Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sailing–It’s an Amazing Life

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The 70-foot Belevari cat beside Pangaea.

Anyone who sails knows that while it may be the the wind, waves, and sunsets that get you started, it’s being part of the diverse sailing community that turns you into a “sailor.” You make connections and meet interesting people from all over the world. Some of them are downright amazing.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Three weeks ago, I went on a Belevari Cat Cruise from Abu Dhabi with 49 other women from the American Women’s Network. I knew that since we would be out from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. there wasn’t much chance for any wind, but I figured it would be fun anyway. The boat sails, or in our case motored, out a few miles to Belevari Island, which is a sandy shoal off another island, stopped for an hour of beach time, and then motored back. Terry and I brought our inflatable SUP’s, there was music and a little bubbly beverage, and everyone had a great time, as you can see from the photos.

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Berend enjoys interacting with guests.

While we were underway, I introduced myself to the Captain Berend Lens van Rijn, the CEO and founder of Belevari Marine. Berend has extended a standing invitation to our sailing club (ADCA) members to join the Thursday night Abu Dhabi Corniche sunset cruises. I knew that Berend sold the Pacer 27 Unwind to Emiliano, and I mentioned it and told him how much fun we are having.

We got into a bit of conversation, and Berend told me he’s been trying to find a way get school kids out on the catamaran to learn about sailing around Abu Dhabi. Have you looked into the American Community School? “I would like to,” he said, “I just need a contact.”

Well. I am now on the Belevari Marine team, working part-time to develop an education program for school kids. Can you believe it.

But there's more to the story.

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Unwind's new home beside arch-rival Idefix.
In the background, a floating villa
with four 300-HP outboard engines!

As regular Wildcardtravels readers know, we’ve been racing Unwind with Emiliano Boccalletti, and we have a full racing schedule with ADCA races every third Saturday as well as occasional special event regattas, like the one this past weekend, the Abu Dhabi Cup (a story on that is coming up.) The night before the regatta, we moved Unwind to the spectacular Emirates Palace Marina which is Unwind’s new home (yay.)

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Exploration sailing vessel Pangaea

There was a recently arrived boat in the marina next to the Belevari catamaran. This boat would stand out in any marina in any place, but it is especially conspicuous in Abu Dhabi.

Mike Horn’s Pangaea is an exploration sailing vessel and Mike is a modern-day explorer who has traversed the globe, literally. He’s been around the equator, to the poles, across the contents, and to the highest peaks. You name it. Pangaea’s “Young Explorer’s Program” takes young people on expeditions all over the world, instilling in them an appreciation for our planet and charging them with a mission to work with others to spread the message and take action.

I learned all this from the website, In the Belevari office on Sunday, Berend and Piers, his captain, said that Mike was going to be in town this week, and maybe we could meet him and see the boat. Really? I’ll leave my schedule flexible!

And so it was that at 3:25 p.m., just as I got out of the pool after a workout swim, I got a call. Can you make it to the boat by 4:00? Close enough! I rinsed off, jumped into the car, and made the 30-minute drive arriving at the Emirates Palace Marina at 4:05.

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I have to admit, I feel like I met a living legend.

It turned out that I beat Berend, who was delayed, by about 15 minutes. So I had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with Mike Horn. What a treat.

He was just what I expected, and then again he wasn’t. I’ve decided that he is the most amazing person I have ever met, and I don’t say that lightly. I also don’t say it because of all of the amazing, extreme things he has done.

What’s amazing is his unrelenting and uncompromising focus on his belief that “We must begin to take real steps towards ensuring that our planet can be respected and appreciated by all future generations.” And how he runs his program.
I was really excited to be there and meet Mike and his crew, but soon Mike’s soft-spoken style, and the crew’s smiles, quieted me down. I can just picture Mike working with teens and young adults, inspiring them to do and be their best. He explained to me how the program works, already answering my questions as I was thinking of them.
  • Two kids are chosen from each of eight different regions
  • There is a selection process that includes a team of doctors and psychologists from the Mayo clinic
  • They work on board during the voyage, producing blogs and movies of their activities
  • There is an expedition workbook with background information and data record sheets
  • They continue working in their own countries to build the network of Young Explorers
But there is so much more. Living on Pangaea itself is a lesson in sustainability. It has all the best energy-producing and energy-efficient systems.
  • Each person on board has a 12-liter per day budget for water. They can barter with it, so it becomes a currency.
  • Each person has a similar budget for energy. Once it’s spent, lights out.
  • Every bite of food on your plate should be eaten, or don’t take it in the first place (kids from certain countries must learn this.)
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Standard marine electronics

Every detail was so simple, so obviously thought out, so important. Icebreaker bow. Standard electronics. No keel. Anchor chain and fuel for ballast. 9 foot long twin retractable rudders. One-foot draft. This boat can sit on top of the ice.

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We need to make a video.

Berend and I talked with Mike about our education program for Abu Dhabi, and Mike was generous with his advice and ideas. Could some of the UAE’s youth become Young Explorers? It’s possible. I came away feeling that we have a lot of potential with the Belevari catamaran, and we are on the right track.

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Mike gets sponsorship because his program
is innovative and action oriented.

The Pangaea project has sponsors – Mercedes Benz is a big one – but they don’t overshadow the program or its message. Mike doesn’t compromise. He’s a maverick. Instead of searching for partners they are drawn to him, and he selects. You know, when you are talking to him, that he is at peace with himself, he wants for nothing, and yet he is driven toward the next goal, whatever it is. And you know that he will accomplish anything he sets out to do. That’s why he is so amazing.

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Most Amazing Person
of my year, if not life.

Mike’s next project is to build a 70-meter – yes, I said 70-meter – catamaran exploration vessel. What will happen to Pangaea? “It will be cut up and recycled.” What?! This beautiful ship? But we could see that, because it’s so unique, so purpose-built, who but Mike Horn would know what do do with it? Who but Mike Horn deserves to own it?

“Do you want it?” he asked us jokingly. “You can have it.”

Or maybe he wasn't joking …

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Really? We can have your boat?

Thank God I’m a sailor. Or, as they say in the Middle East, hamdallah.

And thank you, Dad. I don’t know what my life would be like without it.

Mike's cook was preparing Spaghetti Carbonara.

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