These past couple weeks have been emotionally turbulent – overall I’d label my experiences as bittersweet. I thought that sailing around the world, and becoming a full-time cruiser, would present me with new friends, new experience and new memories.
Little did I know that I’d feel strong emotions such as sadness, loss and heartache during our around-the-world sailing adventure
Often, people reflect on sailing cruisers as people that sail into the sunset, drink gin and tonics on the deck and enjoy the good things in life. Those things do happen, but not nearly as most people think.
What I’ve discovered over this past year is that living a life on the sea is full of welcoming ‘hellos’ and many very sad heartbreaking ‘goodbyes’
Sure, I speculated that I’d make several new friends as we sail around the world. What I didn’t realize is that the friends I’d make would be so close. I didn’t understand that new relationships could provide such depth, warmth and love. And furthermore, I didn’t comprehend how hard it would be to leave my new friends.
From October to April, we lived on our boat in the Marina di Ragusa in Sicily, Italy. For six months I made new friends and many amazing memories with many of the liveaboards in the marina. (For more information read Marina di Ragusa Sicily Marina Review – Winter Season)
My family attended several marina events (happy-hour, parties, bus trips, excursions). My daughter went to an Italian pre-school. I made friends with several women – we would walk to town together, meet for coffees, make dinners, enjoy a meal out or simply sit at the beach and chat.
During my stay, I learned how to cook a variety of amazing meals. I gained a deeper insight on the life of a cruiser (from my veteran friends) and I felt a very strong connection to everyone in my environment. I felt safe…and even loved. I knew that if there was any sort of problem, I had a network of people at my doorstep (or shall I say passerel) that would help me with anything.
While the days leading up to our departure transpired, I had a ball in my throat, felt a constant level of anxiety and feared the future.
I wondered if I’ll ever be able to accept change with a totally open and brave heart?
Previous to leaving Marina di Ragusa after our six-month stay, I felt a variety of emotions. Even within the space of an hour I felt sadness, anger and even a tinge of excitement. And a whole bunch of other things too.
Reflecting back, outlined below is the range of feelings and emotions I went through prior to, during and after leaving our winter home. I created this article in the hopes that it might help you to be more prepared than I was.
Outlined below are the feeling and emotions I went through prior to departure:
– Sadness. Due to leaving so many great people and a place that I learned to feel ‘at home’.
– Heartbreak. Leaving a few amazingly good friends pulled at my heartstrings. I know it might sound unlikely in such a short time, but I made a few friends at the marina that I know will be friends for life. We laughed together, cried together…shared our problems. In those short months I felt closer to my girlfriends than I did with friends I’ve had all my life.
– Connection. During the lead up to leaving, I experienced more hugs over a couple days than I’ve had all year and they were all great hugs! In many cases I initiated the hugs, as I’m a hugger and not a kisser. Many people make fun of Americans for a whole range of valid reasons but I must say that we are a nation of great huggers (and hug initiators). I’ll take a hug any day over the European two-cheek air kiss!
– Guilt. I couldn’t help feel like I should have made more of an effort to have spent more time with my marina friends. When I was hugging several people either I or the other person would say, we should have got together more!
– Anger. Part of me felt angry about our lifestyle decision. At one point I became irritated that I choose a sailboat cruising life…I didn’t know how painful it would be to say goodbye. I didn’t realize how much my heart would hurt. At times I thought, I don’t want to make more friends if I’ll have to say goodbye!
– Emotional. Watching my daughter’s Italian pre-school teachers visit us on the boat to say goodbye was tough. One of the teachers had so many tears that you couldn’t find dry spot on her face. It was so emotional!
– Anxious. It’s our first sailing trip of the season – 40+ hours non-stop from Sicily to Greece. I thought…Will we actually be able to leave? Will the boat be okay? Will we get out of the marina? Will the weather be okay? Am I saying goodbye to all these people thinking we’re going to leave, but in actuality, we won’t be able to leave for another week or two (due to weather)?
