The Never Ending Voyage: ExWeb's interview with Henk de Velde

Posted: Oct 26, 2007 02:42 pm EDT

( Future space explorers will have to be ready to leave Earth and never return. Who would do something like that? Folks like Henk de Velde would.

Henk is an old world explorer. His son was born on Easter Island and the small family roamed the oceans without all the fancy stuff. Henk still brings all the water he needs with him, and arrives back with it too. "There's plenty of rain water around," he remarked in shock at an ocean rower who battled a malfunctioning water maker in the midst of a tropical downpour.

The idea of a total uproot is frightening to many people. To others, Henk's story is dangerously inspiring. Either way, few remain untouched. Here goes.

The sated day is never first.
The best day is a day of thirst.
Yes, there is goal and meaning in our path -
but it's the way that is the labour's worth.
The best goal is a night-long rest,
fire lit, and bread broken in haste.
In places where one sleeps but once,
sleep is secure, dreams full of songs.
Strike camp, strike camp!
The new day shows its light.
Our great adventure has no end in sight.

(Translated into English by David McDuff in "Karin Boye: Complete poems").

Leaving it all behind

Henk De Velde's Northwest Passage "Impossible Journey" won the 2004 ExWeb awards for his battle to the bitter end. Now Henk, 58, has set out for a truly different expedition; the kind that has crossed the mind of many explorers at times. Henk's Never-ending Voyage will...well, never end. Imagine leaving your home, belongings, country, friends and family for ever - that's what Henk has decided to do.

ExWeb caught up with the great explorer for an interview.

"I'm leaving with nothing, but then you need so much less out there"

ExWeb: You have voyaged all your life, and coming home is one of the sweetest moments. Why have you chosen to stay out for ever this time?

Henk: "Coming home is a sweet moment but also a sad moment because it is the end of a voyage. On each of my home-comings I had this feeling of not wanting to travel on for ever. This time I made the move."

"Make no mistake about it; I'm not a millionaire retiring to a life of tropical harbor hopping. I leave without much security. I invested 100% in my boat and finacially nothing is left. I still have to earn my living. But you need so much less out there."

"What are people looking for..."

ExWeb: How did you come up with the idea?

Henk: "The idea is more or less explained in the above answer. Know that I once left in the same way with nothing but a boat in 1978 with my former wife Gini. We left, and I returned alone after 7 years. Still with the same amount of money in my pocket, $2000. Of course I worked here and there."

ExWeb: What will you be searching for out there?

Henk: "What are people looking for...happiness - but there is so much more. When we are born we discover life; when we get older we discover knowledge; later wisdom. We will discover till the end of life."

The biggest moments

ExWeb: In your past voyages, you told us about some special moments. Could you please name three of the biggest memories you have?

Henk: "The biggest moment was when my son was born on Easter Island (in 1981), in a small hospital in Hanga Roa with the help of doctor Carlos de la Barraeira."

"Next great memory is from my second voyage with the catamaran Alisun - the 5 days before Cape Horn when horrible weather struck. The feeling... it's called fear; but it was just blood rushing through my veins..."

"The third biggest moment was Siberia in 50 degrees below. My small boat, and me relishing the feeling that I had to survive - and bring my boat back. I chose to winter over, it's about commitment - going north means sticking out the whole thing; including a 10 month Siberian winter."

"We were sailors..."

ExWeb: Rowers and sailors today often abort their voyages due to malfunctioning water makers or a bad drift close to coast. Yet in the old times, explorers roamed the world without all that. What is your take on the modern lack of self-sufficiency, and can you give us some examples from your own travels when you had to improvise?

Henk: "I don't bring water makers; they're only the beginning of lots of problems. I collect rain water - it rains more than enough to do my laundry, cook, drink and all that. 25 years ago we had a baby on board and the rain was enough even to wash the diapers."

"Many rely on instruments these days - I still have a sextant on board and I can navigate even without it. On the other hand, a GPS makes life easy and safe. And being singlehanded, the autopilot is my crew."

"Still, it's sad - we were sailors in the old times, now we walk around with a multimeter. And I spend too much time on electronics. I hope this will get better when it all breaks down, for I won't afford to replace it. Except for the autopilot, that's important."


