The Gypsy Pirate Returns: Part 2 of my interview with Josje Leyten

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If you’ll recall last week, I posted the first part of my interview with Josje Leyten, the sailor who made a splash, literally, with her videos as a crew member aboard superstar sailboat SV Delos, and has now embarked upon a brave new journey as an artist and designer at Ramatree.

The response was amazing! Friends and fans from all over the globe stopped by to check out the interview, leave comments, and wish Josje good luck. Lucky we saved the best for last!

Now, here’s part 2, where we talk about the meaning of “gypsy pirate,” how she conquers fear, and what’s next for her.

Q: You call yourself a gypsy pirate, which I love. Why, and what does that mean to you?

A: Oh thank you! Well to be fair, I like to consider myself both of those things; part gypsy, part pirate. My sailing and nomadic journey have definitely shaped me into this being and I just feel so free and liberated when I am being a Gypsy Pirate. It doesn’t necessarily mean I wear 1000 layers of bohemian styled clothing and a ring on every finger, nor does it mean I live on an old wooden boat and drink rum straight from the bottle, although I do enjoy all of the above. To me, its more a feeling, it evokes a freeing sense of being and my inner heart calling. I’m big on following feelings, not so much thought, because thoughts can be destructive if you are not aware of them. Feelings are true and come from within. You can always feel if something is right, it’s your intuition and it always comes first. Learning how to listen to that is what I am trying to do, letting this feeling lead me through this forest path. So to me, being a Gypsy Pirate evokes this feeling of ME.

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Q: To me, being a pirate means having no fear–or at least not giving into it. What’s your biggest fear, and how do you conquer it, or work toward conquering it?

A: Hmmm, I think my biggest fear would be feeling ‘stuck’, not moving forward, or feeling ‘trapped’. I like the expression that there is never any grass growing under my feet. But at the same time, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so whatever happens will happen, and it is meant to be. So in saying that, I can’t really be afraid of anything right?!  

Q: What’s next for you? What does the future hold for Ramatree?

A: I will be based here In New Zealand over the summer but next year brings a complete open book, which I am super excited about! I am finding the balance between setting my goals and dreams, yet also allowing myself to flow down the river. Truthfully, I have absolutely no idea what the future holds, which is both extremely frightening and extremely exhilarating! I love not knowing what’s around the corner, it makes life more exciting, more thrilling, more liberating. There are so many branches and directions I want Ramatree to grow in, but at the end of the day, I cannot force it one way or another. I must let nature and the Universe nourish and grow me the way nature intended. I am super fucking excited to see where and how far it will go though! I am seeking the light, as trees seek the light, I know I will grow up to where there are no limits.

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Q: Anything else you want readers to know about you and your work?

A: I think a sense of mystery is always a good ally to have on your side! I just love to create and tap into my artistic, open, flowing space where anything and everything is possible. I live for spontaneity, adventure, photography, visual media, freedom and one love! I’m open to collaborations, bookings, ideas, people, anything, so feel free to email me if reading this ignited something inside of you! Much love and light!

That’s it for the interview with Josje! What do you think? Leave a comment below.

I hope to bring you more interviews and features with inspirational and fearless sailors, artists, and dreamers , so watch this space!

 

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Josje Leyten, Gypsy Pirate: An Interview

I have a boat-crush on S/V Delos. The photogenic crew of this 53-foot Amel Super Maramu has been island hopping around the Pacific since 2009, and recently crossed the Indian Ocean from Asia to Africa, where they’re now cruising the coast. Their videos are full of endless tropical sunsets, brisk winds, idyllic beaches, and frequent laughter. I know how intoxicating life onboard a boat can be, and the nonstop fun they seem to have is enough to make you want to double-click on the “Buy us a Beer” icon on the website repeatedly, hoping if you do it enough they’ll let you come onboard and stay for a year or two…

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But to everyone’s surprise, just this year, Josje Leyten, Gypsy Pirate, lifelong sailor and Dutch Kiwi who joined up with Delos five years ago and became a regular face in the videos, made the announcement that, after the Indian Ocean journey, she was chucking it all and flying home from Madagascar to New Zealand to begin a landlubber’s life. So long, Delos! What could possibly prompt someone to give up paradise at sea?

Why art, of course. On a long passage over the Indian Ocean, Josje had a moment of clarity, as tends to happen when we lie on deck and look at the stars. Her new venture, Ramatree, embodies its name by including many branches, including photography, fashion design and jewelry. I had to see some of it: wow! She is seriously talented.

In her work, she incorporates vibrant oceanic colors, the textures of shells and driftwood, exotic cultures from her travels, and the hypnotic rhythms of waves:

And the bravery that she demonstrates by giving up her life at sea for an uncertain future truly embodies the pirate, no-quarter-given spirit I try to cultivate in my own life.

