About Henk and his journeys.
Henk de Velde
Born: January 12th 1949
Was it a dream, a plan, a goal or a calling? I wish I knew. Already in my younger years I felt like I knew where my ambitions lay: to be a captain and a world traveler. The latter, I added an extra dimension to, by dubbing myself an explorer. I became captain. My sailing on small boats began when I was seventeen years old, when entranced by a sailing boat on the ocean & struck by the immediate thought: I want that as well. The books about the Golden Globe non-stop around the world sail race provided me with even more conviction. I knew what my heart desired.
I purchased Orowa and together with Gini I set off around the world. The voyage took seven years. I returned alone. On the way, on Easter Island, our son was born: Stefan, though our roads parted later on, in South Africa. If you ask me the three things that are imprinted onto my eternal mind, beside sailing, besides life onboard and besides the thousands of Eden-like islands, then these would be; the birth of Stefan, cyclone Oscar and the voyage alone back to the Netherlands. An incredible trip had superceded the one I had imagined.
There I was, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, fighting against a 170-km/hour wind. Tied down to the rudder I was steering the boat for forty-four seemingly endless hours. And for what reason? Our lives? My life? No. It was all for the life of that little boy. We were there as a result of our own free will. He was not. We had taken him with us, and there we were. After forty agonizing hours I spotted dolphins alongside Orowa. The decks were gone. The bulwarks had drifted off. We were lost at sea in the hull of a damaged vessel & yet it seemed that the dolphins were telling me that it was all going to work out, that I had nothing to fear. Four hours later the storm was over.
When Gini decided in South Africa that she was not continuing, a long month passed before I returned to sea. Sometimes it takes a while before the emotional storm within subsides. I faced the sea. Was this going to be the foundation of all the voyages that were left? Ambiguity: yes or no. Yes, because there seemed to be nothing left but to wander without purpose. No, because it was already within me.
After this came a second voyage: for years I had been thinking of sailing around the world non-stop. Once it?s in your blood and you notice that you have a sailing machine which demands all you have to give, but also has the potential to conquer records, then you have no choice but to do it a second and a third time. If you don?t make it that one time, or the second, or third, then perhaps you will make it the fourth time. More attempts have been undertaken than there have been records established ? this is something I keenly understand.
The Alisun J&B voyage drove my affection for the loneliness of the sea to even greater limits. I adored the magnitude, the vastness. I loved the necessary life or death environment where you only have yourself upon which to rely. The deck was destroyed. I pushed to reach New-Zealand but I had to stop in Bluff to repair the mess. I could have stopped. I had cause - it was too dangerous. But I kept going. I remember the five days before Cape Horn as days of restrained fear. The weather was abominable. You are out there on your own. You feel alone: a loneliness to the core that is impossible to describe. The only thing you have is hope. After 158 days with 1 stop in Bluff, New Zealand I was back home again. During the months following I still awoke from the sound of rushing mountains of water.
Then came Zeeman. As soon as I was back on the sea, the horizon again became my best friend. I was fighting especially against falling behind. There was not enough wind and the Zeeman was simply not fast enough. Until past Cape Horn, my time was respectable. Respectable until the generators broke down. Try as I did, I could not get them to work again. During forty days I was missed. For forty days I wandered the vast desert of the sea. I could have made Rio. I could have stopped. I could have asked for help. But no, that was beneath me. I could - and would ? will my little boat back home. Which I did?or not really?on the one hundred and forty seventh day, three days before my scheduled arrival, I had a collision with a container that had gone overboard.
With a skull base fracture a Russian ship rescued me. Zeeman was salvaged. Two years later I laughed again.
C1000 was launched.
Twenty-one meters (71 ft) long. The finest machine I ever had. The most beautiful ship ever built. It was 1997 and again I left. The ?why? questions are the most difficult questions to answer. I always get asked by other people and try to answer. Those answers and the way that they are published stigmatize you. If you really don?t take care, they?ll get you.
Very often there are no answers to the ?why? questions.
A traveler has every reason to leave. But when the traveler feels estranged from his own culture and background, then he has very good reason to leave. He is leaving from a closed system of norms and values that he knows only too well, and in which he fits as a fixed piece of a jigsaw puzzle. The closed image of pulling and pushing, or in other words; everything that is determined by hate or love is fragmented and falls apart into 1000 pieces in new situations. The compass that was useable before has its magnetic needle spinning wildly. Whilst the right leg is pointed north, the left is determined to go south. In the dilemma that is created, he would lose the battle and die. Then there is only one remedy left and that is your own choice. The voyage with C1000 gave me insight into humanity and showed me the difference between personal humanity and impersonal humanity. I remember the large albatross.
I remember the fantastic sailing across the great southern oceans. The long swells. The third time and I already knew that the sea would never let me go again; that I was in its eternal grip. I was back in 119 days. Nearly a record. But I had learned that any human record is meaningless. There is nothing new under the sun. Everything that is, has already been. Outside the sun was shining. Outside the wind was blowing. At times there was fog. The sea was smooth or the waves were impossible to tame. The world remained ambiguous. Me and he, he and she, she and we, yes and no, good and bad.
I was life. God was looking down on me. I was I. A drop of a rain shower, a drop of the ocean. I loved the vastness. I loved the insecurity. But apart from that, distance did not exist, everything was right there. Apart from that, insecurity did not exist, because everything was pre-determined. It was the way it was. It looked like some sort of premonition of things to happen. Not in the future, but in the present. Time was not yesterday and not tomorrow and not twenty-four hours. Time was now. But with all this, something more had to happen before I would admit to something, someone, of being, the emptiness, the fullness, to be alive in the beginning and at the end.
