“We live our dream”.
The story of Ania and Bartek is a story ready for a screenplay. For many years they dreamed about life on the water, and in 2014 they made it a reality. They spend the Summers together with their sons sailing in the Mediterranean and Winters in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. We talk to Bartek Dawidowski about their everyday life.
Wirtualna Polska: Four years ago you decided to make your dreams come true. You sold a house in Poland and began life on a 15-meter “Poly” sailboat. How long have you matured for this decision?
Bartek Dawidowski: This idea grew in me for about 20 years. I was 19 when the thought passed in my head for the first time. In fact, since that time on I felt that it would happen somehow. Later, it was just a more or less bumpy road to this goal. Most of the time, I had no idea how it was going to happen, but somehow intuitively I stayed more or less on the right course.
The career swap away from IT to an airline pilot after some years resulted in a professional situation with a necessary amount of free time along with a level of income, which eventually together with the mortgage loan buttoned up the idea together. Ania joined the story more or less in 2010 with the deep conviction that the standard narrative of family and professional life also does not suit her. At that time she did not have any plan how to replace it, but when I introduced her to mine, she joined without much deliberation. She felt that this is something that can truly be hers and from that time it was our idea and our way forward together.
I think that it was only because we supported each other and we really felt that this was it, that the idea could be implemented so quickly. The workload – financial and emotional – was immense. If it were not for the unwavering conviction and the confidence in the course we chose, in many really difficult moments it could have ended with a return to a comfortable life in the proven and safe framework of the system.
Where did your love for the ocean some from?
My brother took me out on a small 6-meter Omega sailboat on the lake near Poznań, when I was 10-11 years old. I never completely recovered from the first impression I had when moving with just the wind power. When I was 14 years old, I sailed the first offshore cruise and the addiction only deepened since (laughs).
The ocean is an unbelievable teacher. It teaches a great sensitivity to beauty, paying attention to details that will surely take revenge on you in the most inopportune moment if overlooked. It also teaches cooperation and respect for other crew members, but above all responsibility. One very broadly defined, where it really is impossible to push over any of it onto anyone, because the only thing around is water. How will you prepare, how efficiently you will think something up, how hard you will try, how well will you fix things will mean your fate. And if you want to curse at what broke down, then you will realize that this is the purest form of self-criticism and hopefully start laughing.
What else does the ocean teach you?
The ocean also teaches love and humility to nature. It teaches life in harmony with it. The water offers the whole range of sensations ranging from a soothing, calm, long wave, cuddling to sleep, all the way to the hurricane, destroying everything in its path. Both extremes are offered without the slightest personal emotion and the possibility of negotiating. We can only learn it and be vigilant to be in such places that the conditions do not differ too far from our needs.
Ocean teaches perseverance. Many repairs cannot be postponed. It also allows us to learn a lot about ourselves. When something breaks or the conditions are worse than the forecast, we cannot begin to cry and push the pause button. It is also impossible to call for help. You just have to adapt to the new conditions and have Plan B in mind.
A few years ago, more or less in the middle of the Atlantic, over 1000 miles from Martinique, the autopilot broke. Plan A: we hand steer manually for a week. Not so simple and not so safe under the almost 300-meter spinnaker (it’s the giant round sail for winds from behind). Plan B: brainstorming. We dismantle the old power drill and file down the old-new brushes in place of the broken ones in the practically new electric autopilot motor. We sail again automatically!
What is your day like?
We spent most of our days on a mooring or anchor. So we function a bit like a normal home. We cook, clean, repair, play with kids. Instead of a car, for shopping or for sightseeing, we sail to the shore by a dinghy, usually no more than a few minutes. Then we blend in with the crowd of “normal” people living on land. We also enter the same interaction as any other neighbor.
What places do you care to visit regularly?
