Sailing across the Atlantic maybe isn’t such a big deal anymore for someone from the great sea nations such as the French and the British, especially for those who grew up by the, or at the ocean. But, even there, I suppose, it’s not so usual that a young man sails across the ocean as a captain of his own boat. Anyway, for a young guy from Croatia it is quite an achievement and a dream come true. And when someone does something remarkable in Croatia, we call him the Tzar (Car). As it happens to be, that is the surname of 25 years old Pavel, which he fully justifies.
Pavel for sure isn’t an ordinary guy. And that’s his big advantage. With only 23 years he got into an adventure of sailing across the Atlantic on his almost 50 years old wooden boat – Nausicaa of Harwich and with his two best friends – Dora from Croatia and Clyde form UK as a crew. By that time he already finished his studies of analytical economy in Italy and a college of wooden boatbuilding in UK. He works as a sailing instructor in a sailing school in La Spezia in Italy. Although he says that he doesn’t know what he will be when he grows up, he realized his boyish dream by his 25th. Only the sea is the limit now.
During the journey Pavel and his crew – his friends Dora and Clyde, crossed 14.100 nautical miles (around half way around the Earth). They spent 406 days on a boat with 100 days of sailing. They visited 33 islands, 21 states and passed trough 7 time zones. They slept at the shore for just three days. Besides all that, they had time and room for guests too – 16 of them.
Find out how it was for him and his crew at the Atlantic without a refrigerator and with enough electricity only to charge the phone, in an interview that he gave for Sailosophy and watch a video of their adventures.
Why the Atlantic? Wasn’t the Mediterranean large enough for you?
There is a simple answer: Med is not an ocean! Jokes a part, I was always dreaming to cross the ocean. That feeling of open sea with no land on the horizon for days. This simply isn’t possible at the Med. Atlantic crossing was always a challenge for all the explorers and sailors in human history, not just because of exotic and far destinations, but as a sailing experience, where you are out there with no one around you and no connections to the land – just you, your boat, your crew and the ocean. For us it was first time that we pushed ourselves on the ocean, and even if we read a lot about blue water sailing, about experiences of other sailors, the feeling that you feel out there is unique.
Please describe a route that you took to go across and back and how long did it take?
We started from Falmouth, UK in June of 2012. We decided to sail towards Mediterranean Sea and use this experience as a test drive, for us as a group of friends, and for the boat. We all agreed to stop in Barcelona, where we prepared the boat for the “Atlantic Circle”.
It was September when we left this Spanish port and we went directly to Gibraltar. After leaving the mainland (Europe) we made a stop in Porto Santo and Madeira, then we sailed to Canaries, trying to visit as much islands as possible. Last port on this side of Atlantic was Mindelo at islands of Capo Verde. As in this part of the year the trading winds are well formed, we started our crossing on 18th of December.
Crossing itself took bit less than 19 days, and we spend Christmas and New Year in the ocean. As the 2013 started, we arrived to Barbados which was our first Caribbean destination. Next few months we were cursing the West Indies, from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and Grenadines, St. Lucia, Dominica all the way to Jamaica. We extended our route to Cuba where we spent one month exploring the culture and beautiful places of this remote country. But as hurricane season was getting closer we needed to start going back home.
With short stop in Bahamas, and few days in Bermuda, in the mid of May we started our crossing back. Almost obligatory stop on the way back is at the Azores, famous grope of islands in middle of Atlantic. As they are so interesting and peaceful we decided to take a rest, explore these 9 islands and slowly prepare for our last leg. It turned out that last 800 nM, from Azores to Portugal mainland, was the most difficult part of this adventure, but when we arrived to Lagos we felt already at home, and it was again summer time.
After more than 400 days at sea we concluded our Atlantic Circle in Barcelona, from where we started. It took me just 3 more days to bring the boat to La Spezia in Italy where I keep her now.
How long did you stay in the Caribbean and which country and people you liked the most?
