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Back on land after sailing the Atlantic! What’s it like to arrive?

Salty Months

I just arrived in Europe from the Caribbean from my fourth Atlantic crossing. Salty, dirty, way too tanned, a little tired but happy and accomplished. 

Every day the last months has been a hell of an adventure. In the last 3 months, I’ve almost constantly been sailing. First on Zemi, a Carriacou sloop, the kind of boat I’m in love with and building. I criss-crossed the Caribbean on her, raced the Antigua Classics and West Indies Regatta, and helped to sail her down to Carriacou, Grenada, where she lives. And Alwyn, the master West Indies boat builder who’s making the model for ‘my’ sloop. About a 1000 miles added to the logbook with Zemi. Salty, simple, adventure style sailing.

 

Left: Alwyn Enoe Master Boat Builden. Right: Alexis Andrews – Producer of Vanishing Sail

The simple salty sailing life. Cooking a coconut lentil stew on the engine room of Zemi

About to set sail for the fourth Atlantic Crossing

Then, in Grenada, literally the same day I left Zemi, I hopped on a boat to sail to Europe. From Grenada, we sailed to Antigua to Bermuda to the Azores with final destination Falmouth in the UK. Another 4681 Nautical added to the log. As always, with sailing but especially with the last salty adventures, nothing went as planned. You just go with it. It is what it is. It’s called adventure.

Back on land

I’m feeling accomplished! And out of my comfort zone. I’m back on land. Now what? First of all, supergrateful to be alive and to have gained some more life profit in terms of memorable days. I love the sea life and it gives me superpowers. But a bit of land time is needed to catch up with sleep, family, friends, a shower, fix my camera, phone and computer, and to take oceanpreneurial things to the next level. It feels strange to be on land. It’s overwhelming. Land life is fast. The contrast is big. So many things to suddenly deal with. Here are a few remarkable situations that are usually normal but not when you have experienced the lack of it. I thought it would be interesting to share.

Sleep

Oh men. I’ve slept 10 hours in a row for two nights now. 3 hours on 6 hours off. That’s how we did our watch system on the crossing. Easy to get used to. And definitely doable. And you don’t have to think about it. For weeks that’s it. If you have 6 hours off. We went through some rough weather, ripped some sails, and made lots of sail changes with the inconsistent weather. There’s usually some situation to be solved in those 6 hours. Not always. But we had to be prepared. Now on land, as opposed to at sea, I’ve slept and woke up naturally. The bed was still. I could lay in the middle. I can sit up after waking up without falling over. And there was silence. No water sounds around me anymore. And the clothes I took off before going to bed were still hanging and did not fell on the floor.

   

Fixing, repairing and celebrating repairs. “Oranje boven” sails stronger than ever. No boring day at sea!

(Can’t show a photo of my bed on board – disaster scene;))

Movement

Everything stands still. No need to: sleep in one corner of the bed; To hold my tea cup; To hold myself when walking; To put tape on the cupboards so they don’t open and the knifes will fly around the room; to brace myself when opening a cupboard; to do the dishes on an angle, with salt and 3 drops of water; to do anything on an angle. It’s magic. Walking more than 10 meters is quite a sensational experience too. And running! With shoes. Sea life is one big workout. You constantly use your muscles to balance. But movements that makes you sweat like a run are rare. So great to go for a run and sweat again!

Nothing is straight at sea

Choices

The amount of choices I suddenly ‘have’ to make. We arrived, tidied up the boat. Then what? What do we do now? We went into Falmouth for some shopping and exploring guided by our local captain. The fact that there are people everywhere is already a new experience in itself. Very kind people in Falmouth btw.  We went to the pub. When in the UK you got to go to a pub. There are dozens of beers and ciders to choose from. The bartender asking many questions to determine which one I should pick. Sweet or sour? With bubble? From here or elsewhere? This price or that price? Decision fatigue instantly. Just give me a local whatever. Then we went out for dinner. Pages of options. Even for a vegan. The food choices we have these days are just insane. I went into a supermarket. Holy moly too many options imported from too many places. Nothing even talking about all the wrappers they put around it. Did you know that an average person makes about 2,800 choices in a day? A stroll through the supermarket and you’re already 100 decisions further. 

Choice overwhelm. Now what?

