I Grew Up At Sea in a Homemade Sailboat | Nordic Woman
Hi! I´m Viktoria. I´m from Sweden. This is my mother, my big sister, and me, 4 months old, sailing the English canal for the first but not last time, like our ancestors did. But we did not travel the seas to raid, traid or settle, but simply to explore what the world has to offer the senses and curious mind. After several sea voyages throughout my childhood, my parents built a 47 feet steel sailboat from scratch on their own. Is it infinitely more work than one thinks? Yes. And then some. Finally! It went well launching the boat.
It went very well, yes. Three years it took, and then, from age 14 to 17 I sailed around Europe and the Caribbean with my family and a growing number of animals. They were a great joy to us, and well worth any trouble or care they needed. A whale? She was only sixteen but now she is seventeen.
Josefin thinks we should go shopping in town today, I think. Yes. Sounds good. During those years we explored islands and oceans, mountains and rivers, and the animals kept us and eachother entertaind inbetween the vastly different destinations. I have since made a couple of attempts to sail abroad in the home of my teenage years as an adult.
Early 2020 me, my mother and our dogs drove thru Europe to meet my brothers at Lisbon airport and sail with family once more. The winds were too strong to bring the dogs on a first sail, so we continued by road along the Portuguese coast, past long beaches, pottery shops and cork oaks, while the guys took the sea route. At Europes southwesterly point - Cape Saint Vincent - we stopped to watch them sail past the lighthouse and steep cliffs just after sunset, and met up in Lagos on the south coast after dark. That was it for the winds, and the ocean stayed very calm as we continued towards Spain. Though it didn't make for much sailing, it was a good, gentle start for the dogs not to get sick or scared by the sea. Surreal, it felt, to return to the city
Villa Real de Santo Antonio where I got my first dog, Charlie, with the same floating home but with a new dog - Nova. Charlie moved in as a puppy from the garage where she was born, and took to her new family and life at sea instantly. Most of all she loved dolphins, and they seemed to like listening to her barking and us whistling, staying longer and communicating back when they heard us. Euforic, she even got to swim with them in a bay in the Caribbean once. They are right behind you now, Oliver. Nova got to see dolphins for the first time on this trip.
Uneasy at first, she got more and more excited and missed them greatly when they had left, looking for them for a long time. We got as far as Rota, and then came the pandemic. We had to rush back to Sweden not to get stuck inside a boat in closed down Spain. It would be years untill we could return to her. This time, we flew down to the Italian island Sardinia and a less than clean marina, beginning right away with boat maintenance. We intended to leave within a couple of days, but as often happens, things did not go according to plan. We were supposed to put her to sea today but the marina says they can't do it.
Today we are probably gonna paint the whole hull, so we'll get that done instead. Sailboat safely in the ocean, I left with the bike to see something of the island as soon as possible, my eyes set on a nearby mountain with a lighthouse and a fortress. It's so pretty! The view was lovely, the fortress ruins grand. A sense of freedome and excitement emerged at finally being abroad again. Happily I returned to the boat, thinking we would depart the very next day. But leaks needed to be located, new batteries be ordered, and the weather took a turn for the worse.
To experience something of Sardinia despite the delay, we rented a car and drove to nearby town Pula, to where the great procession of Saint Eficio, patron of Cagliari, goes with his statue pulled by bulls, from Cagliari and back, for 80 km, to pray at the beach of Nora, where Saint Eficio was beheaded by the romans in the third century for his christian faith. The procession has been held yearly since 1656, when the people asked the saint to end a terrible plague. It was a pretty town with colorful flags and plenty of delicious gelato. Days passed and I grew restless and afraid we would not make it to the Maddalena archipelago on the other side of Sardinia in time to explore those beautiful islands. When the weather forcast looked more promising
we had yet to recieve the new batteries. Stuck in the city while longing for the countryside, I looked for the nearest green patch on the map and started walking. It wasn't much to explore and I somewhat disheartened returned to the asphalt and concrete. Rain started pouring down, accompanied by thunder as loud as the traffic, and in the midst of it, the twelve heavy batteries were delivered to the dock. As they were being installed and we had to wait for some parts not delivered, I went to the mountain again, got me a dose of nature and looked at old military stuff between the lighthouse and the fortress ruins.
Then I went to explore the city some more, soaking up that italian feeling, enjoying that wonderful gelato. Good evening. And then we set out to sea, eleven days after landing in Cagliari. Leaving just when the dolphins we had heard visits the harbour came in. We rounded the southeasterly tip of the great island Sardinia, and sported some sails, earning us some extra knots speed. The lack of wind had us motorsailing to reach the Maddalenas before returning home, but the calm weather allowed us to anchor in the unprotected bays along the east coast, and travel the distance we desired instead of having to seek shelter in the few harbours available. Thus we could more easily enjoy the the
beautiful Sardinian coastline. I was so glad for the short hikes it allowed. It was what I most wanted and needed after the long stay in the city. We continued motorsailing north as the winds came and went and remained gentle.
Not windy at all. Though somewhat in a hurry we still took the time to stop along the way and look around ashore for a bit. Many thought my parents shouldn't bring their children on sea voyages abroad, to expose us to such dangers and discomforts far away from friends and school, but I very much wanted to exchange school life in Sweden for sunshine and adventure, and felt I got more out of that traveling lifestyle. It wasn't always easy, with nightshifts and sea sickness that made you feel like you never wanted to sail again, with conflicts onboard, missing ones friends and grandparents, and being unable to make new friends for more than a few hours, days or rarely weeks, and to always be and outsider, but I thought it was worth it and I was always grateful for the opportunity.
