Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nada es Imposible

Over  the last 27 months we have traveled 25,000 nautical miles, visited 28 countries, completed two Atlantic Ocean crossings, sailed into the Arctic Circle and survived one near sinking in the Gambia, one hurricane in Nova Scotia, one lost propeller blade in the San Blas Islands, one terrifying run-in with heavily armed customs agents off the coast of Cuba, one storm that chased us between Newfoundland and Iceland and one man overboard in the Faroe Islands.

But what have we really experienced?

Real life on board Adjusting to a life with very different and sometimes uncomfortable guidelines, living in a small space, thinking up creative solutions to entertain ourselves in this very small space, never having any time alone,  fresh water management and the resulting change in hygiene habits,  procurement of  food  in out of the way places,  strict policies to avoid bugs on board, never ever ever ending boat maintenance,  an ongoing worry about safety on board and a nagging fear that something horrible will happen or something critical will break down.

Wonders of nature.  Mountains rising up out of the clouds, craggy cliffs and caves,  startlingly blue water, awe inspiring waves, incredible sunrises and sunsets, the wonderful variety of shapes and colours that the sky and sea can produce and the thrill of ‘land in zicht!.’  Hearing a hippopotamus grunting next to the boat,  the storm kestral that kept us company in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a huge humpback whale gliding in the water a few meters away, exchanging a smile and a wave with a group of dolphins frolicking off the bow…
Memorable Arrivals.  The English coast in the distance after our first overnight voyage, passing the waypoint buoy off the coast of Suriname following a 14-day Atlantic crossing, the statue of liberty as we entered New York Harbour, my parents welcome in St. Andrews New Brunswick,  the Lange Jaap in the distance as we sailed the final miles.
Amazing  people The boy in Gambia who lived in a mud hut but had a poster of Zinidane Zidane on his wall, the Irish musician adventurers who had sailed both the Northeast and Northwest passages , the Russians that were attempting the same adventure on a rubber raft, the unassuming Spanish man in Cape Verde with a huge homemade boat and a flying dinghy, Laura Dekker the youngest solosailer in the world, the many kind people in Newfoundland who offered us so much support, the warm welcome at a wedding celebration in Fair Isle, a uniquely open and supportive cruisers community and some really extraordinary friendships that I know will last long after this adventure is over.  
The Family Unit Being a snug little entity of our own,  completely relying on and trusting each other seeing the thrill of new experiences reflected in the eyes of the people you love most in the world,  Seb’s grin when he reeled in his first fish, Emma’s proud face when she swam under the dinghy, Macsen’s squeak of delight as underwater wonders appeared before his diving mask, long hikes in the wilderness, playing in the snow together for the first time,  drinking hot chocolate in the cabin when it is cold and raining outside, never missing a moment, being so close and intimate and generally feeling that when we are together nothing is impossible. 

What an experience! So pure and so real.  We have now come full circle and we bid farewell for now to our life on board with very deep sadness looking forward to our new lives knowing that we will always have this wonderful adventure.    
Pjotter standing by…

Monday, August 29, 2011

On Solid Ground

After spending a few days decompressing on Texel we headed into Den Helder.
  Seb’s family surprised us with a committee of family and a few close friends on Saturday, August 20th at the 'Museumwerf Willemsoord' in Den Helder to welcome us home.  After over two years, 25 000 nautical miles, 28 countries and two relaxing days on Texel we sailed our trusty vessel the last six nautical miles to Willemsoord.  What a feeling!  A wild and wonderful mixture of excitement, happiness, relief and curiosity coupled with a good dose of fear and sadness.   But seeing all those familiar faces waiting on the dock temporarily took away all awareness as we jumped off the boat to start hugging and catching up. 

It has now been exactly a week, a whirlwind week, since this wonderful welcome.  On Tuesday at 0630 a huge truck arrived at our house to deliver a ridiculous amount of boxes full of things that we haven’t used for over two years.  We spent the rest of the day sorting through and with our new minimalistic outlook we were able to pack up half of it again to be given away.  Whew! Now we just need to take care that we don’t start accumulating again. 

And how does it feel? Well, really comfortable and quite normal and nice so far in these early days.  Busyness has kept us from focusing much on what we have left behind but I expect this will change once we are settled. We’ve had dinners with family and friends, coffee chats and catch ups and have plowed through a lot of unpacking, administration and general organization.  Life on land requires a whole new kind of management.   Some things of course are simpler.  We can shower every day, do laundry in our own machine, throw the dishes in the dishwasher after dinner and the only weather window I need can be found on the buienradar.nl to see if there are 10 minutes without rain so that I can bike to the grocery store. 

Seb’s most emotional moment was seeing the Lange Jaap lighthouse in the distance on the approach and then seeing his father standing on top of the Fort Kijkduin waving a Dutch flag as we sailed towards Texel. Mine was on Sunday afternoon when we went together to pick up the last things from the boat.  I looked around and pictured my little family scrambling about in the little cabin and thought about the coziness and freedom of living on board and of all the incredible purely happy moments that we shared. I silently said goodbye to that wonderful way of life and thanked our Pjotter for taking such wonderful care of us.

And what are you planning to do now?  Emma starts school at the Europaschool on September 5th.  Macsen starts kinderopvang at Basja on September 7th.  And Seb and I are having long discussions about the short term future and how we want our life to be.  (Discovering things together, being unique, being together and being totally dependent upon one another, things are realer, more important and you don’t get caught up in the small things.  ) Among other things we want to keep it simple, keep an awareness of the environment and scarcity, keep an awareness of cultures and the world, keep sailing and keep our closeness as a family.  Oh, and we need to find jobs or something valuable to do with the rest of our time.  Time will tell how successful we are with these pursuits.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Licht in Zicht!

At 3am this morning, August 18th, we caught a glimpse of the flash of the Lange Jaap. This is the beautiful big red lighthouse of Den Helder with a light range of 30 nautical miles. Seb grew up in Den Helder and the Lange Jaap has been a large and visible symbol of home for him for his entire life. Rather emotional to see it again from our Pjotter after 27 months away. Just one of several highly emotional moments that I'm sure we will experience over the next few days.
We expect to arrive on Texel, an island in the North of the Netherlands, at around 1100 this morning. Our plan is to stay there for two days and then to sail the last six nautical miles to arrive in Den Helder on August 20. Full circle.
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