On my recent 8 day trip to America, I decided to watch the movie ADRIFT on my flight home. Now this is not normally recommended viewing for sailors, but I am an "armchair sailor" nowadays, so I couldn't see any harm in watching it. WOW ok we didn't have anything that bad happen to us, but I don't think any ocean crossing is without some sort of DRAMA. The movie sure did bring back some memories ! Here is the TINY little boat we crossed the Atlantic Ocean on.
How did I end up sailing across an ocean.... from Fashion School in Australia to an ocean sailor ... how does that happen? Well, I was just another adventurous Aussie, traveling the world, and trying to work as I went, to FUND my travel-bug. I managed to keep getting jobs in the Fashion Industry along the way.... I worked for a computer pattern making & grading company in London which was doing all the computerized patterns for many London designers. Here I am at the top of St.Paul's Cathedral in London.
Then I worked in Egypt doing computerized patterns and grading for a MASSIVE manufacturer who was supplying clothing to British High Street stores like TopShop. Here is a photo of me on the top of the smallest of the Great Pyramids of Giza....back then you could pay a "baksheesh" (tip) and the security guard would look the other way while you climbed.
I would work for a year or so and SAVE every penny, then quit that job and go backpacking again. Here I am with all of my belongings on my back in Greece....so young and wild and FREEEEE.
But then something changed..... I was asked by the owner of Billabong South Africa to come and fill in for her designer who was going to Australia for 6 months. She just wanted me to come there for 6 months and do one collection. Somehow that "ONE" collection turned into becoming her Head Designer and I stayed for 4 1/2 years...I did 9 collections. It was a dream job, where I was doing what I loved and I was able to continue traveling for work..... Here I am writing notes outside a Surf Shop in Huntington Beach CA, USA, when I was there snooping around for retail display ideas.
And here I am visiting factories in China, when we were just starting to look at starting to manufacture in China.
Not only did I love that job enough to stay longer in South Africa, I also found my life partner. He was working right there in the print room at Billabong. A quiet introvert long haired surfer boy, who took 6 months to speak to me, but turned out to want as much adventure in his life as I wanted. Here we are in those early days....
Together we were looking for our next adventure, when we came up with the dream to buy a boat, learn to sail and eventually sail away into the sunset together. We had no idea how to sail, so we bought this cheap little Hobie cat to teach ourselves on. How we never killed ourselves learning the difference between a tack and gybe is quite beyond me.
We saved all our money, bought a boat, took lessons in navigation and sailing. We knew nothing, but we lived and breathed our dream. We did deliveries on other people's boats to try to get ocean experience. Here is a photo of me seeing Justin off, when he sailed to Cape Town (4 day sail down the treacherous coast of Africa) with some friends.
It took us 2 years to save up, buy the boat, and prepare for the biggest adventure of our lives. Here is a photo of us not long after we bought out tiny boat.
When we finally left Cape Town in South Africa, the first leg of our journey was 16 days from Cape Town to St.Helena (the tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic, where the British exiled Napoleon to keep him out of trouble). St.Helena must be the island furtherest from ANYWHERE. Here is a photo of Justin when we first spotted LAND after 16 LONG days at sea.
St.Helena is an incredible island. It is so far away from anywhere, and until late 2017 there was no airport... the only access to the island was by boat. The ship from UK would come twice a year. 4500 residents live on the island, and for us visiting St.Helena, it was like stepping back in time. The island is SO REMOTE that the people don't just get something NEW when something breaks.... no they fix it. So the cars were all perfectly maintained relics from the 60's! There is no other island like St.Helena. Click here to scroll through some photos. The island is harsh and desert-like on the outside, but the inside of the island is lush and green. This photo reminds me of the hike Justin took me on, where perched up on one of these peaks, looking out across the Atlantic we had sailed across, he said "how about we get married?" ....yes I said, but not until we get back.
Next was a 7 day sail to Ascension Island. This is just as remote as St.Helena but on Ascension Island there is a US Airforce Base, with the best "CornDog", "ChilliDog", "HotDog", Bruce Springsteen playing on the jukebox DINER in the whole southern Atlantic. We had heard about this diner from other sailors for months. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon STARVING after 7 days at sea eating rice and beans. We were so hungry that all we could only think about was the DINER. We broke the rules, went ashore and hitched a ride to the diner on the back of someone's truck. I recall the phone ringing in the diner as I was midway through my meal, and the waitress answered and looked over to us. We were the only patrons in the diner. She motioned to me that the call was for us. A surreal moment since, no one on the planet knew where we were..... except for the islands immigration officials, who knew exactly where we were! They had tracked us down to the diner, and told us to get back to the boat until we had officially cleared in on Monday morning!!! I remember saying "do you mind if I finish my hot dog Sir?"
Here is a map to show you where we sailed from and too. You will see exactly how far away from anywhere these 2 islands are.
Next stop was the island of Fernando De Noronha. This is a tiny island just off the coast of Brazil, a nature reserve island and spectacularly beautiful. We stayed for about a week. Long enough to eat everything we could afford, and then set out again for one last long stretch to Tobago. At this stage we just wanted to get it over and done with. Here we are leaving the anchorage in Fernando.
Life at sea was VERY hard. Our boat was simple, and lacked every luxury of modern life. We didn't have an oven, so we couldn't make bread. We didn't have a water maker so had to be very frugal with our water, and we didn't even have refrigeration. The only fresh food we ate was the very occasional fish we caught. I have read so many books from people who love ocean crossings, and long for the solitude of sea, but for me, it was just down-right hard work! We were always hungry, always exhausted from the constant night watches and our bodies were exhausted from the constant movement of the tiny boat. On the upside, it was a great diet.... I was the skinniest I have ever been in my adult life when I arrived in the Caribbean.
The last passage took 12 days to get to Tobago, which is very fast for us in our tiny little boat, but the current was screaming up the coast of South America, taking us along with it. We stayed a long way offshore, so we couldn't see the coastline at all, but we knew when we passing the mouth of the Amazon River, as the water was brown all around us. Arriving in the most southern Caribbean island Tobago, was the best part of the whole adventure. I used a whole bucket of fresh water and WASHED MY HAIR, something that I would only use seawater for when I was at sea, if I even had the energy to bother with it at all.
In fact we were SO EXHAUSTED when we arrived in the Caribbean, we just stayed in the one anchorage for MONTHS. My husband fished, surfed and snorkeled in that one bay every day, while I cleaned out boat lockers and crocheted until I was going crazy with boredom. When that hurricane season finally ended, we headed north to St.Maarten where we got jobs and GOT STUCK AGAIN. 10 years we lived in the Caribbean, we got married, we had our baby girl, and we started West Indies Wear.
Isn't it funny how I made a few seemingly little decisions along my adventurous path in my carefree 20's, that have shaped my whole life.
Well I wouldn't change a thing !
One love x