Super Trooper, Sailing Queen!

Thalita,

Have you got an idea of what “raft up” or “rafting” is? Captain Thalita taught me that: “any group of two, three, many or waaaaay too many boats, which are stationary and which are temporarily fastened together, whether anchored (often on a single anchor), alongside a quay, or adrift.”

( pictures taken from: Latesail, Ckanani-yachtweekgreece, Sailing Anarchy)

It was a gorgeous afternoon anchored in the middle of the bay of Porto Venere. We were playing in the blissfully warm water by the Gulf of the Poets, just enjoying my day off of work and breathing in the salty air like the British ladies did in Bath in the 19th century (The Madammes of high society were prescribed by their doctors to take a vacation by the sea. It was believed that the sea was the cure for depression, sore muscles, bad circulation, random sadness, stress from running a household. If you ask me, or any sailor, the sea is, of course, the best cure, it’s common knowledge).

All of a sudden I see a boat coming closer and closer, my Captain Davi jumps on the deck and starts giving me orders on which line has to be cleated where and where the fenders should go. We were welcoming onboard Thalita, Davi’s past examiner for the ICC. An expert sailor, she made it look easy, and soon she was safely in Wake’s cockpit, coffee in hand and her usual sunshine grin on her face. Bonding and talking was easy, just a natural course of her bright personality. And this is how I met one of the strongest and kindest smiles, along with a soul that shines through and one of the best instantaneous teachers I have ever had!

We kept in touch and slowly I learned about her more and more things that make me want to bow to such a strong Captain. Thalita has travelled the world, anchored in Antarctica on a wooden boat, learned and made bold decisions that changed her life. She is an amazing sailing teacher, racer and a paramedic with a long career going back 15 years. At this moment she is stuck in Switzerland working as a paramedic until the COVID19 will not be a threat anymore. She misses the sea and the boat, even as she is putting her considerable heart and abilities to a different task: the service of the community during this troubling time. 

How could I skip such a story and a soul that’s bigger than the world?


– Talk about your background and where you come from (what’s your story, in the way you want it to be known)?

One of my dreams was always to visit every continent and also crossing the Atlantic ocean in a slow way (a cruise liner was never an option). After sailing in Antarctica on an old, tall ship, I decided to learn how to sail. Back home, in Switzerland, I took a few lessons on the lake with very little wind and got my Swiss license but still had no clue about sailing. For a couple of years already, I was looking for another job as I didn’t plan to get retired on my paramedic job. I thought I had to look for something before I didn’t like my job anymore or couldn’t do it anymore. And then it happened! I found out that I can cross the Atlantic ocean and do the RYA “Zero to Hero” program to get my Yachtmaster Sail Certificate. I sold or gave away my furniture, car, etc. and quit my job. Three months later I was in the Canaries as a competent crew student, crossing the ocean on a 40ft sailboat with nine other women. I spent the season racing in the Caribbean, taking courses and building miles. In April I finished my RYA YM ( Royal Yachting Association – Yachtmaster) offshore with commercial endorsement. Yehaa! I asked my friend, Lyssandra, whether she had a job for me at her sailing school in Pisa, Italy, and …. The rest of the story is that I never quit sailing anymore and I love so much what I am doing. I made my way up step by step to be a RYA Ocean Yachtmaster commercial and Sailing Instructor, first aid and GMDSS SRC (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System – Short Range Certificate) assessor as well as charter skipper and racer. 

Never regret a moment of it! Life is like reefing –  if you think about it, do it!!


– What is your age, or age range?

Always have to calculate this 🙂 45


What was the occupation before becoming a sailor/liveaboard?

Paramedic for 15 years.


– What was the reason why you chose to sail?

Opportunity to live the dreams – traveling to every continent and crossing the Atlantic Ocean slowly.


– How long has it been?

Left my old life in November 2015.


– Who do you sail with?

By now, mostly with my students or clients, or opportunity crews for racing. Too little with my friends.


– How did your life change since you started sailing?

180° – growing up in the Swiss mountains and working in the biggest city of Switzerland as a paramedic to become a worldwide sailor and instructor is quite a big change. Mostly living on the boat (not always) maybe even sharing the little cabin, little space, and very little privacy, watch systems, changing crew/students weekly, outdoor day by day, …


– How do you make money while cruising? 

First, in this kind of sailing you don’t make money, it’s just enough to get around. It’s all about passion. But I can do what I love to do. So, making money means teaching or being a charter skipper.


– What kind of boat do you own and what kind of boats have you had previously?

I do not own a boat – too expensive. I’d rather sail other people’s boats, :). 

… Actually I do own two boats, but one is a sea kayak and the other is a white-water inflatable canoe!


– What do you love and hate most about the boat you sail on?

The boat I am on most of the time, a Dufour 40, I love because of the easy handling, stable and in a good shape for what I am using her. I do not like not having enough room for all the stuff to store (dinghy, fenders, extra items, etc.) and no bowsprit and bow thruster.


– Where is the boat’s name from? (previous owner story? Or why did you pick this name?) 

“Hatha Maris” used to be named “Hattamuri”, which means in neapolitan dialect “eat my dust”, and it’s very bad. Therefore, Lyssandra, the owner, had to change it. It should be something similar for the luck of the boat. “Hatta” became “Hatha” from Sanskrit, which means sun and moon and “Muri” became “Maris” from “mare” ( sea – in Italian). I really like this name change.


– If you could change the boat’s name to anything else, what would it be and why? 

