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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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Ocean Nomad TV – Sailing/Adventure Videos for a Healthier Ocean

Time to make TV!
I’m super excited to show you the trailer of Ocean Nomad TV!
Here you go:

 

Now the book is finished I move on to the next project: making videos on the sailing adventures, ocean discoveries and journey to building a boat! How it all will unfold is still a little bit of a mystery so let’s document this journey!

All with the goal to connect more people to the ocean, get you excited about ocean adventures and raise awareness for a healthier ocean.

The first episode will go public on my birthday coming Saturday (If you can’t wait and/or like to encourage this venture, you can are a true HERO and you can already watch it HERE!

Or just stay curious a little longer;), and subscribe to the Youtube channel, to receive the notification when we’re live!

Enjoy!

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From ocean adventurer to change-maker | from Virgin.com

This post was originally posted on Virgin.com

We are now 16 days at sea. Six salty sailors and I are navigating our way from Spain to the Americas on a small sailing sloop.

The lack of wind brings opportunity. After weeks of staring at the big blue we’re going to feel its magic from a different perspective. We put a line out for safety – I step over the railing and jump.

I splash into the 4,000-metre-deep water of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles from the nearest shore. The feeling of refreshment and freedom is indescribable. With limited water and space, I have not showered or moved much these past weeks. I feel alive, small and on top of the world at the same time. The water is like tea: so warm. What is beneath me? I put on my mask and dive under. There is nothing to see except the butts of my fellow crew and the colour of deep ocean, blue with beams of light shining through.

Driven by my deep sense of curiosity I sail the ocean, freedive into the deep, kite surf the surface, and explore distant shores. My discoveries on, in and underneath the water have taught me about the challenges it is facing.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

I’ve sailed the seas in every continent except Antarctica. I have walked on remote beaches on islands hundreds of miles from mainland. I have put on my freedive mermaid fins and explored the bottom of the sea wherever I got the chance. I’ve explored below the surface in Tonga, in the middle of the South Pacific, in the Galapagos, the Mediterranean, South East Asia, East Africa, Australia, and the Caribbean. And everywhere I am confronted by the same man-made problem afflicting the ocean.

In the middle of the Atlantic, far away from civilization, I’ve seen it drifting. Plastic bags, bottles, straws. Once a fellow crew member thought he caught a fish, but it was a plastic bag. Every water sample that I have taken, every 200 miles, contained tiny pieces of plastic, invisible to the naked eye.

I have watched fish eating plastic pieces, mistaking them for food. I’ve been dancing with manta rays in a plastic soup, watching them funnel in wrappers instead of plankton, while I unwrap the bags from my fins.

Occasionally I don’t know where to resurface after a free-dive because above me I see nothing but trash. I’ve met local fishermen, from Tonga to Turkey to Tobago, telling me the catch of the day is less than 10 per cent of what it used to be. In two out of three days exploring the Mediterranean Sea last summer, I did not see a single fish.

 

Ocean Nomad Life, the good and the bad by @oceanpreneur Intro

As a sailor, I am intricately connected to nature. Life at sea provides a deep and lasting respect for nature because you are directly dependent on it. But the real truth is, we are all dependent on our ocean. The ocean is the heart of the planet. It produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate and is home to magnificent wildlife and the biggest creatures on earth. It gives us food, jobs, life and joy. Without it, we cannot survive. It gives us everything and yet we are taking it out of balance, as if we were the last generation on earth.

Learn more about how to become an ocean adventurer and change-maker from Oceanpreneur – Suzanne van der Veeken

I am responsible for this. And you are too. I have ‘thrown away’ dozens of things in my life. But now I have learned, there is no ‘away.’ Every piece of plastic ever made is still out there in some form. I have been ignorant. But not anymore. My ocean explorations have taught me about the magnitude of the challenges our ocean is facing and how urgently we need to fact them.

Awareness is key but action is mandatory. We are all responsible for depleting life in the ocean and together we have a responsibility to bring it back to life. We owe it to future generations. But what can we do?

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Adventure has brought me awareness. That’s where it starts. From experience comes awareness. From that, comes caring. From caring comes action and leadership. We can only do good if we know what the problem is in the first place. We are so used to doing things the way we do, that we don’t think about their effect. What impact are you having, right now? Calculate your carbon footprint. Calculate roughly how many toothbrushes, and shampoo bottles you have used in your life! Now think about how you can recycle, re-use, repair and make it circular.

Educate yourself. Ask questions. Be curious. Choose wisely. Our greatest and most exciting individual power is the power of choice. To a large extent we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. Each choice comes with consequences, good or bad. Do your best with whatever choice you make to make it a good one for you and the ocean. Your choices help you plot new routes.

 

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean Nomad

Explore, learn and gain new perspectives. Set out on ocean adventures that may be for a greater purpose. Go for a sail, jump in the sea, walk the shore, learn how to dive. Adventure can spark new insights and give you a new set of eyes. It makes us more conscious as consumers. It resets us. It makes us stronger, more confident, resilient. Maybe it makes you a leader. Maybe an ocean leader. You can shape culture, disrupt business and stimulate change. Above all, by making it fun you’ll have the energy to keep going!

