Written by Cecilia and Joakim Furusten, owners of Oyster 56 'Bliss'
We looked at each other, both of us had the same sceptical look on our faces – surely we would never be able to handle a boat this big? We would not even get off the dock with just the two of us onboard.
That was September 2014 and we were at the Oyster Brokerage Show in Southampton to have a first look at the Oyster boats. Now, May 2019, we have sailed over 15,000nm and have crossed the Atlantic Ocean with just the two of us onboard our Oyster 56.
We are a couple from Sweden, met in 2006 and have been out sailing for five weeks every summer plus weekends since then. Both of us have sailed since we were children.
Before we bought our Oyster, we had an Elan 350 which was a lot smaller and more of a racer. We love being out in the boat and every summer when our vacation came to an end, we both said: “I wish we could stay another five weeks.”
Joakim sailed in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) in 2012 with some friends on a Beneteau First 36.7. Although they were aiming for first place, they ended up eighth, which was still good given that they were one of the smallest boats in the fleet. They had a tough race with strong winds, thunderstorms and lightning. Things were breaking, but they made it. After that rally, Joakim said that if he was to cross the Atlantic again it would be in a more comfortable boat.
At that time we didn’t really have any plans for longer sailing trips beyond those we could reach from our base in Stockholm during the five weeks of our summer vacation. But pretty soon we started to dream of a life as fulltime cruisers. We read books about people that had been sailing around the world and we watched YouTube videos.
In 2014 we started to make plans to do a circumnavigation of the world and began looking at different ways of going about it. What would we do with our apartment? Could we quit working? Could we leave our family and just sail away? There were many questions to be answered, but in the end it all turned out very well.
Of course, the hardest part is to be separated from your family. But with today’s opportunities to keep in touch via the Internet, it makes it easier. We have also been able to leave the boat and fly home a couple of times. Plus, we have had relatives come to visit us in different places.
When we were satisfied with the answers to our most important questions, we decided to start looking for a new boat that could take us around the world. The original plan was to quit work and sail away in June 2019 and, because we wanted to have the boat a couple of years before, we were in no hurry.
We planned to sell our Elan and accept that we would be without a boat for a season and take a road trip in Europe by car, instead of sailing.
Since we had bought the boat a year earlier than expected, the road trip in Europe never happened. Instead, after a winter at Fox’s where they replaced the standing rigging and carried out a mini refit, we sailed Bliss home to Stockholm at the end of March 2016.
We sailed her every weekend in the Stockholm Archipelago, a place that should be on every boatowner’s list of places to go to.
The first summer, we went all the way up in the Baltic Sea and rounded the most northerly sea mark at N 66’, which is further north than the northern-most part of Iceland. It is beautiful up there. Our home waters in the archipelago around Stockholm are equally beautiful, but it can be a little bit crowded during summertime, while up in the north, we barely saw any boats at all.
Bliss was in the water during the first winter in Stockholm and before the ice settled, we could go out sailing on winter weekends. The Stockholm Archipelago is a fantastic place to sail, with 24,000 islands and islets. Normally there are plenty of places where you can tie up to a tree with your bow against the land, but now with the 56, we find it is better to be at anchor instead, although we still have our favourite spots where we can moor the boat alongside the cliffs.
In the summer of 2017, we went from exploring Stockholm to sailing in Norway, then on to the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and Scotland, before heading down to Ipswich.
It was so nice sailing in the Norwegian fjords with the steep mountains on both sides. Shetland and Orkney are also fantastic places and we were lucky with the weather, with blue skies every day. We visited Fair Isle and spent a couple of days there too.
After we arrived in Ipswich, we had the boat up on the hard at Fox’s to apply new Coppercoat anti-fouling, as well as getting some other items fixed. We sailed home to Sweden in March 2018 to get Bliss ready for our big adventure. We had managed to quit work a year earlier and were really looking forward to starting our journey.
In June 2018, we had a farewell party with family and friends in Stockholm. Then we were on our way. It felt so exciting and a little bit unreal to finally take off.
Our route went through the Nordoost See Canal/Kiel Canal and down the west coast of Europe. Instead of going straight across the Bay of Biscay to La Coruna, we fully embraced sailing in Europe and went to La Rochelle and San Sebastian first. As we discovered, there are very nice places to visit in Brittany and the northern coast of Spain and we are glad we took that route.
After La Coruna, we continued to Portugal, Madeira, the Salvage Islands, the Canary Islands and onto Cape Verde.
We are always sailing doublehanded and have never felt that we need more people onboard. We use all the sails that we have, including the spinnaker that has a snuffer. It works very well with the furling headsails and the in-mast furling main, both of which are equipped with strong hydraulic furlers.
We started from Cape Verde on 12th December 2018. The wind was gusting up to 35 knots when we left Mindelo but, as it was behind, it was nice sailing. We enjoyed our journey across the Atlantic and divided the night watches into equal turns so both of us could sleep well. We caught some fish, the biggest of which was a two-metre-long blue marlin, which took us over an hour to get on deck. It gave us plenty of food and we ate the last pieces several months later.
Our course was set for Tobago, which we reached on 24th December, 12 days after our start in Mindelo. It was a smooth crossing and it was nice to reach Tobago in time for a Christmas celebration, where a family from Namibia invited all the boaters to a potluck party on the beach. Everyone brought one dish each and you could try all the delicious food. This was a very different Christmas than we are used to, but we had a great time.
From there, our journey continued northwards as we visited most of the Caribbean Islands. We like it here as every island is different. We especially like the Grenadines where the atmosphere is more laid back.
In April we attended the Oyster Regatta in Antigua where we met a lot of people and had a great time. Our friends from Sweden came to visit us and joined us for the regatta. They have an eight-year-old girl who was one of the crew during all four race days.
It took a while to find our places onboard during the racing. We hadn’t sailed together with them before and they only arrived the day before the first race, so there was no time for practice. But we did really well and ended up in second place in our class.
Aside from the racing, we enjoyed the good food and entertainment in the evenings. It was a great event.
After the Oyster Regatta, we continued through the Caribbean, with stops along the island chain up to Puerto Rico, before we headed down to Bonaire and Curacao. There we put the boat up on the hard to fly back to Sweden to spend the summer with our relatives, children and grandchildren.
Our plan was to return to the boat in September and continue to Columbia and then to Panama, before heading through the Panama Canal in January 2020 and then onto Galapagos.
We would like to go to Easter Island and if we can make it there, we will continue to Pitcairn, Gambier and Marquesas. After that we will stop at Tahiti for the hurricane season and then continue further on in the Pacific. We are not in a hurry and would like to spend a couple of seasons in the Pacific.
So far, we have had a wonderful time. We have met a lot of nice people from all over the world. Aside from the sailing, we have explored places by bike, rental car, local buses or taken hikes. We try to see as much as possible of the places we come to.
We enjoy our life in our Oyster and hope we will have many more exciting years to come.