2010 – KAZI (Tokyo): Interview

Interview for Kazi Magazine

1.) How did you meet sailing world?

Erich grew up at the waterfront of the North Sea with a little wooden Dinghi with gaff sail.

Heide spent her youth in the south part of Germany. Her first contact with sailing world had been as student in the german city Kiel – world-famous for it´s races (Kieler Woche and Olympic games). 

1969 Heide and Erich met in Norderney, a small island in North Sea. Since that time they sail together – first in Erich´s Finn-Dinghi, then in a 505-Dinghi, followed 1975 by their selfbuilt first cruising steelboat “Freydis I” (11.30 m).

2.) When did you start cruising (very first time) ?

Erich: 1962 as a student he became a crew member of the old-timer racing an cruising yacht “Ortac” in Hamburg. On board of this yacht he sailed races as well as tours in North Sea, Baltic Sea, round Iceland, Transatlantic and the Cowes Week (Admirals Cup).

Heide and Erich started their first cruising together in 1974 with a sailing boat of friends, sailing in North- and Baltic-Sea; 1975 they sailed – as maiden-voyage of Freydis I – to Finnland, Norway and Iceland, and 1979 they continued their voyages with a disigned but self-constructed yacht they named Freydis II (it is the yacht which they sailed the next 30 years and are still sailing in Japan).

3.) Why have you gone cruising and what are you looking for in Cruising?

We were working hard in our professions, therefore sailing was a wonderful hobby and compensation for us: Right before our front door was the North Sea with the islands and their muddlands – a famous National Park (world heritage). And, even if no race, it was a sportive challenge.  

Ocean cruising we started because we were interested to see foreign countries, cultures and peoples. We are naturalists and this was a terrific possibility to have an adventurous life.   

With our small boat we reached the remotest places in world, places, to which big ships could not go. 

On board we are away from the forces and rituals of civilisation, but also away from all  comforts we enjoy at land. We live, at least for a limited time, as the only inhabitants in a remote little world were we have to cope sudden adversities with own means.      

Besides this: We are together as couple, live partnership and share the same experiences.  

4.) How much navigation distance did you sail so far?

From beginning (1962) till now Erich sailed nearly 300.000 nautical miles.

Heide (from 1969) about 240.000 n.m.

5.) Which places stand up in your memory? and why?

For both of us the highlights are our sailing-voyages in high latitudes of northern and southern hemisphere – 6 voyages to subantarctic and antarctic Regions (we visited nearly all islands in the subantarctic belt around the world, also Ross Sea up to Scott Island and three times Antarctic Peninsula) – as well as those to arctic Regions (Iceland, west- and east coast of Greenland, round Spitzbergen=Svalbard, Alaska and Beringsea).

Three main reasons: 

A: The extraordinary experiences of a natur still nearly untouched and the meeting with animals not disturbed by humans. 

B: And certainly also the sportive challenge of these kind of sailing: in a remote sea, in uncertain and sometimes uncharted coastal waters and with difficult weather-conditions. 

Conditions which demand all your nautical knowledge and seamanship.

C: The often inspiring and amiable contact with uncommon people, to whome you suddenly feel close, on remote islands or coastlines. 

6.) Why did you visit Japan?

We met german sailing-friends in Alaska coming from Japan. They were very enthusiastic about the country and the people. As we sailed afterwards from Alaska to California with aim New Zealand, the report of our friends did it´s work and at last changed our minds: Spontaneously we decided in San Diego to sail to Japan (via Hawaii and Midway Atol).  

7.)What is your impression of Japan?

We took a very uncommon route to Japan via Midway Atol, passed Minami Tori-Shima and reached at last Chichi-Shima. After clearance we visited with Freydis several other Ogasawara- and Izu-Islands. We had some bureaucratic problems, because these islands, except Chichi-Shima, are closed ports for foreign yachts. But the officials of Japan Coast Guard and Customs were indeed very friendly and helpful. As the understanding was difficult – we do not speak japanese – we got support from Hitomi Hongo, Professor of Ethnology in Yokosuka, who studied some semester in Tuebingen/Germany. This was our very first contact with Japan.

In the meantime we stood more than four month in Japan and we travelled a lot: especially in the north of Honshu and Hokkaido, but also to big touristic aims such as Nikko, Tokio, Kyoto, Kamakura, Shimoda and last not least, Fujisan. The summary of our experiences we made: Japan is a fantastic aim for voyaging: many sided – big cities and little remote villages, as well as overwhelming cultural heritage and unique National Parks. Fascinating impressions we will not forget.

But the most we appreciated is to feel the interest and the care of japanese people. Wherever we came in contact with them we enjoyed their politeness and friendliness. The language barrier between us was not a real barrier and easily to break down: with gestures, facial expressions and little keywords like “dozo”, “domo”, “gomen nasai”, “konnichiwa” … 

But we too have to add: we are visitora for only a limited time and came as tourist 

in this country. Perhaps we have seen only the sunny sides. A longer stay may correct our restricted visibility to a more complex sight. But we have visited so many nations, that we see it very optimistic and relaxed.        

