Hervé and Mélanie Potez set off to spend three beautiful years going around the world on their Allures 45, Myriades. Now with Tierra del Fuego within sight of their bow, they’re recounting a sincere and philosophical testimony on the passing of time, on our relationship with others, our planet, and so many things that are interlinked and to which sailing gives back their importance.
January 2020, Argentina, Mar Del Plata, 37 degrees South – In the Northern Hemisphere we would be in winter, at the same latitude as Seville. Here, it is summer and this is our last stopover before Tierra del Fuego, which we should reach by the end of January 2020. We’re looking forward to getting there now. Leaving behind the health problems that have somewhat delayed our progress, and making the most of this three-year round-the-world break, that we’ve been dreaming of doing for so long. It’s been almost 18 months since we set off, and already so many memories come to mind.
How did this all begin? In the South of France, the very young Hervé was always out on the water, on his father’s boat or racing, already in love with the beauty of sailing. As for Mélanie, she could have been born on a boat, but on a lake. So for her, the water is an almost more natural environment than the land. This means that the project was quickly shared, with enthusiasm and in all its dimensions.
What pushed us to set about the project? The desire to take a break from the world of work, which although it gave us a lot of satisfaction, staying in the ‘corporate mould’ was making less and less sense for us. The need to recharge our batteries and discover something else, to take back the reins of our lives had become vital. Before probably starting a second career when we get back. But in which direction? We’ll see in the course of our travels what we want to write as our next chapter.
We managed the preparations for the trip together, each at our own pace, handling both similar and yet different aspects at the same time. We ‘just had to’ take the plunge, to keep our own alignment of the planets. What about our parents? They’re still in good shape, so they don’t need us for anything other than the pleasure of seeing each other. Our children? We had the good fortune of having them early in our lives, so, now in their twenties, immersed in their higher education, they’ve become self-sufficient. But beware, self-sufficient in no way means independent, and social networks are a lifeline for them when they don’t know where this or that ‘thingummy’ is stored, or even to get cookery tips! For us it’s a paradoxical link, both reassuring and yet cumbersome at the same time. The Far South will give us the opportunity to take the step back we’ve been looking for since starting our travels. Beyond Ushuaïa we’ll be cut off from the world. Being off Cape Horn will put us at the right distance from the professional environment we left behind, which although it gave us a lot of satisfaction, our remaining in the ‘corporate’ mould was making less and less sense to us. The need to recharge our batteries had become vital. That’s all before starting a second career when we return, but in which direction? We’ll have to see.
We set off in August 2018, after three years of intensive preparation, between the purchase of the boat, her technical preparation (safety, comfort on board, navigation and communications equipment, etc.) and our own (mechanical, electrical, medical…), with some great summer sailing to check everything out, to put it all to the test, to get to meet people, exchange ideas, read and learn, especially about the weather. This is one area, fortunately, where the current ‘tools’ are very reassuring. Although we’ve already seen 50 knots of wind at anchor, we’ve not yet faced heavy weather at sea, never more than 35 knots. Long may it last… Because setting off for three years, following in Magellan’s footsteps, from the Mediterranean to New Caledonia, via Cape Horn, is not an insignificant journey. It began with an Atlantic crossing, which saw some incredible, magical nights. Absolute calms, during which the sea becomes a mirror, and merges with the sky, offering us serenity and sense of fulfilment. The impression of emptying your mind, while filling up with life. We’ll never forget the times we swam in the middle of… nothing, with 5,000 metres of crystalline water beneath us! There’ve been a few squalls anyway, magnificent clouds rolling on the horizon, bringing us buckets of rain and a big breeze… Then, arriving on another continent, meeting a culture so different from our own, wandering the streets of Salvador de Bahia, our escapade in the Brazilian jungle, discovering Rio, so colourful… before finding Uruguay and then Argentina… what colourful memories!
While most of the time we sail just the two of us, for this passage, we took on two totally unknown crew members with whom, to prove the adage, everything went perfectly. Only the rhythm of the watches, and that was the goal, was changed, or rather fixed. Because when it comes to just us on board, flexibility is the keyword. So we soon started to “cross paths with each other at night” again, once we were back on our own again. With no fixed watchkeeping schedule, each of us rests when we feel the need. Always with confidence; our senses and habits, however, meaning that we only ever sleep with only one eye closed. The slightest variation in heel, speed or even light puts us immediately on alert, and we come up on deck, usually ahead of the slightest call. In any case, we’re always together when it comes to mealtimes.
Since our departure, the concept of time has become distorted. Both short and long at the same time. Too short, the stopovers, visits to places, the encounters with people we meet, the trips inland. Conversely, very long are the things we seem to have to do in each country, the maintenance of the boat (it’s crazy there is always something to do on these boats!), or the search for parts, or even tools. Fortunately, benevolence and mutual help seem to be everywhere, with few exceptions, between sailors sharing the same passion, and therefore capable of finding themselves in such unlikely corners, lost at the end of the world. Even though we’re almost always the youngest in this community populated mainly by retired folk, we have some great times and some laughs. The direct connection to our environment is a double-edged sword. It can be eminently resourceful, yet sometimes we despair when we see the degradation that man is capable of. At our level, we’re as careful as possible, aware that we are like small hummingbirds trying to put out the forest fire with drops of water. But in accordance with the parable, we do our part. Delightfully long, finally, is the time spent sailing, the moments between us. We’re learning to live together permanently, something that has never happened in ‘real life’, in fact. To listen to each other, even in our silences, to slow down our pace, to support each other at difficult moments, to adapt to each other’s needs. Every day, we progress a little more in patience and letting go. One day we’ll get there, really, for sure…
In the meantime, we are well aware that the time we’re having is a priceless gift we’ve given ourselves. The earth remains beautiful, nature and the people are wonderful. We would have been wrong to wait any longer to leave.
Beyond the Strait of Magellan await Ushuaia and Cape Horn that also tempts us – we’ll see if the elements will allow us to go round the Cape – then the Chilean channels to go up to Puerto Montt, before heading due west, and we hope to land at Easter Island, then after long weeks at sea, the Gambiers and finally New Caledonia all await us. But above all, myriads of delicious moments to share. This was our programme, and this is the name of our beautiful yacht: Myriades…
EDIT – 14 feb 2020 : Myriades turned around the Cape Horn! Check myriades.ch blog !