We leave our floating home in Chile for a trip back home to reunite with family, friends, followers, and partners.
Puerto Montt (CHL) – Valdivia (CHL)
We love our life of sailing, exploring, and sharing sustainable solutions. Always with us is our boat Lucipara 2, our home. Nevertheless, we sometimes terribly miss our other homes, which is where our family and friends are. So, before we go even further away, we seize the opportunity to see them. We have the time, as we have decided to wait until 2020 to start our leg through the Pacific. In addition, it’s a great opportunity to share our story with our followers and partners.
Of course, we need to find a good place to leave Lucipara 2 behind. There’s an economical option at marina Alwoplast in Valdivia, so shortly after we return from our bus trip through South America, we set sail from Puerto Montt, a trip of some 250 nautical miles.
Getting Back into the Rhythm
The weather forecast promises perfect circumstances: northerly wind to take us south, followed by southwesterly wind to take us north. But just before we leave, the northerly is predicted to be very strong. Ivar doesn’t worry though. “We’ll stay in the lee of the mainland on this first leg, so let’s go, with only a reefed jib.” And so we set sail. Yet as we leave the sheltered bay of the city, the force of the wind increase massively. With it comes rain. Going with the wind, Luci develops a speed of close to ten knots while the windspeed meter regularly tops 40 knots. Our heavy steel lady gets a grip on the choppy waves, so the comfort level onboard stays remarkably high. Much faster than anticipated, we reach our planned anchorage at a small island, Challahué. We wait a day here for the wind to turn and the ocean to calm down.
Two days later we leave in the early morning with the outgoing tide. Feeling anxious we sail through the Abtao channel, trying hard to stay clear of some notorious, unmarked sandbanks. As we approach the Chacao channel, the waterway between the mainland and the isle of Chiloé, a strong current pulls us to the Pacific. The tidal range here averages around five meters and the passage is quite narrow, so even with very little wind we race through. At the other end, a gentle southwesterly wind provides perfect circumstances to steer a northerly course towards Valdivia.
Despite the good conditions, it takes time for us to get back into the rhythm. The ocean swell is messy and adjusting to the movements of the boat takes a lot of energy. “I’m skipping dinner. Perhaps I’ll have a mueslibar later tonight”, Ivar sighs. Although Floris is faring better thanks to sea sickness medication, both of us have clearly lost our sea legs from being on land for the last few months. Only when we approach Valdivia the next morning, Ivar regains his appetite.
Leaving Luci Again
The setting might have something to do with. The mouth of the Valdivia river is a wide bay with lush vegetation on both sides. As we sail further upriver, with nothing but trees and birds around is, a soothing calmness befalls us. “I think Luci will be fine here” Ivar remarks.
At Alwoplast, Pierre and Ping from s/y Ithaca help us get into our berth and give us a warm welcome. They have been here since May and know everything about formalities, the bus to town, and where to find the best shops. We catch up and exchange useful information over a delicious Chinese brunch. Yet we don’t have much time to explore Valdivia yet, as we need to get ready for departure again. Only a few days after our arrival, we leave Luci behind in the marina. With our friend Margreet, who toured Chiloé while we were sailing, we make our way to Santiago by car.
At the airport, once again we realize that there are no sustainable intercontinental travel alternatives to sailing. Taking a polluting airplane makes us feel frustrated, or as the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg would say, it gives us flight shame. Our approach to deal with it is to minimize flying and compensate the carbon emissions that we generate. For our return flight to Europe including a stopover in the USA, this adds up to a staggering five tons of carbon emissions. After some research on carbon compensation schemes, we select Trees for All. This certified program plants trees in Bolivia, among other places. And although we realize that offsetting is not a solution, it’s surely better than nothing.
At Home with Family and Friends
Our first homestay is at Floris’s sister’s in southern Germany. The reunion with Eline and her family is heartwarming. What’s more, the European summer is still in full swing, even though it’s late August. We spend our days outside in the garden, cycling around the lake on e-bikes, and swimming in it. We even go on an electric boat trip. Ivar is more than happy to let Teddy take the wheel and just enjoy the surroundings.
How quickly time flies is nowhere more noticeable than during our stay with Floris’s brother and his family. After a train ride to Switzerland, we met Anniek, Johan’s daughter. Born shortly after our last visit, she is almost 1.5 years old now, walking and starting to talk. Over the course of a week we get to know her better and also spend quality time with her brother Bastiaan and their parents.
An ICE train then takes us from Zürich to Amsterdam. It runs on renewable energy and reaffirms our belief that sustainable long-distance land travel is not just available, but also comfortable. We would love to see a massive, global scale-up to make it more attractive and available to more people.
In the Netherlands, our social lives shift into the highest gear. As we want to see as many people as possible, we squeeze six months of activities into just six weeks. Family and friends take us out for lunches, dinners, and excursions. They share their homes with us and make us feel loved. The kindness we receive is overwhelming and we feel lucky to have all of them in our lives.
