Finally, we are in Auckland with Vista! This was our goal when we left Stockholm. At that point, we had no idea how hard it should be to come here. First, the whole pandemi reduced the numbers of boats that got visas to come here – only for one reason – refit & repair. Secondly, there are very hard to get a berth here, as it is so crowded all over – even if there are many and big marinas around the coastline. They even stack their motorboats on top of each other! That ”room” is also the entrance to the marina.
We are in Oram’s marina, right in the middle of the city. It is so cool! The big grey boat Dapple is just a toyboat – having a subamrine and pressurechamber – amongst a lot more. So we are a mini-boat in this marina. We anyway get a great help of many skilled craftsmen that are having their businesses close by.
We were very lucky to have dolphins joining us on the way here!
This is my tribute to the Moon. And to the women group Luna that I participated in with big gratitude. I am born and have lived most of my life in the beautiful capital of Sweden, Stockholm. Mostly I never saw the moon. When we started to sail I saw her always. Here will follow my favourite pictures of the moon during our sailing from Stockholm end of May 2019 to New Zealand December 2020.
I have learnt that the big transformation is happening when you come in contact with the stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. Zero consciousness before you enter a new ”land” and suddenly are aware of things you had no clue about before.
For me, this happened when I (and my husband) to my surprise became ocean sailors and liveaboards. With that decision came new experiences that have given us access to a much bigger arena in life — the oceans, not only the Baltic sea. The capacity to sail day and night for weeks in a row.
We were at a point in life that a lot felt like a peak — we lived very well in a big apartment in the city of Stockholm, we both run and enjoyed our own businesses, in good health we had 6-7 weeks of every summer for sailing in the Baltic – since the last 21 years. We had friends who sailed to Scotland back and forth during one summer and others who easily made a night jump from our favourite islands, Christiansø to Gotland. Just like that. We thought they were very brave. That was not for us we justified — we sailed only daytime from harbour to harbour or anchor-spot. Once we wanted to see the North sea-going through the Kiel channel. As the western wind blow very strongly and our motor was very weak we turned around halfway and at that point, we said that Baltic is good enough for us.
What I can see now is that the curiosity and lust for exploring something new weren’t present to a high degree. Actually, we were content and very busy. So busy that existence helped me fall, not only once but twice one summer, so we just had to cool down and be still and recover me — and with that getting time to talk about the future. We realized that we didn’t have a compelling plan for the future, more than more of the same. When that sank in we quickly realized it was time for new challenges. As my husband was close to retirement I understood that if we should sail further out in the world it has to happen quite soon. I had to let go of my fear of not being able to cover my costs while living onboard. We both decided to trust that life is meant for exploring more and more of our own capacity to serve and be a contribution to the world. After that everything went fast and it didn’t take long before we had decided to sell our apartment and buy a new yacht built for sailing on the oceans.
To count as an ocean sailor you have to make a crossing. To become a full member in Ocean Cruising Club, OCC, one has to sail a minimum 1500 nm non-stop. For us in the Nordic countries, the Atlantic crossing is the most obvious one. Every year hundreds of yachts leave Canarias for the West Indies in December – January when the trading winds is to our favour. After the crossing, you have the right to wear red trousers.
Our first crossing – Atlantic It took us one year to make the shift to living aboard and another year to complete our work and life in Stockholm. And further six months to sail down to Canarias.
I had so many thoughts and questions before our first crossing. How about if something happened with us or with the boat? What can happen? How big is the risqué? Is it irresponsible to sail only the two of us? Shall we join ARC as it is our first passage? Shall we take on a crew? How to calculate the food and how to keep it fresh? Will I be able to cook when it is rolling a lot? What exactly is a squall that people say will come? And how is it to be in 3-4 meters waves? Will I be seasick? Will I be able to sleep? And so on…
The scariest thing I think was to let go of land (being far away from) and with that the possibilities to get help in urgency. A life raft is, of course, something — but who wants to jump into it and hang out in the middle of a big rough sea?
Already on our first small trip right out in the Atlantic — from Cascais to Porto Santos in Portugal, three days and nights — we got the feeling that we will make it. The captain said he could have gone on and on. And I felt it was ok as well.