There are few places that we like more than others. We spend a lot of time on the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. In principle, half of the time in winter, we live there with the locals. We have some really close friends. Our families spend a lot of time together. The local sculptor and artist Zaka and his family are the best companions for meditation, for catching fish, baking and eating fish in the afternoon or for playing music together in the evenings. Zaka is great at playing the guitar, I can hold my won on drums. As soon as we start to make noise, local Rastafarians come to join on various instruments and on the vocal. Ania has just started playing the guitar, and even though I think she’s doing great, it seems she needs more trust in her own abilities before she can play and sing with us. For now, she dances with kids. The boys have their kindergarten there. They attend it several times a year for several weeks, depending on how our plans work out.
4 people live on a 15 meters boat. It is probably hard to find private space for yourself. Doesn’t it bother you? Do you have a fix for it?
Our boat is unusual. It’s trimaran (three hulls), which is almost 12 meters wide. If you plan a flat on a rectangle of 12 by 15 meters it ends up with 180 square meters, plus an infinite pool around. There is often a beach at hand, when you have to let the kids out, or one of us needs to spend time alone or with each other. The same effect of private space can be achieved simply by going to the trampoline between the bows or onto the roof. Somehow, I do not feel that 180 square meters, of which about 80-100 is under the roof, depending on whether we count the cockpit or not, is too small for a family of four in land conditions, and in the sailing environment is an absolute luxury. When choosing a boat I was acutely aware that if the family feels that too much must be sacrificed of the land comforts, it would end sooner or later with a rebellion and end our dreams about sightseeing the World.
What do you miss the most from land life?
I do not want to speak definitively for everyone, but I think that easy and fast availability of friends or family. But this is actually just an impression, because it often turns out that we see our families more often than some of our friends who have relatives in the same country or city. So far, every summer we spend in Poland mainly with parents, grandparents. At that time we also make up for the lack of contact with some the rest of the year. In the summer we also create more space for our favorite spiritual and personal development. This is our time for all kinds of workshops (usually Tantra related), meditations, etc.
What is the most beautiful place you’ve visited together?
There are several such favorites that we love for slightly different set of reasons. Conception Island in the Bahamas is 100 percent pure nature, undisturbed, with such colors of white rocks, corals, white sand, palm trees and turquoise water that it is hard to imagine. It looks a little in reality like an overdone retouching straight from Photoshop (laughs).
Saint Lucia is wonderful for us, not only because of the wonderful company of wonderful people, but also because of nature. Two Piton mountains, which shoot straight from the water to a height of almost 800 meters and beautiful reefs for diving under the boat, plus the already mentioned familiar atmosphere of the town of Soufriere is a truly unique combination.
There is also Petit Tabac. Such a tiny islet in the Grenadines archipelago in the south of the Caribbean, where in “The Pirates of the Caribbean” Johnny Depp unearthed rum. It is not only overwhelming in the beauty of its undisturbed nature, but also seems to emanate a special quality of energy. Amazing place for meditation.
What is your dream today?
Our life. We live our dream. We are not chasing anything. It’s here with us. We do not have an unattainable goal. We enjoy the way we are. We live here and now. Our heads do not spin around some ideal imaginary future. We are where we wanted to be. Sure, we have some plans to sail to the Pacific Ocean in a few years and possibly circumnavigate Mother Earth, but we do not have any pressure. We are constantly reevaluating what is most appropriate for us at the moment and what we really want and we stay with it. It does not matter to us when we sail to the Pacific and when we close the loop around the World. This is not meant to be an achievement. We are really happy here where we are in life and we make sure that we do not spoil it by getting into a race for some ambition.
Our readers’ comments indicate that they are very interested in the financial issue. How do you finance your travels? Do you work remotely?
We talk a lot about it in the media as well as on our YouTube channel. This question appears regularly, even though we have already covered this topic in all possible ways many times over. So here we go in order of importance, i.e. the amount of revenue it brings it looks like this.
First and foremost: My job, which is flying airliners mainly across the Atlantic in one group of minimum number of days a month, so that I can spend the rest, that is, most of my time with my family and sail.
Second: Contributions from people joining us during our cruises on our boat, several times a year, mainly in the winter season and mainly in the Caribbean.
Third: A small, but growing income from YouTube productions and Patreon supporters.
You are currently looking for a nanny and a member of the crew. The boys are 3.5 and 5 years old. Why just now?