And also a word about our impression on behalf of Iwaki Sun Marina, were we stay now since April 2010: From the beginning we felt accepted and very “at home” in the little community of sailors, who have their boats here. Joyfully we participated on marina-life and the events there. The management was always looking perfectly after Freydis and ourselves. In the meantime the biggest German Sailing Association “Trans Ocean” with 6000 ocean cruising members of more than 30 countries – we are two of them – would be happy to recruit the harbour-master of Iwaki-Sun-Marina, Mr. Aki Sakamoto, as “Trans Ocean Station Master”. We are sure it would encourage foreign – german – yachts to come to this region. (You will find 200 TO-Station Masters in all parts of the world)            

8.) What is your future plan?

We do not plan a long time ahead, only next season. Reaching soon the age of 70, we enjoy each moment of our life, hoping to stay healthy and ready for new challenges year after year.

Our route for the next season: As our Freydis is wintering in Iwaki Sun Marina, we begin in springtime with maintenance and repairs, followed by sailing up the coastline of east Honshu to Hakodate/Hokkaido. We will explore the south and east coast of Hokkaido and visit once more the National Parks in the interior, where we already spent a nice time in 2010. 

Afterwards we sail north to Kamtchatka/Siberia, to the Bering- (Comander-) Islands and to the Aleutian chain. At season´s end we leave Freydis in King Cove, a small fisher-village on the coast of Alaska-Peninsula, where we already wintered her twice in past years.   

9.) Did you get used to round the Cape Horn? (I mean you have rounded the Cape for 13 times. Wow!)

Returning from Antarctic Peninsula 1981 we rounded Cape Horn for the first time. The last time we sailed around as we finished our circumnavigation of Antarctica 1998.  

It ist true, we rounded Cape Horn many times – from west to east and east to west, in summer- and in wintertime, in calm weather and in heavy storm, in sunshine, mist, snow and hail. Weather is changing suddenly in this region, you can never be sure you will make it. Local knowledge – there are some places, where you can hide – makes it easier and may safe your life. Sometimes you must give up and outride the gale and sometimes you must hide in a sheltered bay and wait for better conditions. 

Even if we rounded this “infamous” Cape for 13 times, it will always be a great challenge for us. For us it will never be routine.

10.) How did sailing world change from the early period of your cruising? (Which kind of equipment did change sailing world dramatically? Did you response to changing sailing world conditions? And how? How do you feel with this changing?) 

Indeed a interesting question. The answer is not easy. Because we have to consider many different points, for example: 

a.) the development of hull, rig, sail, ropes, fittings and other equipement on deck an under deck – cabin, galley, engine-room. 

b.) the extraordinary increasing of sailing yachts

because of technical progress: new and better materials and new production-processes ( mass-production of plastic-boats); 

because of growing leisure-time;

because the number of charter basis and charter-boats are growing dramatically;  

because the handling of boats is much more simple;

The bad result of the increasing sailing-boat numbers are: crowded anchor places, reduction of  freedom-of-movement due to regulations and total commercializing.

c.) the consequent separation of racing- yachts and cruising-yachts.

d.) the progress and changing 

in navigation: When we started with ocean cruising in the early 60th., we had no other nautical means than explorer James Cook, 200 years before: sextant, chronometer, tables, compass, log, founding-lead, nautical charts, pilots.

Erich worked with the old semiversus method, Heide some years later learned to use HO-249 tables, which made the calculations a little easier.

Nowadays GPS, radar, electronic maps and chart plotters are common nautical equipment.  

In the past the exact navigation was an art, today it is a simple handicraft.  

e.) in communication

in former times we had only a megaphone, now VHF, Short wave, email and sat-phone.             

f.) in management style and leadership g.) the emancipation and participation of women on board of sailingboats.

h.) the equipment for security and to prevent collisions. 

Today we have radar, active radar-beacons like “Seamee”, AIS-System, Epirb.

i.) the new mental dimension in the age of globalisation: the world is shrinking because of round the world information (internet, television, flights, Sat-telephone etc.)         

Our response to changing sailing world conditions:

We are adventurers but we are always eager to avoid unnecessary risks. To sail round Antarctica, and to sail in wintertime from California to Japan ist enough risk we think. Our boat therefore is always equiped best possible with modern means.

11) Specification of Freydis.

Sail plan as added

steel-yacht with sliding keel. 

LOA: 14.34 m 

BOA : 4.25 m

draught: 1.50/2.50 m

displacement: nearly 30 to

cutter rig:

sail area: 100 square m

engine: Mercedes OM 666, 126 HP

12.) Your background.

We – Heide and Erich – met after finishing university. For 25 years we were heavy engaged in our professions: Heide as a medical doctor, specialised in Radiology, Erich as CEO of a busyness-company. In these years sailing was only our favourite hobby in leisure time. With the age of nearly 50 we stopped our professions. Since that time we are sailing on the oceans with more or less short breaks in our home in Germany. About our voyages we publish books, reports in magazines, and we have lectures and slide-shows in german speaking countries.    

13.) Could you let me know the digest of Antarctica.

On one side we got very quick the strong feeling that in this region men are only tolerated, that they cannot survive from themselves – they need the umbilical cord to civilisation. That every penguin is superior to them and that at least in Antarctica men are not the peak of evolution.

On the other side we felt the uniqueness and vulnerability of this nature, obliging men to respect and protect it. 

For us Antarctic regions were not only challenge and marvellous sailing-scenery. The contact with animals, which had not seen men before and were without any inhibition, was a really heart-touching and unforgettable experience. 

And this is not only our opinion, but also that of our friends, whom we take on this risky voyages most of the time on board to share the great adventures with us.