Months later came the big day after many weeks of preparation in Las Palmas. Food was precooked, all lockers were filled. Extra water, extra diesel, extra everything! We got help to place the AIS-mob correctly in our Ocean spinlock deck wests. The last thing we purchased was a Hypalon dinghy. The only thing I didn’t found was pepper spray. A friend said I gonna find it at St Martin. In case someone should come and border us in the Karibien – we checked Noonsite reports carefully. Our boat neighbour and I joked about (to reduce the anxiety) how we should handle over some money in a fish-nets and ask them to please leave us, in case it happened. All this tension!
Boats were leaving almost every day and every time, we could both see and hear that something big was about to happen. Foghorn howl, people were standing waving on the pontoons. Impossible to miss. I still remember the feeling strongly the morning it was our turn.
Friends came to the diesel-ponton — we did top up the last — big hugs and helping hands. Waving hands from the other side. Yes, off we went! Now it was for real. Three weeks or so waited in front of us before we should see land next time.
Rest is history. Of course, we made it. It was bumpy. Waves got higher and higher. Squalls were coming on us as well. A steady wind from the back the whole time. I did take seasick plastic, so I didn’t get seasick. I cooked and I slept. It was a huge feeling to drop the anchor in St Anne bay at Martinique. We stayed there for days before we slowly took the new dinghy and cleared us in on the other side of Atlantic. Now we knew. Now we had our own experience. We made it!
We left 21 Dec — made a stop at Mindelo, Cap Verde, three nights — left again 1 January and arrived at Martinique on 15 January 2020. 2108 nm + 887 to Cap Verde.
The journey continues and with that a new passage: Pacific In our case we had decided from the beginning that we should sail as far away first (=New Zealand) and from there slowly take us back to Europe via South Africa and Karibien again.
So two months later we stood stand by in Shelter Bay marina to pass out through Panama channel for Pacific. This time we were not worried at all for the passage to Marquesas — actually we did look forward to it. The only difference was the longer distance and with that, to bring more food. We were lucky to get the tip about Panama Mercado — a huge Mercado where they sold fresh (and not fridged) fruit and vegetables. Perfect! Best so far — be sure to go there — it is worth the cab drive. Information about the coronavirus had been activated the last days, but as we had our zarpe — international clearance to Marquesas — we decided to go wave by wave. After a month on the sea it must be over anyway we thought.
If Atlantic was our first very important virgin trip, with Pacific came the decision, or rather the consequences, to go all the way around the world. Many passages would follow. What happened after a week or so on the Pacific was that we got the message via our iridium satellite mail, that French Polynesia closed their borders. Sailors on the way should go directly to Papeete and then fly home. This was a quite chocking message out there and we frenetically tried to get some more information with the help of friends on land. We soon realized that all countries were closed.
At that moment we started to look more wildly on the world and asked ourselves — why don’t we go north to Hawaii instead? We measured — distance was almost the same. Easy – we can do that! There and then I felt how we had in-bodied being ocean sailors! Looking for openings and solutions, not fearing what it should take. We can sail on oceans.
This passage anyway ended up in Marquesas — you can read about the whole trip — my Pacific reflections here. It was a marvellous tour — I just loved being out there.
We left Panama 17 Mars and arrived at Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands 18 April 2020. 4030 nm in 32 days.
The third passage to New Zealand Now we have done our third long passage — from Bora bora at the Society Islands to Opua in New Zealand. We are one of few boats that, after very long waiting, has got permission to enter for refit and repair. The feeling of confidence is still with us. We have more experience, it is easier and goes quicker to prepare. With this passage came other questions. Every water is new before it is entered. About this one, we had heard that the last third part should be tough. End of trading winds with the wind in the back. Welcome to sailing in between low pressures, adjusting the sails more often, even tacking against the wind and sea. 2100 nm the bird way, much longer in the reality. We got to the test the boat and us in 46 knots, the most so far. We closed everything as big waves rushed over the boat over and over again. We sailed on the genua with all three reeves enrolled. From Kermadec Islands (south of Tonga) we most rightly had to tackle against the wind and sea. And then the wind decreased significantly. We counted hours and litre diesel — do we dare to start the motor already out here? No, not yet. Luckily wind soon came back. (Even if you carry extra diesel you can never have so much that you can motor the whole way. We have 600 l — that’s enough for around five days including running the generator to get water and electricity.)
