With this feature we’ve been exploring the explorers who take off in vans, or in some cases trucks, for untraveled, quiet lands. Today, we have a similar explorer who’s taken to making the sea her stomping ground. Liz Clark has been living on her boat, Swell, for nearly 10 years. She talked with us about what contributed to the decision to take off on the sea, the passions that move her through life, and the perfect paradise that she’d dock at if only she could find it. Start off by watching this clip of Liz from the full-length “Dear Yonder” by Tiffany Campbell and Andria Lessler, released in 2008.
How long have you been sailing the Swell Voyage?
I sailed out of Swell’s home port of Santa Barbara in October of 2005.
What contributed to the decision to live life on the sea?
I was raised on sailboats, and went on a voyage to Mexico with my family at 9 years old. Since then, I dreamed of becoming the captain of my own boat and sailing away to see the world. I earned my degree in Environmental Studies at UCSB, and after college I was disillusioned with the way our short-sighted consumerist society lives with respect to our resources and the planet. George W. got re-elected, which felt like confirmation that I didn’t like the direction our society was headed. I wanted to live closer to nature, learn from other cultures, slow down, challenge myself, grow, and go surf new waves! Living out my childhood dream of exploring the world by sailboat seemed like the best way to incorporate all of these desires.
Did you have to put any work into the boat? If so, what did you do?
It took two years of intense work with lots of help from experts, family, and friends to get Swell and me ready to go to sea. Since I acquired Swell, almost every square inch of her from stem to stern has been fixed, replaced, repainted, modified, added, cleaned, reworked, or reinvented!!
How do you decide where you’ll go?
It generally has a lot to do with the waves and the weather…:D
What is different about living on sea vs. land?
Well, you’re constantly at the mercy of the elements and responsible for keeping your home safe and afloat which can be stressful and time-consuming. It’s isolated at times, which has its good and bad sides. It seems like much more work than land life, but it seems like it helps me focus on the truly important things. You have limited space so you learn to not need or accumulate a lot of things. You can’t have a garden, but you can anchor near beautiful waves, have dolphins swimming under your bed, and whales using your home as a back scratcher. Plus, when you travel, you bring your house with you!
You focus a lot on healthy eating and sustainable agriculture. Was this always a passion for you?
Not always. Only in the last few years have I began to understand the relationship between the foods we choose to eat and how they affect our health and that of the planet. Now it’s one of my greatest passions. I consider my food choices part of my daily activism for the Earth. I’m extra motivated now because my body feels better than ever since deciding to eat a whole food, plant-based diet!
Talk about your relationship with online communities and social media. Do you feel like you’ve struck a good balance between online and offline life?
Sometimes I get overwhelmed because there are so many ways for people to contact me and an unlimited amount of time and energy that can be spent online. As someone who works hard toward their goals, it’s sometimes difficult to know when to stop in terms of spreading the messages and ideas that I’m so passionate about—like living your dreams, the health of our oceans, permaculture and sustainable agriculture, overfishing, climate change, health and wellness, individual empowerment, consumer choices…to name a few. 😀 But “maintaining balance” is also on that list. And in order to be effective and true to myself, I have to unplug and do the things that keep me feeling inspired, creative, and in love with life. It’s a constant game of tipping the scales, but I’m doing alright at it…
If you could sail anywhere, real or imaginary, where would it be and why?
Hmmmm…it would be a deserted, mountainous tropical island with a lovely bay open to good swell. There would be an anchorage behind a curve of coral reef, providing protection from weather in all directions. The anchorage would be about 12-feet deep, with crystal clear water and white sand bottom for good anchor holding, and enough room for Swell to swing in all directions. There would be a wave like Rincon and P-pass mixed together and an equally epic left on the other side for my goofy-foot friends…and a sandy beach in the middle to bodysurf and roll around in the hot sand. I’d build a house from all natural construction to accommodate visiting friends. Of course it would be right by the hot spring pools. A galore of coconut palms and wild fruit and nut trees ashore would be free for foraging, with something in season all year round. And a waterfall spilling from a cliff just near the sea in which to bathe and collect drinking water. The soil would be fertile and for growing vegetables and the air so fresh it cooled your lungs with each breath. The sun would set over the sea and there would always be lots of wildlife to enjoy—birds and bugs and mantas and whales and dolphins and well-fed sharks to swim with!! Wow…I need to go find this place!!