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14 March 2012

Vaseline Eggs on the High Seas

Top To Top yacht visit to St Helena
Sabine Schworer in St Helena Island harbour on top to top yacht

Sharon Henry & Sinead Green

Vaseline Eggs on the High Seas

When you are complaining about the daily chore of deciding what to cook for the family meal, spare a thought for Sabine Schworer.   She doesn’t have the luxury of popping out to the shops for a forgotten ingredient and has to rigidly plan three weeks ahead.  Sabine is the busy mother of four energetic kids who live on the yacht ‘Pachamama’ and is part of the ‘Top to Top’ expedition team who paid an extended visit to St Helena last month.  She shared a few tips for keeping food fresh like cover eggs in Vaseline and wrap cabbages in newspaper, cut a slit in the stalk and fill with water every now and then, they will keep for weeks.
Sinead and I made a trip to ‘Pachamama’ (an ancient Inca word meaning ‘Mother Earth’) on a sunny, windy and choppy day during her last week anchored in James Bay.  Sabine welcomed us on board with Noe and Allegra her two youngest and gave us a tour of the surprisingly spacious living area.  There were four double cabins, three toilets and showers.  Time mainly gets spent in the kitchen/dining area where Sabine homeschools the kids, German in the morning and English in the afternoon.  Since their arrival Selina and Andri the two eldest were enjoying schooling at Pilling Primary.  ‘It’s very special that I can just leave the children to walk to school’ she says, ‘they love it and the atmosphere is very nice.  It makes me want to be a child again’.  The kids enjoyed it so much they are not looking forward to homeschooling once back on the ocean.  Sabine suspects she’s going to have a hard time!

In the six weeks that the family had been here with dad Dario and team member Jacqui Hocking they enjoyed visiting schools, planting ebony at the Millennium Forest, walking to Heart Shaped Waterfall and taking part in Pancake Day to name but a few activities they were involved in.   ‘St Helena has made my life rich and I’m so thankful that we could stay here so long.  You know how to live and talk to each other.  Elsewhere you sit in a restaurant and see people talking on mobile phones or texting.  Here you chatter and laugh so much’.  I met Sabine when she joined our Friday volleyball practice ‘hit around’ sessions at the Leisure Park.  Our laidback attitude made an impression; ‘like at volleyball it’s more of a laugh, not so serious and that’s nice.  It’s the whole point of life to come together and have a good time’ she reflects. 

Surprisingly even after ten years at sea Sabine suffers terribly from seasickness every time she leaves a port.  That’s a lot of dedication to the cause!  It puts to bed the old adage that seasickness is ‘all in the mind’.   A normal day at sea (after the two days of seasickness) is mainly taken up with home schooling and keeping the little ones occupied.  When the kid’s are out on the deck they are harnessed to the boat as a safety measure and gives Sabine peace of mind.  Dinner is at 5pm, they clean up when it’s still light to conserve energy and its bedtime at nightfall.  Because of the motion of the boat and having to constantly keep balance, coupled with the fresh air the kids sleep well.  Although when time draws on to being three weeks at sea everybody gets antsy and agitated as you would imagine.
The yacht is powered by solar panels and two wind turbines that generate enough energy for the living quarters, safety equipment and the auto pilot.  There’s even a water maker on board that turns salt water into drinking water using a special membrane and can make up to six litres per hour.  It tastes pretty good, I tried some! 

When asked about keeping in touch with the outside world Sabine said she prefers the quiet and not having to worry about emails and stuff.  Although she does welcome weekly Sunday satellite calls from her Mum.  ‘I think she spends all her money on phone calls’! 
‘Pachamama’ usually travels at a speed of 6 knots and the currents out in the middle of the ocean are dangerous.  But sometimes when there is no wind and the boat is just bobbing about they enjoy (or rather used to enjoy) a dip in the sea.  That is until Dario got bitten and hasn’t done it since.  Once they had a Great White Shark follow them about a dinghy length from the back of the boat, Sabine described seeing his eyes surface every now and then.  At the time the boat had to be hand steered which placed them in close proximity with the back of the boat and the shark – quite hair-raising!

Let’s hope they have no more of those kinds of adventures but enjoy more of the ‘St Helena’ type as the ‘Top to Top’ team continue their expedition around the globe.  The next port of call is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to join the UN Earth Summit.  We wish them good luck and happy travels.  Sabine is sad to leave, ‘I am enjoying it too much here.  It has really made an impression on me and I have learned to live again.  You should become the world example of how to live’!

They loved the island so much that although ‘Pachamama’ was scheduled to leave on Saturday 17, she didn’t set sail until Tuesday 20 March.  Visit to learn more about the ‘Top to Top’ expedition.




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