Radical sabbatical – taking the leap and learning the hard way

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the thing you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain

Taking the leap and building resilience. I would not say that I am a coward. But I would say that I am very aware of what people around me think and feel and that I prefer safety before risk. If given a choice between taking a risk or playing it safe, I would probably play it safe. With one exception – taking risks together with someone I trust. The best thing with my close colleagues back home and my partner on the boat is that they are the kind of accomplices that I trust to take a route that has not been taken before. In fact, I might even be the one who suggests it.

But even though I have been fortunate enough to have friends, a partner or colleagues that make me more courageous, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make life choices. And as a researcher I know that we as humans don’t always know how to foresee what the future would become depending on what choice we make. I have learned three things:

  • Memory is a treacherous thing – we remember what stood out more than what was the usual. (Unfortunately we remember the negative events better than the good ones…)
  • A traumatic or stressful event (usually) make you stronger rather than more depressed in the longer run.
  • The grass always seems greener on the other side

So how then should we live our lives?

As a TED-talk junkie, one of my favourite talks is one on this very topic. “How to make hard choices”. Basically she says that when given a hard choice (one which is not easy to rationally just list pro´s and con´s), you have to go back to yourself and think – what kind of person are you? Or rather, what kind of person would you like to become? This doesn’t mean that the choice is easy, or that the life you choose will not be full of hardships, it just means that maybe those hardships are worthwhile because in the end you have taken a conscious decision on what kind of person you would like to be. Which really is all you can do.

The blessing and problem living in the society today is of course that we have too many choices.

One of the advantages with this lifestyle is that there are more opportunities to read than in an ordinary life, which is usually full with stress running in between job and other activities, plus the constant stream of TV and internet always accessible. On-board we don´t always have that luxury, so we talk, read, play an instrument or talk to people.

One of the books that struck a chord in me I started reading even before we left, and it seems a lot of it holds true for our journey – Radical Sabbatical. It tells the story of an American couple that left their hotshot jobs in Chicago and left for Costa Rica, where they rented a house to explore another side of life and see if they could create opportunities for the future there instead. They describe their journey like this: “It was the greatest and most dreadful part of our lives” – a statement I think both me and Jens can relate to when reflecting on the journey so far.

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One of the things I reflected on when reading the book was that a lot of times they had a really rough time. One of them got really sick, the house was a mess, they argued a lot, had culture clashes, it cost more than they thought it would and they were once on the verge of breaking up. But they also had wonderful nature experiences, met awesome people and learned a lot more about themselves and each other in that year than they would have spending five years in their ordinary life at home.

This journey, too, has been full of challenges. It has been much harder than we expected. We have doubted a lot of decisions and there has been many painful conflicts on the way. We haven’t been able to “sail in harmony” as much as we wanted to, even though we constantly tried to lower over goals and expectations. We have got great friends we would never have met otherwise, the nature experiences and sailing experiences have many times been magnificent and there is a luxury of having so much time with your partner. But what we really have learned from this experience? I don’t think we know yet. The end chapter in Radical Sabbatical offered their perspective which I would like to share.

“Most of us live within our comfort zones. Our training wheels are on. Do you remember riding around with those pesky little wheels? You’d have to stay on the beaten path. You’d look at your friends and see them having a blast, riding faster to places you couldn’t go. They had more guts than you. They were having more fun than you. But you couldn’t get yourself to take the wheels off until one day. All you had to do was to get the guts to do it, and then off you went – completely free.

If you’ll take at least three months to go on a radical sabbatical to a place where your geography and daily life are drastically different, you’ll see the training wheels that were on your life. The great thing is, once you stretch, you’ll never want to ride with them on again. In that moment, you’ll wake up every morning, like we do, immediately thinking on how you can take life to a place where you never have. Don´t worry. You don’t have to jettison to bats, scorpions, and reverse high-speed drives down mountains. But you will want to pick something that creates a good dose of healthy discomfort, preferably in a setting where you’ve always wanted to live.

“But where will we end up in five years?” you ask. To that we answer, “Exactly”. You’ll end up exactly where you want to end up. After a radical sabbatical, it becomes all about the journey, not the destination. And you know what? You’ll automatically have the courage to live this way because you’ll have seen that no matter what you go through, whether it’s life after Pair-o-Dice Village or the unexpected vehicle that came along to pull us out in the Serengeti after 15 minutes, everything always works out if you’ll have the courage to let it. Fear becomes your friend. The training wheels are off, and it’s awesome, thrilling ride. There’s magic in it. It’s a life without boundaries. It’s a life that’s yours”

Radical Sabbatical, 2013, page 332.

