30 years of Concept Sailing
When I started to write about the 25th anniversary of Concept Sailing, I did not know that there would be 5 more years filled with new concept travels. However, year after year there were new plans, about which I have kept you informed and which I would like to summarize here again.
In 2014, Concept Sailing celebrated its 25th anniversary. In that year I sailed from the Tonga-Island to Australia with the ship „Selma“heading for some places and islands, which had also been visited by Captain James Cook during his 3 famous voyages through the Pacific Ocean. You cannot avoid spotting the footsteps of this renowned sailor in these waters.
In fact, Concept Sailing resp. Concept Travels started in Australia only some miles farther west. Krystyna had prepared a detailed itinerary treating the subject „Following Strzelecki’s Route. “ We climbed Mountain Kosciuszko and crossed Tasmania in order to visit the places, where Strzelecki stayed and worked. Here I first realized that he had been the first Pole to sail around the world, not as a sailor but as a scientist in matters of travels.
In 2015, I accepted an offer to sail to the North Pole on board the Russian icebreaker “ 50 years of victory“ which meant for me to be at the North Pole exactly on the day of the summer solstice, 21st June, 2015. Even though this trip was not an expedition in its original sense, it was quite an adventure for me.
As previously mentioned I started Concept Sailing-Travels in 1989. The first voyage then went to the famous Fastnet Rock well known from the Admirals Cup.
Immediately after that the idea of planning an „Odyssey Sailing Trip“ followed. We sailed in the wake of Ulysses not only in the Mediterranean Sea but also around Great Britain. Indeed, there exists an attempt of interpreting geographically his voyages around the British Isles. However, having checked this presumed route personally, I considered this theory false. Since 1989, I have sailed the Mediterranean Sea quite often but nonetheless for me a kind of mystery about the destinations attributed to him has remained.
Before 2015 I did not have sufficient time to examine Ulysses’ alleged itinerary carefully. I started a sailing trip with my friends Karl und Anna Hundhammer which was continued by „cruising „Sicily and Calabria with a rental car. After another sailing voyage in the same year, I reached Troy, the point of Ulysses’ departure.
In 2015 the activities of Concept Sailing already started in February with the kayak trip in the Antarctica, which I had had organized and waited for a long time. We called the trip „Belgica, the Cradle of Scientists and Explorers“ inspired by Adrien de Gerlache's xpedition „Belgica.“
Roald Amundsen and the two Polish people Arctowski and Dobrowolski were then participants in that voyage.
„Belgica“was the first vessel to winter in the Antarctica. Another inspiration for our kayak trip was the discovery of a channel which is now called Bremenkanal. Tomek Zadrozny had found this passage in the Melchior Archipelago in 2003.
Finally in 2017 the long-planned crossing of the Pacific Ocean started on board the „Agens“ together with her owners Karl and Hanna Hundhammer. We left Colon in Panama in March and passed the Panama Canal heading for the Galapagos Islands. During Easter week, we arrived at the Easter Island and of course, we stopped at Pitcairn and Tahiti on our onward voyage. For us the cruise was over in Cairns on the northeast coast of Australia. The owners of the yacht continued sailing whereas we went by car to the „navel of Australia“, to the famous Australian rock, the holy Uluru from where we turned to Darwin. That trip meant a challenge for motorists. The route we had to cover was approximately 5100km - roughly, 400km longer than the distance Moscow-Lisbon, but there were only 10 days left to drive the distance, but the stress had paid off. We saw the heart of Australia, the red center, the Outback.
A long sailing voyage was planned in 2018 and again Strzelecki provided us with the idea for this route, for which the yacht „Lady Dana“was launched into the water. After some changes of the itinerary had been made, at least theoretically, the first leg was nailed down leading from Valparaiso to Hawaii via Juan Fernandez (Robinson Crusoe Island) and then passing the Easter Island, the Marquesas und Kiritimati (Christmas Island).
Unfortunately, the ship could not reach Valparaiso. Instead, she went farther down to the south to Puerto Montt because of a broken engine. That of course meant a delay but we could make up lost time.
On the Marquesas Islands we visited the island Fatu Hiva, which became known because of Thor Heyerdahl. Here Heyerdahl and his wife Eve tried to live in harmony with nature away from civilization, but sadly not very successfully. On the above-mentioned island the idea of the „Kontiki“Expedition was born. Obviously for a long time the Marquesas have been a desirable place for people who have wanted to escape civilization. Paul Gauguin settled there long before Thor Heyerdahl for instance and Jacques Brel enjoyed this place not long ago as well. In the end we visited the graves and museums, which were dedicated to them, on Hiva Oa. The desire of these famous and numerous other people for seclusion are quite comprehensible.
The following leg went to Kiritimati (Christmas Island). Captain Cook sighted this island on 24th of December 1777, and spent the Christmas holidays on it. In this case, however we were less interested in the old Cook but we were inspired to visit this island because of the existence of a village called „Poland". When we finally reached the village - without any announcement -, we were surprised with loud march music. Red and white-clothed children marched to the beat of a music. This unexpected kind of surprise effect impressed us. On a later occasion, we learned that this spectacle was a rehearsal for the celebration of Kiritimati's Independence Day.
12th of July 1979, the Archipelago Kiribati gained its independence of the UK. The population of Poland Village showed its thankfulness to the passing Polish sailor Stanisław Pełczyński, who had helped them to irrigate their coconut plantations by giving their village that unusual name. The local church and a bay were also named to honor holy Stanisław from Kraków.