On the ocean, it’s just what it is and we just are. Imagine you cut a number of decisions you make from 1,000 down to ten per day—like, shall I drink tea or coffee, read this book or that one, wear yesterdays socks again or the ones of the day before yesterday, wear yesterdays underwear inside out or take a bucket and do a wash, on an angle…? Sit on the front deck or in the cockpit? That’s it really. A lot of extra energy we have for being, enjoying, living and thinking! Thinking because there’s no internet on the ocean. 

Deep Blue Thinking

The Internet

A few miles before arrival it starts. We have a signal. Very dangerous. That last mile has the largest amount of hazards, as well as magical scenery. One of the most exciting parts of the ocean nomad life is arriving in a new country under sail! and what are we doing? Looking at our phones! I didn’t want to connect yet. But my phone was off airplane mode and did it itself. It connected to the internet! It turned crazy. A zillion notifications, emails, messages. I can’t deal with it yet. The contrast is too big. And everything can wait. I still haven’t found a good way to deal with it all. Most of the messages I receive are supercool and it’s what I’m doing it all for! People expressing how much book Ocean Nomad helped them to make the sailing dream happen. Photos from family and friends. Applications for the sailing adventure in Sicily September. All really great stuff. But between it all, there is so much noise and distraction. You know, the internet. 

Instead, imagine looking up into the sky every night and seeing galaxies. It makes you feel small and on top of the world at the same time. It will make you rethink your place in the world. An ocean passage allows philosophising about life and your purpose in it. One of the main reasons I sailed the Atlantic again is to get fully disconnected. I have a monkey mind that does not stop thinking and creating ideas for positive change in the ocean. It’s easy to go off track if you don’t re-asses the situation now and then. Sailing the Atlantic is a major disconnection from society, long enough to rethink life and rewire yourself for the way forward. There is no WiFi. No media. No stress. No deadlines. No pressure. No external demands. Being offline means realising again what I value the most. It creates space in the mind. It makes me master the art of being present, which I believe is the most happiness generating skill to have. But it needs practice. On land, it takes willpower to resist the urge to connect. An ocean passage eliminates the temptation altogether. I hope I can keep the focus now back on land! I created a new rule. No social media before 13.00. Who joins me? The mornings are my mental superpower moments I want to use for creating, the few weeks per year I do have routine days;).

Focus

Focus is what I find on the ocean. Because I’m away from everything, long enough to disconnect from everything but nature and my shipmates. Most of us spend more time indoors than outdoors. It’s easy to forget the natural world we’re coming from and living in. On the ocean, you face the wind and water elements and find that connection to nature. Imagine a scene with no traffic, no news, no pollution, no civilisation. Just wind and water—plenty of that! A scene where you can gaze for hours to the millions of stars above you; enjoy the dozens of dolphins sliding through the water at the bow of the boat; admire the pink-orange-red sunrises and sunsets, without any airplane trails changing the fluffy and cauliflower-like cloud patterns. You’ll become very aware of the natural world around you. This inspires. And it’s eye-opening. You come to realise how disconnected from nature we are in our daily lives. In the middle of the Atlantic, far away from civilisation, I see plastic items floating by. Human-made things that don’t belong there. Witnessing that makes us think about the impact that we are making as people. And as individuals. On every ocean crossing but especially this fourth one, I have seen a ridiculous amount of plastic floating by. Mostly bits and pieces of broken down plastic… And jellyfish. Hundreds, if not thousands,  Portuguese Man of War. We’ve also had two storms. Pretty adventurous! The seasons are not as they used to be. I first hand see what impact we are making and what’s going on with the ocean. It motivates bigtime to act to turn the tide of the ocean challenges. After my first Atlantic Circle I started Oceanpreneur, now after the fourth it’s time to go big. It’s essential! The timeline is getting critially short.  Here are a few ideas on what you can do as (aspiring) sailor and ocean changemaker.