We will soon get an opportunity to reflect on our experiences. Because we are coming back home. I have extended my leave from work until 1st of October, and then our “radical sabbatical” will end for this time. We don’t yet know what we will do with the boat, where we will live, and where our lives will take us. But we know that we have managed to sail through the UK in winter, down the French coast as the first visiting boat of the year and hand-steered all the way to the Mediterranean. The comfort zone is definitely extended!

We are making an attempt at selling the boat from the Med, see the Swedish Ad here, and simultaneously looking for alternatives to ship the boat home. Please share the ad to anyone you think might be interested.

But I´m also curious about you. What would you do for a “radical sabbatical”? If you would forget about the (time/money/relationships) limits that you have in your life right now?

For more inspiration, watch this TED-talk “The power of time off”.

– Petra

Waiting out a gale in Viveiro and meeting up with Scandinavian vikings in A Coruña

The journey continued to Viveiro, a fisherman´s town with a medieval past.

Cruising life can be lonely, and travelling through France and Spain we have had a very limited social life because of the language barrier with the locals. But I have a feeling that it is all about to change. In Viveiro we moored up next to a Belgian boat that looked like it had been there a while. The boat owner, Renee, told us the tragic story of how him and his wife had been cruising for a couple of years when her health problems got worse and she suddenly passed away as they were cruising on the West coast of France. Renee continued across the Bay of Biscay and when reaching Viveiro decided to stay the winter. This was his second winter in the harbour and he hadn’t really found the motivation to continue sailing from there.

So when I accidentally bought way too much mussels in the supermarket we decided to invite him over to Mouni for some dinner and shared a lot of stories of our travels during the night. Galicia is known for its cuisine and also have a funny way of serving beer in the bars…

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We decided to stay a couple of more days because of the near gale force winds that was sweeping along the coast. Renee recommended us to take a walk up the river and it was a nice break from the windy harbour. On one of our walks along the beach we had seen a British yacht anchored, now that the gale had arrived they shoved up in the harbour the next morning. Turns out Myra and her husband had already circumnavigated the globe for seven years in their 39 foot Hallberg Rassy. When coming back they did not feel like they were done cruising and soon longed out to sea again. Now they were on their way back from a “shorter” trip to the  Mediterranean. We made sure to ask them about the best harbours and anchoring spots on the way down to Gibraltar and we shared some stories of our best and worst experiences over some tea.

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Viveiro had just finished their big-scale celebrations of Easter, and while the little boys were still drumming in the alleys we were admiring the sculptures that show the traditional costumes worn during the celebrations. We also got some help in a fishing store to improve our fishing gear on the boat, including a box of centipedes/worms to use as bait…

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Early next morning, we set off for Cedeira, 37 Nautical miles west. We arrived just before dinner time (although with no fish) and were thrilled to drop the anchor for the first time since leaving Sweden. Finally the warm weather has caught up with us again and we don’t need a heating fan to keep us warm during night. There was a beautiful sunset and we enjoyed a cold beer while Jens was playing some tunes on the recorder into the night.

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After a slow start we were eager to set sails for a shorter passage (30 Nm) west to A Coruña the next day. The wind was varying, and we sometimes needed the motor when the sails were just flapping in the weak wind. A speed between 2-3,5 knots is perfect for fishing mackerel. With the new bait we managed to catch two of them in a short span of time, of course they decided to bite the hook just as we were removing the Spinnaker boom and there were several other vessels close-by that we needed to keep track of. We approached the bay of A Coruña and was called up by the port authorities on the radio, asking us what direction we wanted to give way to the ferry that was approaching straight in our direction… Since it was a Sunday and nothing would be open, we decided to anchor on the other side of the bay, at Punta Penatoura. It was sunny, warm and the fish tasted great with some mashed potatoes and crisp bread!

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Reaching A Coruña was a bit of a milestone, and we moored up in Real Club Nautico after breakfast. On the same jetty was a finish boat, and the owner yelled instructions on where we should tie up in Finland-Swedish when we arrived. He had spent the winter in Algarve and was on his way up to Finland again. A few hours later a Norwegian boat arrived, and all of the sudden most of Scandinavia was represented on the jetty (A German boat also tried getting into the community). The Norwegian guy, Jan, had been sailing straight from Gibraltar on his way to Norway, but out on the Bay of Biscay his main sail torn and the genua halyard did not cope with pressure of the strong winds. Dolphins surrounded the boat for two hours as he tried to sort the sails out before closing all the hatches and tucking himself in to await calmer weather. He decided to turn back and motor the hundred miles to shore and make some repairs before continuing his journey home.