As you know they have strict regulations on bio food in New Zealand – they will border us directly when we enter to check that we are not bringing any meat, chicken, fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs or dairy with us. In my understanding, we are not allowed to bring any food at all. That’s tricky as it is hard to say exactly how many days the journey will take. I asked if I could keep a canard for having as dinner our first night in Opua (to celebrate achieving our goal after 1,5 years sailing). No, no avian foods are allowed sorry, our agent responded…. It turned out well in the end. To my disappointment, they didn’t come aboard to look at my empty and well-cleaned fridges, freezer and cupboards. And after covid test, our agent had organized a food deliverance, so of course, we could make a celebration dinner with some very tasty wine from New Zealand – a present from our agent.
I and my captain are looking at each other and we both know that being an ocean sailor means being prepared to change, to have patience and accept even the slow rides as well as the tough ones. To trust that we are taken care of as well.
17 November to 7 December 2020- 21 days and 2591 nm from Bora bora. (+ 6 days and 166 nm from Papeete)
The beauty with ocean sailing is that you are surrounded by the most brilliant existence all the time. Ok, I hide in the cockpit or saloon when it is rough weather but soon I am up looking at the horizon — feeling tranquil with a lot of space and freedom. Witnessing the sun, the stares and the moon coming and going in the shades of the clouds. Feeling grateful over the message I receive of how Ok it is to just be. Getting remembered that the sun is always there, even when not visible. We as sailors are part of the big play going on out here. Riding on the waves, getting moved by the wind, getting power from the sun to our selves and our solar panels. We dip down and up — we are part of the big, big blue ocean. It is just a very great feeling. Enjoy, is all there is!
Sun and salt from Anna Eriksson at s/y Vista, an Amel supermaramu 2000 redline
It felt big to have made it to Marquesas. Now we have headed one step west to the next archipelago Tuamotos. We had heard so much about the atolls – especially the entrances that only could be passed in slack water with sun in the back. We wanted a baby-atoll – an easy one with a wide and simple entrance – for our first time trip. Stephen who had sailed here before recommended Kauehi. It was 500 nm – around four days to come there. We looked at the weather – it looked like we should get enough wind, decreasing the last day. Good enough, we really wanted it to be calm and nice especially at the entrance, so off we went. The wind went down the third day so we started the motor. As it then got more easy to estimate the ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival – we should be in perfect timing to the slack water at Kauehi.
With the radar on we came closer, so far it had been open sea, but now small, small atolls started to appear. We saw them as lines on the radar. Suddenly the radar started to beep. We looked out in the darkness – help, what is in the way? We saw nothing. We should be around 10-15 nm from Kauehi. We searched over the water edge with the search light – saw nothing. We slowed down and decided to wait until the sun went up – only 30 minutes left. I cooked some coffee and made porridge. It is always good with some food in the stomach before arrival. The beep continued. The only thing we could relate it to where the low hanging clouds all around us. We saw it was raining both here and there. The wind had increased quite a lot and came right in our direction. Waves got higher.
When sun went up, well when it got lighter, it was cloudy all over the sky, we continued without the radar. Soon we saw land! A small, small stripe in the horisont. The opening of the atoll was on the south-west side so we had to go beside the atoll for a while.
Around ten o’clock, in perfect timing for the slack water, we where outside the entrance. Captain started far out following the line in the charts through the pass. He wanted to feel how the boat was moving in those conditions. 24° the chart said, he had to compensate for wind and waves. It was blowing around 20 knots and was grey. In front of us, inside the atoll, we saw a dark grey rainfall.
We proceeded, saw the red small light house on our port side. Correct. We had measured the pass – was it wide enough to turn around and out if needed? Yes, we thought so. How strong should the current be? We have heard it can raise to 6-8 knots! We make max 7 with the motor. Tidal bores can rise inside or outside they have warned. We continued very focused and in the middle came a lot of eddies – the whole passage was very choppy. Is this slack water?! Captain raised the motor so that the turbo (=extra power) started. It helped. And then we where through!