On Kiritimati the owner of „Lady Dana“took over his ship und we took the plane to Hawaii to continue following Strzelecki’s route.
Circumnavigation – Enrique. St.
Nicholas’ Day has already passed. The year draws slowly to a close. It seems to be a good time for a summary, which I regularly did every year in the past. It was in those days, when the sailing season in our / in the northern hemisphere began in spring and ended in autumn. Now we do not have any restrictions like that. People have started sailing in all parts of the world at any season which means that in fact we have a never-ending season for sailing. Therefore my summary does not necessarily refer to a calendar year, but it is subject to other criteria such as the end of a travelling project.
2017 was a very special year for me, in so far as I missed in terms of our calendar – strictly speaking - two days. Neither could I enjoy the 31st of January nor the 16th of June. How is that possible, you may ask? (Sailing) experts and frequent travelers know that you lose one day when travelling west round the world. In case you plan your round-the-world trip eastwards, you gain one day.
In 1522 our civilization met this phenomenon for the first time The crew of the ship „Victoria“, who were the participants of the Magellan expedition, realized that, when sailing round the world. During a short stop on the Cape Verde Islands they noticed that something was wrong with the calendar. Since survival had priority, they ignored that phenomenon. After returning to Spain they got on to the „miscount“.
Later on I come back to the expedition of Magellan.
Another person, well-known from literature, who had a serious problem with the Date Line, was Philieas Fogg, the protagonist in Jules Verne’s novel „Around the World in Eighty Days.“
This gentleman however travelled eastwards and gained an additional day. Not knowing about date shift he almost lost his bet believing he was one day late. But in the very last moment and just in time his faithful servant Passepartout took him to the place agreed upon in the bet.
In 2017 I had to travel westwards round the globe two times. Both trips round the world were a combination of flights and cruises.
The first journey began in Europe. I flew to Ushuaia in South America, where I embarked the „MV Ortelius“, to start the so-called semi-circumnavigation. First we went south to the Antarctica and then turned west to cross the Bellinghausen Sea, the Amundsen Sea and the Ross Sea to get to New Zealand. It was a comparatively long voyage but at the same time it is almost the only possibility of seeing this part of the world and the historical artefacts which were left behind by famous polar expeditions. We also visited the Bay of Whales, where Amundsen built his Framheim Base – the renowned ship „Fram“ took him there – and from where he started to reach the South Pole. We set foot on Cape Evans at Ross Island where Scott’s Base is located and from where Scott for his part started the race to the South Pole. Scott, however, did not return from that adventure, but the base remained there and three years later the Ross Sea Group profited from this location. This group was kind of an auxiliary expedition of the famous Shackleton expedition.
I could also set foot on Cape Adare, where in 1895 the first human beings stepped on the continent of the Antarctica and where people wintered in 1899/1990 for the first time.
In February 2017 I flew back home westwards and that’s the reason why I could not get back the 30th of January which I lost on my trip.
Having spent a couple of days in my home country Poland, where I used most of the time for repacking and organizing, I flew to Manaus (Brasil) in the north of South America to start my 5th Amazon tour (c. Editorial).
After finishing this river cruise I went on to Panama and embarked on board the yacht „Agens“ which means „driving force.“ She belongs to my friends Karl and Anna Hundhammer. The owners were on their way round the world and we had decided to join them on their sailing trip through the Pacific.
After leaving the Panama Canal we headed for the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island and finally for Pitcairn. The names of these legendary islands alone have inspired my/our fantasy for many years. Now we had the chance of setting foot on these mystical islands which meant something absolutely extraordinary for each of us. The way to the Easter Island, located in the southern Pacific, deviates considerably from the standard route through the Pacific Ocean.
Leaving this island we sailed west, occasionally with a northbound tendency, in the direction of the equator. From Pitcairn we went to Mangareva in the Gambier Archipelago and to the Society Islands (Tahiti and Bora Bora). The next stop was Aitutaki Island being a part of the Cook Islands and finally we arrived at the Vavau Islands (Tonga Archipelago). In two respects Tonga was something special for me. First, when we approached Vavau we thought it was the 16th of June. But as soon as we went ashore, all of a sudden any doubt concerning the correct date – „What day is it today?“ - had disappeared, because the day of our arrival was the 17th of June. Anna’s birthday (16th of June) fell prey to the calendar respectively to the Date Line. But this date confusion did not prevent us from celebrating. A short explanation regarding the frequent doubts about the right date in the Pacific Ocean should follow here.
Theoretically the Date Line follows the 180 meridian. But reality/maps show(s), that a number of countries have defined their individual Date Line not following the above mentioned meridian which means that the Date Line goes zigzag. In one extreme case it is shifted as far as to the 150° W in the east. For that reason the people living on Kiritimati in the Kiribati Archipelago are the first to celebrate New Year’s Day, although the (official) Date Line is 30° further to the west, that means 2 hours are missing. W 174° runs through Vavau. So properly speaking 6° are missing in this spot. They correspond 24’. Second, my second circumnavigation or rather the addition of several voyages, my trips around the world consisted of, ended here in Vavau. When we moored in Vavau on the 17th of June, 2017, my personal circumnavigation was somehow completed. (My first circumnavigation was the route around the North Pole leading me through the Northwest Passage, the Northeast Passage and the Arctic waterways/sections between them). In this respect – a circumnavigation in several legs - an analogy can be drawn with the famous expedition which Magellan organized in the 16th century. When discussing the question „Who was the first man to sail around the world? “, you mainly get the answer: Ferdinand Magellan. But this is not entirely true. Admittedly he organized the expedition around the world but in fact he himself could not finish it because he was killed on Mactan Island in the Philippines.