Governments and companies respond to the choices and activities of the public. By plotting your course for positive change you can shape what will be on the agenda tomorrow. We’re all in the same boat so we need your hands on deck! I must climb back on board again. The winds of change are picking up. Yes let’s rock this boat! But let’s rock this boat together as a global ocean family.
– This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

This post is part of a series produced by Virgin Unite in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action.

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How to minimise your waste footprint when sailing the ocean? Part 1.

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 4 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 the 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.

So how to deal with waste when sailing across the ocean?

Part 1: minimize the provisioning footprint 

ON SHORE

We have to be mindful to what we bring on shore on the islands. The Caribbean islands do not have big enough landfalls. Waste is often dumped near the road or burned. Waste in landfalls is often burned as well. So is it better to just throw things like cans, and glass in the ocean? How can we as sailors best tackle this waste management issue on boats?

Here are some ideas to minimize your footprint as a sailor while still on shore:

  • Number 1. Do you very best buying without as little packaging as possible. Be mindful on what you bring on board in the first place. It can really add up. As a crewmember, before you even hop on board minimize, minimize, minimize.
  • Opt for landing at a destination with recycling facilities in place. It’s worth making your first landing on one of these islands for safe disposing garbage.
  • In Spain, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean a plastic bag is still practically mandatory at the supermarket. Always bring your own bags.
  • Choose consciously what you buy:
    • Buy in bulk to have less packaging in the first place. You can store smaller amounts in reusable containers.
    • Paper towels. This is often used lots on board. In many situations, a good old reusable cloth can do the job. If you do use paper, get one that is biodegradable and does not have ink on it (ink is a kind of plastic!). White paper towel is bleached and should not go overboard. Recycled toilet paper and kitchen roll sounds great but is often treated with a lot of chemicals.
    • Cleaning Products. Use biodegradable washing liquid for your own and the health of the oceans. It all drains straight to the ocean. You find this in organic stores (which you can find on Happy Cow). Baking Soda and Vinegar + water remains a good cleaning product, for the boat interior as well as your hair.
    • Use natural biodegradable soaps and shampoos.
    • In Spain, go to the market for your provisioning (not supermarket). At least in Las Palmas, at the market they will pick the greenest fruits and veggies for you which will last the longest. They come and bring it in carton boxes to the boat. It’s the cheapest way, you support the local entrepreneur and not plastic bags. Avoid buying as much as you can from the supermarket. It’s wrapped in so many wrappers and at checkout, they put everything in bags again, even if you friendly ask not to do that. Especially when they deliver goods. Many boats leave from Spain where they still very accustomed to wrap things in multiple packaging.
    • Don’t buy items that contain lots of wrappers: candy, biscuits and tea (in Spain and Cabo Verde many brands even wrap every individual tea bags). Make your own. If you happen to do buy wrapped stuff, get rid off as much packaging as you can if your departure destination has facilities in place.
    • Go to the market with your own reusable bags. If you have foods delivered, see if the marketmen can take back the cardboard and boxes. You don’t want to take those anyway since they are a source of unwanted bacteria, cockroaches.
    • Choose products with recycled packaging or packaging that you can reuse yourself.
    • Use reusable containers to store goods.
    • Reuse items as much as you can– bags, containers, boxes, etc.
    • Get cloth napkins instead of paper.
    • Get wooden pegs, instead of plastic ones.
    • If you don’t have a water filter on board and bottled water is needed, buy the 20Liter bottles + a pump. Water bottles are one of the biggest ocean polluters and not desired in the Caribbean, or anywhere. Read 10 water filter solutions you can use as crew.
    • Please don’t buy balloons for the ocean birthday or halfway party. The wind and sun will have them snap and it’ll get mixed into the plastic soup.

 

We live in a world where convenience and profit still dominate the scene. Walk the extra block. What’s more important? Convenience or continuing a healthy ocean for future generations?

With conscious provisioning, you can reduce your negative impact big time.

What about when you’re out there? Read part 2: What to do with the waste that you are creating? What can go overboard?

Read more about provisioning, long lasting healthy foods to buy and how to deal with waste on the ocean and on the other side in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? Then I’d love to hear from you! I’m now updating the big Atlantic Sailing survey. Your experience will help the next passage makers for a safe and conscious passage. Check it out here.

With a healthy ocean, everyone wins!

“I can sense the enthusiasm coming out at me from the pages and feel that her book is an inspiration and fantastic guide on hitch sailing and ocean preservation. It should be on every yacht out there at sea.”- Steve Green Yacht Master Instructor and Ocean Master

“It is part of my ship’s articles: I want every crew member to read it before they step on board! Not just because it is packed with tips for both captain and crew, but also because it gives a clear insight in the minds of hitch sailors. This is more than a ‘if-you-can-dream-it-you-can-do-it/-if-you-just-put-your-mind-to-it-it-will-happen” –  Captain Edwin Butter of OceanConservation


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