I just arrived in Europe from the Caribbean from my fourth Atlantic crossing. Salty, dirty, way too tanned, a little tired but happy and accomplished.
Every day the last months has been a hell of an adventure. In the last 3 months, I’ve almost constantly been sailing. First on Zemi, a Carriacou sloop, the kind of boat I’m in love with and building. I criss-crossed the Caribbean on her, raced the Antigua Classics and West Indies Regatta, and helped to sail her down to Carriacou, Grenada, where she lives. And Alwyn, the master West Indies boat builder who’s making the model for ‘my’ sloop. About a 1000 miles added to the logbook with Zemi. Salty, simple, adventure style sailing.
Then, in Grenada, literally the same day I left Zemi, I hopped on a boat to sail to Europe. From Grenada, we sailed to Antigua to Bermuda to the Azores with final destination Falmouth in the UK. Another 4681 Nautical added to the log. As always, with sailing but especially with the last salty adventures, nothing went as planned. You just go with it. It is what it is. It’s called adventure.
Back on land
I’m feeling accomplished! And out of my comfort zone. I’m back on land. Now what? First of all, supergrateful to be alive and to have gained some more life profit in terms of memorable days. I love the sea life and it gives me superpowers. But a bit of land time is needed to catch up with sleep, family, friends, a shower, fix my camera, phone and computer, and to take oceanpreneurial things to the next level. It feels strange to be on land. It’s overwhelming. Land life is fast. The contrast is big. So many things to suddenly deal with. Here are a few remarkable situations that are usually normal but not when you have experienced the lack of it. I thought it would be interesting to share.
Oh men. I’ve slept 10 hours in a row for two nights now. 3 hours on 6 hours off. That’s how we did our watch system on the crossing. Easy to get used to. And definitely doable. And you don’t have to think about it. For weeks that’s it. If you have 6 hours off. We went through some rough weather, ripped some sails, and made lots of sail changes with the inconsistent weather. There’s usually some situation to be solved in those 6 hours. Not always. But we had to be prepared. Now on land, as opposed to at sea, I’ve slept and woke up naturally. The bed was still. I could lay in the middle. I can sit up after waking up without falling over. And there was silence. No water sounds around me anymore. And the clothes I took off before going to bed were still hanging and did not fell on the floor.
Fixing, repairing and celebrating repairs. “Oranje boven” sails stronger than ever. No boring day at sea!
(Can’t show a photo of my bed on board – disaster scene;))
Everything stands still. No need to: sleep in one corner of the bed; To hold my tea cup; To hold myself when walking; To put tape on the cupboards so they don’t open and the knifes will fly around the room; to brace myself when opening a cupboard; to do the dishes on an angle, with salt and 3 drops of water; to do anything on an angle. It’s magic. Walking more than 10 meters is quite a sensational experience too. And running! With shoes. Sea life is one big workout. You constantly use your muscles to balance. But movements that makes you sweat like a run are rare. So great to go for a run and sweat again!
The amount of choices I suddenly ‘have’ to make. We arrived, tidied up the boat. Then what? What do we do now? We went into Falmouth for some shopping and exploring guided by our local captain. The fact that there are people everywhere is already a new experience in itself. Very kind people in Falmouth btw. We went to the pub. When in the UK you got to go to a pub. There are dozens of beers and ciders to choose from. The bartender asking many questions to determine which one I should pick. Sweet or sour? With bubble? From here or elsewhere? This price or that price? Decision fatigue instantly. Just give me a local whatever. Then we went out for dinner. Pages of options. Even for a vegan. The food choices we have these days are just insane. I went into a supermarket. Holy moly too many options imported from too many places. Nothing even talking about all the wrappers they put around it. Did you know that an average person makes about 2,800 choices in a day? A stroll through the supermarket and you’re already 100 decisions further.
On the ocean, it’s just what it is and we just are. Imagine you cut a number of decisions you make from 1,000 down to ten per day—like, shall I drink tea or coffee, read this book or that one, wear yesterdays socks again or the ones of the day before yesterday, wear yesterdays underwear inside out or take a bucket and do a wash, on an angle…? Sit on the front deck or in the cockpit? That’s it really. A lot of extra energy we have for being, enjoying, living and thinking! Thinking because there’s no internet on the ocean.
A few miles before arrival it starts. We have a signal. Very dangerous. That last mile has the largest amount of hazards, as well as magical scenery. One of the most exciting parts of the ocean nomad life is arriving in a new country under sail! and what are we doing? Looking at our phones! I didn’t want to connect yet. But my phone was off airplane mode and did it itself. It connected to the internet! It turned crazy. A zillion notifications, emails, messages. I can’t deal with it yet. The contrast is too big. And everything can wait. I still haven’t found a good way to deal with it all. Most of the messages I receive are supercool and it’s what I’m doing it all for! People expressing how much book Ocean Nomad helped them to make the sailing dream happen. Photos from family and friends. Applications for the sailing adventure in Sicily September. All really great stuff. But between it all, there is so much noise and distraction. You know, the internet.