Those who are well-versed in history know that only one of the 5 ships that had left Sevilla returned to Spain on the 16th of September, 1522, under the leadership of Juan Sebastian Elcano. So Captain Elcano was supposed to be the first to sail around the entire world. As usual, like any other team of explorers, the rest of the crew, that accompanied him, has found no appreciation in historical documents. Yet there was another non-European man who preempted the „Victoria“crew. Magellan served in the Portuguese fleet. During one of his expeditions he came to Malacca where he bought a slave, who was baptized later on und received the melodious name Enrique (Henryk). From that time onward he accompanied Magellan to all destinations, went to Africa, sailed to Portugal, immigrated with his master to Spain and logically he took part in Magellan’s famous round-the-world expedition. Most probably Enrique came from the Philippines and was kidnapped by slave traders in Sumatra. When the Armada reached the Philippine island Homonhon on the 16th of March, 1521, he could communicate with the local people in his language and served thereby as an interpreter.
On the 7th of April the armada anchored at the island Cebu, where Magellan dedicated himself devotedly to the Christianization of its inhabitants. At that time Lapu Lapu, who did not want to give up the religion of his ancestors, governed the neighboring island Mactan, but Magellan decided to force the „stubborn “indigenous people to accept the new religion. As a consequence he died in a senseless battle on the 27th of April. Magellan’s testament said that after his death his slave and servant Enrique should be a free man. Besides he bequeathed money to him. The new commander Barbosa refused to recognize this last will... Enrique escaped in Cebu.
12 years after Magellan had bought Enrique, the servant returned to his native country. Most likely he was the first man to complete a round-the-world trip. This is another instance in which a servant preempted his master. In 2015 I sailed with the ship „Selma „from Tonga to Brisbane in Australia. On our way we visited New Caledonia where I had finished a voyage on the „Nashachata“ in 2009. This particular trip had started in Buenos Aires in October 2008, from where we first sailed to the south, then west through the Magellan Street, round Cape Horn and finally to Ushuaia. Here I left the comfortable yacht „Nashachata“and boarded „Fuegia“, a replica of a whaler, to start the expedition called „Darwin & Tierra del Fuego. “ After returning to the „Nashachata“ we continued the trip from Ushuaia to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Cape Town, Crozet Islands, Amsterdam Island, which by the way was discovered during Magellan’s expedition on the „Victoria“, to Melbourne und New Caledonia.
Back to the yacht „Agens“ After leaving Tonga we headed towards Fiji from where we sailed to Cairns (Australia) without any further stops which was a pretty long stage. We left the vessel in Cooktown because we did not know if we could reach Darwin, the airport of our return flight, by ship on time. So we took a bus back to Cairns, rented a car in order to get to Darwin sharp. But there is no direct road leading from Cairns to Darwin. The route took us west through the outback and finally it turned northbound. Visiting the red centre of Australia and Alice Springs without seeing the famous solitary monolith Uluru in the endless desert would be a big mistake. In fact it is the trip to the holy mountain that turns a travel to Australia into a great experience. In the Aborigines’ language Uluru means „meeting point“ which hints at its function for the native people - in former times and nowadays. During my Northeast Passage I had met this geographical name-giving once before, namely in the village „Tiksi“ at the Lena Delta. In the Yakuts’ language it also means „meeting point.“ Steering our car through the long desert way to Darwin I thought a lot about the life of the Aborigines, who represent a further example of the remarkable human ability to acclimatize to extreme temperatures.
The Inuit could adapt to the Greenlandic climate with temperatures up to -40 degree Celsius. They learned how to produce clothes that protected them effectively. The Indians living in Tierra del Fuego, however, adapted to the harsh, humid and windy climate so well that they could nakedly stand temperatures near freezing point. The Aborigines did not wear clothes either. They had to bear temperature differences up to 40 degrees Celsius which are caused by the desert climate with its marked day-and-night distinctions.
Having covered 5100km we reached Darwin and were only slightly faster than the owners of the „Agens. “ Theoretically we could have stayed on board the ship and could have caught the plane on time as well. But nobody has regretted our decision to choose the route via Uluru. We can say that accidentally the journey has developed an aspect which justifiably can be associated with my idea and projects of Concept Sailing.
Amazon, that sounds very exotic. When I organized the first journey to that amazing river in 2012, I had never thought that there would be so many to follow. Until today we have offered 6 further voyages. Some of my former fellow sailors have been astonished that me as a passionate sailor have started to organize river cruises. Yes, that’s right. The Amazon is not an ocean, it is a river, an unbelievably fantastic river! Even the ocean sailors sing shanties in its honor and it is worldwide a destination which is embedded in our minds.
Big ships can go as far as 2000km from the mouth of the river up to Iquitos in Peru. So far I have not seen sailing boats in that distance upriver, only near Alter do Chao, which is approximately 300km upstream. Of course boats can also go up to Iquitos but only when being supported by engines. But this kind of trip is not worth planning because in most of the areas of the complete route wind is rather poor, furthermore good knowledge of the area is required und there are hardly any harbors where sailing yachts can moor or stay overnight.
