Thursday, April 25, 2024

Eva’s dream journey

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When Eva Kullgren set sail on the Atlantic Ocean from her home town in Stockholm, Sweden, four years ago, it was much to the consternation of family and friends who thought she was going through a midlife crisis that would pass.

But Kullgren, who was 46 years old at the time, was determined to fulfill her childhood dream of sailing around the world, even though she had no experience in sailing.

Fast-forward four years later, Kullgren, who now goes by the name “7 Seas”, has made the ocean her home, having conquered thousands of miles since that August day when she left her Swedish home.

She sailed into Barbados two weeks ago, overjoyed to tick the Caribbean off her navigational list.

“I haven’t been around the world yet but I won’t be surprised if I do,” the 51-year-old said, laughing heartily during an interview with the SUNDAY SUN at the Barbados Yacht Club where she has been hanging out with other sailors.

Recalling when she made the decision in 2010 to begin her world adventure, Kullgren admitted that she never expected to get so far.

She had bought a small boat from built in 1967 and she admitted that when she set out she was terribly afraid of the ocean.

“I started out very carefully and slowly going down the coast of Sweden and then I went into Europe and I took the rivers and the canals of Europe and I went all the way down to the Black Sea.

“Then I sailed across the Black Sea and I came to Istanbul which was a crucial moment for me,” she said, her eyes lighting up as she reminisced about the exotic scenery she encountered in Turkey.

“It was a moment I took a decision to continue sailing because if you can sail all the way to Istanbul by yourself you can do a lot more. So I continued sailing through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and I finally arrived in Gibraltar. When I came to that point I had learned a lot about sailing in the Med (Mediterranean).

She got her feet or should we say sails wet, by having to skilfully manoeuvre her small boat through the difficult Mediterranean Sea.

“The Med has been the best teacher I ever had because the winds are not stable there – they change all of the time and it is very difficult with the weather forecast, so you have to stay alert all the time and you never know what to expect when the day starts.”

As a woman sailing alone, she has also had to confront the stares and questions, especially from her male counterparts, when she pulled into ports.

“When I come in the harbour and they ask me where is your husband and I have two answers (1) he is putting the children to sleep and then they think ah, is this possible this girl travelling all alone and leaves her husband at home to do all the work, or I say ‘he didn’t behave and I threw him overboard’. It’s just a joke,” the divorced mother of two said with a laugh.

She readily points out that her two children, aged 24 and 26, are her biggest supporters and that was why she named her boat OLINA, a combination of their names, Oliver and Ena.

Her very tanned body tells the story of a woman who has spent many days basking in the sun. But even though she related the immense joy and peace she experiences while sailing the high seas,

Kullgren admitted that it has also cost her emotionally as well as financially.

Some family members are not in support of her adventure and she has also lost significant money from her pension because she is not around to collect her vital pension points.

“Some people think I am going through some kind of crisis and I shouldn’t leave my family and that it is dangerous. They have all kinds of things to say and I lose a lot of money from pension by doing this.”

And that is why the former physical therapist and Spanish teacher now conducts lectures, when she stops over in different countries, on the topic Impossible Is A Ghost In Your Mind, with stories on her adventure and her determination against all odds to follow her dream.

“I tell people I am not going through a crisis; I am happy, I am doing what I want to do. Realising your dream doesn’t mean you are crazy; totally the opposite. It is what you should aim to do even if you fail, you can afterwards at least say I tried it.”

The fond memories and the many places she has been able to visit so far have motivated her to keep going. On each trip she simply goes on the Internet and asks her fellow sailors to tell her where to stop off.

“I started this trip coming all the way to the east in Europe and I had to cross all the way to the west to get out in the Atlantic Ocean. From there, I went to Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde and I crossed to Brussels, because I am all the time looking for the easiest way to get and the most secure.”

From Brazil she went up the Amazon River where she spent six months basking in its exotic nature.

“It was a nice adventure but it was tiring,” Kullgren said as she spoke about her interactions with the natives there and how she had to use mainly sign language to communicate with them.

It was then that she started to speak English again and when she went on the Internet to enquire from her fellow sailors where she could stop off next, they told her Barbados.

Excited to be here, Kullgren said her intention was to stay on the island until January before moving off to the Grenadines.

And though sailing alone can be a lonely ride, the Swede said she has learnt to live with herself and, yes, the dolphins.

“When you are alone so many days at sea you do have to get along with yourself otherwise you will go crazy, I think. So I try to enjoy the moment that I am in. I look at the lovely sunset. I try to catch fish which takes a lot of my energy. I do a lot of thinking and I started to write poems . . . .

“But my real friends are the dolphins. I race with them. I even changed the course and travelled with them a little bit, just for the pleasure of being in the middle of hundreds. I try to swim with them when it is not too much wind.

Her only mishap happened two years ago while sailing when she felt a lump in her breast. She flew back home only to receive the devastating news that she had breast cancer.

But she was treated immediately and in less than four months, Kullgren was back on the high seas.

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