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A picture of a girl with sunglasses and a guy with glasses outside leaning their head in toward one another. IN the background is a view of a valley an mountain.
March of 2020, on a hike in L.A. blissfully unaware about what is about to happen.

How we got from March 2020 to September 2021.

Luckily, Mads flew into Los Angeles the day before flights stopped from Europe to the U.S., and everything shut down in March 2020. Along with the rest of the world, we would spend the next two weeks in the bizarre and uncertain beginnings of Covid and quarantine. We were fortunate and grateful to be together. We couldn’t have imagined how scary it would have been if the pandemic separated us from the beginning. Naive and still in the dreamlike state that was quarantine, little did we know at the time how long we would eventually spend separated.

Mads was still able to fly home to Denmark, and as we neared his departure date, we had to decide about him staying in L.A. or going back to Denmark. If Mads remained in L.A., he could easily do his day job remotely, we would be together, but no work would get done on Athena. Then, no work on Athena meant delaying our cruising time plan. If Mads flew back to Denmark, he could work from Obelix and have plenty of time to work on Athena, which also meant we had no idea when we would see each other again. It was a difficult decision, but one we were grateful to have. We were both healthy, our families were safe, and we couldn’t imagine what other people were going through at the time.

However, if Covid made us realize anything, we wanted to be together. Mads could have stayed in L.A. during the height of Covid, but that meant delaying moving aboard Athena and delaying being together in the long run. With this in mind, we made a plan. Mads would fly back to Denmark, work on Athena as much as ever (if it were even humanly possible to work even harder). Meanwhile, I would move to Michigan with my parents to save money, work, and finish my Master’s Degree since everything went online. Then, the goal would be to move aboard Athena in July of 2021 and set sail on August 1st. Of course, we would see each other before then. Of course, the boat would be ready, of course, the global pandemic wouldn’t interfere with our delicately laid out cruising plans. Of course, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and we had no idea what was to come.

Fast forward to a year and a half later.

Was Athena done? That largely depends on what definition of done we are using. Was the pandemic over? Not even close. Did we have any idea of where we would be sailing come August 1st? Ideas, yes. Solid plans; we saved those concerns for future Ava and Mads. One thing we did know was that, in the haste of missing one another, in early 2021, we bought a non-refundable, one-way ticket for me to Denmark on July 1st. Even in a long-distance relationship, the longest we had been apart before the pandemic was 90 days. A year and a half was a long time, and it felt like a long time. Granted, Mads got an incredible amount of work done on Athena, and I got to spend the year with my parents (side note: if you ever get to move back home as an adult child after

moving to another state for ten years, do it. Your laundry magically appears washed and folded in your room, and your favorite meals are waiting for you on the table when you get home from work everynight #emptynesters.) However, there was still a lot of work to be done on Athena before she was ready to sail. But, we had already purchased my ticket. A year and a half was a long time. We wanted to be together.

A few things started happening in the weeks leading up to my departure to Denmark. The first was that every phone call with Mads, who is usually cheery and optimistic, started to take on a forewarning tone. We didn’t have enough time to finish all the projects on our list. Well, to be clear, all the projects on my list. Mads and I both had lists. Mads list consisted of projects that would make Athena sailable come July’s end. For instance, including such frivolous things as installing the autopilot, hooking up the alternator, and making sure we had running drinking water. My list consisted of making Athena livable, like having a working head, painting, and wanting the floor and ceiling done. Yes, looking back, I now see how the floor and ceiling were not imperative to sailing, but a girl could hope (that’s also a long-winded yet reluctant way of saying Mads was right). With each phone call, Mads very gently but matter-of-factly brought me to the reality of the situation. We would have a working head, but we probably wouldn’t have a ceiling. The fridge will be working, but we will not have a settee table. We would have a place to sleep, but the saloon would likely be filled with tools and supplies. Okay, that’s fine, I kept telling myself. Mads worked the past year and a half tirelessly to get Athena in her current shape. Who was I to put extra demands on him? Anyway, we could finish most of the projects together when I got there. We would have an entire month to get things done before we left.

Oh, sweet innocent Ava, of June, so little did you know.

When I stepped aboard Athena, an avalanche of emotions immediately hit me. Relief of finally being together in the home that we would share. The excitement of finally starting this journey. I was surprised because Athena felt so much more prominent inside than I remember. Then an incredible sense of awe over the amount of work Mads had gotten done. It’s one thing to see it over FaceTime and in the videos every week, but being there and seeing his work in person was astonishing. After the excitement settled, we looked at one another and the anxiety set in. There was a lot of work done, but there was still a lot of work. Quickly, that month wasn’t looking so long after all. We put on our overalls and got to work.

We were right, and the month went by very quickly.

Every day, we were working tirelessly to move projects into the done column. However, whenever we finished a big project, it seemed like another issue kept popping up and pushing our deadline. When we finished the kiwipgrip on the deck, we tested the alternator, which didn’t fit. When we meticulously installed the new toe-rail, we discovered that the arch was not stable enough to withstand any sea state. When we moved the mini Perkins onto the boat, we quickly realized it was not going to fit through the head door. All issues were solvable and probably expected during a boat refit, but everything seemed compounded because we were also on a time crunch. I only had 90 days on my Schengen visa to finish the boat and sail her to the U.K. With each push back, those days quickly dwindled.

At the end of every night, we would be dust-covered, exhausted, but hopeful. We would shower, then crawl into the v-berth, the only place to sit on the boat and go over our seemingly unending to-do lists. We would discuss the plan for the next day, then the next week, and adjust our departure date accordingly. This became our nightly routine. However, slowly but surely, things were getting done. I want to say that we took the time to appreciate the work getting done, but we didn’t. We were like machines. Finish one project, then on to the next. We would celebrate when Athena was sailing out of Limfjord.

Athena's shakedown sail

Then, toward the end of August, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. After the third try, we finally found a solution for the alternator. Next, we decided to take the solar panels off the arch and sell them and find someone to help us fix the arch when we got to the U.K. Still heartbroken and crushed about the time and effort put into the mini-Perkins, we decided to get a new spiffy generator. We could even take Athena out for a weekend sail to do some tests and make sure she was sailing smoothly. Everything was falling into place, and we could set the departure date. Less than a week away, we would leave Skive on September 13th. Was everything done? Not even close. Were we nervous that something would go wrong? Absolutely. Were we excited to leave the dock and finally set sail on Athena? Like you couldn’t even imagine.


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