For this voyage the "concept sailing" idea means travelling with experienced indigenous people and local ships, which have been designed and produced especially for this kind of trips. As mentioned before, big ships can go upriver as far as Peru, which I myself have already done. But I realized that it is not the covering of the distance that fascinates but the way you explore the river, so to speak „The journey is the destination. “
I charter ships (ca. 22 passengers) for the Amazon voyages. But not only have these special ships impressed my guests. The shorter discovery trips in the small long boats are unique as well. They take us to local settlements, let us watch animals or let us cruise through the canopy during high tide season. In the past years we tried many different routes. The trip in March 2017 was one of the best.
As usual we started in Manaus but did not cruise for a long time on the main river Rio Solimoes, which changes its name near Manaus into Rio Amazon. We sailed along the comparatively „wild“ Rio Negro. Following this route we reached the left tributary Rio Arara und crossed the equator. The question, if Neptune also surprises people in inland waters to baptize „neophytes“, was answered some time later.
For the first time we took a plane, instead of going by boat all the way down to Manaus, to get back to our starting point. This decision gave us the opportunity of watching the gigantic river system from the aerial perspective. Some guests have joined our trip for the second time und both cruises have offered new fantastic impressions to them. The difference of water levels is one of the facts, which make the trip interesting, even if you repeat it. The water level van vary up to 15m. During high tide we sail in the canopy and during low tide we stop at sandy beaches to take a refreshing swim. The flooded rainforest can cover an area of the size of Great Britain.
In many respects the Amazon remains a mystery for us. For a long time people have discussed where the real origin of the river might have been. According to one of the theories the somehow defiant answer was: in Africa. Why, you may ask, in Africa?
Let’s try to explain that theory. When South America and Africa were one vast continent called Gondwana, the water flowed in reverse direction and the origin of the today’s Amazon was in that part of our planet which is now called Africa. The land masses drifted apart. In the western parts of South America the Andes Mountains rose and then the „new“ water coming from another origin ran in the old riverbed.
One of my friends, Sepp Friedhuber, explored die African origins of the ur-river. The experience of his expeditions is summed up in the interesting film „Ur-Amazon. “
That much about the theory of the „real" origin of the Amazon.
Some extracts of our travel diary:
An aria from the opera „La Traviata“ by G.Verdi gives us a wake-up call at 6 o'clock in the morning. Meanwhile this has become a kind of nice tradition on board. Normally nobody feels like jumping out of bed at that time of the day, but the early morning is, compared to the hot temperatures at noon, still rather „cool“.
Nicely smelling coffee, hot water for the tea, milk and a first snack are already waiting for us.
At 6.30 we step into the boats. It is March, high tide season, right now 7m above sea level. We are moving through the canopy. One crew member has spotted a snake. We are landing at the nearby shore and discover a 2m-long boa. It allows us to approach and to take photos. Mo, the ship owner, guide and biologist in one person asks if anybody wants to hold the snake in his hands. Yes, there are some courageous passengers among us. Mo takes off his shirt throwing it over the head of the snake. Then he seizes the boa skillfully at its neck, if the snake actually has something like that. In any case you must snatch the snake right at its head. The bold guests take the whole snake, others just stroke the skin. The snake is not slick as people may probably think. We do not want to stress the animal any longer and set it free. The nature lovers and environmentally-conscious people on board know that the unspoilt nature should not be disturbed unnecessarily. Maybe one day in the future the boa will tell its grandchildren about this unusual encounter with these two-legged animals.
At 8.30 we are back on deck. Now we have sufficient time to enjoy our second breakfast. The next excursion starts two hours later. Dolphins are waiting for us. In the vicinity of Manaus there are 5 places, where dolphins are quite familiar with human beings which began in the nineties of the last century. A girl from Novo Airau fed a dolphin with a fish she had caught. By and by the familiarity of the animal grew. The dolphin appeared regularly for feeding and the girl could touch the dolphin and swim with it. This personal experience of the girl developed into a kind of „dolphinarium," first in Novo Airau later on in the neighborhood as well.
For many years the river dolphins have played an important role in the history and belief - maybe in the superstition - of the local people. The native tribes call them boto and they have never hunted these animals. As soon as a girl becomes unexpectedly pregnant, then, according to the legend, boto, who had visited the girl in the form of a man, was made responsible. Blond children with blue eyes were conceived in this short romance. The amazon dolphin has a striking light pink complexion, which resembles the bright complexion of the missionaries in the last century. So the question rises: is that legend just a coincidence? Fact is, that tradition has never allowed to kill a dolphin because „he“ might have been a father or an uncle.
In the evening we get into the boats again after dinner. Now big search lights, with which we try to spot caimans, come along with us. The method is rather simple. The torches illuminate the riverside right above the surface of the river. When you see 2 red dots lying closely next to each other you can be sure that they belong to a caiman. Now you try to approach the animal very calmly. The indigenous lookout-man communicates nonverbally with the helmsman. A quick grip follows and the caiman can be held at the neck, but you have to calculate the distance between the eyes properly. If the distance between them is too big you should better move on.
On another day:
La Traviata can already be enjoyed at 4 o’ clock in the early morning. Actually this time is extremely early and it is still dark, but before sunrise we have the chance of listening to the roaring of the howling monkey. It is definitely hard to describe these strange sounds with words. Somehow they resemble the noise of rolling thunder, but anyhow it is an unforgettable event. After this „Monkey Opera“ in the jungle we arrive in a settlement of turtle hunters.