Almost every day we had dolphins at the bow

Common sighting. A half broken down plastic item. Wind, sun, and salt breaks plastic down. But it never dissapears.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — MARCEL PROUST

Purpose

By being ‘out of the system’, away from depressive media headlines, advertisement on stuff we don’t need, social media feeds with ‘got talent’ videos and other people’s cool lives, noisy traffic, stinky air, is when we connect to our true self. It’s a break from the rollercoaster that’s about being busy, productive and convenient. It’s a reset. It’s time to just simply let your mind wander. When does that still happen? It’s a time to rediscover my values, to clear the head, enhance creativity and the most brilliant ideas come up! It’s experiences like seeing a bottle in the middle of nowhere that makes us pause and think. It’s a lot of thinking about life, and why I’m doing what I’m doing. With all the space created in the head, I feel accomplished and ready to take over the world! First project: the #PlasticFreeNomad campaign. Join in!

Arrived happy & salty crew Welcomed by Eleanor from SaltyJobs.Co

“The future is in the hands of those who explore . . . and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love.” — JACQUES YVES COUSTEAU

What really matters and what I miss on the long term adventures are family and friends. So the focus for now is spending time with them. I just surprised my parents. Dad called me and instead of picking up the phone I opened the door. That was cool. Another memorable day!

I’m taking a break from the adventures now. At least a week ;). It’s important to process the magic, the ideas, and to pave the path ahead. A bit of landlife is needed. I’m writing two more books, planning a crowdfunding for the blue Carriacou Sloop, and I’d like to put more blogs out to help you connect to the ocean, experience the magic and encourage and inform for ocean action.

got to go know. I’m going to visit some locals farmers with mum. Curious to see and smell what’s again in season in Holland at this time of year. The smells! That’s another thing that keeps amazing me. After weeks of only pure ocean air (! Did you know that most oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean?), the new gold!, I noticed every single fragrance x 10. The smell of summer, and the smell of traffic. Land life. Let’s see how long I’ll last before jumping on the next boat.

Xxx from the land

Suzanne

Since I’m back on land, over the next weeks I’ll put some more stories and videos out about the ocean nomad life, sailing the Caribbean and Atlantic, and ocean conservation. What would you like to read / see / learn more about? Let me know in the comments! Or send me a message.

Learn more:

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul”

— Robert Wyland

Related products:
Book Ocean Nomad

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What can you throw over board when sailing the ocean? Part 2. On the Ocean

The discussion comes up on every boat setting sail for the ocean. How are we going to deal with waste?  Is it better to throw glass and tin in the ocean or dump it on a little island? What is actually recyclable? How to dispose waste on the other side? Are there recycling facilities in the Caribbean?

I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean 3 times now. I learned a lot on how and how not to do things! I especially saw and learned about the importance and decline of the ocean! Here’s what I learned in the waste department. Surely the intentions of the sailors and yachtsmen are to take best care of the environment. We all love the ocean. And we like to keep it healthy so we can keep exploring this beauty forever! We also love visiting the islands and waste management facilities may be non-existent.

How to deal with waste when sailing across the ocean?

In Part 1. On Shore, I discussed ideas to minimize your footprint as a sailor while still on shore. With conscious provisioning you already reduced your negative impact bigtime.

Now you’re out there. What to do with the waste that you are creating? Here’s Part 2, for once you’re sailing out there.

What can you throw overboard?

  • Organics (food). This can go overboard 12 miles out of the coast. Make sure you do this well ahead before arrival to the Caribbean. Food can bring unwanted bacteria and insects to an island and change the whole ecosystem. Fruit peels can float around for years since it doesn’t get biodegraded at sea on how it does on land.
  • Nothing else but coconut shells goes overboard. The ocean is not a dumping ground. Things might sink and go deep. It won’t be gone. So no glass, no cans, no cardboard, no cigarettes and no paper should go overboard. And definitely no plastic. Never throw anything overboard that doesn’t decompose quickly in water.

Can you throw glass overboard in open sea? NO. It sinks, but never ever disappears.  Yes, it’s made of sand but glass as for what we have created it would never appear in nature like it. We add things for functionality and colour. 50% – 80% of glass is recycled. This is great because it saves a lot of resources and raw materials to make glass from scratch. Leave your glass for recycling.

Can you throw cans overboard in open sea? NO. it sinks, but cans often have a plastic coating. Also, this is a welcome material to be recycled. It does not take many resources to process aluminium into new cans, containers, or maybe even a boat! It does take a lot of resources to extract new raw materials from the earth.

I took my mermaid fins and explored the bottom of the sea. This is what it discovered:


Plastic? No. no. NO! Never ever disappears.