The next day another Swedish yacht, Linnea, with four guys from Gothenburg that just crossed the Bay of Biscay joined the Scandinavian community. It was now clear that the rumours were true, this harbour really is a hotspot for cruising yachts on their way between northern and southern Europe. And it was also clear the Scandinavian countries plus Germany was a bit more eager to start the season early.

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One evening we and Jan, the Norwegian, headed over to the medieval old town and the arcaded Plaza de María Pita, surrounded by narrow pedestrianized lanes full of restaurants. While I tried some traditional tapas they went for the steak and we talked about cruising in the Mediterranean and cruising life in general. Then we made the perfect trade, in exchange for dinner Jan gave us a pile of pilot books over Mediterranean Spain, Italy and Greece. The night before we left we went over to his boat “Quiet place” for a beer and got some great advice written into our guest book. He also gave us a really nice fishing rod since it was mostly in the way and not used much on his yacht.  Thanks a lot Jan for all your stories, helpful advice, lively discussions and gifts. It will for sure make us better prepared.

After some days in A Coruña it was time to continue south, sailing on the west coast of Spain in some of the strongest winds so far.. More about that adventure next time!

– Petra

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

In Rá de Viveiro you can choose between anchoring by Playa de S. Julian or Playa de Covas. Marina Viveiro is a sheltered marina up the river with helpful staff and big supermarkets closeby. We payed 16€/night.
In ría de Cedeira there is large anchorage, just East of the fishing harbour. Since it is behind the pier it is somewhat protected but if the winds are from SW swell can still make its way through. When we were there only two boats were anchoring but the pilots says it is a crowded place in high season.
Outside A Coruña you can anchor in Ensenada de Mera which is sheltered from North to East. There are several marinas, both close to the older part of town. We chose Real Club Nautico de la Coruna which is west of the old fort (we paid 15€/night). If you are looking for spare parts or other nautical equipment we recommend going to Pombas, a well-stocked chandlery which you can find by just following the main road by the water going south from the harbour.


 

We are looking for crew!

Do you want to join our crew for a couple of weeks or a month?

We are currently looking for some extra crew for sailing France, Spain or Portugal.

Potential stretches to join (March-June):
La Rochelle to Santander (across Bay of Biscay)
Spanish north coast west of Santander
Portugal

You don´t have to be an experienced sailor, but we do hope you have experience being out on the sea. We take shifts hand-steering the boat, and expect you to do the same (but there is plenty of time to learn if you have not done it before).

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So why should you go sailing with us?

  • Wonderful nature experiences out at sea
  • Experience sailing on the Atlantic
  • Explore coastal towns in France/Spain/Portugal
  • Learn more about sailing, navigation and seamanship
  • It´s fun! Harmony is the priority, not the speed.

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Please note that the weather can be a bit rough on the Atlantic this time of the year, and it´s still not so warm. But it will get warmer as we cruise south and even though we have a very seaworthy boat we make sure to stay in harbour if there are gale warnings or other conditions that make the sailing too unpleasant. This means that it requires a lot of flexibility in terms of where we stop and when we sail. The weather is our main concern!

DSCN0845.JPGWhat we expect from you:

  • Cover you own travel expenses to/from the boat
  • Share the costs of harbour fees and food with us
  • Share the tasks onboard, based on experience and ability
  • Have an interest in learning new things
  • Listen to the captain´s orders! 😉

Well of course, if you are a more experienced sailor than us, we do hope you want to share your knowledge with us too!

 

Please let us know if you are interested, and we will tell you all you want to know 🙂

P.S. Friends and family will take priority certain weeks

 

Life at sea – from Ardglass to Kilmore Quay

I think many of you back home wonder what life at sea (in the winter) is really like. Besides putting on countless layers of clothes, sailing in the British Isles means that you really have to take the tides into account, as we have described earlier. Also, January is considered one of the months with most stormy weather of the year. So when we have a window of opportunity to sail south, we take it. Here are some notes of the 194 nautical miles journey that took us from Ardglass in Northern Ireland to southeastern tip of Ireland!

Saturday 28/1

1.00 Beep beep, not enough sleep. Jens get up as the alarm beeps and gets ready to take off.

01.40 Leaving Ardglass marina, the waves bounces Mouni just as we get outside the pier. The AIS alarm on our VHF radio goes off telling us we have a lot of fishing boats close by. Impossible to sleep, so much noise! I go up to stow away some more stuff, and put on the navigation lights that Jens forgot.