In fact hunting turtles is forbidden in Brazil, but when the native people just use them for individual consumption, the government tolerates the killing. Apart from that it is impossible, due to the vast areas, to surprise the offender in the act and to arrest him.
The hunt takes place during the migration of the turtles.
The shooters aim with bows at the swimming by animals, but they avoid hitting the animals directly. They shoot high up in the air so that the arrow comes down in a ballistic path and hits - if it hits - the shell vertically. The arrowhead drills itself through the shell without hurting the turtle. The tip of the arrow is separated from the shaft but is still connected with it through a cord. Now the hunters take their boats to collect their prey. In order to avoid misunderstandings every hunter has marked his arrow individually. The turtles are taken home and serve as a living supply.
When we visited the village, the friendly family had 7 turtles in stock. Piotr bought them all - officially for our soup. Coincidentally his daughter Oliwia had turned 20 on that day. When we came back on board the birthday cake was already waiting for her. So we all sang „Happy Birthday“ and could surprise her with a special present. Oliwia studying animal behavior set all the turtles free.
Before leaving the settlement we had the opportunity of learning about the production of manioc. Manioc containing much farina (starch) is one of the basic foods of the native people, because it also is the main source of carbohydrates. There are 2 sorts of manioc: white and sweet resp. yellow and bitter. This second sort of manioc needs a very complicated treatment to remove the poisonous constituents. First step is to soak the peeled and grated tuber for a couple of days until the poisonous substances have evaporated. You get a clean liquid and the starchy mealy substance, which are called tapioca, at the bottom of the vessel.
The liquid is boiled until it has been reduced to half of the original volume. The result of this process is versatile, because one of the results are spices. The chopped tubers, having been squeezed before are minced for a second time. After that they are roasted and granulated. That is the way how the most important food in this area is produced.
The next day:
Fishing piranhas is our today’s program. I realized that initially many participants had a reluctant, reserved and critical attitude towards this activity … but as soon as the first catch was on the hook the human hunting instinct was set free. After the successful „hunt“ the fish is gutted, cleaned and the jaws are dissected as a souvenir. The big fish barbecue in the evening was a really delicious treat.
An excursion to a village of Caboclos. The Caboclos are people of indigenous and European origin. The name does not only refer to their origin but also to their way of life. In case you decide to live together with them, your children might also be called Caboclos one day. They would live in huts built on stilts along the riverside. Maybe they would also live on agriculture and fishery like all their neighbors do. It is easy to imagine that their complexion gets a little darker in about 20 years and that they roast manioc and lay out their nets in the river.
Mo shows and explains to us many different trees and plants, points at the gum tree and informs about the production of rubber and its economic importance for Brazil in the past.
We continue our day trip to a swimming pool in the rainforest, which is „built“ by montriharida arborescence. The boats have to squeeze through the narrow water swaths which the native people have tried to cut in the rainforest and which are meant to be canals for transporting goods. Now and then we wait in a „siding" to let other boats pass. If you look back you can see the trees bend again after our boats have passed. You get the impression that they want to trap us and to prevent us from finding our way back.
We reach a lake with lots of water lilies, the famous victoria amazonica. Mo tells us about the special way of the pollination of this plant. The pollinating beetle is locked in the calyx. Being pollinated the flower changes its color from white to red. The leaves are that big that a child can sit or lie on them.
After some days we leave Rio Negro and turn right into Rio Araca. The water gets shallower. We leave the main ship again to get into the small boats for approaching the equator. All eyes are staring at the GPS displays. On the bank of the river we set up a totem pole decorated with a carved 0 and numerous imprints of glaring red female lips. Champagne and a photo of the explorers are a „must". Now the „invaders" can swim as much as they please und pass the equator as often as they want. We paint a line that separates the northern and the southern hemisphere. A chessboard is put on it. Piotr, Oliwia's father, and Mo play for our earth. At the end of the game the two players can keep their hemisphere. 2 hours later we have to take the boats to get back to the ship.
But STOP! Neptune and his divine wife Proserpina are waiting for us on the bank of the river. The "Neophytes“ submit themselves to the ceremony of baptizing. Having passed this procedure they say cheers to the divine couple with a specially prepared nectar. The organizer of the trip hands in the diplomas certifying the participation in the baptism. Even if nectar is a heavenly drink, everybody wants to „rinse" with the drink of the mortals: Caipirinha.
Caipirinha is the Brazilian national drink, which consists of rum (cachaca), brown sugar, also gained from cane, limes and ice cubes.
We arrive at Barcelos without any further stops or surprises and take the chartered Cessna planes back to Manaus. This flight is an adventure in itself. Flying like a bird we get a new deep impression of the immensely large and impenetrable rainforest with its uncountable rivers, numerous water canals and glistening lakes. A view that you will never forget.
Paweł Edmund Strzelecki (aka Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki)
My inspiration for the planned voyages in 2018 came from the Polish scientist Paul Edmund Strzelecki. - Not many not polish people are even able to pronounce his name properly. He was the first Pole to climb the highest mountain of Australia, which he gave the name Mount K. Besides he was the first Polish citizen who sailed around the world with the intention to collect scientific information. Now it is the third time that I organize a sailing trip which is based on one of S’s routes. This time our destinations follow his trip in the Pacific Ocean.