I had to find out more, so I asked Josje some questions, which she was kind enough to answer! Part 1 of her answers runs today:

Q: Does your time at sea influence your work, and if so how?

A: My whole tree of life has grown from inspiration that sailing across the oceans has given me. Wide-open spaces, time to think, to breathe, to reflect, to dream. Cultures to experience, different ways of being and living, absorbing vibes and experiencing different tribes have all been catalysts to planting this little seed that has formed my tree of life. I like my jewellery pieces unique, one off and handmade, from old treasures and hand picked collectibles.

The clothing I am designing is gypsy inspired from my nomadic wanders and sailing adventures. And I try to keep my creative writing as authentic and from the heart as possible, just the way nature intended. So yeah, I guess my time at sea has influenced me in huge ways, perhaps not necessarily so easy to explain, but in a more abstract way.

But mostly, the sea has taught me respect, authenticity and integrity. I want this inspiration to shine through my work and my being, because my time at sea has taught me that there is nothing you can pretend to be, the only thing you can do is be you and be real.

Q: What was one moment from your travels that influenced you most?

A: I guess it was sailing across the Indian Ocean this year and one specific place we visited, the Andaman Islands. It lies in the Bay of Bengal, half way between Thailand and mainland India; it is a chain of islands governed by India and it’s absolutely beautiful. The amazing fabrics, colour and styles blew me away over there. It was sort of where the whole thing started, I don’t know why but I just felt like I had to go and explore this creativity that was beginning to shine through. It was definitely the beginning of Ramatree.

Another huge influence was another creative soul, Frida, who joined Delos for the Indian Ocean crossing. She has an amazing gift of seeing people for their authentic self, of seeing the light, guiding them and allowing them to draw it out of themselves, and in turn, showing them their true potential. So she was a huge influence and inspiration for Ramatree as well.

Q: Which piece of art that you’ve made are you most proud of, and why?

A: Ohhh this is difficult, because the seed was only planted around 6 months ago, so my real life creations are limited, however my creations in my mind are big and ready to explode and radiate outwards! But I guess I’m most proud of visualizing and creating my figurative Tree of Life. I know its nothing I can show you, that you can touch, see or feel, but you can read about it, learn about it and understand it. I’m also extremely proud of my website which, with a little help, I built to share with the world. To be honest, I’m pretty proud of every creation I’ve made so far, whether its earrings, cuffs, necklaces, artwork, designs, or pieces of writing. I just love creating it all and for allowing myself to go through these transitions of life in order to do what I love, for that I am most proud

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Josje, and post any comments below!

UPDATE: Part 2 of our interview has been posted!

11 ways to experience the maritime tradition on a trip to the Netherlands, part 2

During June and July, I finally made my first visit to the country whose strong maritime tradition resulted in my ocean voyage of last year. The first half of my post on the Netherlands can be found here.

7. HOORN

Henry Hudson's historic Half-Moon.

Henry Hudson’s historic Half-Moon.

I was astonished when I learned that this coastal village 30 km north of Amsterdam had given its name to the place that has struck fear in the hearts of generations of sailors. to the point where they get tattoos to commemorate their rounding of the cape off South America–if they survive at all.

In 1616, Willem Corneliszoon Schouten  first rounded the southernmost tip of South America. He named it Kaap Hoorn, aka Cape Horn. During the Dutch Golden Age, this was also the center of the Dutch East India company and the center of trade–basically, it was the crossroads of the world, long before other ports usurped it. This is a wooden ship lover’s paradise–you could walk around here for hours. The sheer number, and the uniqueness of the vessels on display, is just so far beyond anything you would find in the U.S. Here, a schooner incites awe wherever she goes, but this is just par for the course every day in Hoorn, where there people who actually live in schooners permanently anchored, and dinghy into work each day.

Oh Captain and I met some friendly sailors just hanging out on the quay, offering us a ride on their water taxi, which gives you a canal’s-eyes view of the Hoorn waterfront, and some champagne. Although we didn’t have time for the taxi, one of them also happened to be one of the crew members of the replica square-rigger Half Moon (Dutch: Halve Maen). This was the ship under command of Anglo-Dutch explorer Henry Hudson when he sailed into New York Harbor in 1639. It’s now on display in Hoorn as a partnership between Albany, New York’s New Netherland Museum and the Westfries Museum, and is available for public tour. Inside, it’s tricked out to look historical, with bear and beaver furs, sacks of grain, and replica cannons (but no gunpowder, which as our friend is explained, is illegal in the Netherlands, though not in the U.S.).

To get to Hoorn, there’s a bus route that runs back and forth from Amsterdam Central Station roughly every ten minutes, so it’s an easy side trip if you’re in the capital.

