The Maiden Factor Blog

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Patience, tolerance, and kindness: a journey in isolation.

Matilda (Tilly) Ajanko wrote this blog with 762 miles to go before reaching Vancouver. An accomplished sailor with over 50,000 offshore miles and over 50 races and regatta under her belt, Tilly worked on Maiden’s refit and sailed with Maiden until August 2019.

Sailing and sailing long ocean passages have many challenges. Unlike most people think, it’s not always the things related to sailing that are the most challenging ones.

Particularly for us full-time crew members, sailing is just a small part of the journey that we are on. The boat is our place of work, and our home and everyone on the boat is our family who we must share a small space with, for prolonged periods of time. I am sure many people would think about their family and realise that may not be the easiest thing to do for any length of time.

Tilly at the helm – would you believe this was in the summer?

When you’re having a bad day (and we all do) there is no escape. There’s no ability to change the scenery, no place to go, and no way to get a break from the boat or the people, we eat, sleep, wash and work all within a very small patch of floor, no bigger than a small bedroom.

One thing, that does help, is our temporary crew members that join us at the beginning of every leg. This always brings a new sense of energy and excitement to the boat. Each of these amazing women has a new story, different skills and different backgrounds from all over the world. This energises the boat and brings so much freshness on board.

But this also brings challenges. We need rules to keep everyone safe but how can we ensure that everyone feels like home on board and isn’t constantly worried about breaking a rule. How can we share our knowledge but also, listen to new ideas and keep ourselves open to new suggestions? Often, we become so indoctrinated in doing things our way, that we resist everything new.

The world is seeing similar isolation nearly a year on, with the developing COVID-19 situation, facing new challenges every day. Staying inside has become the norm – much like staying on a sailing boat for weeks on end.

These aren’t sailing challenges. These are challenges from every walk of life but what happens at sea, is that they get compressed and focused and there’s no escape you get on land.

In the end, this isn’t a journey from one place to another, this is a journey into ourselves, and survival depends upon learning to be more patient with each other, more tolerant of our differences and kinder to ourselves when we demand perfection and fall short. And this is the hardest journey of all. 

Sailing is just the added bonus!

Photographs ©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante