We were strangers.
Stranded in a distant place. Sailors from all over the world, travellers from five continents. Australians, British, Americans, South Africans, Germans and of course Turks. As different as we are in our views, no matter how rich our lives are, whether prosperous or about to go bankrupt, planned or haphazard, private or digital nomad, we all have one thing in common: living our dream.
We live on a sailing ship.
We have left our old life behind us, thrown the ballast of the past overboard - and then set our future course, forever. Or at least for the next few years. None of us know where the wind will take us, where we will be in one, five or even ten years. Some of us want to sail around the world, the others have already circumnavigated half the globe. For some, the Mediterranean means their whole world. Others find their world in just one place.
When we meet for the first time, we are sitting in Oxygen-Pub in the Marina of Kaş, a small town that lies along the historical Lycian Way, a region rich in culture, beautiful anchorages and lovely people. Kaş, somewhere halfway between Marmaris and Antalya, is one of the southernmost points of Turkey. This makes the place attractive for sailors to spend the winter.
When storms rage outside the safety of the harbour or marina, when the blue water of the Mediterranean mounts up to gray walls, Kaş provides security. In the summer in this area, the Mediterranean is as calm as a bath, but in the winter it is an unpredictable beast. Nobody wants to be out there. It was particularly bad in the winter of 2018/2019, of which the Turks say it was the rainiest, coldest and stormiest one they can remember. For the first time, several hurricanes hit the south coast, causing rock falls across major roads, damaging houses and farms and toppling vessels from their winter hard stands causing them to hit the concrete so hard they split open as easily as ripe fruit.
Kaş is a former fishing village, once inhabited by Greeks. Slightly crooked wooden houses with characteristic oriels line the picturesque old town alleyways, stone sarcophagi stand like memorials on the streets and tell the story of a long vanishedancient empire. The new Kaş is full of life. The old houses have become lively bars, small clubs and nice restaurants. Of course there are also a few shops selling tourist trinkets. Hamam towels here, jewelry there. And almost everywhere the well-known blue eye, the "nazar boncuğu", which promises happiness to the owner and protects him from evil eyes. It seems to work, at least Kaş was spared from being inundated by crowds of annoying tourist. But the main reason that Kas remains almost untouched, whose name means "eyebrow", is because it lies far away from the big hotels with hundreds and hundreds of beds like the area of Antalya, with its buffet battles and all-inclusive offers, in which some tourists calculate before theirarrival how much beer they need to drink every day to get value for money.
Like almost every evening on this days in the late autumn of 2018, the conversations in Oxygen-Pub, which is only a stone's throw away from the jetties with the many yachts, are silenced at this time. The modern marina, completed only in 2013, is located at the end of a beautiful bay, sheltered by a miles-long peninsula that juts like a finger into the Mediterranean, and the mainland, which rises steeply to a low mountain range, the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey.
To landward at the top of the low mountain range, lies the "Sleeping Giant", a rugged rock so called by the inhabitants of the 9,000 soul town, that as the name suggests, looks as if there had been a giant lying down there and sleeping: head, shoulders and a massive body. On summer days, paragliders start in the mountains, circle Kaş on the warm ascending winds before landing on the quayside of the town harbor.
On this evening, as the day slowly gives way to the night, we look over the small headland towards Kastellorizo, the easternmost inhabited Greek island, so close to the Turkish coast, that you think you can swim effortlessly. We're all watching as the sun, once more heading towards the horizon, it looks like it's puffing itself up. Getting bigger and redder in an attempt to evade the inevitable daily plunge into the water. In the sky a thin veil of wispy clouds shine like flaming torches. The sea looks like it's on fire. Finally the sun gives up its desperate struggle and its fiery brilliance is extinguished once more.
Mark, the bald-headed South African with the distinctive laugh, orders the next round of beers. Glasses clink a toast to life, love and happiness. Dogs romp among the guests, who lounge on thick cushions on the gentle grassy slope in front of the bar. The blues singer tunes his guitar, his voice made distinctly throaty by one too many cigarettes. Then he plays his usualrepertoire until late in the evening. Again another wonderful day has passed.
A stormy winter we spent together in Kaş. Until Spring. With the sun came the wanderlust. Some set the sails to circle the world. The others stayed. Another summer. Or the next one. Few of us have a concrete plan. That is what makes life so enjoyable. Even if our ways parted, friendships remained. And memories. Memories of the personal stories of ten sailors who all had the same dream - and the courage to implement it. Otherwise we would never have met.