8. See Amsterdam Canal Tour 

The view from the canal--another canal tour!

The view from the canal–another canal tour!

This is sort of a no-brainer, but worth it, especially if you have an engaging–and cute!–tour guide. He, of ourse, was actually the same guy who offered me champagne in the marina in Hoorn (he told me which boat he’d be on the next day, and where). It’s a hop-on, hop-off tour–pay 22 Euros for a 24-hour pass and you can get off at the Anne Frank house, wait in line for the three hours it generally takes to get through the queue, and then get on again to continue your trip. You can also get off or on at Central Station, Leidsestraat, Museum District, and City Hall. I ended up stayed on for almost three go-rounds–by the time I was finished, the guide was handing me the mic and letting me give the tour!

For me, the highlights were the view of the curch steeple where the ladies used to watch for their young men who went to sea (swoon, so romantic!) and the hundreds of canal boats that used to haul cargo on the waterways, but that have now been converted to the most popular real estate in Amsterdam.

9. Scheveningen, The Hague

The world championships of beach volleyball were going on while i was there.

The world championships of beach volleyball were going on while i was there.

This may not be the end of the world, but it feels like the end of the Netherlands. A former fishing village turned Belle Epoque bathing resort, it’s technically a district of The Hague. There’s also a popular piano bar on the beach there, Crazy Pianos, though unfortunately, we didn’t get there in time to see the pianist. But luckily, on a beautiful summer night in late June, you can watch beach volleyball players and surfers–yes, surfers! in Holland!–and feel like you’re somewhere very far away from home indeed.

Of course, my friend and I had to test the water, which was, of course, freezing–shattering my illusions that I had magically been transported back to the South Atlantic. But you can still enjoy a beer or five and a fresh seafood meal, and delight in the knowledge that you’re enjoying this country at its summery best.

The Hague (like every Dutch city) is delightfully compact, so it’s not hard to get to from wherever you’re staying–just walk toward the water, look for the Grand Hotel, and you’re bound to find it.

10. PANORAMA MESDAG, The Hague 

One angle of the Panorama Mesdag.

One angle of the Panorama Mesdag.

When Oh Captain first told me about this; I had no idea what I was about to see. When I arrived, the guide gave me a free audio tour and told me to hang around in the lobby long enough for the big group that just went up to see the panorma to disperse. Downstairs, the museum is a remarkable introduction to 19th-century The Hague school of painting, which was founded by Hendrik Mesdag. He specialized in moody, dark-toned scenes of rumpled fishermen and their wind-powered vessels, which had to be towed upon to the beach by horses (more of these paintings can be viewed in the Rijksmuseum (below), and reveal a bygone way of life. Sadly, none of these boats seem to exist anymore–except for the ones converted into houseboats in Amsterdam.

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An example of a Hague School painting.

As I made my way up the rickety wooden staircase, I noticed light filtering in from the canvas, changing the view depending on what the weather is like outside. Sanding inside, turning around in this 360-degree canvas, which Mesdag completed with the help of his wife, in 1881, you genuinely feel like you’ve trudged up a sand dune and emerged in 1881. It’s like seeing all of Scheveningen laid out before you–bathing machines on one side, fishing boats on the other, evoking a bygone time.

11. The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Prins Willem, who sailed from Middelburg to the East Indies in 1651.

The Prins Willem, who sailed from Middelburg to the East Indies in 1651.

After you see the Night’s Watch, the cavernous Rijksmusem holds numerous treasures for the ship geek. I was staying only a few blocks away from the Museum District with another friend (ship friends are more valuable then you could ever imagine!). I enjoyed seeing the ship’s model of the Prins Willem, and treasures from the Dutch colonial period.

The hats of the unfortunate frozen whalers.

The hats of the unfortunate frozen whalers.

Most poignant was the rather grisly display of knit caps that were worn by a 17th-century whaling crew who froze to death in Spitsbergen, identified only by the patterns thereon–both in life and in death. Like the “weeping tower,” it reminds me constantly that unlike today, sailing wasn’t all fun and games. The jolly bold sailors of the past (and their women) paid a steep price for following the wind and earning their coin. But they did it anyway, and that’s why we love them.

11 ways to experience the maritime tradition on a trip to the Netherlands, part 1

By the time I debarked from my two-month tall ship journey, not only did I know how to belay, sew sails, and polish brass, I had a healthy curiosity about the Dutch–this strange, tall seafaring race that taught me how to do all of that stuff. It was weird that I’d spent two months learning about this culture, but had never actually visited the country.

Last month, I remedied that. Word somehow got around that I was in the country, and my trip was soon full with reunions with shipmates-turned-friends-for-life, beer and gossip flowing, and (just like on the ship) plenty of tears (long story, but what can I say? The sea, even the memory of the sea, makes me emotional). Oh Captain, My Captain was on hand to squire me around, introduce me to virtually everyone in the country ever associated with ships, and show me a few spots I never would have found on my own.

