I know the world is round, and therefore, it has no end.
But if there would be an end, it would be one of the poles.
Ok, we didn`t go to the any of the poles (yet), but this was the closest we have ever been so far: latitute 78ºN - my new end of the world.
In the last post we shared with you our journey aboard the amazing ship Tilvera, from Den Helder/The NL, to Bodø/Norway. Today, we invite you to embark inon the next chapter of this adventure: from Bodø to Longyerbyen/Svalbard - the world's northernmost settlement, the home of the polar bears, the land of the eternal light (or darkness). More than one thousand miles of treasures, challenges and lessons for a lifetime. Have fun!
I didn`t know I was missing the ocean that much.
It`s been almost a year since we sold our boat in Brazil, moved to Europe, and started our course at the Enkhuizer Zeevaartschool. One year of life in land, learning and talking a lot about sailing, but without really sailing. A step that we had to take towards our dream.
It feels so good to be back home: the sea. And honestly: there was no better welcome than the cold waves of the Arctic splashing into our faces.
Sailing or skiing?
Bodø, 20th of April: one day before our departure
After the guests from the previous leg left the ship, all crew worked non stop to prepare everything for the journey ahead of us. New provisioning, lots of cleaning, washing clothes, fixing some stuff and making the ship ready for sea again.
We were so excited. It has been a bit more than two weeks that we were aboard Tilvera, but we all felt like a big family already. As if we have been friends forever, stuck together in that boat as a community since the beginning of times.
Drama apart: if you have ever sailed, you will probably agree with me that time and space on a boat become VERY relative. If you don`t get what Einstein says, I advise you to go sailing. We only look at the watch to help calculate the position, and the only moment we think about the future is when we make the voyage planning before leaving port and when we need to check the weather forecast.
The rest of the time are mainly lived in the present.
"The art of living in the present is the foundation of the experience of being alive. And there is no better place to practice that than the sea". Piratas do Amor
Time to go sailing.
April 21st: day of departure, from Bodø to Henningsvaer
We set sails in the morning towards Henningsvaer, a village located in the beautiful archipelago of Lofoten, only 65 miles further north. Right away we had to face very strong wind (ranging between force 7 and 9, meaning, 30 to 55 knots of wind), a proper swell saying hello to our stomachs and the first glimpses of the cold weather trying to freeze our skins.
It was our first time during this trip setting up the storm jib and putting the 3rd reef on the main sail. I am very happy captain Heinz made a good training with us while in port, explaining the tricks and tips about the storm jib - after all, you usually only use this sail when the conditions are not the friendliest, so you gotta know what to do.
Can you feel the adrenaline of crawling to the bow of the ship, hooking yourself into the safe line, holding with one hand somewhere, and with the other hand (and many people helping) working to put the jib down, folding it, rapping it, getting the storm jib up from the compartment, tying up all ropes, and setting the sail up while feeling as if you are on a roller coaster inside of a washing machine?
One of the most exciting part of sailing: storms
I started the journey feeling strong, fit and excited, navigating, playing in the engine room, cooking. But after some adventurous time in the galley, things rapidly changed.
"On a ship, the galley can be the sailor`s best friend or our biggest enemy." Raíssa
Before I continue this story, let me tell you something: they say there are mainly three types of sailors:
1. The ones who get sea sick, ranging from level one: some weird tickles in the belly or some dizziness in the head, up to level ten: feeling like you will (or want) to die, very similar to an Ayahuasca Ceremony.
2. The second type are the ones who are on the edge of feeling terrible and pretend very well that everything is ok - but don`t ask them to cook or work in the engine room during a storm.
3. The third type are the ones who don`t feel anything at all, who can read books, do handstands or fix the toilets no matter how rough the sea is. These are a rare species.
The funny (and good) thing is that you are never just one type, because on every journey things can change. So you might have been part of type 3 most of your life, but at any moment, type 1 can know on your door too. That`s what happened to me.