There are Aannsha and Barry, two Australians who share a long and unusual love story. With sex, drugs and rock'n'roll on one hand and spiritual experiences on the other. They had to separate for over a decade before they found each other again. When the wanderlust seizes them, they sell their house and possessions, to sail the world. But there is just one problem: they have never sailed before.
There's Ismail, a young Turk who was arrested and sentenced after the Gezi protests in Istanbul. Disillusioned and frustrated by the politics of his homeland, he leaves the city - just like thousands of other well-educated Turks do at that time. However, he does not seek the freedom he longs for overseas. But on a sailboat. Since that moment he lives as a digital nomad on his 'Wanda'.
There are Clare and Zac. She's from Australia, he's from Alaska. In Florida they felt in love. Because a flight to Australia is too expensive, they buy a 40-year-old yacht, refit it, and set sail. Destination: Down Under. But spontaneously they change course, cross the Atlantic and land in Europe. The reason: they are invited to a wedding.
There is Mark, a South African, who, after the death of his father, leaves South Africa to live in the Mediterranean Sea on board of his deceased father's yacht. At sea he finds what he has been seeking for so long, peace and tranquility, something he could not even find in Tibetan monasteries. The Turks call him "gülen amca", the smiling uncle.
There's Jim, a passionate nude art photographer, he sees his art as a tribute to God, whom he believes he encountered at a young age. After many personal and professional ups and downs in his life, his small business thrives in Scotland. But suddenly he thinks he has violated US export rules. In a touch of paranoia he already sees himself in a US jail. That's why he's preparing his escape. He wants to flee on a sail boat and settle in the Cape Verde Islands. But he has to learn to sail first.
There are Mike and Elaine. For twenty years, he works in construction to realise his big dream of circumnavigating the globe. In Elaine he finds a partner who supports him. But since the two Brits bought their 'Spicy Lady', they have hardly left Turkish waters. At least not on her own boat. To make their dream come true someday, the pair deliver yachts all over the Mediterranean.
And then there's me, a former business journalist. A complete burnout with anxiety and panic attacks which made me realize that I had to change everything. At that time my own mind caused me to be a virtual prisoner in my own apartment, unable to step outside the front door. Only the longing for a new and different life gave me the strength to make a radical change. In mid 2018 I quit my job, sold my apartment and bought a sail boat in Turkey. The sea is now my therapist.
During my breakdown, I discovered the videos of 'SV Delos'. The guys and girls around the Trautman brothers have been sailing around the world for almost ten years. One of the last professional articles I wrote was about the 'lifestyle business' of 'SV Delos'. And because the crew not only inspired me to my new life, but also others of our liveaboard group, they are also a part of this book. As a bonus chapter.
Each of us had arrived at this fork in life at which point we had to choose. Continue straight on, along the highway towards safety, pension and routine? Always straight, always concentrated, always full throttle. Unless one is slowed down. Or is in a traffic jam. Every day the same madness, the same distance to the '9-to-5-job', the same meetings, the same tasks, the same desks, the same colleagues.
A life as in three-quarter time. A waltz. A nice dance - but without much variety, a bit stiff, a bit old-fashioned. A clear step sequence. Clocked through as our life. You turn and turn and never stop. Until one gets dizzy. If you look in the faces of the Vienna Opera Ball, you may recognize a smile here and there, but rarely a laugh. One two Three. One two Three. Cannot make a mistake. No getting out of step. Do not miss a beat.
Or should you turn off the main highway of life, onto the unpaved and less travelled road? This beautiful avenue with the magnificent trees in bloom, where one does not know where it will end? A road with potholes which means you cannot race, but you can keep an eye on the untouched beauty of nature. At the next intersection the true adventure may already be waiting. Or a stunning view. Or the next party. This road is unpredictable. But full of joy.
We were dreamers.
Each of us dreamed of taking the turn on to this small enchanted road, longing for a new and different life. Some were deeply bored, the others stressed. Or just adventurous. Each of us still remembers the day we stood up with a head full of images of crystal clear water, white beaches, full sails and nights where a billion stars are strewn across the velvet blackness with even more dreams waiting to be born.
From these dreams reality was born, finally the decision to make life changes. To get out of everyday life as we knew it, to get off the mundane and immerse ourselves in a new world. Each of us was motivated by this step. This book tells the stories of those dreamers, those sailors, those with the courage to change their lives.
