Eva’s just happy sailing
Seawoman makes it in from the Amazon River
Eva Kullgren has done what maybe only a few women or men in the world have. She is a woman of the sea –– by day and night –– having self-sailed across almost half the world in her boat Olina.
Leaving the largest river in the world –– the Amazon River –– where she spent six months exploring its banks, cliffs and forest environs, the brave Swedish woman arrived in Barbados two weeks ago, hopeful of giving lectures on her amazing experiences and making acquaintances with new sailors.
Speaking to the Press this morning at the Barbados Yacht Club, as her “sweet Olina” stayed steadily anchored just a few miles away off Browne’s Beach, 51-year-old Kullgren said her ocean journeys had started just under five years ago.
It was then she decided to pursue her childhood dream of sailing the seas, buying Olina, an old Swedish family boat built in 1967.
“The children were all grown up and had moved out, and didn’t need me to take care of them any more. So I went and I bought the boat,” the mother of a son, 24, and daughter, 26 –– who are her biggest supporters –– and grandmother of two.
A little afraid of the ocean and uncertain what to expect, Kullgren began her sailing in Stockholm in August, 2010.
Referring to herself as Eva7Seas, she ventured into the Baltic Sea, many rivers, 97 locks, the Black Sea, Bosporus, Marmara Lake, Dardanelles, the Mediterranean, onto the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the European continent in August, 2013.
It should be noted that before she began, she had no experience with sailing and had had read no literature on the craft. She was just an adventurer who learned along the way.
Now, operating as a basic low-budget sailor, who controls her boat with a self-steering system she built herself, Kullgren is exceptionally more experienced. She credits her time spent in the Mediterranean with developing most of her navigational skills and knowledge.
“I always say that the Mediterranean has been the best teacher, because the winds are not stable there. They change all the time, and its very difficult. So you have to stay alert all the time, as you never know what to expect when the day starts,” she explained.
When it comes to food, the trained physical therapist and Spanish teacher depends mainly on bottled water and canned products, usually having enough in stock to last the periods of her trips.
“When you are alone with the sea for many days, which turn into months, you have to learn how to entertain yourself. [Otherwise] you might go crazy,” Kullgren said jokingly.
So how does this adventurous and daring woman entertain or keep herself busy when the ride is smooth with nothing much to do?
“I try to enjoy the moment . . . . Look at the lovely sunset. I try to catch fish, which takes a lot of my time and energy. I do a lot of thinking . . . . I have started to write little poems.”
As for the fishing, Kullgren said while she was not too familiar with the different species of marine life, she was pretty sure she had encountered no sharks. But she did spot a whale –– far away, for which she was quite grateful.
Her real friends are the dolphins; and she finds great pleasure in changing her course at times to race with them –– especially when there are hundreds jumping in front, behind and alongside Olina.
“I try to swim with them when there is not too much wind. I tie a rope around my [waist] and go in the water.
“Sometimes, I get visits from turtles . . . . In the Amazon there are crocodiles; but I try to keep away from them.”
Kullgren has never fallen ill at sea. However, two years ago, when she returned home from one of her trips, and went to the doctor’s for a check-up after a feeling a lump on one of her breasts, she was diagnosed with cancer.
“Then, everybody said, ‘Now you must really stop sailing, because you have breast cancer [and] you can die from that’. But actually, I was cured very quickly; and, four months later, I was back in the boat. [Cancer] doesn’t always lead to death,” the sailor declared.
She explained: “The tumour is gone. They took out the breast and they put in a new one. I can wear a bikini, and nobody [will] think I have had this.”
Some of Kullgren’s family members and friends believe she is “going through some kind of crisis”.
But, setting the record straight, the sailor said she is not; but rather doing what makes her happy.
“Realizing your dreams doesn’t mean you are crazy; it is the complete opposite,” she affirmed. “Even if you fail, afterwards you can say, ‘I tried it’. It is not difficult or at all dangerous to go after your dreams. This is what a lot of my lectures are about. Impossible is a ghost in your mind.
“There is a ghost that would be telling you, ‘Don’t do that; it is impossible’, but it is not always the bad things that happen, good things happen too. When the bad stuff comes, you just find a solution to the problem and don’t hide away from it,” the cheerful sea person advised.
She came here in search of sailors and she has found a few of them at the Barbados Yacht Club.
Kullgren said she intended to stay in Barbados throughout “the remainder of the hurricane season”, hopefully afterwards flying home to Sweden to spend time with her family.
She will then make her way back here, visiting a few of the other islands before leaving the Caribbean in January.
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