The sea gypsy community is packed with odd, interesting life stories.
There are many unusual sailors out there and this is the story of one of them.
It was a spring day in the Netherlands and the sun warmed the air just enough for the party to be held outdoors. It was a big day, Granma Tilly was celebrating her 90th Birthday!
As life goes, Tilly now needed some help with the everyday tasks and her son Humberto decided to leave his little sailing boat El Holandes Errante at anchor in Fiji and join her in Europe. After not too long she commented:
“I know you are much happier when you are in the South Pacific. Why don’t we go there?”
“Mum, my boat is waaay too small for the both of us.”
“Well, then I will sell my house and we will buy a bigger boat!”
After a few moments of hesitation Humberto realized that she was serious. She had never stepped foot on a boat before, but now she wanted to live aboard in the South Pacific!
And so they did it. Humberto showed her a few candidates and she picked their new boat, a St. Francis 44 catamaran.
They sailed from the Caribbean through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. Tilly’s first ocean crossing took 45 days due to no wind, but she did not complain.
She experienced many new things and was suddenly getting younger by the day.
Tilly made many new friends, both in the Sea Gypsy community and on the islands they visited.
She adapted very well to the life on the sea, also thanks to Humberto, who made some modifications to make her life easier.
It was interesting to listen to many of her stories, including a grounding in Tahiti when she was alone aboard. She really seems to be without a care in the world. She also explained why:
“All my life I took care of other people. Now finally someone is taking care of me. I love it.”
Tilly just recently celebrated her 91st Birthday, this time on a passage between Beveridge Reef and Tonga. She definitely does not look one year older, maybe 20 years younger!
Tilly at 90 Tilly at 91
We met her and Humberto in Neiafu, Vava’u. They impressed us as happy and charismatic people, the kind of people that make our sailing community so very special.
They are now sailing around Fiji where Tilly is spending her days drinking fresh coconuts in turquoise lagoons. What a great way to live in retirement!
She made me think of one of my favourite quotes:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Tilly enjoying life in Bora Bora