July 20, 1838
Strzelecki put to sea on deck of HMS „Fly“ in Valparaiso https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valpara%C3%ADso and reached Taiohae Bay https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valpara%C3%ADso on the isle of Nuku Hiva https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuku_Hiva in the Marquises Archipelago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquesas_Islands. In September 1838 he set foot on Hawaii https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii, specifically Hawai’i island https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii_(island) in the Kealakekua Bay https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii_(island), on exactly the same spot where Captain James Cook perished on February 11, 1779.
During his stay there the scientist studied the volcanoes Mauna Kea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauna_Kea, Mauna Loa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauna_Loa and Kilauea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C4%ABlauea. The results of these studies were published in „The Hawaiian Spectator“ (Sandwich Islands - Crater of Kilauea) and later on in „Tasmanian Journal of Natural Sciences“ (Volcano of Kilauea, Sandwich Islands). Strzelecki also visited the harbour of Hilo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilo,_Hawaii on same Island and Honolulu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honolulu on the island Oahu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oahu.
In October 1, 1838
He left Hawaii and sailed to Tahiti https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahiti where they arrived at the beginning of November.
1838 was one of the last years of independence of the island. Strzelecki was invited by Queen Pomare IV. He was shocked by the legal situation in the Pacific Ocean which was based on the „Law of the Jungle“. Therefore he worked on a reform plan with the purpose of an improved justice in the islands.
In January 1839
He sailed on the French bark „Justine“ first to the east to visit the island Mangareva https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangareva in the Gambier Archipelago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambier_Islands and afterwards to Tuamotu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuamotus. After leaving this island he landed in Tonga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonga on his way to the eastern coast of New Zealand https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand.
In February 1839
Strzelecki arrived at Kororareka (the today’s Russell) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell,_New_Zealand in the Bay of Islands https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Islands
located in the North Island https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Island of New Zealand. He dedicated his 3-month stay in New Zealand to scientific researches being probably the first in this place of the world. Thereby he got to know the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maoris.
Among many others he visited the following villages: Waitingi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waitangi,_Northland, Hokianga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokianga and Kerikeri https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerikeri.
April 10, 1839
Strzelecki continued his voyage and sailed to Port Jackson, which is now known as Sydney https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney. He arrived there on 25th April, 1839. He spent the 4 most important years of his 9-year trip in Australia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia, then called New Holland. During these years he explored New South Wales and Tasmania. The governor of Tasmania John Franklin, who played an important role in the history of the Northwest Passage later on, became his friend and patron.
April 24, 1843
Strzelecki returned to Europe and finished his voyage in the harbour of London.
It took him 4 years to explore both Americas.
To journey through Pacific Ocean, from Valparaiso to Sidney – almost one whole year.
Exploration of Australia and Tasmania – 4 years.
Return from Sidney to London – half a year.
His funding came solely from his academic and scientific work. ”I do not travel at the expanse of any government – he stressed in one of his letters – but at the expense of all the specimen and collections I acquire, often with much difficulty, and sell in Europe to studies and private collections”
In 1845 in London, Strzelecki published his greatest work “The Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land”. Darwin, expressing his gratitude for a copy of the book, wrote: “I congratulate you on having completed which must have cost you so much labour & I am astonished at the number of deep subjects which you discuss. I must be permitted to express my sorrow that there are not far more copious extracts from the 'M.S. Journal': I hope someday to see it fully published. You speak of your unidiomatic English; I heartily wish that one quarter of our English authors could think & write in language one as spirited yet so simple.”
The book became a world-wide classic in geography. This almost 500 pages long volume received excellent reviews in both British and Australian press and became an unsurpassed source of knowledge on Australia for at least forty-five years.
In 1846 Strzelecki received a Gold Founder's Medal from the Royal Geographical Society.
In 1860 – a Honorary Degree of Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford.
In 1869 he received the title of Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael & St George, for his „five years' explorations in Australia, the discovery of gold, the discovery of new territory accessible to colonization, and finally for the construction of topographical and geological maps, based on astronomical observations”.
Several geographical features in Australia, including a mountain range in Victoria (south-east Australia), 2 mountain peaks, a lake and a river, were named after Strzelecki. His name is also included in the names of several species of plants and animals.
In 2018, exactly 180 years after Strzelecki embarked on the voyage through Pacific Ocean, we plan a cruise following the footsteps of our great compatriot, the first Polish explorer to sail around the world. Because of Strzelecki's scientific bent and his drive to explore and discover, we plan to carry out a research program, prepared specifically for this occasion by prof. Zbigniew Zwoliński from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.
Leszek Kosek, member of the 1972/73 expedition on board of “Konstanty Maciejewicz” now living in Australia, volunteered to organise for us a short re-enactment journey in a typical settlers' wagon and on horseback, following the footsteps of Strzelecki.
25 years of Concept Sailing
May 2014 marked 25 years since I began Concept Sailing – sailing with a specific concept in mind. How did it all begin?
