Chantal Scheiberlich – how a nautical engineer from the Netherlands fell in love with the Greek seas
Do you remember I told you that I like to sit on the little wall in the marina of Agios Kirikos watching the coming and going of the boats? (https://betweenmyworlds.com/in-the-marina-of-agios-kirikos-let-the-world-come-in/ )? Yep, I‘m still there, coming in the morning after my morning coffee on the platia, sitting there for a little while. But this summer is a bit different. As the management in the marina has changed, there aren’t many boats arriving, but still enough for me to be curious about the stories they bring in and let my fantasy take flight.
And one of these mornings I got a nice surprise: a boat I knew returned to the marina and was laid there, gently rocking by the quay. The « Aloeita, » was back, still sailing under its Dutch flag …. and as I found out a little while later … still in the ownership of captain Chantal …. What a beautiful reunion! And nice to know that despite all the struggles we are facing right now, some things remain the same. Like Chantal’s big smile. When I approached the boat to find her, her familiar face with the big brown eyes and the friendly smile gave me a friendly welcome. Accepting her invitation for a coffee, I found myself shortly after sitting below deck, catching up with her news.
Chantal is one of these rare women who already made an impression on me when we first met. With her gentle attitude, together with her slight Dutch accent when she talks English or German, you‘re not necessarily aware that you‘re standing in front of a woman, who lives her life outside the usual box. Let’s start with the business career she‘s chosen. Always interested in boats and nurturing the dream of living on a boat since she was little, she studied nautical engineering in order to follow her interest in technology and to have a chance to work on large ships to travel the seas. And she did indeed. She loved working with the engines, might it have been on big vessels or later on cruise ships. But her love for the sea and her work did not stop her from starting a family. She has three children, 2 girls and a boy and when the kids were born, Chantal changed her perspective on the sea: instead of being on the ships herself, she became a teacher at the nautical school.
In 2015 she had to reorganize her life, which also gave her the chance to fulfill her dream: she bought a boat to live on. Even though this idea was not shared by all family members, her son opted to stay with her on the boat, claiming the biggest space for himself so that he would have enough room for studying for school. So they anchored in a Dutch harbor, living on the boat, renovating it and in 2018 Chantal set sails. As she had chosen her boat very carefully, she knew that she could handle sailing into the unknown. The „Aloeita“ is an aluminium boat, old style, which makes it safe and secure while sailing the open sea. In addition, it‘s not a boat with sophisticated high end technology, but very much grounded, equipped with the basics. In order to be as self-sustained as possible, Chantal has installed solar panels and a small wind turbine. That‘s enough to cover her needs for electricity, if you exclude – for example – electric coffee makers, extensive use of laptops and toothbrushes from the basic equipment.
And of course, a little touch of Dutch design is seen all over the boat. „Yes“, Chantal is saying with a little twinkle in her eyes, „yes, this is what I need to make me comfy“. And as a nautical engineer, she has the knowledge to repair most of the things by herself, which gives her a lot of freedom in her life at sea.
While setting sails, she had the idea to sail to Polynesia, crossing the Atlantic, but somehow the winds took her off to Greece…. and since then, the Greek seas have never let her go. And as Chantal is moving gently between the kitchen, the bathroom and the „bedrooms“, you can see and feel that these few square meters and Chantal have become one entity. The space is filled with the necessary equipment, photos and souvenirs, reminding her about her family and the encounters she has had. And there has been many.
To earn some money and to ensure the maintenance of the boat, Chantal takes guests on board. Not on a regular basis and not as a professional charter, because she chooses her guests very carefully. « Because, you know », Chantal is explaining, « on a boat you have only little room. And as you cannot escape each other, the discussions and contacts among the participants can become pretty intense. I like to have a good atmosphere among the people I am travelling with, it is good when the people on board are following a certain mindset and that respect is ensured » referring to some unwritten rules on board, such as respecting the « time out », when a person is sitting on the bow of the boat. Managing her « cruises » in this way, Chantal has been able to avoid difficult situations on board so far.
Another source of income is the possibility to team up with other skippers and to assist them on their bigger crusades. This also gives her the possibility to get to know to other destinations, like Spain, without giving up her „home base“ in Greece. When asked why she‘s not exploring other countries and seas, Chantal’s answer is pretty simple : « Because I like it here! There is so much to discover and l like small and quiet places. For example, during COVID-times we anchored on the small island of Lipsi (next to Ikaria) and it was just beautiful. Quiet. And we got to know to the work of the Archipelagos Institute (https://archipelago.gr/en/), which has its base there, taking our chance to volunteer for their work. It was such an enriching time.“
Listening to her, Chantal gives you the impression that she might have found, what others call « work-life-balance“. She’s living in the moment, enjoying the encounters with different people in the harbours, the company and support of other sailors. She doesn’t miss anything from the life that others live on land – perhaps a garden to have a chance to grow her own fruit and vegetables– but apart from that, she doesn’t need anything more. She tries to stay in close contact with her family, making sure that she doesn’t miss her kids’ birthday parties or Christmas eve with all of them. And in the family, they have a clear agreement: when they need her, Chantal will be there, no matter in which part of the seas she might be, because hugs and kisses are needed. And whenever she is back in the Netherlands, she enjoys catching up with friends. „Sometimes I have the feeling that our encounters are even more intense and are going deeper, as if I lived in the neighborhood and we could see each other every day.” But of course, there are also up and downs, when you live the life of a captain. Technical problems may come up, teaching her patience and the ‘joy to embrace the possibilities to learn from the challenges’ – this is Chantal’s way of looking at life, her way of staying positive … moving on.
And she is searching for “opportunities” by herself. For example, she could imagine to put her roots down on a Greek island. Just to have another base. She has already spotted a nice plot of land on Chios, an old traditional house with a nice garden, which might give her the chance to set a big table to welcome friends and family … somehow the lifestyle she’s already living on the boat … Perhaps this might happen one day. “I have many different ideas in mind, what I could do in the future, but the most important will always be being near to the sea …”. Did you expect a different answer from a dedicated sea captain?