How you live on a sailing boat?

I’m not exactly sure how the days go by.  I just know that I’ve never experienced this kind of rhythm in my life and that, for four weeks now, I’m checking the time on my clock for two reasons only: either to set the alarm for our nightly watches or to keep up with regular logbook entries. Maybe on one or two occasions when going ashore making sure I return to the boat on time, though surely before night falls is the order. I am clearly in the sailing mode. At the moment there are four people on the Polaris sailing yacht: Micha, the world travelling skipper and boat owner, as well as three women: Hilde and myself from Germany, Tigs from England. Together we are sailing 2460 sea miles through the South Pacific from Bora Bora via Suwarrow (Cook Islands) and Niue to Tonga. One sea mile are 1,852 kilometers. With an average wind speed of 10 knots we are able to achieve roughly 140 sea miles per 24 hours. Our first leg, Bora Bora to Suwarrow, is already behind us, we sailed for four days and nights straight and we were delighted and relieved to have arrived at our destination well before sunset. If we hadn’t, we would have had to aimlessly hove too. Sailing, that is now clear to me, means to travel with the weather, only. We can head towards the most beautiful places and as wonderful as they might be, how long we can stay and what counts in the end is the wind and weather forecast. No wind means no sailing, no one wants to sail under power  in the ocean let alone fight a storm or confused, exhausting waves. Safety goes first, so we accept and go with the flow. Meanwhile we find our rhythm on board. Our day starts between 6-7am, then a little session of yoga for those who fancy it, followed by coffee, cereal, a little lunch snack and our main meal around 4pm. Skipper’s midnight is around 9pm; if we’re on land, that’s when our boat goes to sleep, if we’re sailing there are two on night watch for 5 hours each. Also during day time two people are on watch in different intervals keeping an eye on the boat, the course, the wind and clouds and if necessary, steer the boat manually. I never thought that steering could be so difficult, it requires a lot of concentration, practise and a fine feeling for waves, so I learn from Tigs who’s been sailing the world for the past six years and who’s holding us on course. I still haven’t figured out all lines on board, I slowly adapt to repeated manoeuvres like raising, trimming and changing sails, can almost independently lower or raise the anchor, spend my time practising knots and handling lines, and learn how to embrace the numerous bruises on my legs and arms with humour. There really are plenty of exciting opportunities to get hit or hurt by something on board. Absolutely admirable I found how Hilde, right at the moment we had to change sails, was able to cook us a lovely meal in the galley while being thrown back and forth along with her tomato sauce. The general rule is: move slowly. Consciously shift your weight onto your feet to gain stability. Whether in the cabin or on deck, ‘always one hand for the boat’, meaning to always hold on to something when moving from A to B. Stow and store items so that they can’t fall down or around. Close drawers and doors (great potential to crush your finger) immediately. When manoeuvering, wear closed boat shoes at all times, not only does this help improving stability when handling lines or moving on the boat, but it also hurts less when one stumbles across that one same obstruction again and again. Everyone is responsible to keep their own cabin clean and clear from falling items, and also to close all boat’s hatches when it rains. There were times when three of us met in the saloon at 2am at night sleepily taking care of our duty. Impeccable discipline! And so we get used to life in our new home, even – though slowly – to the constant never ending sounds and notions of the boat which creaks, bangs, floggs day and night. Tigs is teaching us how to read clouds, we learn that if a squall is behind the boat it means it will catch up quickly and we might need to prepare for a rain shower. I now understand that the moon is responsible for wave action and tight. We reflect on the fact that, only when travelling one is able to get a full impression of the sky and to appreciate the universe’s complexity. I enjoy experiencing the days go by. Our activities are coming naturally. Reading, listening to and sharing music, staring into the waves, admiring their blue colour, in awe of the 360° horizon at eye level as we sit on a disk of blue moving ocean. We share book tips, write blog articles, manage our pictures, have conversations about all sorts of topics with all sorts of depth. Every now and then it’s time wash our clothes. We organise our cultural programme for the next couple of days, that is if I find our exquisite destination in the travel guide. Not the case for tiny Suwarrow and Niue, how great is that! Of course there are also homely duties as well, we clean the boat when a new crew arrives, today we’ve been asked to polish metal surfaces on the boat and repair broken lines. Hilde spoils us with her art of cooking and Micha you’ll see around the boat taking care of routine checks if he’s not communicating via SBB to get nautical infos about our next destination or managing his company’s business. And so time goes by, we are grateful when wind and weather mean well, we set sails, count our sea miles, look forward to our next stop and enjoy the experience.

 

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