Since 1985 I have been working as a skipper in open-sea sailing school in Bremen. From spring until autumn, I ploughed the North Sea and Northern Atlantic and I was happy to do so. My passion became my job and source of income, what more could I want? I was sailing on a very ambitious waters, tides and classical navigation, sailing in leading lights, sector lights, or determining your position from coordinates etc. (it was before GPS era), it all made sailing a form of art, emotionally fulfilling and deeply satisfying, when you at last reached a port. I sailed to places, which I knew before only from books: Iceland, Lofoten, Spitsbergen. Every year in March and November I led storm trainings and those months can be really stormy on the North Sea. It was a though school. However, after some years, I discovered that I was missing something. Sure, I liked this ambitious sailing, I liked teaching, but sometimes I felt like it was all lacking a deeper dimension – the reason for sailing here or there. At the beginning all was new and exciting, but gradually it became harder and harder to find a port I haven’t visited before. Finally I resigned my teaching post and started to organize cruises myself.
In July 1989 I organised sailing cruise with a concept for the first time. It was a cruise to Ireland and more precisely to Fastnet Rock, the famous rock of even more famous Admiral’s Cup Regatta. Ten years earlier, in 1979 during the Fastnet Race, a tragedy happened on those waters. During a storm 5 yachts sank. Of 303 yachts taking part in the race only 86 crossed the finish line. After that sailing magazines for a long time analyzed this tragedy and tried to work out new storm tactics . And I wanted to see this rock, around which took place the last and longest part of the race.
During this cruise I also discussed with the crew another idea: voyage following the travels of Odysseus. It is no hardship to read Odyssey one more time, but finding plausible interpretations, with modern maps showing his possible routes, in times before the internet, that required long search, study and time. The idea was there, but it’s realisation had to wait for more favourable time, as live went on.
One year earlier, I led an expedition to Spitsbergen. During the after-cruise meeting an idea was born to organize an expedition through North-East Passage. That was a great Concept! I began negotiations for charter of „Gedania” – a yacht which in my estimation was the best for such expedition. „Gedania” was in prolonged renovation, and I had been drawn into never-ending talks, until one day I heard on the radio, that German „professional adventurer” Arved Fuchs is preparing an expedition around the North Pole. What else was I to do? I took care to become part of the „Icesail” expedition, planned for four years” 1991-94
Since I was rather late to apply, all the places were already taken for the first part of the expedition. I was to join the crew on the Barents Sea in September 1991. The Russian Putsch stopped those plans. I didn’t fly out to Narjan Mar as the whole expedition was slowed down and the yacht „Dagmar Aaen” sailed only a bit further to spend the winter in Igarka on Janisej river.
In the meantime political situation was stabilised and in 1992 we could sail on – at least in theory, because we didn’t manage to cross the North-East Passage due to very bad ice situation. We didn’t want to spend one more winter in Russia so we made a „strategical retreat” to Tromsø in Norway.
In the following year 1993 „Dagmar Aaen” sailed with the spring from Tromsø to Greenland to Kangerlussuaq, where in July I joined the expedition. This time we managed to cross North-East Passage in a single season, reaching Aleutian Islands in October. „Dagmar Aaen” spent the winter in Duch Harbor, under the watchful eye of one of our colleagues and the rest of us flew home.
In 1994 we went back into the North-Eastern Pass, from Aleutian Islands though the Bering Strait and on, westward. We didn’t get far before we got caught in ice thrust, been jumbled around and, bruised and battered, had to fall back.
And so, circling the North Pole had to be postponed, for a time.
Summer seasons spent in the far North left me only with winters to pursue my ideas for Concept Sailing and to give them life on warmer waters. This way, the time had come for Odysseus. I decided to split his peregrinations into several „palatable” parts and in the winter 1991/92 I organised a series of cruises on the Mediterranean on the yacht „Freedom”.
Before the last part of the Icesail expedition, in the spring of 1994, together with Bodo Müler, we organised an expedition following old Viking (Vareg) route. From Riga to Odessa, up and down rivers and Berezyna Chanel, through lands of former Soviet Union, now independent Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine, and finally a short distance on the Black Sea. We made this journey on a pontoon labelled Viking. This expedition bore unexpected fruit in the shape of a book „Unternehmen Wiking” – enterprise Viking, of which I am co-author. It also gave me an idea to explore a different Vareg route, and on a Vareg longboat.
In 1995 an idea for a different route of Odysseus’ voyages was put to test. Hans Steuerwald maintained, that Odysseus actually left the Mediterranean and sailed around the British Isles. I put this theory to a thorough practical analysis on a yacht „Polonus” and by the end of the journey had to firmly agree with Wolf brothers and their Mediterranean reconstruction of Odyssey.
Thoughts of Viking sailors would not leave me, so I commissioned a early-medieval Slavic boat (differences between Slavic and Viking boats were small, depending more on the place of building, rather than on who actually built them), modelled on an excavated boat Orunia II (same boat on which “Sanctus Adalbertus” was modelled). Building it took a long time, which I used to gather experience in medieval sailing and in 1998 I took part in an expedition form Ralswiek on Rugia to Wolin Island on „Bialy Kon” a different replica of a Slavic boat. This expedition was possible thanks to cooperation of Viking Museum in Roskilde and Slavic Heritage Park in Großraden. Taking into account the character of this expedition, it should be called live archaeology.
Finally, in 1999 my Slavic „Wělet” was launched. First, we sailed from Masuria (where she was built) to Berlin and later, following „Routes of Slavic merchants” by Odra-Szprewa Chanel to Oder and along polish coast to Gdańsk and further on, again by rivers, to Biskupin to Archaeological Feast, which became a yearly stop in „Wělet’s” travels. „Wělet” sailed on many inland waters, took part in festivals, acquainted youth with sailing methods of their forefathers and also starred in Jerzy Hoffman’s movie „Stara Baśń”, but had to wait for the one journey, for which she was made – the expedition to the Black Sea. Other expeditions took precedence.