Instead, imagine looking up into the sky every night and seeing galaxies. It makes you feel small and on top of the world at the same time. It will make you rethink your place in the world. An ocean passage allows philosophising about life and your purpose in it. One of the main reasons I sailed the Atlantic again is to get fully disconnected. I have a monkey mind that does not stop thinking and creating ideas for positive change in the ocean. It’s easy to go off track if you don’t re-asses the situation now and then. Sailing the Atlantic is a major disconnection from society, long enough to rethink life and rewire yourself for the way forward. There is no WiFi. No media. No stress. No deadlines. No pressure. No external demands. Being offline means realising again what I value the most. It creates space in the mind. It makes me master the art of being present, which I believe is the most happiness generating skill to have. But it needs practice. On land, it takes willpower to resist the urge to connect. An ocean passage eliminates the temptation altogether. I hope I can keep the focus now back on land! I created a new rule. No social media before 13.00. Who joins me? The mornings are my mental superpower moments I want to use for creating, the few weeks per year I do have routine days;).
Focus is what I find on the ocean. Because I’m away from everything, long enough to disconnect from everything but nature and my shipmates. Most of us spend more time indoors than outdoors. It’s easy to forget the natural world we’re coming from and living in. On the ocean, you face the wind and water elements and find that connection to nature. Imagine a scene with no traffic, no news, no pollution, no civilisation. Just wind and water—plenty of that! A scene where you can gaze for hours to the millions of stars above you; enjoy the dozens of dolphins sliding through the water at the bow of the boat; admire the pink-orange-red sunrises and sunsets, without any airplane trails changing the fluffy and cauliflower-like cloud patterns. You’ll become very aware of the natural world around you. This inspires. And it’s eye-opening. You come to realise how disconnected from nature we are in our daily lives. In the middle of the Atlantic, far away from civilisation, I see plastic items floating by. Human-made things that don’t belong there. Witnessing that makes us think about the impact that we are making as people. And as individuals. On every ocean crossing but especially this fourth one, I have seen a ridiculous amount of plastic floating by. Mostly bits and pieces of broken down plastic… And jellyfish. Hundreds, if not thousands, Portuguese Man of War. We’ve also had two storms. Pretty adventurous! The seasons are not as they used to be. I first hand see what impact we are making and what’s going on with the ocean. It motivates bigtime to act to turn the tide of the ocean challenges. After my first Atlantic Circle I started Oceanpreneur, now after the fourth it’s time to go big. It’s essential! The timeline is getting critially short. Here are a few ideas on what you can do as (aspiring) sailor and ocean changemaker.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — MARCEL PROUST
By being ‘out of the system’, away from depressive media headlines, advertisement on stuff we don’t need, social media feeds with ‘got talent’ videos and other people’s cool lives, noisy traffic, stinky air, is when we connect to our true self. It’s a break from the rollercoaster that’s about being busy, productive and convenient. It’s a reset. It’s time to just simply let your mind wander. When does that still happen? It’s a time to rediscover my values, to clear the head, enhance creativity and the most brilliant ideas come up! It’s experiences like seeing a bottle in the middle of nowhere that makes us pause and think. It’s a lot of thinking about life, and why I’m doing what I’m doing. With all the space created in the head, I feel accomplished and ready to take over the world! First project: the #PlasticFreeNomad campaign. Join in!
“The future is in the hands of those who explore . . . and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love.” — JACQUES YVES COUSTEAU
What really matters and what I miss on the long term adventures are family and friends. So the focus for now is spending time with them. I just surprised my parents. Dad called me and instead of picking up the phone I opened the door. That was cool. Another memorable day!
I’m taking a break from the adventures now. At least a week ;). It’s important to process the magic, the ideas, and to pave the path ahead. A bit of landlife is needed. I’m writing two more books, planning a crowdfunding for the blue Carriacou Sloop, and I’d like to put more blogs out to help you connect to the ocean, experience the magic and encourage and inform for ocean action.
I got to go know. I’m going to visit some locals farmers with mum. Curious to see and smell what’s again in season in Holland at this time of year. The smells! That’s another thing that keeps amazing me. After weeks of only pure ocean air (! Did you know that most oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean?), the new gold!, I noticed every single fragrance x 10. The smell of summer, and the smell of traffic. Land life. Let’s see how long I’ll last before jumping on the next boat.
Xxx from the land
“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul”
— Robert Wyland
Curious to read more? I wrote a book about the Atlantic Ocean adventures. A combination of stories and ‘How- to’ sail across the Atlantic as crew and make a difference too.
Carriacou Sloops. The Story of Caribbean Tradition: Vanishing Sail