Chaos (photos: Fabio Mendonça)
During the first leg of our journey from Den Helder to Bodø I had the privilege to puke for the first time in my life as a consequence of sea sickness. After crossing all my limits working for hours in the galley and eating one apple in the attempt to feel better, I noticed the apple navigating in my stomach until a big wave overflew from the bottom of my guts straight to the little blue bucket, right in front of Heinz - our beloved captain.
My pride of being part of "the non puking type of people"sank together with my ego. That`s why I call it privilege.
During the storm on our way to Lofoten, the seasickness again knocked on my door. Of course I did`t want to open it, but this time, I knew my limit and my ego was chilling somewhere else. Before things could get worse, I asked Hadassa to leave my watch (this was the only time I did that during the whole journey), and went straight to bed.
Sometimes only laying horizontal and doing some proper breathwork can help you recover.
I fell asleep and woke relieved right before arriving in Henningsvaer.
From the sea we could already spot the breathtaking beauty of this piece of Planet Earth. Not just our eyes were experiencing something new, but our noses aswell: when approaching Henningsvaer we were all taken by the smell of fish that comes from town. We quickly found out that Lofoten is famous for being (during winter) the centre of the world's greatest cod fishery.
In order to preserve the fish, it is dried on large drying racks. Thousands of fish can be found hanging on the racks, drying between late winter until spring, a tradition that is kept for more than 1000 years in Lofoten.
Besides the fish, Lofoten is of course known by its distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beautiful beaches and untouched lands. We right away fell in love with this place.
The island that fits perfectly a soccer field and some fish racks.
It`s a pitty we could not stay longer.
The sea was calling us.
April 22nd: 73 miles further north, from Henningsvaer to Lödingen
Searching for Trolls in the Trollfjord, before continuing to Lödingen
This time the weather was a bit more gentle with us, and the celebration vibes started in the ship. We arrived in Lödingen around midnight of the 23rd of April: Christof`s birthday. I already had my pijamas on, and was ready to go to bed, when Heimir, the new owner of the ship and a good new friend that life gave us, together with Fabinho - our beloved friend from Brazil, came to us saying:
Let`s go out, we need to celebrate!
It was cold, late, and we were in Lödingen - a tiny village of not more than one thousand inhabitants. What are the chances of finding a party?
Surprise, surprise: there was one.
And a really good one!
Live music with excited Norwegians dancing. I asked the band sing happy birthday for Chris, we had a few drinks, moved our legs on the dancefloor and came back to the ship.
Early next day we set sails for the last part of the journey before the open ocean.
April 23rd: the day of the best birthday party one could wish
If we could chose one day as "the most beautiful of the trip", I think it would be this day. The weather was just absolutely fantastic. Little wind though. But you can not have everything at once.
The bright blue sky, the calm ocean, the mountains packed with snow. Pure nature, solitude and silence around us.
Not just from storms lives the sailor
And don`t forget, it was still Christof`s birthday!
As a surprise for him, we organized something very special: we took an old Norwegian flag from the ship, and everyone aboard wrote (or drew) a message for Christof. Without him noticing, we removed the "original" norwegian flag and hoisted the birthday flag. In a magical moment, sailing for the first time with the spinnaker, Heinz asked Christof "to put the flag down to fix something". With tear on his (and ours) eyes, that`s what happened then:
What do you think? Is he happy or not?
38 seems to be the magic age!
What a way to celebrate life and the start of a new cycle!
Within all the messages and wishes, one caught my eyes:
"Follow your dreams, but don`t loose your friends." Heinz
How easy it is to do that. The message was for Christof, but I took the advice for me aswell. Maybe it serves you too.
Following our dreams can easily become a distraction from (what I believe) is the most important thing in life: to share quality time with people we love, may it be family or friends.
We were definitely doing that there.
After this memorable day, we finally arrived in Tromsø. It has been only 4 days since we left Bodø, dancing between storm jib and spinnaker, storm and calm weather: a proof of the ocean`s (and life`s) impermanence.
