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Voyaging skills interview

Mar 28, 2013

Norwegian couple start a family while circumnavigating

Empire seen through floating ice in Greenland waters.

Empire seen through floating ice in Greenland waters.

Heidi Bogerud photos

Heidi and Eivind Bogerud sailed from Norway July 3, 2005, aboard their Bavaria 42, Empire ( They had quit their jobs, and sold their apartment and car before departure. Their plan was to be out sailing for roughly five years. If they followed the plan, the voyage would take them around the world. The circumnavigation was more as a result of the route they chose, than as a goal in of itself.

When they arrived in Australia in 2009, Heidi was pregnant. Their first son Eirik was born in Grafton, New South Wales, Australia. After sailing north to Thailand, Heidi was pregnant again — and they sailed back to the same place in Australia, where Marius was born in October 2010. After seven and a half years they returned to Oslo on Nov. 3, 2012.

Before they left on their circumnavigation, Heidi worked as an architect and Eivind worked in the yachting industry. Two days after their arrival in Oslo, young Eirik and Marius started in kindergarten and Eivind secured another job in the yachting industry ( Heidi, meanwhile, was back in business by the beginning of January at an architecture firm (

The Bogerud’s Bavaria 42, Empire, in Australia.

Ocean Voyager: What are the top skills voyagers need to know before going voyaging?

Heidi & Eivind Bogerud: Before setting off on a long voyage, we think the most important skill is to know your boat well, and to have a good set of navigation skills. If you know your boat well, it is much easier for everybody on board to enjoy the experience. For us, voyaging is not about racing or meeting some artificial deadline, but about making good passages and seeing the world. When the crew is happy, everything else is no problem. As long as you know your boat and are prepared, weather is not a problem. If you know your boat, a storm is only a storm. You reduce sail area, make sure you have plenty of food and water and you can stay comfortable on board even in heavy weather!

OV: What is your planning routine prior to a voyage?

H&EB: Depending on where we are sailing, the preparations are different. Cold waters demand more thorough preparation than cruising downwind in the tropics, for example. Once you leave the trade wind belt, the weather is a more important part of the planning. Stocking up the boat is an important task before setting off. A hungry crew will not perform as well. And varied food makes life on board more exciting. Brown cheese (typical Norwegian everyday cheese) all the time is boring also at sea.

To be ready for conditions and to be able to change plans while underway is also an important preparation. Sometimes weather or gear failures on board will force you to change plans. That’s an important part of life at sea — the unpredictable — if we wanted everything to be as predictable as on shore, we probably should have stayed at home. Another important planning issue is to plan enough ahead, so that you have time for unpredictable changes. If weather, equipment breakdowns, or illness/sickness on board forces you to change plan, it is important that being short of time doesn’t influence or force you to make the wrong decisions.

OV: What is the most valuable skill you have picked up while voyaging?

H&EB: The most important skill is the ability to be prepared — for changes, for spontaneity, for new people, for new places. Interestingly enough, if you go into a situation with no or low expectations, most situations turn out good.

OV: What skills do you most look for in a crewmember?

Eivind at the helm as Empire surges through the Beagle Channel.

H&EB: We don’t have too much experience with unknown crew. It is much better to have a crewmember on board who admits he doesn’t know how to sail, than having a crewmember on board who thinks he knows how to sail. An “unskilled” crewmember will notify and ask, a crewmember that thinks he knows how to sail will try to solve different situations without knowing and without asking — maybe resulting in trouble, damage or not so comfortable voyage.

OV: What are the biggest challenges in voyaging with children?

Marius and Eirik in the Whitsunday Islands, the swing was a favorite spot on the boat.

H&EB: Voyaging with children is no problem, we will say. We don’t know how to raise children on land, but we have learned at least something about raising children at sea. Small children do need attention. Shorthanded sailing with one — or two — kids, puts even more reliance on the boat and the equipment. As long as the boat and equipment don’t have any breakdowns, small kids are not a problem. An important task is to keep the kids busy. Our kids grew up on board from when they were born, they don’t know anything but sailing. It will probably be a different experience taking children from land life on board to go voyaging.

OV: Based on your experience, do you find voyagers more or less skilled than in years past?

H&EB: We think the variation in skill among voyagers is the same over time, but some nationalities (without mentioning which!) are represented more often than others when things go wrong (like yachts drifting on anchor or getting into some type of problem).

OV: Do you think the experience of voyaging has changed now that voyagers can stay connected while at sea?

H&EB: Yes — for some. Some people can’t let go and have to stay online even at sea. But the possibility to stay connected while at sea has also made more people able to let go of their land life — to go voyaging.

OV: Does pressure to stay on a schedule make you take risks with bad weather?

H&EB: First of all — the experience of “bad” weather is different depending on the eyes looking. On land we used to say “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” To a certain extant this saying is also correct for life at sea. Of course, there is no reason to head out to sea when “bad” weather is in the forecast — if we are on a schedule or not. Normally “bad weather” is bad when you are close to the coast. At sea “bad weather” is only weather! You can always adjust your course to avoid the worst, as long as you keep an eye on the weather while underway. Sooner or later you will run into a storm — schedule or no schedule. Then it is important to know your boat and to know what to do and to know how to maintain a certain comfort level on board. When this happens, it is important to forget the schedule and make the right decisions! We don’t allow being on a schedule to influence the safety decisions on board.

OV: How do you handle provisioning? Do you have a system for determining the amount of food and water needed for a particular voyage?

H&EB: Our first long voyage was an Atlantic crossing from Canaries to Caribbean while participating in the racing class of ARC 2005. Since we had six people on board, we made long lists and did a lot of thinking and needed many days of shopping to prepare food and water for the three-week voyage. And, of course, food and water was prepared as if the voyage might stretch to a six-week voyage. For subsequent voyages, provisioning was much quicker. After having the experience from the first long crossing, stocking up has been Heidi’s task while Eivind takes care of the kids. Our provisioning routine takes a day with shopping and in the evening we store everything in place on board, ready to go. As important as the provisioning, is to create a system on board so that you know where to find what, and so that most crew know where to find what!

The Bogerud family arriving back in their home port of Oslo in November 2012 after seven years and four months aboard Empire. During their voyage they sailed 6,500 nm.

OV: Who or what inspired you to go voyaging?

H&EB: Eivind for a long time had a plan to go voyaging. When we met a few years before departure, Eivind warned me that he was planning to depart for a long voyage in 2005, my only answer was “I know!” We have both always loved sailing, but before we set off we did some short voyaging trips along parts of the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish coasts. That said, we do not believe that the experience of sailing since childhood is necessary to go voyaging. A reasonable level of skill, a good portion of common sense and the willingness to learn while underway is all it takes.

OV: What are your future voyaging plans?

H&EB: With mixed feelings we arrived in Oslo in November 2012, after seven and a half years at sea. If we had more money, we would have kept on sailing for some time. We are now training seriously to get used to land life. Most probably we will be land-based for some time. Still, even before we arrived in Oslo we discussed possible future projects. The last part of the voyage we just ended, was via northern waters: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Greenland, and finally Iceland to Tromsø in northern Norway, before heading south. We are considering a three-year voyage starting from Norway, south to the Canaries, across to the Caribbean and then to the northeast coast of the U.S. and Canada before cruising around Labrador and finding a place to stay for the winter. The next season we would sail to Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard (Spitsbergen) and stay in Svalbard for the winter, with the boat on the hard. The following year we would sail south to Norway to enjoy a full season along the Norwegian coast before returning to Oslo. This is just an idea today, but all plans have to start somewhere. One day we hope to go sailing again!

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