I would not say “just now”, because the additional crew not counting small breaks has been sailing with us since the very beginning, which is since September 2015. Recently, we took a few months break and it was very nice for us. However, the evil is in the details. We were in the Bahamas in the spring. We sailed in the area where there was not a living soul, or everything was so close at hand that there was no fear of leaving our home unattended. If we were to sail alone the whole season, we could not go ashore together as a family in many places, due to petty theft. Each subsequent person on board also facilitates the watch system when we are on our way. It may not seem obvious, but a step from 2 to 3 adults increases the possibility of rest during sailing by 50%. Especially when it comes to a relatively normal night’s sleep during a passage.
The most important thing, however, is that such a person not only shares with us the joy of experiencing new places and people and sailing itself, but also all duties associated with normal, everyday life. And there are many of them. I keep a running To-Do list, which constantly changes in length, but has never gone blank. So, I had to learn to set priorities and to organize leisure time consciously. Otherwise, we would work non-stop. Recently, we have also been involved in the aforementioned movie production. If we did not have anyone to go with the kids for a walk or cook something, or cleaned up sometimes, there would not be an option to fit it all in 24 hour day. In the end, it is all about being able to enjoy time together as a family. If we worked non-stop, and it was like this for the first year, when everything broke, then the whole idea of this life would not make sense.
A lot of people applied?
This year we have much fewer submissions than last year (i.e. several dozen vs. over 600). I think that’s because we have defined the conditions in great detail. We are very happy about it, because at first glance you can see that applicants are much more aware of the subtleties of life on a sailboat and are seriously interested. And that’s what we wanted, because in 2017 we spent a lot of time just reading the applications.
Applications in the form of “Hey, I’m interested, can I find out more?” (our ad is extremely detailed, including the self-presentation movie) can be quickly and easily rejected. However, movies or multipage presentations and letters written from the bottom of the heart are hard to pass without ordinary thank you reply. As a result last year we spent days just reading and replying.
I think that this year the amount of hate also “helped”. Probably some potential candidates without a clue about life at sea realized how demanding it is. Despite the free time for myself, here and there it is actually a bit like being strapped to the ship by an umbilical cord. If you love what is at the other end of this umbilical cord and what it offers, it all works out great. But if you expect “normal” land life with an additional possibility of sightseeing by boat, the umbilical quickly morphs into a thick and heavy chain.
What is the next part of the recruitment?
Now, we will talk on Skype with a dozen or so people that we feel the closest to and we will invite several people to meet face to face. Then we will invite several people to spend a few days with us in terrestrial conditions and we will invite someone for almost a year’s adventure with us.
Why so much magic around this topic? When we choose someone for a position in a company, we know that they have to fulfill a specific function. Their CV or resume tells us immediately whether they have the experience necessary to satisfy the duties associated with the given position. At the level of interpersonal relationships, we know that we need to feel reasonably well with this person assuming an interaction that does not go beyond several times a week for several hours. All we have to do is agree on professional manners more or less and we are able to behave culturally. End of story.
If we try to connect with someone we don’t know on a professional, intellectual, ideological and, what is most important, emotional level, so that after a few days in a limited space facing different tasks and adversities, not only do we not be able to cooperate, but even several months later and feel good about each other, this task takes on a multidimensionality and degree of difficulty unheard of for any recruitment firm.
What are your plans for the future?
The same: sailing and personal and spiritual development. The World is big, so we will continue to live our dreams (laughs). And more to the point: the first thing in October Amazonian jungle in Suriname, winter in the Caribbean, and in the spring probably on to the Mediterranean through the Bahamas and the Azores. In a few years, we are looking at the Pacific, Oceania, South Asia, Africa. How long will it take us, will we not only to see but above all to experience all the places I mentioned? I do not know. But I do know that we will definitely fight to stick to what we feel on a regular basis, that for our kids and for us is the best and I know for sure that it will be extremely interesting. And what may be at the end of this path is too far away to focus on. We’ll deal with it when we get there (laughs).We wouldn’t want to miss all the beauty that is right here right now on our way.