Winter, the sailor and a tale of two voyages.

Gott nytt år, as they say here in the north of Sweden. A time to reflect…

In 2006 I cut my ties with what passes as normal in today’s world. I sold everything I owned and raised my middle finger to the managers in my work place; they couldn’t believe their luck to finally remove another irritant from the workforce. Phase two in this descent into madness consisted of buying and living on a boat, trusting everything to fate and leaping over the metaphorical cliff into the abyss – and what a deep hole it was; I didn’t stop falling until two years later, and some would say that I’ve yet to hit the bottom. Who knows? I certainly don’t. What I do know is that this Saga consists of more life in eleven years than in most of my previous existence.

A frozen live-aboard on the Thames in England 2009.

Many folk have a highly romantic vision of the life of a single-handed, live-aboard sailor. To be fair it does have a highly enchanting component, but a great deal of it is tough, unrelenting and downright dangerous; the sea is a savage mistress for her minions. There are very few sailors who really understand this, as most have homes and use their vessels for recreational periods in summer and the occasional jaunt in early spring and late autumn. From my experience I would estimate that the majority sail the counter in their club’s bar and talk sea miles. I don’t claim to be the world’ greatest sailor but I have had a lot of water under my keel these past ten years. There can never be a substitute for experience and no amount of crewing with others or collecting certificates from sailing schools can alter this. A single-handed sailor is just that – alone.

Rügen Storm
You just have to take the rough with the smooth.

Up here in Scandinavia, there is no option to live afloat in winter unless you have a highly expensive, well insulated craft and a huge amount of money for fuel. I have experienced three savage winters in Amsterdam and England where I lived aboard for the whole winter in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The temperatures dropped to minus twelve and although it was a grim battle to stay warm, it did finally end; however, up here in Northern Sweden temperatures often drop as low as minus 35°. This is a completely different scenario, not only for physical discomfort, but the solitude in a culture that hibernates around its family hearths leaving very little social life outside of the main festivals. It is a time requiring true mental toughness and stability. Poor old Free is just not up to the task, despite her strength and resilience in rough weather and reliable, faithful seaworthiness.

Winter in Colchester, England 2011. It took some spleen to get through it!

My experience these past eleven years has been that a live-aboard sailor’s life consists of two voyages: External – the one revealed to the interested party – and an internal version deep into the realm of the psyche, almost impossible to share unless your reader has been there. Sometimes a meeting of two experienced solo-saiIors involves periods of contented silence over a few beers. No words are needed.

I have had conversations with those who want to live this life, and have tended to avoid this part because one’s adult development into a worthy human being depends on the ability to take full responsibility for life, which in these days of ‘health and safety’, litigation and freeloading off the state, seem to be almost non-existent. One may as well be speaking in another language.

Mid Ionian, no wind!
It’s not always hard! Mediterranean 2007

To conclude, if one has the strength of character to exist on the periphery of modern ‘society’ and become highly integrated on an elemental level, then the life of a live-aboard sailor is worthwhile and highly satisfying. On reflection I feel so fortunate and privileged to have weathered the physical and psychological storms of this life. I would not have swapped it for the world of comfort and illusory security, even during the worst moments. I have witness so much procrastination and quiet, polite despair in this modern world; folk drowning in self-delusion.

When my time comes, whether on my deathbed or out there in the ‘Big blue’, I will know that I have lived life to the full as a viking would have.

How many can say that?



    1. And to you my dear friend! I have never forgotten you and how you helped me in Kalamata. Special memories for sure! Who knows maybe I’ll sail back to your island one day? 💙🍀

  1. Happy New Year Viking. Not many are as brave as you but your inspirational posts can help us with our individual journeys, moment to moment, as we battle the elements in our own internal and external worlds. Hopefully your words will be soundings in a turbulent sea and we can easier find safe harbour. Hopefully empathy and kindness are to be found there.

    1. Lovely reply, Tim. One of the reasons I am still writing is to inspire folk to ‘have a go’, not necessarily sailing but to use this amazing opportunity to fully live the precious life we are given as conscious human beings. Many times I have considered finishing and then I receive feedback from someone who has been moved. If one person can transcend the deadening effects of the media induced, celebrity world into a wonderful life after reading my words, then it will all have been worth it. Blessings and hoping your 2018 brings you all you hope for Tim.

  2. Happy New Year. We’ve been boatless for the last 12 months and most probably not get afloat , even as a Thames cruiser, again. Great memories and it’s so lovely to read your posts. May 2018 be another year of enjoyable adventure for you. Love from Lady Dil’s previous owners.

    1. Is that you Tom? Thanks for the kind words and I’m sorry that your water-borne days are over. I wondered where you went as you disappeared from my Facebook friends posts. I wish you a fortunate 2018.

  3. What a great well written post Poppy. I will be following you from now on as just discovered your adventures as a solo sailor. I’m quite new to sailing myself as I’ve only been doing it for last two years off the Northumberland coast (North sea), I bought myself a little Jaguar 25 to teach my self the art of sailing and I absolutely love it the best thing I ever did , I just hope I’ve not left it to late as im now in my early 40s and I’ve got big ambitions to sail the world in my own yacht one day hopefully in an island packet or something similar..
    Do you have a YouTube channel?
    All the best for 2018 ☺

    1. Welcome on board Brian! I hope my posts can inspire you to reach your dream. The way I see it is the only hindrance to a fulfilling life is the mind, which can give us a real work over if we let it! I am 60 and still able to do it mainly because my spiritual path has been to conquer the mind and live through the heart, which doesn’t mean being a dreamer- rather, having a ‘can do’ approach. To be a live aboard, singlehanded sailor needs mental strength, and self belief. Keep up the good work! I do have a you tube channel but I’m not sure what information to give you, maybe type in my name (Poppy Currie) and it will take you there!

  4. Happy New Year Poppy! Your post resonates so true with me. My insides are churning at the thought of going back to work tomorrow instead of living free and easy on the waves. My heart knows where I should be and I’ll keep working towards that.

    1. Time is on your side Viki. You’ve already done more than most folk ever will and you are focussed on your dream. It is only a matter of time before you can sustain the life you want. Enjoy the journey towards your goal because you will get there! These moments are wonderful for you and they will be valuable memories when you are out there in years to come. As always, it is lovely to hear from you again and have a fantastic 2018!

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