As we arrived in Caribbean at the beginning of January 2013, we realised that we are really far away from home. Not just the fact that is was difficult to imagine that back in Europe at this time of year most of our countries are cowered in snow, while we are enjoying the beautiful blue sea and sandy beaches, but for the fact that the people, the cities and the culture were really different from what we were used.
The country that impressed me the most was Cuba. We had big expectations about this place and we dreamed a lot of how it would be to sail around this country, but we could not imagine that it would be that nice. The nature and the islands on the south of Cuba where exactly as we imagined Caribbean sea; uncontaminated environment, abundance of flora and fauna, crystal clear sea and no one except us. Not only the natural beauties left as breathless, but the people as well.
As we avoided big touristic resorts, we were much more in contact with local population and we had the opportunity to meet their culture and way of life. It was interesting this cultural exchange where the locals were curios to here from where we are coming and how is the life on the other side of the globe.
These five months in Caribbean left a big impact on us and I can tell that it was a great experience that we’ll remember for the rest of our life.
Can you tell me something more about organisation – how did you define the budget, what were the procedures with entering different states etc.?
The organisation of this adventure started more than a year before that we actually set sail. The most difficult part was to find the right boat that would satisfy all our needs. It was the biggest expense as well. As I got the boat and gathered the crew, with support from our families, we realised that we are more than able to accomplish this project.
The biggest source of information regarding the preparation, we got from experiences of other sailors. The amount of water, food, spare parts and all necessary things we calculated in relation to our budget and our needs. As all three of us were quite young with not a lot of savings, we decided to not live as “drunken milliners”, and we were aware that in this year we will not earn any money as well. We put our savings and donations from our families and we realised that it should be enough to live and enjoy this countries with no big sacrifice.
It is important to understand that the life on the boat is much cheaper than ordinary life in the city, as our only expenses were food and water, sometimes marinas, gasoline and eventual spare parts. The countries that we visited are much cheaper than we are used here in Europe.
Even if we were quite international crew, with the boat registered in UK, we didn’t have any bureaucratic problems. All countries are used to have a lot of sailors so the procedures are not that difficult as you could expect. We learned that being nice, honest and well prepared makes all the procedures and registrations much easier.
What was your daily routine on the boat like?
As this trip was planed and realised with my two best friends, Dora and Clyde, it was important that all we do, we do it together. My boat was our home so everything what was happening involved all of us. I was expecting that we all participate equally in all the jobs and routines that we had, but with no strict boundaries. Who was willing to cook, he was free to do it. The same way was with cleaning, putting in order, shopping and all everyday activities. And funny thing is that we always had a great food and the jobs were done.
For the navigation we had a watch system where at least one person was in charge. In that way on the boat, while sailing, was always someone awake, and he was taking care of the course, sails, other boats around, etc. We had 3 hours shifts, so we had enough time to rest, i.e. 6 hours in which you were free to do what you want, but in stand-by if any help was necessary. This was, on my opinion, the best way to share these daily routines, and that we all take care of us and the boat in the same way.
How would you describe your experience as a captain and your relationship with other crew members?
For me it was first experience of that kind, and as I said before, my crew were my best friends, so I was really lucky to have them on this adventure. Without them, I would be captain of my self, probably stuck in some port.
We all new what we want to do and how we want to do it, so my job as a captain was really easy. The decisions on boat were made by all three of us and we tried to be as democratic as possible. Only aspect that I asked to be respected, no matter what, was regarding the safety on the boat. As I was responsible for their life, I insisted that they respect my decisions and rules of safety.
Was I a good captain? I don’t know, but I can say, that we are still best friends and we are going to sail together very soon.
What are your plans for the future?
This adventure was just a trigger. After we realised that we are able to do it, and that we enjoy doing it, we started to plan our next adventures. The return to the “real life” was not easy, and we went back to our jobs and schools, but we changed. So now, we are planning to start promoting this way of life between young people and share our experience with others.
I still don’t know what I’ll be when I grow up, but I am not worried because, first I need to grow up, and the doors just started to open up in front of me. I know that sailing is not just a hobby for me, but a way of life, and for sure, I will do my best to keep it that way.
Check out rest of the photos from the Atlantic circle in a gallery: