For me the very phrase ‘All At Sea’ has connotations that are not merely of being on a boat. Whether it’s cruising, racing or just plain old live aboard, being on the water propels us into another dimension. You don’t have to be doing an ocean crossing or a brave single-handed passage. All of us when on the sea are humbled by the one element that, without compassion or sympathy, both gives life and takes it away. The sea is relentless in its support (and often opposition) to the lives that are on it, in it and under it.
In my time on the water I have seen grown men cry like babies and young children become the epitome of courage and valour. It’s without rhyme or reason why one person will rise to the challenge and another will tremble in their bunk as the waves crest and the wind blows through the rigging like a howling beast.
The Law of the Ocean is nothing like the Law of the Land, it is instant! No judge, no jury and no appeal.
After 20 -25 years of cruising and living in the Caribbean it was time for me to go back the other way once more, to re-cross the Atlantic. As you must have guessed from the opening paragraphs I have a healthy respect for the sea and, at times, fear. The trip, however, was one of excitement and joy rather than fear or trepidation. I was sailing aboard a beautiful Frers-designed yacht with an extremely capable captain. Synergy is 50ft of classic lines and well balanced rig; her Captain, Lea de Haas, is a salty dog whom I trusted implicitly. We were not just sailing, we were sailing to a new life. One that would bring change and challenge to both our lives.
Faial, in the Azores, was our destination and it is indeed from the comfort our house on the hill overlooking the ocean that I now write this story. Lea also has a wonderful house high on the shore of this stunning retreat that is Faial.
The passage was fast and uneventful making landfall in just 16 days. Still, stepping ashore after the spectacular night skies, surrounded by the smell and movement of the ocean, was rather akin to the shock of birth. The sudden separation from the sea and all it holds found me wishing it had taken longer.
Much of my time at sea was taken up with Lea’s stories of the island and the people who make up the colourful backdrop to this magical rock in the middle of the Atlantic that is part of the nine-island Azores archipelago.
The following months were spent living abroad Synergy in the marina at Horta. Somewhere in the region of 1100 boats would make landfall here in that season of 2013. All with a story to tell, provisions to find and many with repair work to do. Synergy also had jobs that needed doing, the alternator was tired, some tweaking of the rigging and general maintenance. Quickly I found that far beyond the apparent waterfront services there was a comprehensive friendly community of tradesmen and suppliers hidden in the heart of the island that are keeping the tradition of hospitality to seafarers alive to this day.
So if you are planning on crossing the pond you might want to make Faial your landfall. If you do then look me up. Safe sailing and fair winds.
Wonderful article Sean. I spent 11 years on the ocean, but not, unfortunately under sail, but rather on tankers, both oil and gas, and on ore carriers. I sailed as engineer, first as an apprentice and then rising to third with my seconds ticket. Many happy times, from Europe to the Americas, Australia and Thailand. But my great memory was passing Faial and called up to the bridge by the third mate to take a look. From then on I was in love.
After the 11 years, I moved onto my other passion(and fed up of getting oily) and started a recording studio… then onto education at university, in all things audio. But yes, I still miss my time on the ocean. And as you say, the feeling of ‘rebirth’ upon getting ashore. My trips where 4-5 months at a time, so arriving shoreside was taken at every opportunity. However, turn-around time was most often rapid, and as you know, an engineer is very busy in port. So fleeting glimpses of this place and that.
Moving forward, I’m 60 now, and am building a place on that magical island I saw so many years ago. I look forward to a nice chilled time, watching the shipping and boats come and go, and hopefully join you Sean on your radio programme if you let me.
To happy times and memories of past travels. Best, Steve
Maravilhoso artigo Sean. Passei 11 anos no oceano, mas não, infelizmente, sob a vela, mas sim em navios-tanque, tanto de petróleo e gás, quanto em navios de minério. Eu naveguei como engenheiro, primeiro como aprendiz e depois subindo para terceiro com o meu bilhete de segundos. Muitos momentos felizes, da Europa às Américas, Austrália e Tailândia. Mas a minha grande memória passava pelo Faial e ia até a ponte pelo terceiro companheiro para dar uma olhada. Daí em diante eu estava apaixonado.
Após os 11 anos, mudei-me para a minha outra paixão (e farto de ficar oleosa) e comecei um estúdio de gravação … depois para a educação na universidade, em todas as coisas de áudio. Mas sim, ainda sinto falta do meu tempo no oceano. E como você diz, o sentimento de “renascimento” ao chegar em terra. Minhas viagens, onde 4-5 meses de cada vez, assim que chegar em terra foi tomada em todas as oportunidades. No entanto, o tempo de retorno foi mais rápido e, como você sabe, um engenheiro está muito ocupado no porto. Vislumbres tão fugazes deste lugar e daquilo.
Avançando, tenho 60 anos agora e estou construindo um lugar naquela ilha mágica que vi tantos anos atrás. Estou ansioso para um bom tempo, vendo os navios e barcos indo e vindo, e esperançosamente me juntar a você Sean em seu programa de rádio, se você me deixar.
Para momentos felizes e lembranças de viagens passadas. Melhor, Steve