That aside, if you’re just there to take in the sights (probably a safer option), you don’t have to go far–from the canals to the museum art, the sea is never far.

1. THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, Amsterdam

Exterior of the National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvartmuseum).

Exterior of the National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvartmuseum), with the ship Amsterdam visible.

Of the two maritime museums I visited in the Netherlands, this was my favorite. Het Scheepvartmuseum, as it’s known, is located in a formal naval storehouse constructed in 1636, and you can tour the replica of the 18th-century East Indiaman Amsterdam. The audio tours are free!

It also has a first edition of Maximilian Transylvanus’ work, De Moluccis Insulis, which described Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage around the world.

My favorite was the starlit navigation room, which had old-fashioned astrolabes and compasses, and reminded me of long, cloudless nights at sea, searching for constellations like Scorpio and the Southern Cross.

2. MUSEUMHAVEN, Amsterdam

One of the Museumhaven's grand dames.

One of the Museumhaven’s grand dames.

If you’re traveling with a kid, you might be on your way to the science museum Nemo, a truly astonishing feat of engineering sticking out from the Oosterdok area. But on the way, you can check out the Museumhaven, a little piece of (free!) ship geek heaven. Long gone are the days when sailing ships transported freight along the inland waterways, and if you travel the canals, you can see what happened to a lot of them. But the ships here still have their masts attached and give you a glimpse of the way things used to be, as they wait to be restored to their former glory. You can stop and read the placards about all of them.

3. THE FERRY, Amsterdam

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The view of Amsterdam across the river IJ, with cruise ship.

Another awesome free way to get a sailor’s-eye view of Amsterdam. The ferries are free and leave frequently just north of Central Station, are often packed with pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes. There’s not a whole lot to see in Noord, separated as it is from the rest of Amsterdam by the river IJ. But what more do you need than to sit on the bench, admire the Amsterdam skyline, and watch the ships go by? When I was there, a gigantic passenger ship was blocking part of the view–just a sign that Amsterdam is regaining its place as a cruise destination. There’s a conveniently placed bar there, too–you’re never too far from a place to drink a beer in Amsterdam.

4. MARITIME MUSEUM, Rotterdam

The view from the museum harbor.

The view from the museum harbor.

The whole city is like a living maritime museum exhibit, given that it was the world’s largest port for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, you won’t see the working port if you stay within the city center. However, you can experience the historical part of it by visiting the Maritime Museum (just don’t go when there’s a birthday party going on, yikes!), which is located just a few blocks from Central Station. The focal point is the museum harbor outside, where you can tour a grain elevator and any other ship that happens to be open at the time–which isn’t always easy to tell.

Grain elevator you can go onboard and tour.

Grain elevator you can go onboard and tour.

5. Offices of Rederij Bark Europa and Oosterschelde, Rotterdam

Of course, this won’t mean as much to someone who, like me, didn’t spend two months on one of these ships, but since I did, it was like visiting an old friend. The ships themselves weren’t there–the Oosterschelde was spending the summer cruising in Norway. But I did get to see sister ship the Helena–which met the Oosterschelde when it returned to Rotterdam from its circumnavigation. Plus, their office is on a boat, and it’s right in the museum harbor, so you don’t have to make another trip.

Knock knock! Anyone home?

Knock knock! Anyone home?

Warning: Don’t bother with buying a water taxi ticket in the museum. I waited in line for 30 minutes only to have my spot taken by a bunch of rowdy schoolkids and their teacher (getting on the boat with hem would have been fairly close to my personal definition of hell, so I didn’t even try). Instead, wait for the other water taxi (below). It won’t take long, promise!

Anchors aweigh.

Anchors aweigh.

6. Water Taxi and Hotel New York, Rotterdam

The view from the Rotterdam water taxi.

The view from the Rotterdam water taxi.

The water taxi delivers you to the very Art Deco Hotel New York. It’s a short ride and the cool breeze of the harbor feels incredible, especially if you happen to be there, like I was, during the biggest heat wave to hit Europe in a long time. No ticket required–you can pay cash to the taxi “driver,” and one leaves just about every few minutes. “You come back, there’s a boat,” as the guy put it .

Enjoying the summer heat wave in front of the hotel.

Enjoying the summer heat wave in front of the hotel.

Plus you get to see the Hotel New York, former HQ of the Holland America Line, which is only accessible this way. Supposedly there’s a great view from the top, but I couldn’t find the way up. I was on my way to Brussels so I had to keep to my schedule, but I would have loved to linger here longer and have a drink. Plenty of others were!

Hotel New York

Hotel New York

To be continued…