Airbnb can sometimes be just a place to put your bags and call your base in a city, or in my case last night, it could shape the entire experience you have. After some bus drama, I pulled into the port city of Rostock in the very North of Germany, and walked my way to the accommodations my father had booked for the night (he was coming from Lund, Sweden on the ferry during the tail-end of his trip to Northern Europe). It was his 57th birthday, and after seven long years of not spending it with him in person, I decided it was time to redeem myself.
The skies were darkening and swelling with much needed rain as I arrived at the water, and immediately spotted my vessel of a home for the evening, a Dutch wooden and metal sailboat named the de Albertha. It was then that the storm started, my SIM-cardless dad was nowhere in sight, I couldn’t figure out where the door was on the boat, I had no contact information, and I was wearing one of my signature skimpy tank tops. An hour later, and ready to book a bus home, I finally spotted my dad running towards the boat from his rental car. Fortunately, a bit more boat-savvy than myself (he is himself a wooden boat restorer), he found the hatch and we tumbled down a ladder into a rustic and homey lounge. Immediately, I forgot I was even on a boat as sat down to a cold Radler and waited for the owner to come back from the nearby fair.
Fifteen minutes later, in came Dick (from Holland), his wife Lotta, and a slew of other crew members. All were dressed in attire clearly made for a sailboat, and sporting varying levels of sunburn from the rainless, German summer. Despite our remedial German skills, we were given a warm welcome, and I brought out some apple cake and sekts (sparkling wine) to celebrate my dad’s birthday. That was when the entire crew broke out in a German birthday song I had never heard before. We ate, drank, and immediately felt like we were crew members unloading from a long day of sailing and getting ready for another full day on the water tomorrow. With that the crew headed to bed, and we went to our room. To my amazement, two outrageously compact bunk beds fit in the confines of our tiny room.
My dreams throughout the night were certainly more vivid and creative than other nights, as the boat rocked me into a deep, but unfamiliar state of sleep.
At around 8 the next morning, I could hear stirring all around the boat as the crew prepared for three separate sailing trips for visitors that day. With my dad and grandpa already up, I stumbled out into the lounge to the entire crew already eating and getting ready to go.
With visitors arriving around 10, Dick began blurting out safety tips to us in inconceivable German. Should anything happen on the sailing journey, we would be the ones to go first, having not registered any of the warnings. And with that, we took sail. Once again, I was unprepared, with just my tank top to keep me warm in the brutally cold post-storm Baltic Sea wind. But along the way, I collected two sweaters from members of the crew who had taken pity on me.
The four-hour journey took us up to the Baltic sea and back. While the crew took over the majority of the work, they would often instate us to do some of the leg-work. Happy to have a purpose on the boat, I would always accept; and before I knew it, I was pulling ropes tauter than my strength would allow and turning wheels that I couldn’t pinpoint the purpose of. But either way, I was proud to contribute to the efforts on the boat and feel like a true sailor.
It had been a long time since I had been on a boat like this, and I had forgotten why people enjoy it so much; and why sailors make it their living. Sailing stirs up strong feelings of freedom as one is out there on the open waters, furthermore it creates this incomparable bond between human and mother nature that isn’t replicable with many other sports as the two work hand in hand to make the boat move properly. I wouldn’t say it is ‘my calling’, but I can appreciate the hard work and rewards that goes into the sport.
At around 2, we swerved back into dock and bid our house- and crew-mates goodbye, totally satisfied with our unique Airbnb experience. If you are ever up in Rostock, consider living the life of a sailor for a day and night.