Grit, determination and will power: sailing south of Saint Tropez


All the late watch hours. All the sleepless nights of navigating your own boat across an ocean. All the responsibility, heavy on your shoulders, some scary moments, the lives of your crew and the well-being of your boat that you are the skipper of. Working off on other people's boats - everything from being an executive cook at a super yacht in Caribbean to polishing off the deck gear as the frost nibbles at the fingers in the Arctic. And once again the night watch hours. For about 25,000 nautical miles, all around the world.

Sailing in Svalbard, organizer and guide for a group

All the courses I have ever done. The Coastal Yachtmaster, the very much tougher Offshore Yachtmaster. I would have done the Ocean Yachtmaster but the Swedish authorities do not issue that. The certification courses for CEVNI, for the VHF, and for the life-saving at water. The leadership courses - both at the Swedish military, and at the different management consultant giants.

My first Sydney to Hobart, on board amazing Ocean Gem

What else? The restaurant education I got when working for the student association (unpaid work). Alongside the recent Harvard molecular cooking course. The firefighting and the medical ones, and the recent training received at the local firefighting station where I have worked as trainee, once again on the water with a power boat.

Leading a group across Arctic ice, as armed guide and expedition planner. Group dynamics, leadership, risk management, Arctic knowledge - all adds together.

And the opportunity to go racing. To do the adrenaline-infused sail changes, the helming marathons, the frantic sea repairs. The expeditions across remote places, the tiger sharks, the challenges of lack of civilization. The joy of sailing.

Just before my second Sydney to Hobart.

So last week I's had sort of a pay-off, one of many. I got the opportunity to come and sail a 47 ft catamaran off the coast of Provence, or Côte-d-Azur. Just south of Saint Tropez, in the vicinity of Toulon, I could border the boat and get rid of the 30+ C heat at the chill, deep blue waters of the Mediterranean.

My home during a brief time this August.

What's the catch? None. No hard work, no racing against the wind and waves, just chilled beautiful sailing. I should probably be getting used to it, like I tried in Malacka Strait the last time. The owner was aboard, a great person who could share a lot of knowledge. The emphasis was on active yet chill life, healthy choices, water sports, and beautiful outlooks. How good is that?

Photo taken swimming in the warm waters of the Med

I am not a statistician; I cannot make out the chance that I would have gotten to sail south of Saint Tropez, all expense covered, just like that, if I did not possess the experience I have. After all, it's one of the fanciest and most up-scale places in the world. I'm used to being invited onboard different sailing boats to sail with them as crew or commander, but mostly the passages are of a kind that are not of interest or desire for me. Sometimes, the suggested payment is rather impressive, but I will not be interested anyway - like all the Atlantic or Pacific crossings again. There are so many places to sail, climb, hike, explore - that I need to be very picky in what exactly I choose.

No matter how beautiful - I will not spend months across Atlantic and Pacific on board a cruising yacht, even for pay. I've done that enough. I'll opt for Indian Ocean, Antarctic or Arctic sailing any time. Or Patagonia, with the climbing and all.

The most exotic, upscale or challenging passages are the opposite. There is a long line for every vacant position. This is why I am happy for having my merit list, the very one that cost me so much effort and time. And money, because it's worth it at the end - some things cannot be bought by money, you have to refine them through hard work and only then get the kickback. Hard to explain to anyone who hasn't tried. The merits speak for themselves at the end, and I'm very happy to have been on all the boats that I've crewed on. Amazing stuff.

Ready to sail smoothly forth!

So this time, I asked the owner whether I could bring my husband too, though he is no experienced sailor. I got a positive answer. That's another win.

View of the beach of Porquerolles from the paddle board, before we set sail to Toulon and finally wound up in Saint Tropez.

The boat was a French-built, French-owned 47 foot catamaran of the Outremer brand. A very well-kept, clean, organised and fully equipped boat, and also very fun to sail with the running backstays and fully rigged for single-handed sailing. Healthy, active and easy living was practiced aboard, an absolute delight. I made sure to wake up early morning as we were at the anchorage of Porquerolles, and bring out the inflatable SUP to do some paddling and underwater photo. A proper healthy breakfast and coffee onboard to top that off, and then raise anchor and sail away - what can possibly beat that

Morning SUP stroll among the anchored yachts. Superyachts, motor yachts, cruising yachts. All of them have a cause and a destination. I'm really just passing by - but sometimes tag along as skipper, second in command, or crew.

People often ask me how I can afford sailing off to exotic places on exotic boats, what kind of a financial scheme I have. Well, see the four paragraphs that I included first in this post. That's stuff that I have spent more time, money and energy on, than most people I know have put into their regular career. It's not black magic. It's a matter of grit. If you put this kind of determination into what you love, you will also be invited to practice your skill, sport or craftsmanship in all the corners and nooks of our beautiful world. 

Taking care of good relations, staying in touch with good people, is also a great thing that will take you to your goals and beyond what you thought was possible. And a bit of gambling of course, because you can never get the Adrenaline out of Adrenalena. All the best of luck to you all, to pursue your passion - always!

I still have the drive to do the muscle-ripping, edge-cutting stuff. It's just that regular life enjoyment is somehow more real nowadays. Peace, love and sailing!