The recommended anchorage place was at the opposite side of the atoll where the small village was, around 5 nm. We saw two more sailing boats, we saw a church, some houses, palm trees.
Our iridium beeped. That means we have got a message. Old sailing friends, Carl Axel and Christina from Stockholm, had seen on our tracking page that we where inside and con gratulated us for having made it in those foreign waters. We both got moved. We felt really far away from home.
They say that you have to eyeball to find your way between corral heads. When the water is brown there is coral, turquoise means sand. I was standing in the front, prepared to eyeball. It was just too grey to see anything else than dark blue-green water. We dropped the anchor on 20 meters depth, far out as usual.
We looked around and saw the atoll as a circle around us, quite big, like a small lake. It was still grey and a lot of waves and wind. Here we are in the real South Pacific! You wouldn’t want to see a photo. It shouldn’t show much more than dark water and a huge sky.
Still we felt that this was really different. This we have never seen. Marquesas islands felt suddenly very understandable – islands with mountains. We had anchored on the lee side of many islands, in shelter behind a mountain, at least a hill. In the Baltic, south of Europe, Canarias, Caribbean, Panama – every where island and mountains.
And how about being on anchor when it blows 25 knot? At home we had been in a safe marina long time ago. In the Baltic, from where we are coming, we have very little tidal and current. This is quite wild. 20 ton boat including us are hanging on one anchor and anchor chain surround by waves with whitecaps (inside the atoll, outside the waves are 3 m – at least we are on the right side) The sound of wind is quite strong. If we drag we have at least plenty of space behind us… I have heard that there are no waves in an atoll. That is just not true.
The second day we released the dinghy and put it down in the water. That felt enough. The sun had the kindness to show up at the end of evening.
Later, when it was dark – we suddenly heard a poff. We looked up and wondered what was that? At the village we saw a big fire with high flames. Do they celebrate anything? We looked in the binocular – couldn’t see any people, just a car. Are they burning trash? Why in the dark? We saw the fire slowly going down.
The third day we gathered some strength and decided we should go ashore and have a look at the atoll. Captain drove us in the now really turquoise water between the coral heads. We landed on the small bridge in front of the church. Palm trees swaying in the wind. Yes, this is a real south sea atoll! I had my short wetsuit. It was perfect, at least in the water. No one even showed a sign that they saw it as a strange dress on land – they just said hello back to us.
We heard music from the house closest to the pier. We thought it maybe was the beech bar as it had a huge speakers from where we heard pop music on high volume. I said Bonjour madame to the lady in the house. I understood that she asked if I had magazines. We saw kids moving as very free spirits with really nice bicycles. We looked into the church. Close by there was an outside chapel.
It was Monday 29 June, it was their independent day and every one was free except Matilda in the first shop. She told us that 100 people lives here and that it comes food every second week from Papeete (the same Saturday we came).
I asked about the fire – she said it was a house that exploded! No one hurt and nothing else destroyed. A family without a house, taking shelter in the town house.
Matilda also told us that it is the Maramu-storm that is blowing now, having it’s season June-July. Aha, so this is the Maramu! She told us where to anchor. We passed our boat neighbour on the way out. Only one now, the other have moved. He had lost his anchor and was on one of the moorings. Small white buoys, I thought it was sign for fishing nets or maybe a pearl farm. He also pointed out places to anchor closer to land. He said that the one Matilda had pointed out was tricky with coral heads.
We went out to Vista. No, we don’t dare to move her in this wind. It’s good enough that anchor is holding us.
The Marquesas consist of ten small islands with Nuku Hiva as the biggest in north and in the middle Hiva Oa. Tahuata just south of Hiva Oa and Fatuhiva the most south of them all. This are the islands a sailor first meet when sailing from America in direction west.
They belong to French Polynesia that also consists of Tuamotos (atoller) and the Society Islands (with Tahiti).
We have been to four of them — the green mountains are a typical sign for all of them.
Hiva Oa – the island that became our first landfall after 33 days on Pacific from Panama.