It could also be hard to know just what to prioritice - school work, chores, boat maintenance, exploration of all the new locations, and sometimes sailing prevented all of that. But it didn't harm my grades in the end, despite devoting less time to my studies than had I gone to regular classes at home. Luckily our schools were supportive and already had a system of written weekly plans easily followed on board, and it felt like we learned much more from our surroundings than our books.
Here on this street Cleopatra walked to meet her beloved, who might have lived here in Efisos then. So there was ocean and the ships lay down here. Now it's only fields there. Now we shall jump down to Poseidon and look at his riches with snorkel and mask. I saw a small, dark blue, glowing fish with turquoise dots. It was this small.
Was is cute? Yes, it was very cool. There are many fish here. Thats good. Many beautiful fish.
Many more than in the Mediterranean anyway. Some teenagers don't feel the same as I did, offcourse, and can make life miserable at sea if they hate it and want to be back with their friends. I spoke with a couple who said they would never bring their daughter along again, after a year sailing to the Caribbean and back, and that she wouldn't want to go either. Extra seasoning with some tiger spit, you know.
Good stuff. Yes, snuff marinade. Linus specialty. We woke up to another calm day with hardly a wisp of wind and went ashore to find a supermarket. It was closed but we became friends with a cat and convinced a restaurant to feed it.
Now we are walking back to the boat. Yep. And now hopefully we can just go quickly to the forest over there by the beach.
Yes, I managed to convince them that I should be here for a little while atleast. Wow. One of the things I missed most sailing abroad, was trees.
The are plenty of them in Sweden, much more so than in many of the areas we came to. This little forest, quite different from the ones at home, felt enchanting. One could immagine magical beings treading the sandy ground in the soft light below the trees. This beautiful beach and blue water and then the mountains all around. I didn't want to leave so soon, but the guys were impatient to get going. The winds had picked up somewhat and we unfurled the sails in combination, again, with the engine as time was ticking and we would't make much speed without it.
Shortly we had to take the sails down as per usual, but the view of the coast was epic and the music of Jurassic Park kept playing in our minds. We arrived at a location with extraordinary water, and I again I had an opportunity to go ashore and soak up the beauty of the land for a while. Oh wow. Beautiful. Oh, this is the dream too. Oh wow. Wow. Dark, dark brown, like chocolate.
So pretty. What a cute little winding pathway. I found something. Like a little tower foundation. I cannot remember ever being scared at sea. Perhaps just a little when there was lightning
all around us, as far as the eye could sea, or when we were suspiciously followed by what might have been pirates, my father, unbeknownst to us kids making Molotov cocktails downstairs. Or when attempting to enter a Portuguise harbour in heavy Atlantic swell when we Just made the size requirement. But I trusted the vessel and we avoided sailing in really bad weather as best we could, trying to stay as comfortable and safe as possible.
The hardest part of growing up at sea, for me atleast, was to abruptly let go of that lifestyle. When you have experienced that sense of freedome with all those impressions in a bright, warm and ever changing setting of many wonders, to lose it all from one day to the next and suddenly stay in a city, with students or collegues quite different from the sailor kids we had met and become. The world around me shrank drastically. A colorful existence suddenly turned shades of gray. But I could make friends that didn't leave the next day, and work towards my own goals. Little lizards.
It's really nice. Oh, it smells good. Again I have to go back. They want to move on. Oh, this is warm sand! This is not something you are used to in Sweden.
Whoa, I'm glad I have the flipflops. It really started burning. Et voilà, fancy shoes. Wow, look at this sand dune.
We are closing in to the archipelago of Sardinia with the little islands. There is one. We got some sudden shallow water here with some bränningar, some rocks to look out for and this is quite far from land. Military zone. I can't get on here, but here ... here is a pathway. Second World War buildings. A bit risky.
Hi! We reached the Maddalenas with a few days left to enjoy them. Finally we got some proper sailing without the engine on. For the first time while sailing abroad in my adult life. The final two days in the small archipelago we anchored by an island with cliffs like sleeping dragons along the shore, and I went for a last couple of hikes among the stone beasts, admiring the landscape around me. My siblings and I got to see many places early in life. It instilled in me the urge to continue doing so, and has for good and bad influenced my life quite a bit since.
I somewhat continued after the sailing the vagabond lifestyle while also pursuing my other interests, all while young, broke, driven and alone. My experiences as a sailing teen likely made me more brave and careless, as taking on the unknown became a normal, daily thing. The journeys opened up my eyes to the beauty of the world, and such a lifestyle make you feel truly alive and present. But it can be too hard to endure aswell. Too much maintenance and frustration,
too unpredictable and unsafe, too hot, too much rocking. As for children growing up at sea. It's certainly complicated. It will likely have quite an impact on ones life and it is impossible to say if it will be for better or worse. It depends on so many factors. It can make life during and afterwards difficult but also rewarding, and such an existence surely changes you forever.
But the most imortant thing is not where you raise a child, but how. The sense of safety and worth parents can give thru controled and considerate behaviour I believe will make the bigger difference. The setting is less important. The currents between the islands here are going a little crazy on us, and have all night. And now we get the wind. Now the last day here. But we are going back to Sardinia.
There is an extreme current here in this place. Pushing us about 20 degrees sideways. Twelve. 8,2 knots with just the genoa. Doing pretty well! A last gelato maybe.
I really wished I could have had one more day in the Maddalenas, as I didn't feel ready to leave that breathtaking blue water just yet, but atleast we had a powerful, albeit short, sail back to Sardinia in the end, and I got to dip my feet in the Mediterranean ocean there one more time before returning home to Sweden. Hi! Hi, Nova!