My next ship was Campina. I went to Siberia and that lost Arctic coast (North-east passage) and it brought me to where I am now. I learned of true silence. I learned what color means. I learned how to measure distance using symbols. I learned that names are unnecessary. I learned that time is a fish. I came across God again. Expressions like: meeting yourself or finding yourself, totally passed me by. But the symbols of language force me to express my experiences in an understandable language. I understand the symbols of a tongue language; however yet again as symbols. One day I must rid myself of word and gesture, but not just now. I cannot yet. I still have so much to tell. I wrote: ?It is good that this trip is over, because that gives me the opportunity for a new one. It is good that I am back for my mother, my family, Stefan and my friends?. Everyone wants to be needed. We want to be missed. We want someone to think about us. I want to put myself above all this and say that nobody needs me. Honestly, I am not missed when I am gone. Don?t agree with me. Please don?t. I did not tell this to the Norwegian journalist either. She said: ?you want believe it if they tell you the opposite?. This gave me food for thought.
And it stayed with me from the day that I was back in the world of the tamed human being.
For the rest I am a theist. I write about metaphysics, the immaterial, and the fullness of the universe, about being alone, loneliness, solitude, beauty, wondering and longing for the unspeakable truth.. But between all the words there are so many more words. Humanity has lost its way and is looking for it within itself, with a coach or within a society. Classic belief is gone, but in the meantime humanity is looking for another form of spirituality. The same goes for answers to questions about life and death and our loss and where we might yet again recover our losses, there at the edge.
The fundamental design requirement here was to get the "most bang for the buck". Juniper is long in order to provide comfort sailing in the ocean, wide for stability in extreme conditions, but simple in construction, accommodation and systems in order to keep the cost under control. She has a shallow draft fixed keel.
She's an excellent performer, and has a very comfortable motion in waves. Well suited to long term cruising . Fast enough to win races. During the Atlantic crossing Juniper averaged 200 miles aday. She made 7 days of more than 240 miles and during the very calm days she still managed to move 90 miles. Not bad for a cruising boat.
In the Netherlands there was an author, collector, TV personality who died some years ago. His name was Boudewijn B?ch. He wrote about islands. He was a great collector of books and artifacts. On most of the places he wrote about its almost impossible to land. Since I changed my plans I thought about him and constructed on paper the never ending voyage to islands where he has never been. This will lead me from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from tropical places to inhospitable islands all around the world. This voyage can take forever. The year 2007 I want to start from Europe to the Paul and Petrus rocks, than further south into the southern oceans, Tristan da Cunha, Gough, probably Bouvet island, Ile St Paul towards Australia, and New Zealand. From there north again via Papua New Guinea, Truk, Japan, Kamchatka, Aleutian islands, Bering Strait to the Arctic ocean. Than south again and I will be already years on my way. To the edges of our small planet...
Satelite-communication will be Skymate ( www.skymate.com) and I am using Iridium as a worldwide phone. The website will be updates by Contact 4
I want to make an endless journey. The rocking motion of the sea will lead me to the past and the future and makes me disappear in the here and now. I only observe my surroundings that change gradually. Sometimes the sea draws my attention, and then it is the horizon or something else that catches my eyes. All this creates room for a process of inner peace. Questions arise about subjects that play a role in life at the moment. There are many reasons to leave. But I don?t ask questions anymore. It is a metaphor for the live of man on earth: start your journey and have faith in the fact that the right road will follow. To me, there is no better way to get inspired and to detach. It is the ultimate surprise that makes it exciting: where will I land. It is enjoyment to the fullest. And then it start all over again.....
What makes a true traveler? Is it someone who does not know where he or she is heading toward, or someone who does not know where he or she is coming from? All of the journeys that I have been on in the past carried these values within them. My travels were not ever about tourism. Freedom lies in having a choice, choosing the possibilities that the road offers you. It implies learning to trust in your own strength, and what I call providence. We may have the expectation that the road will lead us somewhere. That does not mean that the journey is without risks. Dangers are always there. That is why it is a testing, having faith in what for centuries has been told about faith. It is a carrying force that keeps man alive, a strength that enables us to live, even though life is sometimes cruel and unjust.
The endless oceans. The great mountains. Morning mist. Balmy breezes. Drenching humidity. Monsoons. Typhoons. The wettest of wet. Crisp Arctic air. Howling, pounding wind. Misty mountain clouds. Scorching desert sun. We travel through Nature. We travel with Nature. We discover Nature, in its magnificence. In its brilliant, radiant message. In all of its rich and wild glory. We encounter the power of nature, its awesome abundance and diversity. We experience its majesty, its splendor. Its enormity, scope, height, depth, expanse. Its hold on time. Its permanence. And impermanence. Bastion of the secrets of time. We behold nature's hospitality, its simple nurturing. Providing us with what we need. The shade of its splendid branches. A warm fire. A cave in which to spend the night. Clear spring water. Fresh fish. Nature's caring hands. Nature stops us, obliges us to think, to ponder, to appreciate its inviting display. Nature forces us to acknowledge, value, love, treasure.
Someone else's environment, someone else's landscape, someone else's garden. Our environment, our landscape, our garden. Nature is gratitude. Whether we're traveling to the farthest corners of the Earth or to the next village, whether we're going for a couple of days or a year, the power of nature awaits.This voyage will be an encounter between all the elements of nature and human freedom. This time I will not work with big sponsoring. This will reduce my freedom. I have to work with the seasons; summer, winter, northern, southern latitudes, hurricane, cyclone, typhoon seasons, ice and open water. Human was once very close to nature and with this voyage I will come as close I can get.If the universe has an end than there must be somewhere an edge !