For ever in our hearts as we got a very kind & warm welcome. Jaques Brel and Paul Gauguin have chosen to take their last rest here.
Tahuata – a smaller island without an airstrip. Here we where swimming with manta rays for the first time.
Fatuhiva is the most dramatic one with high expressive mountains. Thor Heyerdahl lived here in the small village Omoa for some years in the end of the 1930s.
Nuku Hiva – the head island of Marquesas with the administrational office as well as the only hospital. A big bay for the sailors. Many change crew here as it comes and goes flights here. Surprisingly a large pinje forest in the north. Payed by EU we got to know.
Tikis On all the islands they are very skilled in wood and stone art. There are sculptures every where — in the nature as well as outside houses and so.
Remember the feeling of the first time you found balance when you started to learn bicycling? The wiggling start that several times turned out in falling and then suddenly didn’t – you continue rolling and realizes how holding your body and moving the pedals round and round gets you a more and more stable feeling of balance. You got it!
Same thing with buoyancy for a diver – without it you can not dive, it is too risky. With 11 kg air on your back, and in my case 7 kg weights to compensate the air, you need to find the buoyancy to dive safe and effortlessly. Then you get access to and can have a positive interaction with the underwaterworld. A world with it’s totally owns premises.
You have buoyancy when you can float in the middle of the sea without holding on to anything, especially not the corals. You finetune by breathing – in and you go up, out and you go down. If you have buoyancy the rest goes easy, as our dive instructor Elisabeth said.
So, I have struggled! Floating up and down, grasping after more air, waving my arms, paddling my feet’s, touching the bottom – thankfully mostly on sand (yes, I have touched a coral, please forgive me), being too fast and clueless about how I could manage myself.
Elisabeth showed me step by step, she checked all the outer stuff like the BCD, the right amount of weights, where I had the weights and so on. She was like a reseracher searching for the solution. The last thing we did was breathing deeply together.
Then came the moment when I felt it! I felt joy for many minutes and then I float up (again). Anyway, after that I knew what I was searching for and how to come back to it with the breathing as well as making the movements smaller, more streamlined and at least attempting to swim, glide through the water as a fish.
Me and my captain where talking the other night about how important it is to have buoyancy even on land, in our communication. When we are buoyant we are aware about our own breathing and we see the surrounding we are into. We are relaxed and present. We can easily come back to buoyancy by sharing what is there.
For example – I meet a new person and directly forget his or her name. I realise that my breathing is shallow and that I am actually nervous. By saying that (what is there) instead of trying to keep an image up, I give myself space to be authentic and to reconnect – both with myself and the person in front of me.
Same thing when you continue talking – when we are present and conscious about our own and the other persons state we will have a nice flow in our conversation. We listen deeply, have space for the other ones thinking, feeling and talking. No need to steal the air and interrupt as we are not in hurry. We rest in the listening, knowing a lot is going on even if it is subtle. We hear the nyances. We dare to wait and be silent. Waiting for what is coming next. You never know.
We know that we also going to get listened to. We do not have to prethink about our answer or story, we just stay in the listening until it is our time. Then we rest with ourselves as well – giving us the space to just be and float, drifting away in the thoughts. Giving space for new ideas, thoughts and answers to come up.
Can you hear the difference between someone talking very much about something that not really makes a difference or sense for the ones around and someone sharing an engaging experience? It is like the former needs debriefing – to be able to let go of something that has passed and that the later shares to contribute.
When we listen carefully we can almost hear the stress in the fast and repeatingly talking. Nancy Kline, a master in listening, ones taught me that when one is repeating oneself again and again it is a sign that one has not been heard. Nothing right or wrong in above – just different and as you notice you can adjust your responce to what is there.
Wise Elisabeth again: ”The more you are aware of your buoyancy, and therefore your breathing, the more everything will flow peacefully. In the water and out the water. Stress because of new and unexpected things happening will vanish and your worries will disappear.”
Like on the airplane – in emergency – secure your own breathing first. When you breathe you will feel more. Feeling what you want, what you need, what is most important in this moment. How aware are you about your breathing? I was not I must admit. I thought I was breathing deeply, but I did not. At least not under the water – a quite new environment for me.