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Change of Course by Regina Petra Meyer

Change of Course by Regina Petra Meyer

We are excited to introduce you to the first chapter of Change of Course by Regina Petra Meyter


I could feel the sun caressing my skin and could taste the salty air on my lips. Closing my eyes, I saw palm trees fringing pictureperfect tropical beaches and sailing boats anchored in serene bays.

Excitement and anticipation rushed through my being, yet here I was, facing a bleak reality. The long winter in New Zealand was cold and damp. Not tempted by the outdoors for once, my favourite pastime was sitting rugged up in front of the meagre gas heater, devouring book after book. Ignoring my dripping nose, I clumsily opened another thick volume with my frosty hands. These were quiet and lonely days in our new home, in yet another new country. Seeking refuge from my harsh and dreary circumstances, I became engrossed in adventurous sailing tales that I found in the local library. My body was stiff from the cold, but my mind did not notice, for it was escaping to hot and exotic places. I began to dream of extraordinary journeys.

Accidentally I stumbled upon crewing websites and was immediately hooked by this tantalising world hovering at my fingertips. Since first stepping foot on my father’s yacht in my childhood, my wonder and fascination had remained palpable. On the yacht, my heartbeat accelerated in proportion to the boat gaining speed, its sails proudly billowing in the breeze. As the boat moved along, making a soft whooshing sound, I was mesmerised by our wake splashing and curling the water’s surface behind us. Sometimes we would drop the sails mid-lake and sit motionless for a while. I loved listening to the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the hull and the feel of the soft sun caressing my face. Over the years I had repeatedly tried to convince my partner to take up a sailing lifestyle, but he suffered from terrible seasickness and, hence, we never pursued my dream. But on these webpages, I reasoned, I could at least get a taste of other people’s exciting life choices and adventures. Thrilled, I learned that anyone could apply to join private yachts for a stint at sea. In exchange for a holiday on board their vessel, the yacht owners requested help with sailing, the onboard chores and possibly a small financial contribution. This information was entirely novel to me and I felt inspired by its possibilities.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the warming gas flame, I reached for my laptop and googled ‘crewing opportunities’. Delighted to find reputable sites, I immediately set up a profile on
several of these online communities. With this task completed, I made a cup of tea. Holding the warming cup in my hands and sipping the steaming liquid, I closed the computer and shut my
eyes. I felt an energetic tingling through my body and realised I had opened a door to potential adventure. I wondered where it might lead.

Shortly after posting my profile, offers started flowing into my inbox. They were plentiful and diverse, each seeming more exotic than the last. Should I join a sailing boat on its voyage from Thailand to Africa, or cruise comfortably on a catamaran in the Caribbean? Maybe I could explore the Pacific with a young family, or venture into the grey and stormy Southern Ocean on the way from New Zealand to Chile.

These quick and unexpected offers were tempting, but I felt too immersed in my current reality to accept any of them. Instead, with my partner and best friend of twelve years, Sven, we decided that life in New Zealand was not working out the way we had imagined and arranged to relocate back to Australia. Sven could transfer with his job to a rural and coastal area south of Adelaide. For a while I forgot about this alternate sailing lifestyle. We settled into a tiny village by the sea. This quaint little community was surrounded by undulating hills on one side and the ocean on the other. Most of the houses were holiday homes, bestowing the place with a ghostly energy, and living there proved to be eerily quiet.

Sven started his new job and I tried to secure employment. However, in a village of minute proportions this was difficult. Chatting to the few locals, I quickly learned that aside from one sizeable resort there was only a pub, a coffee shop, a small grocery store and a post office, all of which were family-run businesses. I lodged an application with the resort and was pleased when I was invited for an interview a few days later. As the manager and I sat on a sofa facing each other I felt hopeful.

‘Regina, thank you for coming in. I have to be honest though, we do not have any positions vacant at the moment, but I was intrigued by your colourful CV and wanted to meet you for a chat,’ he said, with a sheepish smile.

