Danish Adventurer Malene Wilken Shares How to Pack for a Long-Distance Sailing Trip

Malene Wilken
Photo credit: Sara Skytte, Hendes Verden

My name is Malene Wilken and I am 43 years old. I come from Denmark where I live together with my husband and our two children.

In my professional life, I work as a speaker, inspiring other people to go ahead with their personal and professional ambitions, and help them make their impossible dreams come true.

I have made a lot of blogs about the adventures of sailing, and also some books, two of them are about our trip.
I love to be at sea and spend time by the ocean, but also enjoy making long walks ashore.

I am an open-minded person.

One of the things I loved about our journey was meeting different people and cultures.

Malene Wilken
The children helped with the daily tasks on board. Here Sebastian helps his father rise the courtesy flag.

How and why did you get into traveling?

My husband and I had the idea to travel the world on a Friday night in 2003. We were talking about what memories we would like to have when we grew old and grey. Sometime during the evening one of us said, “Someday I would like to sail around the world.” None of us could come up with a reason that was good enough to keep us from finding out if two ‘ordinary people’ like us could do something that amazing, so we decided to find out if we could make this wild dream come true.

Quite fast, we found out, that it didn’t take more than we were able to do.

We made a plan, and started following it. We learned (more) about sailing, more languages, started saving up money, and made a plan for how we would finance the trip. We had good jobs, and were on track living a normal life. We were not unhappy in any way, we just wanted to try out the adventure of long-distance sailing. And luckily we both felt like going for it. My husband has a daughter from before we met, so we knew that it would take some time before we could make the dream come true. We spend six years planning and saving up for the adventure. In that time, we also had the two children that we brought with us on the journey. Marie was two and Sebastian was five when we left Copenhagen for the adventure of more than two years of long-distance sailing.

Denmark is a sailing nation, and we spend a lot of time reading books about long-distance sailing. Amongst the authors are: Troels Kløvedal, Erik Wedersøe, Svend Billesbølle, Camille Aulkjær Andersen and Hannelore Dörner.

Malene Wilken
A beautiful morning along the Spanish coast

How do you finance your adventures?

We sold our flat, drove an old car instead of a new one and saved as much money we could during the six years we spend planning the trip. We spend a lot of the budget on the boat and gear for the boat. Travelling was much cheaper than we had expected. We had a few sponsors, which made it possible to bring extra cool gear on the boat. We had normal jobs before we went sailing, and went back to normal jobs when we returned. I have started a business, where I make lectures and courses helping others to get going with their wild dreams. In addition, I have found the courage to follow an even older dream about writing. During the trip, I wrote notes for the books, I made when we returned.

Malene Wilken
The pressure cooker made it possible to stay in wonderful spots for many days – we were never out of food

How do you eat and sleep on board?

We have got a galley on board, with a stow with an oven. Most of the food we made and ate on board. Part of the trip we sailed for several days. We tried to eat as much local food in the different countries we visited. Some food we had in restaurants, and other food we bought in supermarkets or local markets. During the trip, we made excursions into the countries, by public transportation or by a rented car. During the excursions, we slept at hotels.

Malene Wilken
Marie was 2 and Sebastian was 5 at the beginning of the trip

How do you bring your things with you?

We brought everything with us on the boat.

How do you organize things in your boat?

Our boat is rather small, so everything was packed carefully, making us able to stay in a perfect spot and feel the freedom of being able to go where we wanted to. We brought a lot of books, and toys for the children – all the things that we needed to be comfortable during the long trips. Everything had its place on the boat, and we were surprised how much we could pack into the boat.

Bearing in mind that a boat can sink so we had a waterproof bag for important papers (passports, money, etc.) and we were happy that we never had to use it. I think that a waterproof bag is very useful when you spend time at sea.

Malene Wilken
Marie and Sebastian loved playing on the front deck

How do your gear hold up?

I think it pays off to buy good quality. The gear lasts longer, and the usability is often better, than if you settle for second best. Living on a boat worn it 10 times more than normal holiday sailing. This also goes for the sailing gear. I am glad that we spend that extra part of the budget, providing us with good quality clothes and gear. If we get the chance to go long-distance sailing again, we will bring solar panels instead of a windmill. My husband is very handy, he made small repairs on the way. Luckily, we did not have any major breakdowns.

Malene Wilken

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

I think we had all that we needed. We managed with what we had. It would have been nice to have a washing machine, but we managed, using two buckets, and locating laundries when needed. Sometimes I missed having my own bathroom during the cold months, but again, we managed with what we had (shower bags) and found solutions in the places where the harbor showers were out of order.

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

The shower bags providing us with fresh baths, a pressure cooker, and freeze-dried food – because sometimes the nearest market too far away. Having what you need on board increases the freedom of going where you want to, and stay there for as long as the wind lets you.

Malene Wilken

What inspired you to write your books?

I have always dreamt about writing, and was lucky to get in touch with a good publisher before we left. We agreed to keep in touch, and made a contract while we were on the water. I found lots of inspiration in the books I read before we went travelling. There were not many books about long-distance sailing before we went. My aim is to inspire others to go ahead and follow their dreams – they don’t have to be about sailing, but naturally I have got a soft spot for anything taking place at sea. 😉

My favorite books are Skibet er ladet med eventyr and Sluserne åbner for nye eventyr the two books I wrote about our adventure.

What is your best advice for other adventurers?

Go ahead and do it. Be honest, and in case you go with others, remember to talk about the difficult things too. Not everything about an adventure is perfect, most is, and talking about what you fear takes a lot of pressure off. Accept that it may take a while before you get to where you dream about going, and enjoy the planning part of the adventure.

Malene Wilken
Sunrise while crossing the Bay of Biscay

What will the future bring?

At the moment we are happy living on land, but we are all dreaming about the next time we have got the chance to set sails for another long-distance sailing adventure.

Visit Malene Wilken on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube


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