In our final week we even get to sail “Dutch Style”! Ivar’s brother and his family take us sailing on Friesland’s beautiful lakes, where we witness the next generation embracing the fun of sailing and being together on a boat. Our intense social schedule ends on a high note with a family reunion. Delighted to have spent time with so many of our family and friends, it also makes us feel sad to say goodbye again.
Sharing our Story
In-between social calls, we visit some of our partners and give updates to our followers about our adventures and sustainable solutions. In Munich, we catch up with the students of the Munich International School. Over the course of the past year we have been part of their “Six for Sustainability” programme, interacting with them via videos about the plastic soup and sustainable food, and inviting them to think about solutions in these areas. Now we get to meet them, give them a short presentation, and answer some of their burning questions. We also meet the new sixth graders, with which we will be working this year, and the fourth graders. Their collective enthusiasm is immensely rewarding and motivates us to keep looking for and spreading solutions that will make their lives better.
At innovative German car start-up SonoMotors we notice how they have really grown and booked progress since we last visited them 18 months ago. After we check out the prototype of their self-charging, shareable electric car and catch up with procurement manager Fabian, we get to present our story to the team.
In the Netherlands, there is a keen interest in our presentations, too. The turnout for our first, in the beautiful classic boat Schuttevaer, is so large that we schedule another one. Thankfully, Floris’s former employer Clifford Chance provides us with another great venue. We also entice excited reactions at Ivar’s former sailing school Oer’t Hout, as well as at our partners: renewable energy provider Vandebron, copywriter and editorial agency Tekstwerf, and sustainability consultant Finch & Beak. We really appreciate their continued support!
Pay for Use
As we are always on the lookout for sustainability initiatives, we are delighted to see more solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars, and meatless menu options in the Netherlands. But one of the most striking changes in Amsterdam we notice are the many bicycles with blue front wheels. “It’s a Swapfiets,” a friendly student explains while we are at stoplight next to him. “It’s a great concept! For around 15 euros a month you get a simple but robust Dutch bicycle. And if something is broken, you send an app and they come to exchange it.” We visit a Swapfiets shop and learn that there are around 40,000 Swapfietsen in Amsterdam alone. A remarkable success for a city where there were already many bicycles.
“It might be an interesting example of the circular economy,” Ivar observes. “From the pay-for-use perspective, that is. The user pays for the use of the product and does not become the owner. In this way the manufacturer is, in principle, encouraged to make a product that lasts a long time, to minimize repair costs, and to take the product back for recycling at the end of its lifecycle. It’s potentially a great way to save resources and energy.” A closer look at a bike reveals that the tires are kevlar-reinforced and of excellent quality. We are less certain about the robustness of the frame. On the critical side, perhaps the subscription price is too high in relation to the value of the bicycle to have a meaningful long-term resource conservation impact? Time will tell. In any case, we find it an interesting initiative with possible sustainability benefits that we will follow with interest.
Stopover in the States
On our way back to the boat we make a stopover in the USA. Evelyn and Fred – Floris’s “host family” when he was a 17-year old exchange student – have invited us to stay with them in Baltimore. It’s a treat to see them, their daughter Joan and her husband Jesse again after many years. They spoil us rotten with delicious dinners and excursions, including a trip to Washington D.C., Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, “wild & wonderful” West-Virginia, and Pittsburgh.
Along the way, we are glad to learn that – despite the unsustainable course of the country’s federal administration – there are many inspiring sustainable initiatives to be found. For example, beautiful works of art in Baltimore’s American Visionary Arts Museum reflect on the mindless abuse of nature that has taken so many shapes and forms. In West-Virginia, dedicated Wendy and Ron save injured wild birds at Three Rivers Avian Center and educate both kids and adults on the importance and beauty of nature. In Pittsburgh, the Phipps Conservatory boasts one of the greenest buildings in the USA and actively promotes sustainable ways of living. And just outside the city, at natural burial park Penn Forest, we agree with Laura, Nancy, and Pete that “Green Burial… Is the Way to Go”.
While we were away, anti-government protests and mass demonstrations erupted throughout Chile. Have they been brought about by the traumatic effects of extreme neoliberalism, as brought onto the Chileans during the Pinochet dictatorship, and brilliantly described by Naomi Klein in her book “The Shock Doctrine”? In any case, the extreme inequality in Chile appears to be an important cause fuelling the civil unrest.
From our sailing friends and marina neighbours Minke and Jaap we learn that in Valdivia there are protests and riots, too, but that the demonstrations are more peaceful now. The situation seems to have stabilized somewhat following concessions from the president. Still, when we walk onto the pontoon and see Luci, we feel relieved that our boat is okay. We are grateful to our personal news reporter and caretaker Minke for keeping us posted, dehumidifying our cabin and even cleaning our cushions!
Our Floating Home
The morning sun awakes us after our first night back on board. It proves to be the start of a warm summer day, just while winter is approaching in Europe and the USA. During breakfast in our cockpit we look back at heart-warming times back home. Once more we realize how much we miss our family and friends. At the same time, we feel home again on our floating classic lady, who waited for us so patiently.