From Holland to Australia and everywhere in between, this is my story of how I came to be to build boats, care deeply about the environment and dedicate my life to helping create a sustainable, fossil fuel free future.
I grew up in the Netherlands in a house beside a lake. When I was 5 my dad bought my mom a small rowboat with sails. It turned out my mom was not much interested in the boat so I used it summer and winter to learn how to sail. Winters in the Netherlands are not like in Australia. One day we capsized, nearly freezing to death before being rescued by our neighbours. A few weeks later there was ice on the water.
Later we moved house, away from the water, and the dinghy was sold. But soon I got a bigger, proper sailing boat in which I did some crazy trips and over-nighted on another big lake, not far from our new home. That was the last boat I did not build myself.
The first boat I built was a 30foot proa – an ancient type of sailboat used throughout the Pacific. It is a catamaran with one hull larger than the other. “What was the point of building two big hulls when I was only going to live in one of them?” I thought. I saw that with a proa I could build a bigger and better boat. Later I would discover some of the many other advantages the proa has over more modern designs and in another twenty years or so would set about building my dream proa. But I digress.
This first proa was very small, just one metre high inside the hull, with a small area to sit, a galley, a navigation corner and a sleeping bench on the floor. I called her Gaia after the ancient Greek goddess of the earth.
After a year Gaia proved too small for me to live aboard. Since it would be hard to sell such an unusual boat, I decided to build a new main hull and use the old main hull as the outrigger for the new one. Kind of like making the boat grow! And so Gaia II was born.