Big journey of a small boat – from Trieste to Istanbul
Egmont Friedl is a man of many adventures. One of them is the Journey of October Saray.
2842 nautical miles, 160 days on the boat, 12 legs, over a duration of 3 and a half years. Singlehanded on Seascape18! But the numbers are not the highlight of this story.
Who is Egmont? Sailor, adventurer, father, reporter, business man?
All aspects of sailing – and especially the freedom of travelling with a sailboat to foreign places – have fascinated me from a very young age. I started out knowing nothing and I had nobody to give me any advice. Growing up close to mountains but far from the sea all I had were books: Slocum, Moitessier, Hannes Lindemann, Wilfried Erdmann, Rollo Gebhard and many more. Quickly I found myself in rather dangerous situations due to my lack of experience. But that did not stop me sailing in self built contraptions or in a small dinghy between the Greek Islands and other places in the Mediterranean. After having sailed from Genoa to Barcelona in a 12ft dinghy there was nothing more tempting than having a boat with a keel with some ballast and with a little cabin. There I could install an autopilot and was wondering how long it would take me to sail day and night on the same route again. The next summer I was ready to find out. Instead of a whole month I reached Barcelona after 10 days. And on this 17 ft boat I sailed on, to the Balearic Islands, to Gibralter and Marocco – navigating only by plastic sextant – and with much excitement into the Atlantic ocean for the first time in my life. Not long after reaching the Canary Islands I sailed across the Atlantic on another boat. And so the story goes on, I have owned quite a few boats in the 30ft range and in different parts of the world, my latest „big“ one being a Westsail 32 with which I sailed back across the Atlantic from New York to Portugal and finally Sardinia. During all this time I became a professional, studying boat- and yachtbuilding in England, working in the US, England and Italy, becoming a commercial yachtmaster and specializing as a rigger. I had the opportunity to write some books about boatbuilding and especially about modern splicing techniques. After returning to Germany – in the meantime married with two children – I still had the longing for voyaging under sail. But how could I do that now? I didn’t want to be away from home for long periods of time anymore. So I had the idea to do a big coastal trip in single stages or legs. I sailed as far as I would get and wherever I arrived I left he boat, returned home and continued sailing from that place on the next leg. Ten days or two weeks twice a year could be arranged. And as the kids grew a little, I sometimes took them along.
Where do you find an inspiration for your adventures?
That is really very easy for me. I just love sailing and I ask myself, what would I like to do? What would be great, challenging? I think we should all ask ourselves from time to time what is it that we really want to do. After all, life is precious… When I have an idea I start to think how I can realize that idea and a new adventure is born.
How do you decide on a specific boat for a specific adventure?
Well, let’s be honest, money is often the most decisive factor here. Which is a bit of a shame actually because you really don’t need to have all that much money, often you have the most rewarding experiences when you don’t have that big „dream yacht“ with everything imaginable on board. But when deciding on a specific boat I tend to look for a boat that is a “master“ in its class, that is the best at what it is designed to do.
How was the Seascape adventure idea born and why sailing from Trieste to Istanbul?
Before I started the journey with the Seascape 18, I had already sailed with a traditional open dinghy all around Italy and Sicily from Genoa to Trieste. And I wanted to continue sailing always following the coastline. So it was just logical to set sail from Trieste again and go south around the Balkan peninsula all the way to Istanbul. But I wanted a different boat now, not old fashioned any longer but modern – truly modern!
Why did you decide for Seascape?
Besides truly modern boat design and performance another of my requirements was that keel and rudder can be quickly raised to reduce draft – a very important feature for adventurous coastal cruising to access tiny fishing ports or secluded bays and beaches. And with these two main requirements there isn’t even another boat in the 18 ft range that comes close to the Seascape – the choice was very clear.
How long was the journey in miles and days?
2842 nautical miles, 160 days on the boat, 12 legs, over a duration of 3 and a half years.
How did you organize your life during this journey – sailing, family, work?
I am self employed so it’s a little easier for me to organize but sometimes I started a leg on really short notice, when there was opportunity. Sometimes it was early spring or late autumn. But I always enjoyed the simplicity of it all. The boat does not need much preparation. After arriving back at the boat I could be underway within very short time.
You devided your journey in several legs. Which was your favourite one?
Starting in Trieste I sailed with my two kids around Istria always following the mainland coast without shortcuts. That brought me into the tricky Velebit Channel on the second leg. Then, on the third leg, it was much more relaxed enjoying Croatia’s southern coast. I even visted Bosnia Herzegovina and it’s 20km of coastline around the town of Neum. Before sailing on to Montenegro I spend a week sailing with my kids while based at Orebić. Another leg brought me from the bay of Kotor to Albania. Here the sailing was more adventurous because in some places there is very little shelter along the Albanian coast, but it was fantastic sailing! Then reaching Greece. I sailed around the southern capes of Peloponnesos which was definitely another highlight. Once in the Aegean Sea the challenge often was to get around capes and make North against the Meltemi winds. And finally reaching Istanbul, the finish line, sailing up to the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Saray at the „End of Europe“ a great feeling!
But if you ask me for my favorite part, I say that, to me, the most interesting and fascinating part of my trip is not a specific place or country but rather the feeling of being underway, of moving on and on, of travelling by the force of wind only, and reaching my destination again and again. Everything has to be taken into account: What you can do, what the boat can do, the wind, sea, currents maybe and where you can find shelter to rest. This way of smart travelling, with – and not against – nature, is what I like best.
