Six Months Recap and Christmas Greetings!

Six Months Recap and Christmas Greetings!

Our journey began in June this year. That means we have now sailed slowly, and not particularly surely, towards southerly latitudes for more than six months. Having reached such a milestone, many sailors like to draw a summary of the highlights, measure how well their expectations were met, publish statistics about their journey and so on. It’s a good idea, so why not give it a try.

While preparing for our big sailing trip we devoured as many sailing and cruising books, blogs and vlogs we could get our hands on (read more about what inspired us in this blog post). So we were aware of the many challenges that long-term cruising sailors usually face – such as making ends meet financially, getting along with your partner or family in tight spaces and sometimes difficult situations, keeping in touch with family and friends back in the homeland, boat maintenance and repair, route planning and keeping to the plan, and naturally all kinds of unexpected troubles, which are difficult to anticipate, because they are so unexpected.

We knew to expect certain extra costs from the start, because we embarked on our journey on a half-finished boat. In our first port of call, Gdansk in Poland, we added a stern arch with solar panels, and bought new batteries and a dinghy in Kiel, Germany. We knew that something always breaks on a boat, and parts and replacements are frequently needed. But the amount of things that broke still surprised us – and I’m sure it will surprise every cruiser, no matter how well they think they are prepared.

People who have owned and sailed their boats for some time before setting off on a long journey are probably a little better off. They are familiar with the boat, and they’ve had years to prepare – years with a regular income, besides. We had never so much as test sailed our boat! Considering we had only done a short sea trial before starting our big trip, things have gone absurdly well for us. Our boat has proved herself very reliable, sturdy and stable, so we’ve never had any fears or doubts about her seaworthiness. We are learning as we go, and are getting more and more confident in sail trim and handling different sea states. But an old boat is like an old house, it wears with the years and needs a lot of love and care. And often it’s not the heavy use, but the lack of it, that turns out to be the most fatal.

Besides seaworthy, our choice for a boat has also proved very livable. On our first visit we noted the practical layout, the great kitchen, and the large aft cabin. Enjoying good food is our dearest hobby, so we were not going to be cooking in camping conditions. The galley is roomy but also very well designed to work underway. Our bedroom in the aft cabin is spacious and airy, and we have hot water and a shower, so we can keep ourselves looking and smelling human, if required.

The best thing about living on a boat is having our home always with us. We travel from one town or island to another, country to country, and our passports are always safe in their drawer, spices on their shelf, and our clothes in their closets. We never have to carry suitcases. It’s exciting to see new places, when you can go home every night and sleep in your own comfortable bed. It might be a bit tight inside our floating house, but outside we can usually see the horizon – and if we get tired of the landscape, we can change it!

At the beginning of our trip we had route plans and initial schedules for the first year at least. But it wasn’t long until we found ourselves being ruthlessly educated about planning ahead, and have been very relaxed about routes, destinations and schedules ever since.

We weren’t really concerned about living in tight spaces prior to our journey. We had spent two summers on a 25 foot sailboat, with very basic comforts and enough headroom for sitting down, and we had returned from those trips in sweet harmony. Of course, holiday trips in the summer don’t really compare to living aboard full-time and travelling for months or years on end. But we were confident we could endure quite a bit. Six months have now gone, and we’re not yet on the war path. Naturally, our needs for privacy, peace, and concentration are not as easily met as in a regular house – you can often close a door behind you even on a boat, but the sound insulation might not be that great. On the other hand, there’s plenty of room outside, if you need some distance.

No matter how great your travel companion(s) might be, you still miss the friends and family back home. Fortunately it’s quite easy these days to keep in touch, unlike back in the days of my year as an exchange student, when airmail letters and hasty collect calls were the only way to communicate. Still, phone calls, whatsapps and facebooks are poor substitutes for meeting face to face. Because we didn’t make it to warm enough latitudes this year to receive visitors, we decided to fly back north for Christmas. A white Christmas might be the biggest surprise of our trip so far! Maybe next year our friends and families will visit us in return, particularly if our neighbourhood then has sandy beaches, warm water and other nice things to offer…

But what about the statistics? Here are some tidbits we put together, not too scientifically.

So far we have travelled 1700 nautical miles – that’s more than 3000 kilometres.

Downwind sailing: 3 hours

17 harbours

3 others stopping places

15 nights we sailed through

No nights at anchor yet

Longest time in one place: Laboe, Kiel (2 months)

Best pizza: Ristorante Al Ponte, Gdansk

Finest seafood: La Cabane à Crab

Best bread: wholemeal rye loaf from Amsterdam

Most beautiful landscapes: Bornholm

Prettiest town: Willemstad

Most surprising moment: when the lady next door did not return our spontaneous greeting “Bonjour!” in snowy Finland

Memorable moments and things, not in any particular order:

Dinghy rides in the canals of Amsterdam

Dutch water wonderland

Smoked fish in Bornholm

Classic boat regatta

Visit to Malbork castle

Car pool ride to Paris

Gannets of Helgoland

Borkum beach concert

Downwind sailing in Markermeer

Every starry sky, every sunrise, every sunset along the way

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

 

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