A typical day on the canals

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That’s a lie, a typical day in boating life is non-existent! But I can give you a summary of days that happen more frequently than not.

 

One reason why I love this particular job is because whether or not the owner is on board, I can wake up and do yoga every morning. On previous boats, when the owner was on board, I went to bed so late and had to wake up so early that I valued those five hours of sleep too much to take one for yoga.  I do yoga for about an hour if he’s here and 1.5-2 hours of yoga and meditation if he’s not. I do 20 minutes of coconut oil pulling (to rid myself of toxins and whiten my teeth. The teeth whitening really works!) first thing when I get up and use this time to read Vasistha’s Yoga.

 

After this, if the owner is on board, I change into my uniform and grab my chamois so that I can get the boat looking perfect before he wakes up. I chamois the stainless if there’s dew on it, wipe off any bird droppings and clean the hundreds of cobwebs. I’m so glad I’m over my fear of spiders because the river is a spider’s paradise and an arachnophobe’s nightmare! Clearing the cobwebs is my least favourite part of the job because they spin such beautiful homes and I feel bad destroying them.  If there’s dew on the windows, I take a squeegee and make the windows sparkle. Then the boss gets up, sometimes gives me tasks to do or I go in and help Ms Argentina serve breakfast.  I finish walking along the boat making sure there are no water stains or bird droppings as I prefer to take care of them before they are brought to my attention by the owner.  Throughout the day, I polish off fingerprints, do the required tasks, or help Ms Argentina with the interior.  Around 8.30 or 9 pm, the owner tells me to stop working and sometimes gives me money to go enjoy myself. The owner doesn’t like to stay in the same place for very long so quite often we cruise along the river and then I spend the day doing the lines in the locks. I love it! He’s normally at the bow with me so sometimes he gives me tips and he always says how well I’ve done. By the end of summer I’m expecting to be able to throw a lasso like a cowgirl.

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When the owner is not on board, it varies. Except my yoga routine. There’s always cleaning to do. This boat is 30 meters (98 feet) long and I’m the only deckhand so by the time I finish the bow, the stern needs cleaning again. The owner chooses spots far away from where we left him to meet him again so we can sometimes cruise down the river every day for four to five days before we have a break. I don’t mind, it’s chilled. There’s so many sites to see or sometimes I read or study outside in the cockpit. I usually steer for a couple of hours, do the lines through the locks and generally just enjoy the scenery. I can’t complain! It’s more relaxed when the boss isn’t here because the Captain doesn’t expect me to clean as we’re cruising along. Sometimes I do anyway because I don’t like a dirty boat!

 

On the odd day off, I take one of the boat bicycles and explore whatever area we’re in, try some of the local food and/or drinks or write. I work hard and don’t really have my own life because the owner can say he’s coming with only hours of notice.  However, there are so many advantages to this life that I don’t mind giving up my freedom. I know that in a couple of years, my salary is going to give me ultimate freedom!

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Yesterday, I spent the whole day de-calcifying and washing down the side of the boat that isn’t on the dock.  As I was balancing with a few toes in the groove of the side of the boat, the tip of my other big toe grazing the dinghy, and my go go gadget arm extending as high as it would reach to tie the dinghy line on the boat, I couldn’t help but smile. I am basically a boat cleaner. My eight year old niece could do my job, yet there’s no other way I would chose to ‘make a living’ right now. Visions of my office life came flooding back to me and I was so grateful that even though I’m far off from the typical University age, I found a new area to work in that gives me pleasure. There are many captains in their mid 40’s and older who are so tired of this job, yet it is all they’ve done and it’s difficult to retrain, especially for the salary they’ve been accustomed to! I really wanted a different life to the one I was leading and I was willing and did, give everything up to find what suited me better.

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So there you have it! Possibly not the glamour you thought this kind of job would have, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had!

Summer on the canals of Northern Europe..


Well, I’m spending my summer as a deckie cruising along the canals of Holland, Belgium and France on a fancy posh river barge/motor yacht thing. Never thought I would be saying that! It all started about three weeks ago. I was being patient waiting for a job to come my way. As mentioned in a previous blog, I had a bit of a panic which was quickly calmed. Then the next day I had two job offers and the following day two more. Mind you, none of them were for sailboats so I didn’t really want any of them. I took the first offer I received for day charters in Palma as it was going to be a trial.  I thought worse comes to worse, at least that day’s pay would pay for my rent that week.  

 

As I got home from that interview, my phone rang.  It was a call about working on a motor yacht/canal boat in Northern Europe. It wasn’t anything at all what I wanted and it was another private yacht so I thought, oh here we go again with the wife… I listened to the Captain and although I thought he was a bit weird, he seemed harmless and the job sounded interesting. I had two hours to think about it because they needed me to come in two days. This job was better then the Palma based job because it was live aboard so I wouldn’t have to worry about food or rent. I like free stuff, so I called the Captain back and said I would take it.