ExWeb: What will you miss most from home, you think?

Henk: "The truth is...I miss nothing, and that's the truth!

"It sounds hard but people who know me understand. Over the past months, Dutch TV has made a lot of fuss about me leaving my son. But he is a 26 years old man now. My mother...that's another question. She's 86 and not sure if we'll see each other again. We talk on the phone every week."

ExWeb: What did you miss most at home, when you weren't voyaging?

Henk: "Being on my way!!"

ExWeb: Where and how would you picture the last day of your voyage, if you had a choice?

Henk: Somewhere in Kapingamarangi...and Kapingamarangi can be anywhere.

King of the Ocean

ExWeb: You must feel insecure about your decision, mixed with a great sense of freedom and anticipation. What are your thoughts right now?

Henk: "My thoughts are very secure; I feel that nothing can harm me. I feel like I'm the king of the ocean; the mountains; the plains. But a king with a lot of respect for the elements."

ExWeb: What do you look forward to most, in your upcoming journey?

Henk: "Being on my way. For days and weeks out at sea. The rising sun, the moon, the stars all to myself. Being a part of everything, a drop in the ocean. Dust of the Universe."

ExWeb: If you had to live your life again, what would you have changed?

Henk: "Nothing and that's the truth!"

ExWeb: What would be your single, most important advice for future explorers?

Henk: "Trust yourself!"

Henk de Velde was born in Holland January 12, 1949. He has two sisters and a brother. His childhood dream was to become a captain and explorer. From the age of 10 until 14, he read all the books he could find on the subject. Starting out as deckhand at age 15, Henk worked in the Merchant Navy for 13 years and made Captain in 1978, with a master license for all ships in the Amsterdam Nautical Collage. "But after becoming a Captain I had to become an explorer," he says.

Henk married Gini who also took part of his first journey. Their son was born in 1981 on Easter Island; the couple divorced 1984 in South Africa. Henk wrote 7 books, all in Dutch. He made two documentaries for Dutch TV. Austrian TV also produced 'Fire and Ice - the Flying Dutchman'.

Henk's other hobbies include riding motorbikes; he started with a 440 cc chopper and ended with a ZZR 1100 road bike. He gives lectures and talk shows about voyaging and life, with the message "Choose your own goal."

Henk first made waves on ExplorersWeb September 3, 2004 when disaster struck his Campina: "Ice floes clashed against each other constantly with a power enough to crack my ship," He reported. "Around 4 hours before darkness fell, the ice berg that we had been anchored to broke. We maneuvered Campina to a larger ice berg, between the floes."

"Then the flow twisted and a heavy iceberg pressed the boat against the wall of ice. We were crooked 10 degrees. The iceberg pressed the boat onto underwater ice. I heard an enormous cracking. We tied her up with long lines to the ice." Henk and his ice lots Boris, 72, were stuck in the ice wall of the Laptev sea.

The Northwest Passage proved impossible indeed, but Henk De Velde's "Impossible Journey" won a special mention in the 2004 ExWeb awards for his battle to the bitter end.

Henk de Velde had previously sailed around the world four times, three times non-stop and solo. The first trip lasted between 1978 and 1985 so Henk is known to take his time when out exploring. "The reason for traveling like this is to experience new things and enjoy life to the fullest," Henk said already back then. After returning home from his "Impossible Journey" in 2004 - a sail attempt around the world via the "impossible" Northern seaway along the North East Passage above and along Siberia, Alaska, Cape Horn and Antarctica - Henk has now decided to go back out there - and stay.

#Mountaineering #Polar #Space #Oceans

Henk has set out for a truly different expedition; and he's not coming back.
What's it gonna be: Freedom or submission?
Greatest memory number 2: <i>Alisun</i> 5 days before Cape Horn.
"It&#039;s about commitment - going north means sticking out the whole thing; inculding a 10 month Siberian winter."
"Over the past months, Dutch TV has made a lot of fuss about me leaving my son..."
..."But he is a 26 years old man now."
"You don&#039;t need a goal, you need a direction."
"I feel like I&#039;m the king of the ocean; the mountains; the plains. But a king with a lot of respect for the elements."
A great adventure with no end in sight. All images courtesy of Henk de Velde.

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