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Helle on the beach

Stories by Hydro

‘Gone sailing, back in a year’

“I'm out of office until December 2022, sailing across the Pacific. If urgent, I can be contacted by bottle mail, satellite or VHF (and occasionally by email). Fair winds to me and best regards to you, Helle Bergsund.”

At 32, Helle Bergsund has worked at Hydro since 2016. Then she had the chance of a lifetime – sailing the Pacific Ocean with her partner, Pål Andreas Dahl.

But that takes time, more than even the most generous holiday could accommodate, so Helle asked for a year-long leave of absence. It was a big leap of faith, but as she says, “if I was an employer, I would want an employee who seeks doing things out of their comfort zone. I hoped that If I were doing a good job, they would want me back.”

And they did.

Helle montage
From left, The view from the top of the mast, Helle at the wheel, and the young sailor at 10.

Helle is part of a long tradition of Norwegian sailors. Many families are profiled in Norwegian media with their plans for taking a year off with the kids to sail the world.

“I crossed the Atlantic at 10 with my family, Norway to the Caribbean and back,” she says. “We met a lot of Norwegian boats. Some continued through the Panama Canal, and I went home. I always felt I should complete the trip.”

She met Pål Andreas when he was to cross the Atlantic two years ago. “He’s the more-experienced sailor, I’m not. I’ll be the captain of the dinghy!”

Time out

“We live selling our time to other people,” she explains. “We’re based on the expectations of others – school, family, norms in life. It can be a hamster wheel. I would like to get out of the wheel. The idea came way before the pandemic, but it helped. You get ants in your pants. I’d like to live more in the moment.

“The main driver is adventure. It’s about new experiences, not your A4 life, and to meet people – not just other sailors, but other people. I hope people will come visit us along the way!”

‘Have to be prepared’

How to spend months with the same person in such close quarters? “We’ve had the pandemic and lockdown in 40 square meters. We need to be partners and colleagues. He’s laid back, I’m structured,” Helle says.

“People think it’s a vacation for a year, but it’s a lot of work, and you’re more on your own. You have to learn how to do stitches, you’re your own dentist, doctor, cook. You have to master a number of professions, included mechanics, plumbing, rigging, electrician, medicine, dentist, hairdressing. You need to learn to meet unexpected events.”

 

helle sailboat
The sailboat “Sod's Law” in Cartagena, Colombia.

Setting sail for real

Helle and Pål Andreas started in Caribbean in late 2021 to outfit the boat – a 43-foot Dufour Classic bought sight unseen that they’ve dubbed “Sod’s Law”, which, like “Murphy’s Law,” means “if something can go wrong, it will – at the worst possible time.” They spent more than a month on preparations and a shakedown cruise to various islands. They have passed through the Panama Canal and are now on their way out into the great Pacific.

Their route is to take them directly to the Marquesas in French Polynesia, a stretch of 3,800 nautical miles. “It should take 30 to 40 days.”

Then they plan to sail on to the Cook Islands, Tonga (that was before the volcano eruption) and Fiji. They will press on to New Zealand or Australia. “Then we’ll sell boat and fly home.”

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