I would keep this name if I considered buying her. 🙂


– What is your dreamboat?

Not sure.  It depends on what my plans would be. I am between a racer and a circumnavigation version and this is a huge difference. Thinking a lot about this and it’s very difficult to choose.


– If you could pick any fictional character to sail with as crew, who would it be? 

Either one of the early explorers or a female circumnavigation solo sailor who’s also interested in expeditions.


– What’s the best thing about sailing and your favorite moment while sailing?

The many different options you have. Different boats, cruising and racing, meeting all kinds of people from all over the world with the same desire, being out in nature and having to deal with it, freedom, happiness, and need of knowledge in so many different areas and need of experience.

My favorite moments are always on the Atlantic crossings, watching the night sky with all the stars and once in Antarctica being on top of the mast watching the ship sailing by all those icebergs, penguins swimming by and whales.

(Editor’s Note: Woowwwww) 


– What are the most memorable anchorages and places you sailed to?

Antarctica!!!


– What is the one county that you would most want to (and can) sail to that you almost certainly won’t get to, and what’s stopping you? 

Back to Antarctica – if I want to go back, I want to be the skipper! You need a lot of experience in this kind of environment (at the moment I only sail in warm areas such as the Med and the Caribbean). On such a trip you need solid knowledge about everything: engineering, sailing, planning, nature, medicine, maintenance, and money of course.


– Scariest/ crazy moment?

Last fall I skippered the boat with a crew of 4 (one non sailor) thru the Med to the Canary Islands. The weather was shit the whole time. Really beating in stormy conditions almost the entire way. The first night after a huge windhole the mistral hit us. Very strong wind, directly on the nose and increasing sea state, not very comfortable but sailable. As trouble or what we call it by now “casino” always happens at night, always. So, we had the staysail up to get a better angle and have a good sail size and of course reefed down the main to reef three (trysail/stormsail size). I was off watch (what else) when we heard a massive “Bang!” up on deck. The dyneema (for those who don’t know what this is – a thick line strong as wire) ripped and the staysail was flying all over with the heavy metal piece to attach at the bottom end. the staysail itself was still somehow attached with the carabiners and flapping heavily but also got caught on the shrouds on the upper parts of the sail (how do you get carabiners attached to the shrouds halfway up the mast off without sending someone up there in this bad conditions??) – it was awesome! How do we get the sail down now? One seasick with bleeding nose down below and one good helmswomen and the other two of us figuring out how to solve this “casino”. Kind of sea sick as well. After a few hours we got the sail down, the staysail wire attached safely and started to sail again. Damage: staysail useless, mainsail little holes but still in use. Exhausted, cold and still two seasick heading for Mallorca.


– Share an anecdote

One of our great students was so funny. A very smart guy and always in for a good laugh together. He slept in one of the aft cabins on a milebuilder. He always made jokes about himself and said he likes to surprise himself. One day he told us that he couldn’t sleep well because of the engine running noise. The next shift he decided to close the door to have a more quiet sleep till he figured out that he was sleeping next to the engine


– Do you have any rituals on the boat?

I always bring a looot of swiss dark chocolate with me! Day trip or ocean crossing, no sailing without chocolate! I don’t have a freezer onboard otherwise I would have to bring ice cream as well – one a day is perfect!


– What are the plans for the future?

Keep sailing and gain experience as much as possible, on different boats and different places. Would like to be part of some expeditions, not the everyday stuff.


– What is your dream?

To become a great sailor and to be able to share this knowledge, having fun at the same time and give people the opportunity to join and discover a completely different environment.


– What’s your ocean “anthem”?

Love to listen to music and always have my whole music library with me. During the night sailing, I love to listen to Ludovico Einaudi, morning wake up songs are from the Sunshine Brothers – the rum song, solo watches more happy and famous dance music from weekly changing playlists, and traditionally coming back from a trip and sailing into the sunset just before the marina entrance – ABBA.

-How did the spreading of the virus change your plans?

By now I got used to the fact that my sailing plans usually change. The Covid19 changed it radically. I was supposed to come back to Europe for four weeks to teach in Italy and participate in an annual women’s regatta, work a few weeks in between as a paramedic to be able to pay my flights and then go back and finish the Caribbean season. Well, as you know, everything changed for most people. Italy got hit very badly and lockdowns are all over the world. I got stuck in Switzerland. There are definitely worse places to get stranded, I am very lucky in this case. I am also very lucky that paramedic is a crisis resistant job and the ambulance service was very happy I signed up to stay as long as they needed me and even offered me to stay as long as I want. My summer season in Italy was canceled anyway and this was the perfect alternative for me in this extraordinary situation. As I don’t want to lose my skills as a paramedic, I need to go back and work as a paramedic a couple weeks per year. This is a fantastic way to keep up the skills and earn some good money. I still love to be a paramedic but I miss sailing so much! Can’t wait to be back on the water again – very happy there will be some dinghy sailing here on the lakes!

– What is your idea of freedom?

To do what I want to do, at the time I want to do it, and enjoy it! 

If you are ever in need of a world class sailing instructor, or emergency CPR, you go find this woman! She’s got the cure for what ails ya 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/thalita.zurwerra

https://www.facebook.com/SecondStarSailing/

https://secondstarsailing.com/

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and dreams. A truly unique and inspirational person.

    Like

    1. I had so much fun with this interview! she’s so cool and also a paramedic! I mean, she can save people, isn’t it the coolest thing?

      Like

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