Barb Radu Sprenger, global sailor and author of Sailing Through Life reflects on the origins of her memoir:
Con and I said our good-bye’s to the Nautical Mind book store staff at the end of the Toronto Boat Show where my book Sailing Through Life was featured in their booth. It was a joy working with them—they’re like family. I was also a guest speaker at the show, giving inspirational talks throughout the week, to encourage people to “Live life now!” and challenging them to “Let go of their land anchors.”
Yes, life is good! But you have to reach for it—
like the brass ring in the merry-go-round.
Death and the value of life shook me to my core ten years ago with the sudden death of my first husband at 49. When I fell in love with Con, the next year, I was ready to grab hold of life; live it to the fullest; and enjoy every moment along the way, because I learned in that sad moment that our tomorrows can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. However, I didn’t realize that grabbing hold would mean setting sail, leaving our land life behind—and everything we held precious!
Con had a dream to sail in his retirement, which he announced to me on our third date—I’d already fallen in love with him. I was filled with anxiety about leaving behind everything I’d held precious, but I didn’t want fear, procrastination and indecision to keep us from life’s adventures. In a flash it seemed, we bought Big Sky in Finland, packed away our land lives and sailed into a northern sunset.
Jumping into Con’s dream has changed me forever. Con and I are experiencing the beauty of the world, not from a book or television show, but with our own eyes, and we’re feeling it too. We’ve been in Athens during a riot and in Syria last winter as the Arab angst was building. Our perceptions are often different from the media, especially once we’ve met the people and shared a tea. If I’d let fear overtake my life, I’d miss living it. I’m not a bungee jumper, but I’m curious about the world, the people, food, nature, history, and how I fit into it all.
Sailing across the Bay of Biscay, one of the most dangerous body of water on earth and a rookie at the time, I learned powerful lessons—the kind you don’t learn from a text book. I have faced my fears head-on and now, I’m more in tune with who I am. Fear, I’ve learned can be a crippling force, but when you arm yourself with knowledge and experience, fear begins to fade. Only then, life and the beauty around you begins to unfold. Living life—experiencing all it can offer, is the greatest gift you can give yourself. The world is beautiful and so are the creatures that call it home.
Life hasn’t stood still for us. We’ve sailed in and out of 37 countries and we crave more. We’ve sailed with dolphins, whales, turtles, and swordfish. We’ve met people of all walks of life and have learned that those with the least often give the most. We arrive in new cities and countries not knowing the language, but it never matters; smiles, gestures, patience and ingenuity always leads us to what we need. We arrive in the heart of the most beautiful cities in the world: Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, Amsterdam, Dieppe, Porto, Lisbon, St. Tropez, Valencia, Gibraltar, Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Malta, Dubrovnik, Tangier, Sophia, Bucharest… the list goes on and on. We wake up in one continent and go to bed in another: Africa, Europe, Asia. We stay two days, or two months.
In this vagabond lifestyle, the thing that we can always expect is the unexpected. For instance, being grounded in a fast French ebbing tide; nearly steering into a shoal in 40 knot winds; and sleeping soundly on the hook in hurricane-like conditions. Nature is powerful—never try to outrun a storm. We’ve been hit by lightning—twice; took down a telephone wire with our forestay while sailing in the Danube—luckily it wasn’t the high voltage power lines which were 100 metres further.
For every bad day on the water, there are at least a hundred good days. The sea always calms after a storm and the sun always rises. We’re not risk takers, but we won’t shy away from it and miss living life. The world is rich in diversity; smaller than I thought; more beautiful than I’d envisioned; and more friendly that I’d every imagined.
My memoir, Sailing Through Life is bound to inspire you to live the life you dream about living. It will motivate you to do it now and not wait for your tomorrows. It has dozens of sailing stories, as told through my eyes as we’re experiencing the real world. I work my way through homesickness and guilt as I redefine my family and home. It’s raw and honest.
Barb Radu Sprenger