– Worried. Worried about how my daughter will adjust from going to having loads of very close friends around to none. At school she had friends, but she also made friends with a few English speaking children whom she became very close to.
– Apprehensive. What about my seasickness? Will it come back in full force or will I pick up where I was last year… I was managing to get by without seasickness pills?
– Overwhelmed. A massive workload of getting the boat prepared – clean up, stow away everything that’s been out for six months, prepare two home-cooked dinners (Chili con carne and chicken pie), buy provisions for the trip, and get meals/snacks ready for my daughter. Hubby had to get the running rigging on, put the new sails up, service the winches and make sure everything was ready to go.
– Excited. We were moving on. We were heading to the next open door. Our Marina di Ragusa door was closing and it was sad, but when one door closes…
While the boat was leaving the marina…I felt:
– Relief. The heartache of knowing I was leaving started to lift as I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I was still sad but there was a sense of closure. I had spent a couple weeks knowing we might leave and it was hard to live in that space. Our departure provided me with the opportunity to know that I didn’t have to say goodbye anymore.
– Nervous. I couldn’t help but wonder how my seasickness would play out (yes, I know I shouldn’t think that way, but it’s hard not to worry about it when you have a serious track record)
– Free. Whenever I’m on the sea I feel a sense of freedom. There’s no Internet connection, no phones, no noise – other than waves hitting the hull, sails flapping in the wind and the bow breaking on the water. When we finally got our new sails up and the engine went off, I felt totally free.
To see the video I took as we left Marina di Ragusa, watch in on my Facebook page: Facebook/SailingBritican
Between leaving Sicily and arriving in Greece I felt:
– Sick. Sick. Sick. I couldn’t lift my head up off the bed despite taking an anti-seasickness pill. Fortunately, I didn’t puke, but I didn’t feel good either. The whole trip sucked. I definitely believe that stress makes seasickness come on faster and stronger.
– Pleasure. Enjoyment found in eating the food I cooked and snacks. Out of the whole 40+ hours, I only felt a glimmer of happiness when I ate food. I’m now wondering how I’ll ever make it across the Atlantic (planned for this November)? I have noticed that as the season advances I get better at handling my seasickness. I still have hope.
– Numbness. You’d think you’d have time to think when you’re seasick – right? You’re just laying in bed, often trying to drift off to sleep, thinking of things that might make you feel better. For me, I’d think of food. Otherwise, I’d think about what a sissy I am. I’m on an around-the-world sailing adventure and I turn green so freaking easily. How am I going to cope? Otherwise, I just felt numb.
While arriving in Greece, I felt:
– Excited. I was very happy to see the sight of land AND friends waiting for us on the jetty! The sights made my heart and body smile. (Read We’re not idiot’s abroad – we’re idiots on a boat! to discover how we made friends in Preveza, Greece)
– Comforted. The view of a place I knew well made me feel comfortable. We’ve returned to Preveza, Greece, to have our rigging, antifouling, and other bits and pieces done. Our friends were on the jetty to meet us and my heart expanded with even more smiles.
– Joy and relief. Our friend doing our rigging had his daughter with him! Mila, from Italy, has just turned 5 years old and looks just like Sienna (about to turn 5). Mila was on our boat within seconds of tying up. Since then, the girls have played on our boat twice, gone to the park and as I write this, Sienna is now playing on Mila’s boat. Last time we were in this area I had to take our dingy over to the town of Preveza and find friends for Sienna at the playground. It didn’t go so well…the children were sparse and the homeless person napping on the park bench didn’t want to play! My worries of Sienna being stranded in a marina without a friend was totally unfounded!
– Forward looking. I’m not at Marina di Ragusa anymore so I’m not being reminded of the people that are no longer with me. Yes, I miss everyone, but on the flip side there are other things for me to focus on.
So, the moral to my story…Cruising life is full of ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’. And at times, the ‘goodbyes’ can be heart wrenching, HOWEVER, it’s well worth the pain. I spent six months developing wonderful relationships and the pain of leaving only lasted a few days. Furthermore, I’ll see many of my Marina di Ragusa friends again.