For a moment I felt baffled by his confession and then burst out laughing. This was not what I had anticipated. I took it as a positive sign that someone at least valued my life experience and after a stimulating conversation I left the resort. The days were starting to seem long and lonely with no work and no friends. Eventually I stumbled across a morning coffee circle of retired folks who, although twice my age, welcomed me into their midst. Day by day we conversed over coffee, while my life trickled by. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the niggling voice within persisted and kept pushing me towards an adventure. Living quietly and comfortably was not for me. Trying to satisfy this growing wanderlust, I found the local library and devoured more yachting sagas. But these short-lived, second-hand experiences only stoked my fire. I wanted more.

The first step was to learn how to sail. A local sailing school offered a basic training course and, without thinking twice, I enrolled. From the first moment I loved being on board a wind propelled yacht. I loved learning how to raise and trim the sails to improve performance. I could not hear enough about storm tactics and increasingly I was visualising thrilling adventures on sleek yachts and sailing to exotic and wondrous locations.

While Sven and I had spent many harmonious years together and had travelled and lived in several countries, we felt our relationship had stalled in recent years. On one of our many walks along the local coastline, we finally agreed that we needed time apart, to figure out what each of us wanted from our lives and whether our relationship was a part of that future. As I was still without work and desperate to fulfil my dream of a sailing adventure, we decided that I would crew on a yacht while Sven remained at home in his job.

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Immediately, I revisited the online crewing sites. This time I looked up the profiles in earnest and considered which boat and experience would suit me best. I chose a boat located in the Caribbean. The South African skipper, a man in his late sixties with lifelong ocean-going experience, was planning a final sail to Australian shores with the hope of finding a suitable buyer for his treasured old wooden sailing boat, and then he’d return to his home country. The photos showed a well-maintained yacht with beautiful lines. Being an older vessel, the interior was rustic, confined and less spacious and private than the more recent builds.

The boat was an ex-racing yacht, had an array of sails and the deck was crammed with winches and lines. The combination of this yacht, together with the knowledge of the captain, seemed a fantastic opportunity. I knew that time on board would increase my sailing ability in leaps and bounds and decided that I would happily forfeit comfort and privacy in exchange for this learning experience. The trip was planned to take three months. Starting from Antigua a crew of five would sail through the Panama Canal, stopping over in the Galapagos and at all the Pacific Island nations on the way back to Australia. Enthusiastically I signed on and booked myself a one-way ticket to the Caribbean.

A few weeks later I stood in front of the airport’s passport control, my hands damp and shaking with nervous anticipation. I took one last look into Sven’s kind, deep blue and so familiar eyes. We embraced tightly, I kissed his lips, and made myself turn and walk towards the gate. Halfway, I looked back, seeing my beloved man of many years walk away, his head downcast, and wondered if I was making the biggest mistake of my life. A sudden burst of tears threatened to escape. I took a deep breath, re-centred and walked determinedly towards the plane and my future. Once in the air, my thoughts focused on my destination. My much-anticipated adventure was about to start, and I was eager to sail the big, open oceans. I visualised blue skies, dolphins playing in our wake, days of moody clouds and towering waves. I saw myself swimming in crystal clear water, visiting stunning beaches, enjoying good company with lots of laughter, and fulfilling interactions with local people. Most of all, I looked forward to gaining clarity.

Everyone around me seemed to know exactly what they were doing and what their purpose was. On the contrary, my life seemed slightly derailed, lacking direction and purpose. I wanted to address that unsettling restlessness that had bubbled inside of me for a long time now. And the time had come for Sven and me to bring clarity to the nature of our relationship. My life was on the verge of taking a sharp and unexpected turn. Armed only with courage and the desire for adventure, I leapt into the unknown, immersing myself in the waves of life.

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Regina Petra Meyer

Regina Petra Meyer

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