April 24th and 25th: Tromsø
In Tromsø, our time was spent wisely:
We went for bunkering
We checked the local second hand shops for extra super-duper winter gear
We had a nice hot wine in the tinniest bar of town
We went for a 90ºC sauna with an after dip into the 4ºC sea water - a very good and natural way to feel high and healthy as hell.
The ship in Tromsø and us in the tiny bar
But honestly, the highlight of our time in Tromsø was the maneuver to moore the ship into the quay. With the EXACT ship`s lenght free between two other ships, Heinz manouvered Tilvera with impressive mastery, living not more than 30cm distance from the stern and bow to the other vessels. Not satisfied, he did it twice: once arriving, and after bunkering. Without a single mistake.
It`s marvelous to observe the intimate connection that Heinz has with his ship. Since he built Anne-Margaretha (now called Tilvera), the ship is like an extension of his body. He knows EVERY single part of her, how she behaves, when she is happy or sad. They dance together.
We wish to have this same connection with our next ship one day too.
April 25th, 7:15 GMT: leaving port towards the end of the world -Svalbard.
What a trip.
In the beginning there was barely any wind, but many birds flying around us. Specially fulmars and puffins: finally I saw my first puffins! The arctic tucans. One of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen.
"You can call me Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis, Arctic Fulmar, or simply Fulmar" (photo: Fabio Mendonça)
The wind came and the ship was gliding in the sea. We had wind force 7 for most of the time pushing us towards North.
Our watch system was working smoothly the way it should be.
From 12am/pm to 4am/pm - "the boys gang": Christof, David, Fabinho and Heimir
From 4am/pm to 8am/pm - "the girls and the wise man": Hadassa, Belén, Jan and I
From 8am/pm to 12am/pm - "the dutchies": Famke, Jochem, Wendy and Heinz
Famke, Belén, David, Pierre, Heimir, Jan, Wendy, Raíssa, Heinz, Hadassa, Jochem, Fabinho, Christof and Tilvera (photos: Fabio Mendonça)
If you are on watch, it means you are responsible for navigating safely, which includes: steering the right course, doing a proper lookout, setting and adjusting sails, making a log, plotting our position in the chart, watching for possible gale warnings, checking the barometer and any changes in weather condition, and much more, including making sure we all had cookies, tea and coffee.
Practicing everything I learned in our navigation lessons at KZV
When we were not on watch, we would either be sleeping, eating, having some good chats, or assuring our "task of the day" was done. Each one of us (crew) would have one task per day from the following list: cleaning toilets; preparing breakfast; making bread, serving fruits and feeding the sprouts; preparing lunch; vacuum cleaning and pumping the shit out; serving soup at 4pm; preparing dinner (the most demanding from all of them, specially when the sea is giving us that "roller coaster-washing machine experience").
Washing dishes was a collective task: whoever would feel inspired for this job, can take over the galley.
Daily tasks in the engine room, in the galley or on deck
And that`s how our "little society"(as Heinz says) worked together to survive at sea during our 4 days of crossing - which felt like a whole year (once again, proofing the theory that time is relative).
Latitude 74º20'N: spotting (more or less) land
After 330miles sailing, we passed by Bjørnøya, also known as Bear Island. This remote island was discovered by the famous dutch explorers Willem Barentsz and Jacob van Heemskerck on 10 June 1596. It was named after a polar bear that was seen swimming nearby. We hoped to check out the island from far, maybe spot some polar bears and birds, but due to heavy fog, this is all we could see:
Can you see it?
We kept on sailing.
April 28th: another land was sighted, and this time it was Svalbard.
A part of me was very happy to get so far North on Earth, for the first time in my life, and SAILING! But I must admit that a part of me was sad: I wanted to continue sailing. I didn`t feel ready to get back to land. Life at sea was too good and we were living together in such an orchestrated beautiful way, that it felt like changing course: maybe SW towards Iceland, than Greenland, than the US, cross the Panama Canal, sail to Polynesia, do a circumnavigation?