4.30 Still no wind, we are bouncing on the waves and using the engine to get ahead, slowly. What I don´t know is that Jens has got rather seasick out there, as the motion from going by motor is not as pleasant as when sailing.

7.30 Jens was supposed to wake me up when he got tired, but since that has not happened I go up anyway and starts to make breakfast. We are finally proceeding by sail, but Jens seasickness has not passed and he does not want any breakfast.

8.30 Starting my shift. Jens takes down the Genua since the wind has picked up and then goes down to sleep. The forecast said it should be about 4 m/s but this is clearly at least 7 m/s. The sun comes out through the clouds. I am racing!

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10.30 Not fast enough! We pull out some of the Genua and Mouni is sailing 6-7 knots. Yay!

12.00 A screw falls down on my lap when I´m sailing, where did that come from!? Jens goes to have a look, and then take back the helm while I go down to the galley to cook some lunch.dscn0239

13.00 Try to transfer some podcast to the mp3-player, it doesn´t work so I rest instead.

14.00 Decision point. Should we try to pass Howth or not? Hoping that we could pass Dublin and reach Greystone before the tides change direction. We eat some cookies and then decide to stay at Howth since our speed is too slow. Jens makes up a song about the clouds.

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17.30 Reach Howth and tie up the boat by sunset. Cook some bulgur and sausage with feta cheese to make sure that Jens gets his energy back after a day on empty stomach. The sailor life: “What did you do last Saturday night?” “We cuddled up after dinner and went to sleep waiting for the tide to change”.

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23.00 Beep, beep, not enough sleep. Jens gets the boat ready for takeoff while I stow away everything down below, do the dishes, prepare some sandwiches and some ginger water for my skipper to help against the seasickness.

23.30 We leave Howth marina behind and head south passed Dublin.

Sunday 29/1
3.30 Wake up from a dream as the bow crash into a wave. From calm waters there is steep waves in the middle of nowhere. I get some refreshments and join Jens out in the cold night. We decide to head for Wicklow harbour.

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4.53 First lights of Wicklow spotted. But as usual, the last part takes forever.

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7.10 Two hours later we arrive and tie up to the massive pier. The ladder is made for a giant! We go straight to bed

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After brunch with pancakes and fruit we study the weather forecast and tide tables and decide that the best time to leave and continue is in the night. This gets us the day the day to explore Wicklow and rest. The reason for not staying here is that there is no real Marina and no electricity, which means that we will not be able to heat the boat properly for the week of strong wind that is coming. We run the generator to charge the batteries. We head downtown, have a tasty lunch at the restaurant by the old prison and take a walk to the old roman castle by the sea. After some dinner and an episode of Games of Thrones, we try to get some sleep.

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Monday 30/1

00.00 Beep, beep, not enough sleep. Stowing away all the stuff once more and make some sandwiches.

00.40 Jens untie the lines from the pier while I hold the boat by the ladder. There is no wind so we use the motor.

01.15 We are sailing around a buoy on a shallow part of the sea, and the waves created are rocking us back and forth. We are doing good speed – 6 knots – half by the motor and half by the tidal streams.

02.00 I go down to read about Arklow harbour in the Nautical Almanac. A look at the map of tidal streams indicate that the streams can run in up to 3,5 knots. We should arrive in HW+5 to have a safe and easy entry to the harbour. We are too fast! New strategy, Jens turns off the engine completely for a while and we drift in 3 knots only by the stream.

05.00 We arrive in a quit and completely sheltered marina in the dark. Tie up and go to bed once more, this time with electricity plugged in and the heating fan is on! Nice and comfy.

Now Arklow was supposed to be the place where we stayed for the week of strong winds forecasted. But, when the forecast changed so did our minds. We decided to make a run for Kilmore Quay, our last port we needed to reach in Ireland, as there was a 24-hour window left. So, on Jens birthday I got up and served him a nice birthday breakfast and then we set off. While we did have a nice day of sailing, it was too slow of a start and we were forced to enter the commercial harbour in Rosslare in the evening to wait five hours so we would have the tides with us again and charge the batteries.

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After some tacos and wine we rested a couple of hours, and once again took off in the night. The last 27 miles to Kilmore Quay was a little tedious after the long day of sailing the day before, but in the middle of the night Jens got a perfect late birthday present – at least 4 porpoises (or dolphins?) were playing in the waves next to our boat and swimming alongside us for at least 20 minutes. At five in the morning, we finally arrived to Kilmore Quay and in this well protected fishing harbour/marina we will rest and wait out the storm in good shelter.

Are we still tired? Oh yes! Was it worth it? Oh yes!

So, tell me. Did this post give you any more insights about the cruising life?

– Petra