Cigarettes? No! Loaded with chemicals.

Chewing gum? No Chewing gum is plastic.

Cardboard and paper towels? If it’s untreated paper, then it’s ok to throw overboard. If it’s white or has any sort of ink on it, it’s not ok! Almost all paper and cardboard is treated (with ink, UV coating, foils, glues, polymers). White paper towels are treated with chlorine which is a dangerous toxic for your own and the ocean’s health. It should not go overboard. Cardboard usually has ink on it, which is a kind of plastic. This includes the label of a teabag, which is full of ink.

Tea bags? No. They have plastic in it.

Can you throw cans over board when sailng? Nope!

Many pilots, guide books, articles and sailor forums say that tins and glass jars can go overboard in deep seas. After all, they sink and are made from natural materials, right? Accordingly, many sailors do this. However, these articles are usually written from a practical perspective, not from an environmental one. Re-using and recycling can be very practical on board too!  Bottles and tins have been found in the deepest trenches ocean trenches with the brand names and logos still readable.

Considering the critical state the ocean is in, every item that does not come from the sea should not be tossed in. Glass and tins are much more valuable on land than at the bottom of the sea. Recycling uses fewer resources than extracting new materials from the ground. These materials simply do not belong in the ocean. The ocean is not a dumping ground. If you wouldn’t eat it or put it on your skin, why should the living organisms in the sea have to deal with it? Your waste might sink into the deep, but it won’t be gone.

No glass, no cans, no cardboard, no cigarettes and no paper should go overboard. And definitely no plastic! Never throw anything overboard that doesn’t decompose quickly in water. Even fruit peels can take years to biodegrade at sea. They are valuable to land as compost. Do the best you can to close the loop and contribute to the circular economy.

 So how to process the waste on board when sailing?

Here are some ideas:

  • 3 buckets/ containers in the galley:
    • One for organic waste. Several times a day you can throw it overboard (Be wind aware;)!)
    • A bag or basket for recyclables
    • If you do well the waste bucket is the last that gets full!
  • Rinse waste with saltwater to avoid smells and the introduction of invasive species when disposing of in a new destination. Especially meat, cheese and dairy packaging should be rinsed well.
  • Once full get it out of the galley and into a storage container. It helps to separate plastic, tins, cardboard, and glass right away into different bags. Unfortunately, cans, bottles, and jars are not being reused but at least recycled. So far cans and bottles are preferred crushed (Greening the Caribbean).
  • Make an ashtray (you can simply tape a bottle to the boat). Cigarette buts can be tossed in there.
  • Reuse tin cans and glass containers where you can. If you plan to go to remote islands, don’t crush them and you can make someone happy with it. In the Caribbean, it’s preferred to be delivered crushed.
  • In the galley:
    • Cut non recycle plastic (film, bags and thin wrappers) into small pieces to reduce the volume. But in general, if you have place to get it on board, you have place to store it until you can dispose of it properly.
    • Have all organics dumped overboard 12 miles before arriving at the island. You don’t want to bring anything invasive into an island.

Read more about Contributing to a Healthier Ocean in Ocean Nomad, the adventure travel guide to the ocean, for the ocean.

Only interested in reading about the ocean challenges and what we can do as sailing crew? I made the Bonus section of Ocean Nomad (100 pages of Ocean Love & Conservation) available for a bargain on Kindle.

 

What are your ideas on processing waste on board of a sailing vessel?

Udemy

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Atlantic Ocean Crossing part 2: Caribbean to Europe!

I’m back on the Atlantic Ocean. Again. Back to blue, breathing sea, stimulus stop, facing the elements, learning ropes! This time in a completely different setting. A boat and crew more than double the size of SeaYa, different route, different weather, different speed!

The sailing adventure begins…

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Day 6. Sailing Canary Islands – Cape Verde

S/V Sea Ya – 20 Januari 2015. Somewhere along the West African Coast. From the pen+book diary. 

2.AM

“Wake up, little Suzie, wake up!” Noor sings me awake. It’s time to start my night watch.

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The Hitchhikers Guide to the Atlantic Ocean | Ocean Nomad

No boat, no much budget and no real sailing experience but a dream to make a big sailing trip!
Here’s a few waypoints that already help you tackle an Atlantic Ocean Crossing – as Crew.

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