But it is not a sailing book in the true sense. It's not about saltwater-tainted captains boldly sharing their heroic deeds of rounding Cape Horn to an eager audience in the harbour bar. Rather, it is about people who enjoy their lives living on a yacht. Sailing is everyday life for them. So why talk about that? Many of our conversations which began with the words "I'm not really a good sailor", turned to stories of mishaps on the water, messed up docking maneuvers. Only incidentally did it emerge that some were on a circumnavigation of the world, others had already conquered the Atlantic Ocean or participated in sailing world championships.
'Dream on' tells the stories behind these sailors. The prehistory at the moment that changed their lives. It's about careful considerations, skepticism, courage and destinies. Dreaming on should not mean that one should continue to dream. Rather, it's about bringing the dream to life. To push it further. Make it bigger. Dreamlike is probably one of the words that fall most frequently from their mouths since leaving their old world behind. Be it a beautiful anchorage, an amazing sailing day, the ever changing water texture and colour, the sun rises and the sun sets, the friends, the food, the daily new experiences, the adventures. 'Dream on' is a guide to happiness.
This book is an attempt to stretch the question mark out straight until it becomes an exclamation point. To calm the fear, to awaken the child within and bring forth the natural curiosity about everything new and strange. Above all, however, this book is intended to do one thing: encourage a new chapter in your life. To give you a hunger for a life lived fully.
There are many excuses to stay in the routine of everyday life. Good excuses. Rational excuses. Job, family, pension. "I'd like to, but ...!", We often hear that. There are excuses. He who wants can also get. Albeit with the cuts that each of us had to make. You have to be ready for that. I remember one of the first days after I moved on board my 'Dilly-Dally'. I was moored in Marmaris. An older man, I think he was a Brit, stopped at the jetty in front of my boat. We chatted. I told him that I had quit my job, sold the apartment to live on my ship in the Mediterranean now. He looked at me, asked about my age. "46," I replied. He nodded, raising his hand in farewell. As he wandered away with a curved back, he reminded me of Colombo. He stopped and turned around. "Everything's perfectly timed!" He said. "You know, I worked all my life and my dream was to live on a yacht, to travel the world." Every year, he postponed the plan. Now he has his yacht, but he is too old to enjoy it. He's no longer capable of long passages. "Next year me and my wife will spend some time on a cruise ship," he said. "To at least see some of the places I wanted to sail to."He gave me a thumbs up, turned and left.
Life on a sailboat is not always pleasant. It is above all a restriction, a renunciation of luxury. Even in the Mediterranean. The winters are cold and stormy. If you want to live on a boat, you have to be willing to limit yourself, you have to accept that not everything will go to plan. That no week passes without repairs, even if they are small or unexpectedly big. Therefore, a decision should not be made blue-eyed on a whim. And it should be well calculated. As low as the cost of living may be, if you don't have cash on hand for repairs and maintenance, your dream will fail.
If you keep your costs down, depending on the area you're sailing and avoiding expensive marinas, you can live well on 500 Euros a month. In addition, however, comes the maintenance of the boat. A rule of thumb is that at least 1.5 percent of the value should be reserved monthly. A sailboat is not comparable to a motorhome. In case of damage on the high seas, you can't pull over to the side of the road and wait for the breakdown vehicle. Those who invest in their ship invest in their safety.
On the other hand you do not have to be rich to fulfill the dream of life on board. Almost everywhere there are opportunities to create an income. Everyone has hidden talents that they can bring forth. Even if many have not recognized it yet.
We became friends.
We celebrated Christmas together, danced into the new year. Far from home, but without homesickness. When the winter storms whipped waves into Kaş harbour and gale-force wind gusts wrecked biminis, sails and solar panels in the marina, we spent time together sharing meals on our floating homes. The torrential rain sounded like an army marching across the deck, the mooring lines creaked and groaned, the wind shrieked through the rigging and we counted the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to judge if the storm was getting closer or further away.
We all lived a similar life. But have now stepped out of the everyday life. Some have been sailing since childhood, others have bought a boat without much experience. On these long cold winter evenings as we ate, drank and laughed, each one of us warmed as we shared our unique stories of how we ended up living on our yachts in this strange beautiful place called Kaş.
If you can find something, in one or all of these stories, that resonates with you or if this book inspires even one person to change their life, then it has done its job. It does not matter if the trip leads to the sea, to a lake house or to the mountains.
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