It took me 67 days to sail from St Helena to Isle of Lewis in Scotland. There are not many people in the world who have experienced such a journey and sailing non-stop from the South Atlantic to northern Europe is not commonplace. I wonder, am I really so unusual? It does not feel like that. Or yes perhaps, sometimes it does. Sometimes I realize that my choices in life are most unusual. That has mixed consequenses for me, but ultimately I would not want to change my choices, or rather I could not.
Many people ask me: why do not you stop and visit the nice places on the way? And yes sure, one can wonder. But from the outset, I knew that my trip was not about that. This was a journey that would explore loneliness, pull it to its utmost point. To visit the depths within myself, rather than physical places and experiences. Every island I passed I have left in the imagination for a future trip sometime. Every little place creates a new little dream to be put on the shelf in the endless world of the unknown.
When I left St. Helena I was not in the best shape. I had a strong longing for home and many unanswered questions about life, my choices and my place in the world. It was tough to be alone. I was fed up with everything and wanted to stop as soon as possible and take a break from loneliness, a break from myself! I was aiming for the Azores because this was the easiest place to sail to on the way towards home and with the best opportunity to repair the engine and maybe fly home for a while.
Crossing the doldrums
After two weeks in the SE trade winds and after passing Ascension Island, which I could see from afar, I had a total of 8 days of either none or very weak winds. There was a lot of banging of the sails, it was hot, sweaty and testing for the mind. Something that helped me to both physically to move forward and keep the mood up was a current of about 1 knot that brought me in the right direction. I could not imagine how it would have been if this current took me in the opposite direction. Then I might have still been aimlessly circling around the doldrums today!
Sailing without an engine turned out to be both the most frustrating and the most wonderful thing I have ever done. I was completely at the mercy of the elements. If there was no wind I stood still or at worse case was put back by a current. Often when I got a weather report that said calms for several days, I became extremely frustrated and it was very difficult to accept that I had no control and that the wind was in charge and not me. But after a few hours spent in frustration, I came around to the fact that I could simply choose between spending a few days being angry and unhappy, or just completely let go of the need for control and just learn to be. For really, what did it matter for us not to move forward Caprice and I. The whole point was to be alone with the sea, was it not?
And after this process had run its course, the days of calms were amongst the most wonderful. It was so incredibly calm and so quiet. You could hear the silence, the sea was a big mirror, the waves were almost lying down flat. Everything shimmered and the thousands of colors in the evening sky were doubled in an infinite spectrum on the ocean’s silvery surface. Whales and dolphins visited me and so did the calm within me. I would have never experienced this if my engine had been working. Then you just turn it on, break the silence and drive past this magnificent phenomenon of zero wind. Just like in life I thought. Sailing contains so many metaphors for the walks of life.
Out of the logbook: ‘Take big chunks of this calm, this tranquility. The sea laughs at me every second. Its presence soothes my innermost essence. ‘
The decision to continue past the Azores
Day 12 from St Helena, the sailor Anders Eriksson had sent me a message where he suggested it would be a great idea to sail all the way home non-stop. A little seed was thus sown and this idea had then been bouncing back and forth in my mind, grown and flourished. It began to feel more and more right in the gut.
Day 22, position 3 ° 17N, 23 ° 40W, I remember so clearly how I finally truly reached the Northern Hemisphere’s trade wind. The fabulous wind that stroke my face and with its strength filled the sails, Caprice leaning steadily on the waves and the noise, the fabulous sound of water that travels around the hull. I stood for a long time staring at the surface of the water, which now rapidly passed by. Now Caprice and I were one with the trade winds, finally. And I knew it would last for at least two weeks ahead. All tensions in my soul flooded out and slowly rocked away upon the waves.
After crossing the equator and the doldrums, and in that process becoming a better friend with both the thought of being becalmed and to be in my own company, I was enjoying my life at sea more and more for each day that passed and I felt stronger and stronger. Sailing all the way home felt like an exciting challenge and gave me the chance of a really long uninterrupted journey alone with the sea. I carefully counted my food and water supply and decided that it would be enough for the duration of time left. The main thing that I needed to carefully ration was fats, because I only had a total of 2 bottles of oil left and almost no other food that contained fat. I counted on catching some fish and thus getting more fat and protein in my diet.
The weather was a slight concern, as there was a greater chance of a storms in the North Atlantic in May than June / July. But at least it was not winter. And so down there in the NE trade winds, the decision fell completely in place and Caprice and I made our way north, as high as we could in the stable and fresh NE trade winds (tough but beautiful sailing). No longer towards the Azores – Gothenburg, my home town, would be the next port!