 

So here I am, two and a bit weeks into the job as a deckhand on a motor barge (I made that up)! It’s the only motor yacht built like this. The boat is classified as a motor yacht, but looks like a fancy barge. We’re like celebrities going down the river because it’s so unique.  People are so friendly. On the sea there is a hierarchy between boats depending on type and size. I’ve always thought that’s so ridiculous and continue waving to whoever I’m not supposed to wave to because at the end of the day we’re all humans who enjoy the sea. I usually don’t get a wave back from those who are “better” than me and I don’t care. Sometimes they give me a confused smile which just makes me laugh! Anyway, everyone waves at everyone on the river and when we park up on the side of a wall, people come talk to us. It’s so relaxing and refreshing.

 

It’s purely a deckhand job which I love and my skin is very nicely sun-kissed from all the polishing and line handling I’ve been doing. If I can’t be on a sailboat, this is a pretty good place to be.  For the summer anyway.  It’s much more physical work then I thought, which I’m happy about because I think physical activity is the key to a long life. Who would’ve thought that putting a line on a bollard and then pulling it in or easing it out when necessary can be so tiring! Sometimes I do that twice a day, sometimes ten or eleven. It’s nice because I get to be outside in the sunshine watching river life go by. There are so many geese, birds, little fish jumping, men and boys fishing (where are the girls?!?!) and people cycling or walking along the canal. It’s almost as peaceful as being in the middle of the sea with the sails up and a supportive wind. That is still my true love!

 

In the yachting industry, information about owners is extremely confidential so all I will say is, holy shit I won the jackpot!! He is incredibly nice, friendly, easy going, respectful and generous. He told me the other day that we were going to pass by some nice churches and châteaus and to please tell the stew/cook to come up and view them when I see them. There are too many owners out there who don’t see their crew as humans and don’t even give them a second thought except when they need something. He makes me want to work really hard because I know he appreciates my work and his please and thank yous are a sufficient reward.

 

The crew is a family of three. The captain, the stew/cook and myself. We work nicely together and the stew/cook and I have lots of fun together in our free time. We love to explore and see new things and talk to the locals. Most of all, we love to laugh like crazy and have as much fun as possible on and off the job.

 

We started in Maastricht, Holland and have cruised along the Meuse through Belgium and France.  There is a lack of water so the route we were going to do is going to change, but so far we have seen beautiful medieval churches, castles and châteaus. Sometimes it looks like a movie set. I didn’t know all of this stuff actually existed! This is definitely not the job or place where I thought I would be, but I’m glad this opportunity presented itself to me and I’m enjoying the opportunities it’s presenting me, the lessons I’m learning and the people who are lighting my path.

 

 

No need to panic, the sea is here..

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I quickly stripped down to my bikini and ran towards the sea. Despite living and working on boats, it’s actually quite rare I’ve had the chance to go swimming. The last time was weeks ago when we were anchored in Sardinia and we had a couple of days to prepare the boat before the owners came. I welcomed the cool touch of the sea on my legs as it refreshed me of the intense heat of the day. I walked until it was deep enough for me to dive into a wave and wash away all the stress, all the negativity and all of the things that were no longer serving me. As the wave washed over me, I smiled under the water and started feeling free. I dumped the negative energy into the sea knowing that it would be swept away into the endless cleansing motion of the sea and after that, it was my choice if I wanted to pick it up again.

 

It didn’t work out with my ‘dream job’ and so I quit, quite abruptly but with a huge sense of relief that I didn’t have to spend my summer as a slave. When I told friends, they asked with worry if I was ok and I would always smile. Yes! I mean, don’t get me wrong when your job is also your home and you have three hours to sort out a new place to live, it can be quite intense, but I am a survivor and I have been in this situation before so I am well rehearsed.  

 

I spent a good half hour swimming and floating on my back looking at the rough and ragged rocky edge of the cove. I was by myself in the water and enjoyed the time I had with my true love.  I took in deep breaths filled with love, peace and hope knowing that all will be ok as long as I keep breathing and trusting.

 

I reluctantly walked back to my towel where my hours old friends were sitting. I sat down with a smile and told them how refreshing it was. I leaned back and as they chatted away in Spanish, I stared out towards the sea. There was good wind so there was a plethora of sailboats with their sails full of air sailing away in the distance. I suddenly felt a deep wave of sadness, panic and disappointment that I was on the ‘other side’ looking in. The crazy monkey in my brain was telling me I was missing out, that I will never find a job and that I should just give up this stupid dream of mine to live on the sea. As quickly as those thoughts and feelings popped up, I quickly calmed the monkey. For as I said above, it is my choice to pick up the negativity. I didn’t want to for there is no need.

 

I reminded myself to enjoy the moment. I have an unknown number of days off in a row, something I haven’t had in four months. In fact, I hadn’t had two consecutive days off in the last four months and when I get a new job, it will be the same. So why stress about the future when there is a now to enjoy? I laid back, closed my eyes and took a deep breath in as I smiled and vowed to allow myself these moments of panic, but to always come back to the present. I started to tune into the Spanish conversation and took advantage of the present moment by engaging in the conversation so I could practice my Spanish. From time to time, my gaze would wander to those beautiful sailboats moving with nature.  I smiled knowing that I will get back on one, when the time is right and when I have experienced exactly what I’m supposed to experience right now.

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The future is unknown, but I will be exactly where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there. That’s all that matters. 

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.

 

A dance with the Atlantic

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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.  

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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.  

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.     

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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.

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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.