Sail the world

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Auli Irjala made her dream come true and sailed
the world for four year with her husband Hannu Aulin. They visited places like Greenland, Tonga,
Mexico,
New Zealand and Alaska, only few to mention. She wrote a
book of their adventures called Meren Selkä Taittuu (The Stories of Sailing on
Kristiina
, Edita 2007). It is a great story about the journey itself, good
description of the nature and life on the 11,2 meters long sailing boat called
Kristiina

{sidebar id=3}How did you become a
sailor?

It was in
1986 when I inherit some money. Me and my brother bought a 6-meter long
sailing boat as an impulse purchase. I didn’t know anything about sailing at
that time. I had been on sailing boat only once in my life. I just tried to
learn it by myself, but then I gave in and took a course and realised what
sailing was all about. Later I bought my brother’s share, because it didn’t quite
work, owning the boat together. We disagreed on some things about the boat.
Afterwards I let him use it though and it worked very well that way.

How can one learn to sail?

Only way to
learn it is by sailing. When you get more experience you can sail further and
to more challenging places. I remember how great it felt when I sailed from Helsinki to Hanko for the
first time in my life. The great feelings come when you exceed your limits and
challenge yourself.

Did you plan the trip
to be so big before hand?

We were
planning the trip to last for 3 years, but we were aware that those kind plans
can easily change and so we ended up sailing for 4 years. We didn’t even want
to do around the world trip.

When you
are planning this kind of sailing journey, you need to plan the time schedule
and the route very carefully and according to the hurricane seasons and
predominant winds.

How much time did you
spend on planning the trip?

We spent
two years planning the trip, getting information and equipment, fixing the boat
and testing equipment. The hardest part was making the final decision of leaving.
But after the decision had been made, all the problems were practical problems,
which just need to be solved. The better you plan your trip, the less you will
have problems on it.

What were the places
you wanted to go most?

To Greenland. When we got there, we wanted to go to across
the USA
and so we cruised along the rivers of America. We also were dreaming of
sailing to Alaska,
but we weren’t going to do that, because the passage is quite demanding. Then
we met people who had done the journey and we decided to take an extra year and
go for it. And so we sailed from New Zeeland to Alaska.

Do you recommend that
kind of big trip to other sailors?

Yes, if
that is what they want. They should do it rather now than when they are on
retirement pension. You never know what’s going to happen in the future. Our
journey was definitely the right thing for us.

{mosimage}What did the freedom
feel like?

It is
contradictory matter; in the beginning it felt great, like being on big holiday.
But big journey isn’t any holiday, so at some point we felt like having
something to do, some work to do. In the beginning of the trip I felt guilty of
not doing anything useful and that was something I couldn’t have prepared for.
But when the time passed, the feeling faded and I got use to not being very
active. I wrote articles for magazines, but Hannu didn’t have much to do and he
didn’t like being inactive. It may sound weird, but being inactive isn’t good
for most of the people. Sometimes we even missed the everyday life in Finland, but
when we visited Finland
few times during our trip, we were amazed how hectic and stressful life in here
actually is.

We learned
to be more social and learned to rely on the boat and on each other more and
more. We didn’t get bored; our relationship was great and we saw lot of new
things and places on the way. Although there was a bit of numbness: for example
it was breathtaking to see dolphins in the beginning of the trip, but after we
were snorkelling with whales in Tonga we weren’t that impressed when we saw
dolphins. After eating so much fresh lobster we don’t feel like eating lobster
in Finland
anymore.

I could
have stayed for longer, but Hannu wanted to end the trip and come home, for
work. But it took a year to come back after the decision of coming back, so we
had enough time to settle down with the thought of going home. Now I feel great
about it all and I know that I am very privileged to do that kind of adventure.
I really appreciate the experience I had. Now it is my turn to give time to my
parents. It feels good to be here now.

{mosimage}What was the most
impressive experience?

The whales
in Tonga.
We have always been curious about whales and we have seen lot of them before in
Norway.
We also were really close to bears in Alaska,
which is very rare. We really enjoy the nature. Also meeting other people,
different kind of people than you meet back home was very interesting. In Finland we
usually meet people, who share the same background and values, but overseas and
especially in Alaska,
we met these crazy and great people, we wouldn’t get to know in here. It really
opened our eyes to many ways people live. After being moving from place to
place for so long and especially after very thrilling passage from New Zealand
to Alaska it
was great feeling to know that we were going to stay in Alaska for a year.

And the most
frightening moment?

On our way
from New Zealand to Tahiti the mast almost
fell down. The bolt inside of the mast broke and the wire cables went all loose.
It was in the middle of the sea, we were one week of sailing away from the
nearest harbor. Luckily we could solve the problem by ourselves. You will feel
good when you can cope with the situation like that by yourself. Other wise
everything went well, we were lucky, but in addition to that we lived very
quiet life and moved slowly.

What kind of sailors
did you meet?

We met lot
of sailors and got along with them well. Sailors, who do big trips like ours,
understand each others quite well, no matter where they come from. We met lot
of sailing families, even with their children aboard and sailors on all kind of
boats; for example in Tonga
we met this old man who was on his journey by a sailing canoe made of veneer
plywood.

Did you know that you
would be the first Finnish sailors to go to Greenland?

We had
sponsors, because we were going to sail to ashore of Greenland
as the first pleasure sailors under the Finnish flag. I haven’t heard that
anyone else had done the same route; people usually want to go to South.

How was it living in
the boat all the time?

Our
relationship was strong and good before the trip and it was dream of both of
us. Aboard you just don’t want to argue about small stuff. And if something
turns up, you have to solve it right away, because you can’t leave anywhere. Of
course there were moments when we were a bit bored, but there weren’t so big
arguments that we wanted to end the trip. On dry land it is easier to quarrel
about small matters that become bigger issues. And it is so easy to break up
ashore. No one should do that kind of trip to fix a relationship. 

Of course
it was crowded on the boat every now and then, like when we sailed to Greenland and there were 4 of us aboard, wearing winter
clothes. Most of the time it was only two of us and it was nice to have our
family members to come visit us on the journey. We are very different kind of
people, which was only the strength: we always had two different kinds of
solutions to problems and we just picked the better one. Our relationship is
even stronger now, after the experience.

How did you decide
that it is time to go back home?

Hannu
wanted to get back to work and our parents were expecting us to come back,
especially when the trip was already one year longer than we planned it to be.
Distances are so huge, so if we had wanted to sail for longer, it would had
been at least one year more.

What is the thing with
the sailing for you?

The wind!
Sailing is just one way to move and see the world. The most important thing is
that I have seen the places on the way and disengage myself from routines and
everyday life back home. Sailing makes it possible to make that kind of trip
safely and on cheap. It really wouldn’t be possible with motor boat. That kind
of sailing is a life style.

You sold Kristiina and
bought and a new sailing boat, why?

We bought
bigger boat with the shower inside. In Kristiina the shower was on the deck.
This new boat is a project; we are going to change lot of it. It’s name is
Manta.

You left your job
before the trip. Was it right thing to do?

Yes it was.
Now I work as a freelance journalist and writer. At the moment I am writing a
book about history of gaff schooner called Joanna Saturna. It is build in 1903.

Where to next?

It takes approximately five years to fix Manta. I would imagine that the next place we are going to sail
is somewhere cold, no matter if it is to South or North. You see so much wild
life in arctic area, which we are seeking. I like to be in tropics, but only
shorter periods. When we leave, we probably will stay for several years on the
trip; we just take our home, Manta, to some cool place, where are lot of whales
and birds. This summer we will sail in beautiful archipelago of Finland.