(2 MINUTE READ)
“We’ll be sailing all the way from Stockholm to Lisbon – wanna come along?” a friend asked me last summer.
One week on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean with a group of friends down the Portuguese coastline? I have no maritime upbringing, history or experience but sensed that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I said yes.
The bare essentials | Traveling light
In my case, the boat and home for seven days was not a luxury yacht but a fourteen meter long sailing boat named “After Ski”. One bedroom, two small cabins and a living room kitchen area. Not huge, but enough space to house five people and a dog. But what to pack for a boating vacation? I stuck to the main essentials: comfortable clothes for both hot summer days and cold, foggy nights, swimwear, sunscreen and sunglasses (you will need them as the water is incredibly reflective), books, and basic medical care, especially against seasickness (I will touch on that later). No need and no space for extras.
Nothing to do | Experiencing idleness
The first sailing day came, and off we went. Engine-powered out of the marina and straight into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, farer and further out. When we reached enough distance from the mainland, we stopped the engine. Oh, the silence! Just the sound of the waves slapping against the side of the boat, an occasional seagull, nothing else. We set the sails and started our way south.
So what did we do? Each day is structured by leaving in the morning – sailing – arriving in the marina in the evening for the night. In between time’s are at free disposal. That is, if you are a guest on the boat like me and others do the sailing. Thing is, you can’t go anywhere. Between kitchen duty, cooking food, joint meals and the daily sundowner you have the whole day for yourself. You can be social or keep to yourself for precious reading, napping or doing nothing but staring out into the ocean time. The boat gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) rocking back and forth, up and down, you succumb to its rhythm and let your body and mind drift with it.
Surrounded by the ocean | Reconnecting with nature
Sooner or later I had a strange epiphany: around me there is nothing but water. Thousands of kilometers ahead, nothing but ocean water. The unknown underwater world is so vast you can’t grasp it, and you’ll find yourself thinking about all the animals and creatures that might glide underneath the boat just now, deep deep down. We are so minor, so small on our little boat, and at the mercy of the sea, of the waves. A little fear and a huge respect takes hold, especially on the rare stops for swimming. Jumping off the boat in the infinite dark waves on the Atlantic Ocean is a wonderful, life-changing experience.
Speaking of unique experiences. Have you ever seen Dolphins in their natural habitat? Well, I did! A fin popping out of the waves, another one and there they are! Jumping out of the water in groups of four or ten or twenty, jetting back and forth on both sides of the boat, playing with the boat. Less than a meter away you hear them, see their eyes, their sleek skin, you could almost touch them if you wanted. It’s magical. They swim with us for a few minutes and suddenly are gone again, off to their own world. Did that really happen or was it just a dream? (Luckily, we saw a group of Dolphins every day on our journey.)
Nice weather days are bad sailing days | Vice versa
As a happy camper guest I expected a relaxing vacation and had imagined myself sprawled out on the boat deck, a cold drink in one hand, a nice book in the other, sunshine and a gentle breeze blowing through my hair. Well, it wasn’t always like that. Reality hit me hard on the first day. A good day for sailing I learned, with good and strong winds making very high waves. Not not very long after we set the sails the first excitement was replaced by a growing sense of feeling unwell and ended in a massive seasickness. I will spare the details but believe me it’s a tough one. Think of your worst hangover multiplied by ten stretched lasting hours. So I spent the first sailing day wrapped in a blanket on deck, staring at the horizon (which supposedly makes it better), not eating or speaking and not enjoying myself a bit.
Luckily, I got used to the movement of the boat and next morning the sea sickness was gone, the sun came out and the whole day was pretty much like a dream. And as I sat there with my drink and book, feeling reborn, the boat bobbing up and down and only gently breaking the waves, I closed my eyes, blissfully. In the faint distance I heard the sailors complaining about the bad sailing conditions and how little knots and distance we were making but I decided to shut them out for a while. You can’t have it all, can you?