"Ice! "I heard someone screaming from the deck
That supposed sadness quickly left, I stoped dreaming about Polynesia and came back to the arctic present. The next adventure was being presented: packs of ice ahead of us, inviting us to change course, do some funky zig zags and play hide and sick with those small but dangerous versions of ice bergs.
Ice, worry and action (photos: Fabio Mendonça)
We managed to escape safely from the frozen minefield, and appreciate the mystical scenery around us: the fog, dark flat water and pure silence were components of a kind of scary - and still very beautiful - moment. That could be the perfect home for an underwater monster...
I guess the imagination of a sailor starts to get very fertile after a few days at sea.
The Big Mistery (photo: Fábio Mendonça) The wind started to pick up again, now force 7 fully against us. Which means: our last hours before arrival were quite adventurous. For the ones on watch: the strong wind and extreme cold would not allow any human to stand outside on the wheel for more than 10 minutes. For the ones sleeping: because of the constant tacking (when you change your course by turning the boat's head into and through the wind), sleeping or relaxing was impossible, you rather jump, slide, bump and maybe pray in your bed every 10 minutes.
Trying to arrive: windows cover with ice while we make a nice zig zag on the screen
April 29th, 01:30 GMT: Arrival in Trygghamna
With a half frozen ship and exhausted but shinny-happy people: we arrived!
In order: frozen ship; Heinz giving a briefing about the action to go to land; Tilvera anchored; Christof trying to get some fish for dinner
After spending a few hours fixing the outboard engine of the tender, we put our waterproof boots and went for a walk in the inhabited mountain of snow.
Right before starting to walk, Heinz asks for our silence:
"Please, I would like all of us to observe how it feels to walk in a nature not yet impacted by humanity". Heinz
In silence, I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
A cold air fills my lungs of life.
I feel taken by a wave of gratitude, thrilled to be there.
With immense respect for nature and a deep sense of belonging, we all started walking - following Heinz steps.
We only walked a little bit, after all, we were in the land of the polar bears and Heinz was still feeling his ribs from the little accident he had aboard on the very first week.
We took that opportunity to celebrate love, relax and roll in the snow:
Every photo expresses a bit of the joy and love we felt this day
Next day, we continued our journey to Longyerbyen, and again: wind and current were against us.
But this time, we had -15º C temperature, and together with the wind force, the thermal sensation was around -30º C. Every single splash of water that would touch the ship or us, would instantly freeze.
That`s why we moored on the quay of Longyerbyean looking like this:
Not even Heinz, who has built the ship and sailed with her for years, has seen Tilvera so frozen
Christof and I knew we would still have 10 days more in land, exploring the peculiar and crazy village called Longyearbyen. So we decided to stay on the ship doing some work, relaxing and filling up our taskbook.
Heinz and Hadassa (our First Mate) were about to fly back home, so we also wanted to have some last quality talks with them. We were so inspired by these two: very wise humans full of energy to give, always open and patient to teach and share their knowledge. And at the same time, extremely humble, never having to talk about themselves or look smarter than anyone else.
Besides all of that, Hadassa impressed me specially by her lovely presence and contagious smile, always bringing a good vibration to the ship (VERY important gift). And Heinz, a man of few words, impressed me with his quiet but sharp presence. What a good listener he is: maybe one of the consequences of living in Nature.
Cheers Heinz and Hadassa! It was a great pleasure to have met you and learned from you not just about sailing and ships, but about values for life.
Our new ocean idols!
After Heinz, Hadassa and other guests left, we still sailed to one more anchorage: right next to a very beautiful glacier. Besides once again enjoying the beautiful white scenery, we also saw some polar bears from very far away, and walruses, while pretending we were a little ice breaker.
