Thirty hours without sleep, fifteen without food. Biting my tongue to stay awake, peering out into the abyss to scout for other boats. There is nothing to see; nobody goes here. Too tired to cook. We’re halfway from Madeira to Gran Canaria, one short leg of a round-the-world trip by sailboat. A few kilometres to the east lies the Portuguese island Selvagem Grande. Two souls live there: one is there to keep people away, the other to look at birds.

Selvagem Grande

As skipper on my own vessel, I’ve got the freedom to roam where I wish: I no longer heed newspaper headlines, the postbox or opening hours. I am on the way to inaccessible islands in the South Pacific, on my way to St. Helena, on my way home – but along the route lies stormy nights and a seasick crew, moments where the scaffolding of civilisation would do me good. Holding on is all I can do – until another wave has passed us, until we reach land.

Wobbly horizon