In search of total freedom. An eurythmist sails around the world with his wife and children

By Mathias Maurer, July 2012

Ben Hadamovsky is an anxious person. That is why he wanted to sail around the world with his family.

Having grown up in Kiel, he has been around water since childhood. The thirty-eight-year old eurythmist and colour designer left his “bourgeois eco idyll” in Bremen, sold his car, apartment and possessions, and purchased a well-founded yacht. He had the support of his wife Carola (34), who had had enough of his moaning about anything and everything: “Better a crazy life on a boat than a depressive husband in a beautiful apartment.” 

The preparations for the long trip took a year. The two small children, Nils (then three years old) and Lisa (18 months) quickly found their feet in their new, ten-square-metre home. The family sailed down the Channel, across the Bay of Biscay and along the Spanish Atlantic coast until they reached Portugal where they wintered near Faro and ate wild asparagus; then on to the Canaries, followed by the great leap across the Atlantic to Martinique, through the Panama Canal to the Galapagos Islands, the Marquesas, Tonga and New Zealand, then onwards via Indonesia, Thailand, the Maldives, through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.

There a westerly wind drove them off their course and they happened to land at Kastelorzio, a small Greek island not far off the coast of Turkey where they lived for a year until they had to return to Germany.

If you are surrounded by two thousand nautical miles of emptiness and there are five thousand metres of water under your keel, with a boundless starry sky above and not a breath of wind, then you are forced to start thinking about the important things in life, says Ben Hadamovsky. His greatest fear was not sinking in a storm or being captured by pirates, but colliding with one of the many containers floating just below the surface of the oceans which could quite easily rip open your hull. Indeed, he has thought of almost everything: he would even have attempted to operate on an acute appendicitis on the high seas with his emergency scalpels – but then it was, after all, only the engine which failed and had to be repaired by satellite phone, and a few plasters which were needed from the on-board medical kit.

The children were never bored. On the contrary, each anchorage became an adventure playground with the local children and exotic flotsam and jetsam. They were the ones that opened doors everywhere they made landfall. On board, sticks turned into forests, sand to fairy dust, sea shells into playmates and endless stories were made up and told.

There were none of the normal luxuries. Without a car, fridge, shower or washing machine every household task, every shopping trip became a day’s programme – on the other hand there was no shortage of time. Unlimited freedom and imagination – what else did they want? It was hard work, Ben Hadamovsky recalls. Who am I? What do I really want? We should be happy because we are living our dream ...

Ben was a driven person. He always wanted to move on, even from the most beautiful places, because over the horizon something more important, a better life might be waiting. His self-therapy was hard because he could not avoid the inevitable conclusion: it was not the boat which was a constraint but his inner self. The couple Hadamovsky could no longer avoid each other either. The refusal to see oneself reflected in the behaviour the other partner had to be overcome. On land it was easier to divert or hide oneself. The sea and life on board taught them unconditional trust and gratitude. They anchored in the most beautiful bays in the world, exchanged corned beef for papayas and fresh lobster in Tonga, humpback whales and dolphins played around the yacht, at night the plankton sparkled in its wake, dolphinfish were caught and grilled. And during a force ten storm they also on occasion had to spend three days below deck.

Yet they were not alone in their self-made paradise. The global waste problem caught up with them: swathes or rubbish cover the world’s oceans. It was particularly bad in Indonesia where bits of plastic kept fouling the propeller, or in New Caledonia where mountains of electrical scrap are contaminating the precious drinking water of the island. Ben noticed how abstract his European ecological thinking was.

The plan was for two years which turned into five. The children needed to go to school. In New Zealand the Hadamovskys thought about settling down near the Tauranga Waldorf school. Yet the differences in mentality and the feeling of being at the end of the world while the future was happening in Europe drove them on again after a few months despite the wonderful landscape and friendly people. On the way home, they ended up by accident on the small island of Kastelorizo in the southern Aegean with its 200 inhabitants. There Carola learnt everything there was to know about herbs from the local people living there as fishermen, craftsmen, landlords and artists, while Ben had a job as a carpenter and the children went to the local school. The islanders gave them a warm welcome, they almost decided to settle there when their journey came to a tragic end.

Carola had flown to Germany for a visit. A call from Ben’s father-in-law: his daughter was in intensive care fighting for her life. She had been critically injured during a small surgical procedure and had had to undergo two emergency operations. Suddenly Ben was faced with the greatest question of his trip: what happens if she dies? “I sailed around the world with her, we became one crew. Who will keep watch while I’m sleeping?” Carola survived but a return is unthinkable, she will take two years to recover. Now the Hadamovskys are left with less than when they began their journey and have to start all over again. A year later Ben goes to fetch the boat – alone. It is his most difficult leg. He sails the previous course and is grateful for his courageous wife. Without her he would still be sitting in Bremen and dream of freedom.


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