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Trini sails around world in 9 years

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Vidya Jeremiah-Pettersson, who claims she is the second Trinidadian woman to have circumnavigated the globe by sea, stands on her boat, El Cordero, at Coral Cove Marina, Chaguaramas, yesterday. PHOTO: JOSHUA SURTEES

Pouring rain was probably not what Vidya Jeremiah-Pettersson, who claimed to be the second-ever Trinidadian woman to circumnavigate the globe by sea, envisaged arriving back to in the land of her birth but that’s what she got. Landing just after 10 am and greeted by her brother, Shiva, uncle Steve and nephew Ravi, she walked ashore at the quay at Coral Cove, looking positively buoyant despite it being her first encounter with dry land for 21 days. 



The final stint of her nine-year voyage with Swedish husband Kenneth Pettersson had taken them from Cape Verde islands, off the west coast of Africa, across the Atlantic until they eventually sighted T&T and the marina in Chaguaramas where the couple first met.


The couple followed the path of Harold La Borde, who in 1969 to 1973, circumnavigated the world in his 40-foot ketch, Hummingbird II. He was accompanied by his wife, Kwailan, and his five-year-old son Pierre. Harold and Kwailan were awarded the nation’s highest honour—the Trinity Cross in 1973.


Back in January 1999, Jeremiah-Pettersson was working as a manager in the office at Coral Cove marina when Kenneth arrived on his boat. He had landed in the Caribbean after one of his eight trans-Atlantic voyages, four of which he sailed solo. After sailing back to Sweden he returned again in 2001. “I think it was his intention to find me again,” says Vidya, beaming. Before meeting Kenneth she had never sailed before. “He built the boat himself. You could say he’s a sailing freak,” she said. 


The boat, named El Cordero (or lamb in Spanish), looks small and cosy and is adaptable enough to cope with the open seas as well as the tight canals and waterways of mainland Europe, which must be navigated on the route they took. Pettersson described the boat as “an old-fashioned Swedish design, a long-keeled boat. It’s not fast.”


Before facing the questions of the media the husband and wife had to check in with customs and immigration officials to complete the formalities. Some time later they re-emerged to tell the tale. The story began for Vidya back in 2004 when the couple set sail from Trinidad but for Kenneth it began long before, when he was a little boy growing up in the old fishing port of Skanör, reading about sailing voyages.


The journey has taken nine years and Jeremiah-Pettersson listed the route which took in countries, including Venezuela, Colombia, the Panama Canal, Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Suvaru, Tonga, Fiji “where we spent the hurricane season, six months, wonderful island,” she added, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt and through the Suez Canal across the Mediterranean to France. 


From there they entered Rhone River. “We had to put the mast down so the mast was lying on the boat,” she said “and we went through the canals…” Kenneth, continued, “and up through Belgium, Holland, the north of Germany and a quick journey over to where I come from, the south of Sweden.” Their favourite place was Fiji. “The culture was almost like Trinidad,” Jeremiah-Pettersson said. 


“They have dasheen bush so I could make my callaloo and the people were very friendly. We met a very nice Indian family so we would cook food with them every Sunday and the local people were absolutely wonderful.” The couple have lived on the boat for nine years. The last night they spent on dry land together was two years ago in Sweden. Earlier this year Vidya travelled home to T&T to spend time with her sick mother. 


They funded the trip along the way by building boats. Now they plan to stay in T&T for a while, and definitely for the Christmas period. Showing us the interior cabins and living space on El Cordero the sailing duo explain how they kept themselves entertained and what they ate. Jeremiah-Pettersson is now looking for a job in the sailing or yachting industry and says she would love to work back at the marina where she used to work. The first stop for Jeremiah-Pettersson after her historic journey is to see her mother.


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