Ice and walruses (you don`t see on the picture, but they were there)
Pure beauty (photo: Fábio Mendonça)
After 35 days aboard, it was time to say good bye to Tilvera, and to our new "captains" Belén and Heimir. What a beautiful inspiring couple! Besides gaining new friends for life, we also feel like partners with a common mission: creating experiences on ships to care and protect our Nature, while reconnecting to our human nature. If you still don`t know about their project Ocean Missions, North Sailing and of course, Tilvera Expeditions: you should definitely check them out.
Cheers Belén and Heimir, we love you both! It is just the start of our adventures.
Ocean Warriors: Belén from Spain and Heimir from Iceland
From sea to land, or better: to snow
When we were booking our flight back, we decided to spent 10 more days in Longyerbyean, a decision we are very happy about. Afterall, we sail not just for being at sea, but also to discover some sacred beautiful landscapes and connect with inspiring people that still live connected with Nature in this modern crazy times we live in.
We also made the decision to not spend money on hotels, so we went on a mission to find a friendly local who would be open to receive us as guests for that period. If you want to do the same wherever you are in the world, I recommend going either:
To the most famous local pub
Or to the church
You will ALWAYS find someone willing to help.
We first went to the pub and bingo! We met Janik, the friendly carpenter that follows the inspiring tradition of The Journey Man, who introduced us to Petter - an older Norwegian man, with his white natural dreadlocks.
And guess what?
He invited us to stay.
He and Jan Eric - another very friendly man who lives with him, made our time in Longyerbyen simply amazing.
The highlights: a magical ice cave and a dogsled tour with Petter`s dog.
Visiting an icecave feels like traveling in the past: a natural museum with frozen history. And dogsledding feels a bit like sailing, but instead of navigating with the winds into the blue, you navigate with dogs into the white.
In the front: the beautiful dogs; on the sled: Petter and I; behind us on the skies: Christof
Just watch it
Svalbard is a very unique place on Earth. A place where everyone walks around with rifles (because of Polar Bears), but never an incident has happened there. A place where all nationalities are welcome to live and work, which makes this place very receptive and diverse. A place where in winter the sun never shows up, and in summer it`s always bright. So we were wearing sun glasses at 2am, and our bodies never knew the time to sleep.
Polar bear warning; more drying fish; ice cave.
It feels kind of weird to fly back home. It took us 30 days from Holland to Svalbard, and from Svalbard back, around 8 hours.
Back to the NL, we are now digesting this life-changing experience and getting ready for the next adventures: some amazing experiences that we will facilitate aboard three different ships in three different locations:
Hope Expedition from Ocean Missions aboard Schooner Ópal in Iceland, 23rd to 29th of June;
Freedom Expedition together with BounceSpace aboard Chateauroux in the Waddenzee, 7th to 13th of August
Pirate Gathering aboard Atyla in Bilbao/Spain, end of September
More info coming soon!
Some treasures found in the bottom of the sea
Being inside of a nutshell - called sailboat, in this immense body of water - called ocean, is one of the most humbling experience one can have. The opportunity to witness such powerful forces from Mother Nature makes us feel like tiny little useless dots and at the same time, part of this big miracle of life on Earth. The eternal movement of the sea teaches us to let go of control and practice the art of presence - as I said in the beginning of this text. The solitude and exposure to constant risk is an invitation for us to become self reliant, self responsible, and work as a community where everybody is there for the other, no matter what. The distance from the supposed comfort of modern society makes us get rid of the distractions and live slow, simple and connected - to ourselves and nature.
Aren`t we the same thing?
We are nature.
That`s how I felt during our 2.227 miles sailing from Den Helder to Svalbard.
After a long winter, the vast ocean connected me again to myself and my dream.
A dream that made us change our life completely back in 2018, selling everything we had to buy our boat and move to the sea.
A dream that made us sell our boat in 2022 and come study at the Enkhuizener Zeevaartschol in the NL.
A dream that now brought us closer to the end of the world.
Where will this dream take us next?
To be honest, it does not really matter.
May we be open to listen and see what life wants to reveal next, enjoying every step of this journey and making it meaningful for us, for our Planet - and hopefully, for you.
Salty and arctic kisses
Raíssa & Christof