How did you take care of the boat between the legs?
It was easy to always find a place on land where I could leave the boat. I usually fetched the trailer from where I started the leg either with my own car or with the help of newfound friends. I slipped the boat in small fishing ports or even in a muddy river. That is always for free and really easy to do with the Seascape 18. Sometimes I had met someone who offered his garden to park the boat over the winter time, sometimes a sailing club offered space to park boat and trailer even for free. Most of the time I found indoor or outdoor parking for small boats charging between 30-50 Euro per month.
The spirit behind this journey – what was the feeling of travelling alone, what were your magic moments that kept you going forward?
It’s a mixture of adventure and sport, I guess. It can be challenging and you try to succeed, reach the goal that you very personally invented for yourself – very independently. And on the other side it is so relaxing and easy. A luxury life in the sunshine! You know the saying: small boats – small worries. Or no worries at all for that matter! Being alone on the boat gives me a feeling that I can do whatever I want, a feeling of total freedom. What always keeps me going is curiosity, I guess. I always want to find out how the things I plan turn out in reality.
How did you organize your life on a such a small boat?
I did not use a sleeping bag. I rather had real comfy bedstuff, a warm linen over the boat cushions, a real blanket and real pillows just like at home – and why not? It’s so much more comfortable than sleeping bags! When the kids were on board and already a bit older, one of us had to sleep in the cockpit and we took turns every day. The one who slept in the cockpit was „skipper“ the next day as a reward.
For cooking I built a simple box (with nice mahogony top) where everything was stowed: a flat, bistro-style gas cooker, pot and pans, plates, cups etc. The box could be put in the cockpit or carried on the beach. Inside the boat it served as a mini table on one side next to the keel casing.
How did the people react to your visit in ports of all the places you have visited?
Everyone was really friendly, people usually wanted to know what I‘m doing, where I‘m coming from. With a small boat you are much more approachable to other people compared to the sailor who arrives with a big luxury yacht. I met so many people on this trip. Fishermen usually thought I’m crazy…
How often did you sleep on anchor and did you find some special places?
Quite a few times I spent the night on anchor, sometimes also because there was no port within reach. Most memorable was a tiny sand beach deep inside a small bay with steep inaccessible mountains all around – a real wilderness on the Karaburun peninsula in Albania. It was just like straight out of paradise! – even though the weather deteriorated over night and I had to escape quickly the next morning… Another time I remember was just recently when sailing from Greece to Turkey. I reached the Dardanelles Strait by sunset and sailing around Cape Helles I dropped anchor feeling totally relaxed and happy. Just watching the shipping in and out of the Straits and preparing „pasta arrabiata“ in the cockpit…
How did you handle the bad weather, rainy days, storms?
The sea is the best teacher, she teaches you patience and that you, and nobody else but you, is responsible for whatever you do. I think you can only succeed if you are a bit careful and respect nature. Bad weather can force you to seek shelter so you should always know your options. The boat can take a lot, usually more than one thinks, and it depends mostly on experience how much wind and waves you want to take on. There is a limit for sure and sometimes you need to just wait for the weather to improve. But you have a little dry cabin and it won’t be raining on your bed. So you should be happy! And even if you suffer a little after three or four days of continuous rain – is that so bad? You will be that much more happy when the sun comes out again. That is at least my way of thinking.
What were the benefits and what were the problems of living and travelling on a small boat?
The simplicity of it all, always finding a place to tie up to, even in the smallest and shallowest ports or otherwise impossible places, usually always for free, going on anchor right in front of a beach within minutes and just stepping on land – all these are great benefits when travelling with a small boat.
You can not cook or live as comfortable as on a big yacht of course but with all the money you save you can go out to restaurants or enjoy the luxuries on land just that much more.
Problems compared to a bigger boat are maybe acceptable wind and wave limits which are by nature lower. With an 18 ft boat you will not be totally relaxed tacking all day long into a force 6 in open waters. And when choosing an anchorage a small boat needs more protection. Small boats on anchor just roll and pitch much faster which can become unbearable. These can be problems but only when you need to cover long distances without any port or shelter.
What were the most amazing moments of the journey?
So many! Casting off and starting this whole adventure, also the final arrival at Istanbul are unforgettable, but the most amazing moment present in my mind right now is a very recent one: It was in the Marmara Sea, sailing fast in big waves with at least twenty dolphins racing and playing around the little boat. They were swimming long times just below the boat on their backs, so I could see their white undersides and they must have been looking up at the keel watching the boat slice through the water above them. It went on for over an hour. Moments full of life and energy!
Would you recommend cruising adventures on Seascape18 to other owners and why?
Absolutely! And there are so many different ways to do it. The sailing performance is fantastic so the sailing itself will be fun. It does not need to be hundreds of miles. That’s not what is important. It’s rather that any cruising with the Seascape 18 will make you feel plugged into nature, real sailing, real experiences. The boat is strong and very versatile, so I would say: don’t spend too much time searching for more equipment or wondering what must be modified, you don’t need a whole lot of stuff, the boat is ready, just go!
What are your plans for the future with Seascape18 and your future sailing/adventure projects?
I really don’t know yet. Having sailed now more than 3000 miles on the 18, maybe there will be a time for a change. But the adventure will go on for sure.