And so it happened, that in 2000 I became a part of an expedition organised by aforementioned Arved Fusch, to repeat the famous expedition of Shackleton, on a replica of a rescue boat „James Caird, from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Elephant Island, and from there, through Southern Ocean to South Georgia. After this expedition I wrote a book „Fortitudine vincimus – By endurance we conquer”
In 2002 time finally came for North-East Passage. Same „Dagmar Aaen” set sail again and this time we managed to get from Tromsø, through Murmansk, Dikson, Tiksi, Wrangel Island and Bering Strait to Prowidienija. „Dagmar Aaen” closed the loop around the North Pole, but not me – I still needed to sail from Norway to Greenland.
Logically, in 2003 one more expedition was organised – „From Horn to Horn” on a Yacht „Zjawa IV”. The name „Zjawa” was symbolic - first Pole to sail around the world, Władysław Wagner, did so on three consecutive „Zjawa’s”. After reaching Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on „Zjawa IV”, I became the first Pole to circle the North Pole on a sailing yacht. After all, this expedition was called „From Horn to Horn”: furthest north peninsula of Iceland i called Horn, we passed it on our way from Norway. Having reached Kangerlussuaq, „Zjawa IV” sailed south, and in Ushuaia I again took the helm to circumnavigate the well known Cape Horn this same year.
Year 2006 was finally the year of „Wělet’s” grand journey from Gdańsk to Odessa. We sailed up the Vistula and San to Przemyśl, where the boat was loaded on a truck and transported to Dniester and down with Dniester’s waters to the Black Sea. However before we reached Odessa we had to go around the Republic of Pridnestrovie by land. French Television ARD made a documentary about this expedition.
2008 was an interesting year. Concept Sailing organised an expedition „From Mound to Mount Kościuszko”, and I was leading Yacht „Nashachata” from Buenos Aires, through Strait of Magellan and around Horn to Ushuaia where, at the end of November, I left the yacht and boarded a replica of whaleboat „Fuegia” and led another expedition „Darwin & Tierra del Fuego” through the waters of Beagle Chanel in Tierra del Fuego. After this expedition photographer Jürgen Hohmuth published an album „Mythos Feurland” – Mythic Land of Fire. In December I changed „Fuegia” back to „Nashachata” and began still next part of the expedition - „Circumnavigation part I”: from Ushuaia to Falklands, South Georgia and Cape Town. Further, through Indian Ocean to Crozet Islands, Amsterdam Island, Melbourne and finally New Caledonia, where we finally dropped anchor in April 2009.
I barely got home and I was leaving again, this time on a brig „Eye of the wind”, where I spent (not continuously, of course) almost two years sailing. It was a time of my deep fascination with spar rigging.
Year 2011 brought me to „Lonely Isles of Northern Atlantic” on a yacht „Spirit one”, from Spitsbergen, through Jan Mayen, Sheep Isles, Island of st. Kilda, belonging to Outer Hebrides, to Dublin.
In 2012 a short cruise around Rugia „Tracing legendary Winieta”.
In 2014 I am planning to cross the Pacific and reach Australia, on „Selma”. I sincerely hope I will be able to finally follow the steps of Paweł Edmund Strzelecki to the top of Mount Kościuszko.
For now this is all! (for now)
written in May 2014
I have been writing reports from the past season for almost 25 years. Previously I used to publish them in a booklet together with programme for the upcoming season and send them out by post. But the times have changed, and in more than one way. Now it is hard to say, when the season is over, as we are active all year long in different parts of the world. Also the means of informing you of all that was and that will be have changed. I no longer trouble the Post with my mail, instead I place all the information on my webpage at my convenience. The sailing itself has changed as well. In my offer there is no longer only sailing, though I remain faithful to water and to the idea of Concept Sailing.
This year in my programme the Amazon is joined by one more great river, or rather her delta – the Danube Delta. The idea was born while sailing over Svalbard and it appears to be an winner.
Mixed Polish-German group of 20 participants assimilated and found a common tongue almost immediately. Polish 'scientific fraction' was eager to share their knowledge and Tamara from Germany – our 'expedition painter' – depicted her impressions in a traditional way, procuring awe in other participants.
There are many ways to travel though the Danube Delta, we grew to treasure our floating home as thanks to it we didn't have to move from one hostel to another packing and unpacking daily. After the cruise most of us decided on additional day spent in Bucharest and we highly recommend it.
In the description of the cruise I explain, that our 'convoy' is made up of a tugboat, a barge – our floating hotel and two jaunt boats. That is because the barge with no drive and a small tugboat have shallower draught (around 50 cm) than a vessel with it's own drive. I have read a history of how barges came to be used in the Delta: they were used as floating shelters for labourers harvesting reed. Still, I found such combination a bit strange to be used in the tourist industry, until the owner explained it like this: during the 50'ties barges were used a place of exile for political prisoners, made to work at harvesting reed for the paper industry, only later were they replaced by common workers living on the barges – 50 people at each.
'What about the tugboat?' The owner smiles. He bought from the Russians at the beginning of the 60'ties (back when they were still neighbours) for two bottles of whiskey. It was a part of overproduction of tugboats made for the Delta of Mekong during the Vietnam War.
Life has some strange turns.