Looking back 20, 40, 60 and 80 years.
Looking forward 20 years into the future.
80 years ago I lived on the windward side of a small island close to the North Sea. It was me, my mother, her mother and my grandmothers mother, my father a seaman had left us 15 of January 1940. In 1941 the English sunk his ship in Hong Kong. Good for the war they said. I never saw him again.
Nazi Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in April 1940. I was a one year old idealist and Sweden prepared for war. Our island and the waters around it were declared restricted military area. Only residents were permitted access. I saw few people during my childhood. Our house was situated within a stones throw from the sea on an insulated peninsula, far from the village. I played in the water and learned to handle small boats. I did not need toys. Eventually peace came and I was old enough for school. Being curious I had looked forward to be taught the wisdom of the grown ups but I was bitterly disappointed. School meant route learning. We had to learn by heart the names of rivers and towns. I was unable to do that. During the forties the official policy was harsh discipline. Teachers were encouraged to beat lazy children who did not do their homework. During the breaks my mates did their best to assist my teacher. I got beaten badly sometimes walking home with blood on my face. Despite the beating my homework did not improve. I was stubborn man. Born a stoic, raised by women I did not cry. I am sure though that had I been less proud and rebellious I would have been beaten less. After four years of that inhuman hell it was found out that I was dyslexic. My kind and loving mother was able to send me to a very nice and understanding boarding school with reform pedagogic. That was a real paradise.
60 years ago, an early February morning 1960, the doors of a maximum security prison opened and I was let out into a dark, cold street. What had I, a gentle, honest, curious, industrious, righteousness, young man done to be an inmate of an institution with such a bad reputation?
Not much, just being stubborn, more stubborn than ordinary persons. I had been conscripted, but within hours in the army, for no reason at all, my sergeant had taken a strong dislike to me. My early schooldays had thought not to give into grown ups that humiliated and treated me unfair. I resisted. Things escalated. I did not give in. Eventually the punishments increased until I was sent to prison. As I was clearly innocent, I had just been bullied; I saw no reason to repent. That infuriated the jailers. It gave the other prisoners something to laugh at. I was accused of stirring up a mutiny. Now it was the establishment against me. They decided to break me. I was transported me to a maximum security prison. There I immediately was put into solitary confinement and ordered to do stupid work. I refused. I was told that for every day I did not work an extra day would be added to the length of my punishment. I did not let that influence me. To me it was not hell sitting in a heated room. I was feed three times. I used the precious time to reflect on the wonders of life. Finally they sort of gave up on me. One day it knocked on the door. That was odd, as the jailers did no knocking. I nice woman a psychiatrist came in. She had a paper in her hand. She told me, a bit embarrassed, that I was causing a lot of problems but if I signed the paper that stated that I was a psychopath they would let me out and give me 25 dollar to start a new life. If not they would keep me forever. Of course I am not more of a psychopath than you, but I am probably more stubborn.
They kept their part of the deal, but I soon realized that the testimonial was useless and as things stood a bourgeois career was not for me. Instead I bought a rotten old boat and become Captain of my own ship. I soon realized that a new type of small cruising was desirable. I decided I was the to be the man to fix that. That was 60 years ago.
40 years ago 1980, still stubborn after many attempts of improving the state of small ocean going cruising boats I singlehandedly rounded Cape Horn. I was the first swede to do so Cape Horn. I did it east to west against the prevailing winds and currents. My boat was just 19 feet. No smaller boat had rounded the Horn before. It was 16 of June 1980. It was winter. It was cold and very dark. It was the time before GPS. My navigation was done solely by sextant and dead reckoning. The storms and the cold were difficult, but by far the most difficult part was the navigation. Astro navigation is only possible if you can see the celest objects. Because the frequently bad weather it was often so that many days passed without the possibility to get an observation. The days were short and the sun was seldom visible. At noon, in June, south of Cape Horn, the suns altitude is not higher than 11°, same as here in south Sweden today New Years Day. A GPS is a thousand times more accurate than a sextant at any time and it gives you your position instantly in any weather in at any time of the year. It was a hard but satisfying forty day offshore passage. It had showed me the passage with the most fearsome reputation and I had done it under the worst of circumstances. I was awarded the Royal Cruising Clubs Medal of Seamanship. The same medal had been given to Chichester, Knox-Johnston and Moitessier. That was 40 years ago.
