“Sail away from the safe harbour”

- Stockhom to Falmouth; August 29th — September 8th

I’d never been sailing before and whilst familiar with ocean navigation, I knew I was in for a steep learning curve as I made the transition from theory book to swelling seas. This trip was fuelled entirely by curiosity. I had no intention of moving into sailing, my interest lying in endurance adventures, but I was hungry for a little escape — something I’d never done, somewhere I’d never been.

I arrived in Stockholm for 10am Thursday morning:

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Hello, Stockholm!

I was at the boat for 8:30am on Friday to choose a bunk and meet the crew.

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4am Saturday morning and we were off! It was really foggy as we left Stockholm; light was still coming up in the sky and through the haze I could just makes out the lights of the houses on the shore as we passed them. It was beautifully quiet and eerily still. As Stockholm slept, we slowly made our way out to open water.

Over the next few days, we settled into our watch patterns and life on board. As phone signalled disappeared, I felt life get ever so much simpler. It was wonderful.

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By the time we were well underway in the Baltic, the sea was starting to get a little choppy — and with it, the boat more like a see-saw. I went down below to complete the first log of a midnight-4am watch and sadly, when I returned to deck, it was to be violently sick. The rest of the watch was an upsetting mix of admiring the pretty constellations in the clear, dark night sky — and throwing up some more. My next shift followed a similar pattern. The seas had gotten a little rougher and from the moment I got up the steps to the deck, I remained hunched over to one side — throwing up roughly every 20 minutes, for the next 4 hours. Any trace of food was long gone from the previous night’s activity and I was helpless to stop my body further depleting itself. This hideous cycle of vomit — shiver — vomit was not the kind of endurance I had in mind. When Eric came to relieve us at the end of the shift, I was barely able to string a sentence together. James had been called in to cover my shifts after this as I slept. I ventured out twice from my bunk in the following 24 hours, but only for 5 minutes at a time. Eventually, I forced more water and dry crackers down until I finally I upgraded to bread and eventually I made my return to deck. We reached Kiel later that day, where we’d stay for the night and once on land I immediately set to replacing lost calories…

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Arrival into Kiel!
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Reluctantly eating ice cream, to replace calories lost during sea sickness

It would be another early departure from Kiel, eased slightly by the beautiful morning we woke up to:

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We slowly trundled out through the Kiel canal.

kielcanal

I was still feeling a bit wiped out so I felt relieved to be starting the next leg in calm waters. I’d swapped watch teams, so would be teamed up with Meg and Tom from now on.

Life on board once again settled into a rhythm. From the stunning and peaceful early evening sunsets with no other people in sight…

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evening4

To the easy afternoons in calm weather…

Steering the boat — it’s a tough life

To the chilly early morning shifts in overcast conditions

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To the slightly more exciting night watches in the shipping lanes, where there was plenty of other activity around us — but limited visibility.

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I’d look at the lights of the other ships in the distance and wonder what life was like on board the other vessels. Where had they come from? Where were they going? Who was on board? Were they missing home or were they excited for the voyage ahead? I silently wished them well and thought of all the people at home who’d be blissfully sleeping their way through the night as we cut through the pitch black sea.

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By the time we approached Dover, the fog was so thick we had terrible visibility and much of the approach to England passed in a blur. It wasn’t until we got closer to Falmouth that land was identifiable. After days of nothing but blue/grey, it was a welcome sight, even though this outline would tease us for a few more hours before we’d finally reach land. Land; home to hot showers, hills and fresh opportunities. I couldn’t wait — especially for the shower, I’d been in my thermals for days.

We’d made good time and arrived a day early so we had a day to explore. After a shower in the marina, we naturally headed in search of refreshment. We found a happy place indeed — full of books, board games and beer.

beerbooks

From here, we headed out for dinner and somehow ended up also getting cider tasting trays. Each tray containing 5 ciders — one of mine tasted suspiciously like antiseptic.

cider

This would be the undoing of all of us; we stumbled back the boat at 8:30pm where we proceeded to sing along to Disney’s Frozen soundtrack and…. make tin foil hats.

Tin foil hats selfie — taken by Megan L-R: Megan, Shanley, James, Christian, Me, Eric (Tom had sensibly gone to bed at this point!)

Not used to being awake for more than 8 hours without some kind of nap in between, we were all happily in bed by 10:30pm. Boat clean started the next morning at 8am and when I left a few hours later, I was sad to leave but excited to be back on land. I wanted to climb, to lift, to stretch, to sprint up hills and coast down the other side. I wanted to sweat and to feel the contentment that only comes from a day of prolonged physical endurance.

Drinking in all the gorgeously green scenery on the train journey home!
Drinking in all the gorgeously green scenery on the train journey home!

Less than 24 hours after being home, I headed back to salt water — this time, to swim. It was freezing, it was tiring and it was gorgeous.

swim

Another 24 hours after that and I was brainstorming over maps. I’ve been home for 3 days and plans for the next adventure in a few weeks are well underway.

I’ve come to realise that sometimes the mere act of stepping out and doing something new can really be crucial to unlocking creativity. Setting goals and having specific aims are very important, but there is balance in all things — sometimes you just need to throw off the bowlines and get going.

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