportunities in my path so I can grasp them. Last, but not least, I was grateful for the skill and opportunity to dance with the sea, my favourite dance partner of all times. Luckily I have a lifetime ahead of me to perfect and master this dance just like Captain Cool.

Why I love the sea

IMG_4394

I am surrounded by absolute endless beauty. Beauty of the deep blue sea, beauty of the occasional bird that comes to play with our sails, beauty of the vast and enormous 360 degree view of the amazing sky, beauty of the soothing and sometimes violent movement of this giant catamaran, beauty of the people I am with and the beauty of my soul as it opens and relaxes into pure bliss. Due to my watch, I have two sleeps during a 24 hour period.  I go to bed after sunrise and then again a couple of hours after sunset. I wake up each time with a childlike excitement to see what the sea and sky have in store for me when I go up to the enormous flybridge cockpit that is my office.

 

Many people ask me why I would want to do a crossing. My favourite response was from my 6 year old niece, “All that time on a boat? You can’t get off? How boring!” I don’t find anything boring about this experience. In fact, we’re in day five and I’m already worried I’m not going to complete everything I want to. Which is reading, writing, yoga, meditation and soaking in every breath taking moment of this truly magical experience.

 IMG_8598

Sailing on the open sea is a form of meditation for me. A very deep and peaceful meditation. I find that everything in my surrounding is a metaphor for life and with this, I feel connected to the universe. It gives me a chance to clear my head and re-evaluate life. I feel privileged that I get paid to have this unique opportunity that every human being could benefit from. Maybe not in the form of the sea because not everyone is a sailor, but in whatever form makes you feel grounded.

 

All of the elements of this experience relate somehow to life. Let’s start with the boat. The boat is like our bodies that hold our souls as we walk through this life. The boat is carrying us to a new destination, just as the body does in daily life.  If we care for it, maintain it well and feed it properly, it will do all that it can to get us to the next destination safely. Love it we do! We are all happy with the comfort this boat provides. We are amazed and grateful for the capacity and strength it has to hold the sails that carry so much force. We all do our part to keep it clean and organised, the salt water is washed off every few days and she looks beautiful. I am honoured to be crew on this beautiful boat with such caring and loving people.

 IMG_8577

The wind is like our energy. The speed fluctuates depending on the day and the hour. Much like our energy levels naturally fluctuate during the day. The wind also changes direction, like humans change their minds. There is nothing wrong or malicious about it. Sometimes the direction of the wind means that we have to change our course.  People in our lives change their minds and it means we have to alter our course. For example, the end of a relationship or a death of someone close to us. We have been going on one path and suddenly, the wind changes and we’re forced to make a new path. The beautiful thing is that we will always reach our destination, it may take a little longer than we thought. It will no doubt bring many beautiful experiences and people into our path we may not have met if the wind hadn’t changed direction.

 

With the wind changes, sailors have to adjust the sails. Much like we have to adjust our attitudes to what’s happening around us. Often times we don’t have control over the actual events, but we have every bit of control over how we perceive them. Sometimes we have to reduce the sails or take them down all together before putting them back up. This is true for life too. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can climb the mountain again. Then we are on top of the mountain and we may have to trim our sails to the wind so we can live life to our fullest ability.  One thing is for sure, the wind is always changing in some sense and we must always be aware of how the sails are and what we can do to prevent damage or losing them altogether. To be a healthy human being, it is important to be aware of how we are feeling, thinking, behaving towards others and towards ourselves. A content peaceful human being is constantly performing these checks and adjusting when necessary, in order to prevent harming others or themselves. It doesn’t mean to say we won’t hit rock bottom from time to time, it’s only to say that we accept this will happen and know what we need to do to lift up the sails again.

 IMG_8564

Then there is the sea. The waves are like events that happen in our lives. Sometimes we can predict them and prepare for them, other times a squall comes from nowhere and knocks us out.  During certain periods of our lives, the sea is calm and we gently sail over the waves comfortable and happy. Then the seas become rough and we start to move out of our comfort zone, maybe into panic, anxiety, fear, anger or depression. When the seas and wind get really rough on a sailboat, the best thing to do is to lower the sails and wait it out. Putting more sails up or turning the engines on to barrel through the storm will only lead to disaster. I think this is what us as human beings have forgotten. Life will always throw us challenges and we can’t change it. The best thing to do is accept it and ride the waves.  Somehow we have developed this mentality to get aggressive, to change it, to storm through it until we get the results that we want. Results that often don’t come when we are in this mind frame.  Stay on your boat in the storm and accept it.  Fill your boat with people who bring you comfort and joy and offer you support. Yes life is hard sometimes, but there is always something beautiful, no matter how small and for how short or long it happens. I can’t tell you the amount of times a stranger has smiled at me when I most needed it and that 5 seconds brought me enough comfort to lift my head.     

 IMG_4398

I look out all around me and see this vast endless beautifully unique blue sea.  Then I look up at the sky and admire it’s beauty and always changing endlessness.  The clouds represent opportunities that present themselves to us. They will pass with the wind if we don’t grab them.  The never ending sea reminds me that we never know what is around the corner. It’s easy to forget there is land. I haven’t seen it for five days now! It’s easy to forget I have another life where there are other people who’s dynamics I have to manage with my own. Yet at the same time, it reminds me that there is so much opportunity in land life and that with open eyes and the right attitude, I can call whatever I choose. Yes, life can be a challenge sometimes, but if it wasn’t, we would never appreciate the beautiful times.

 IMG_8649

All in all, it’s about acceptance. I am completely powerless on the open sea and I find it completely invigorating.  I am powerless to the weather, the waves, to when we arrive, to stopping and getting a food or drink that I am craving. It’s a beautiful way to learn acceptance and patience and to truly learn to appreciate what is in front of me at this given moment. What I see is incredibly beautiful and I know that it has to end one day, but I’m just going to focus on the beautiful moments of each second I am here. Now if I can accomplish this in my land life, I will be exactly where I want to be and hopefully help other people reach it too.