20 years ago my rounding of Cape Horn had in the eyes of the public magically transformed me from a deplorable psychopath into an established and admired hero. I had written a book and become a sought after public speaker I had married a wonderful girl we had bought a piece of land and built a house on it and I was still experimenting with small boats still trying to improve small ocean going cruisers. The future looked bright and settled. Then just as I held the golden apple in my hand, a surprise came. Right under our house was the world’s largest stockpile of oil, 2,7 million cubic meters. It had been built in secret during the cold war. The idea was to fuel the coming war against the Soviet Union. 20 years ago the Soviet Union had been dissolved and our government did not know what to do with 2,7 million cubic meter of oil so they sold it to an oil company for the neat sum of one hundred dollars. The oil company was happy and decided to commercially exploit the stockpile. Unfortunately that meant that they had to build a plant right where our house was. Might is right. Employment wins over environment. The company started to build. Permission they would get later. They were creating hundreds of jobs. Good for the community.
My response was to get four TV-teams the national newspapers etc to my workshop. There I told them that there would be action at the refinery. We acted fast. With friends I let off 150 smoke bombs plus super big firecrackers in a protest. Panic aroused. In the confusion the refinery’s security personal called in the police to assist them to take care of the terrorists, but as the smoke began to clear they realized it was just me, the crazy trouble maker. The directors know that they had no permission for what they were doing, that they were doing something illegal. They definitely did not want the police involved. With the help of newly invented cell phone they got hold of the speeding police, told them that the alarm was a mistake, that everything was OK, that they would deal with it themselves. They asked the police to turn back and forget everything.
I was able to stop the project but to a price. A big oil company has much influence in a small community I was harassed I lost my wife and our house and mowed to the other side of Sweden. That was 20 years ago.
Now we have the year 2020. I am 80 years old. I am still stubborn and still experimenting with small boats. In April, in just a few months, I have to hurry; a friend will trail my new boat Exlex to Dingle in Ireland. Exlex is 5.8 meters long 1.2 meters beam with a draft of 20 cm and an empty displacement of 0.6 tons.
By the way, Exlex is Latin for outlaw. Ex means out, Lex means law. It’s the European Union Recreational Craft Directive that has criminalized her. They do not want small boats; there is more money in bigger ones. That they cause more pollution and give less happiness to their crews is the price we pay for growth and more GNP.
My plan is to test sail her the 1200 miles to Porto Santo Madeira. If I can keep an average speed of 3 knots it will take 17 days. Year 2018, with a boat 4 cm shorter, that same passage took me 40 days. I do not always get everything right. Is this new improved boat that much faster? Time will tell. Based on this trial I will in Porto Santo provision Exlex for a much longer passage. The ultimate destination is Dunedin NZ about 13400 miles and 186 days distant. I intend to sail south of Africa, Australia and NZ. Will I make it? I do not now. A less stubborn person will definitely not make it. The boat is on the small side for such an long passage. Will I be able to carry enough food and on my small boat? Hopefully, because I have trained myself, for two years, to eat only once a day. And water? On previous voyages I have drunk one liter water a day so I will carry 200 liters. Watermakers are too expensive and too unreliable even if I carried several. The original idea was to make a landfall in Western Australia. For that I needed a visa. However I got angry when I was advised sort it out with phone calls to Australia. I like to spend the little money I have on food not on long distance calls. The visa problem is stupid. They have an embassy here in Sweden and they must surely have computers and e-mail in Australia – why do they make things difficult for me?
In 2040 I be 100 years old. I have never smoked, not even one cigarette. I have never drunk not even one bear. I use my body and I use my brain that favors my sustainability. Hopefully people will get the idea that simple habits, small boats favors our worlds sustainability and everyone’s happiness. Big boats – big problems. Small boats – small problems.
Simple habits Simple boat Simply – sustainability