A boat born to win
It all began from a simple email. I've had this big dream already for some of years, since I started sailing. “One day, I want to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a ship and throw myself into the unknown – fly like a bird and be free from all my ordinary duties.” However, I thought it could not be realistic, until I saw the announcement of the Tall Ship Races RDV Regatta on our sailing association’s newsletter. Without thinking for a second, I decided to apply for it. Surprisingly, I was chosen to be part of the Aava Transatlantic Sailing crew on s/y Vahine, a legendary Swan 65 boat – the first one ever built in 1973, in Finland. The same “sister” boat won the first Whitbread Around The World Race. (Now known as the Volvo Ocean race.) As you can imagine, I was thrilled.
Following Columbus’ footsteps
There we were 11 of us at the port of Las Palmas, Spain, waiting for the adventure to begin. It is a famous stop-over place for many crossers – even Christopher Columbus visited the city almost every time he sailed to America. Most of us were under 30, and the majority had not been sailing outside the Baltic Sea. Fortunately, we had met a couple of times before the trip so we knew already a little to whom we would be almost “married” for the next coming weeks. And still, there were plenty of things to arrange before we could sail off – grocery, fueling, cleaning, repairing sails and filling water tanks, to name a few.
Powered by wind, sun and veggies
The first task we got was to install the solar panels we had received from our sponsor. It was not so easy but luckily our boat was filled with helpful, real engineers. Afterwards almost all energy we needed on boat came from the sun! We were prepared to be at sea for one month so the amount of food we bought was crazy – I have never seen so many bags, boxes and cans in my life on the pier for one boat! First it looked totally impossible to fit them in but somehow we managed it, although later the zucchinis, onions and eggs kept popping up from very unexpected corners along the way – even from the toilet paper closet. Fortunately our boat was filled with vegetarians so we did not need to worry about rotting meat!
I felt like a zombie for the first three days as I was not able to sleep at all. It was way too hot and the noise during the night from the sails, winches and ropes was terribly loud. But then, suddenly, when you become too tired, you simply learn to sleep and you get used to everything. After that, things started to be better and I began to fully enjoy my time. The weeks went past so quickly – and we even survived the famous Bermuda Triangle!
Life onboard is very simple: four hours of sea watch (you are on deck, either steering, hoisting the sails, pulling the ropes or keeping the lookout), four hours off and then four hours stand-by – this is the watch who does all the cooking, cleaning and washing the dishes. You cannot manage anything alone and you must obey the commands from the captain or first mate – as from your boss. And when you are flying a 340 m2 spinnaker worth of 10 000 € in the air you need to concentrate 150%. Especially during night time – if you fall into the sea, most likely you'll be never found, at least not in time.
Sea teaches you respect and humility. In addition, it strengthens your social skills and observation skills. There, under the millions of stars and Milky Way, surrounded by the endless dark water and sleeping friends, one can discover the main truths of life. You forget about everything else, you concentrate on only one thing at a time – and you realize that without your team you would be lost. After all, these are the basic things one should remember also at work, no matter how many tasks and deadlines one has. I learned also many new things about myself and others, how they react in difficult situations and how to solve various kinds of problems.
Back to ordinary Metso life with head full of ideas
I am happy to be at work at Metso again – eight hours a day feels so little! Now I don’t need to cook for 11 people and wash piles of dishes and I get enough sleep and fresh water. I work with social media so this “wi-fi break” was a good way to remind myself about the real social world. It is good to remember to be genuine and human also in the digital world. Now, every time I feel stressed, I close my eyes for one minute and imagine that I am looking to the horizon under the stars. This kind of quick mental rehearsal a couple of times a day keeps you steering the wheel.
So, would you cross the Atlantic?
Ps Our boat Vahine won three awards in Boston – for the youngest crew, being the first to cross the finishing line and the fastest boat in its class.
Written by Pauliina Tiainen, Communications Specialist