Kenneth and the Narinan: Living as Nature in the Mediterranean

Kenneth lives and works on his boat in the Mediterranean somewhere between Barcelona and the Balearic islands. Kenneth was at once a Greenpeace boat captain, a fisherman, a designer and now a guide for vacationers wishing to disconnect from the material world while connecting to the natural world.  Kenneth, by all appearances, is living his best life.  

Having completed multiple full Indian and Atlantic Ocean crossings, often using the sun and stars as his guide, his life philosophy is of a symbiotic relationship between man and nature - one that he hopes to impress upon and share with others as society appears to be sprinting in the opposite direction. 

In broken english (we're all a bit broken though, right?), he simply and poetically answered our questions about life and life on the sea, and how they are ultimately one in the same. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your vessel, the Narinan:

I am sailor based in the Mediterranean sea. I've sailed since I was a kid, doing kid's sail racing until I I was nineteen years old. Then I suddenly realized I could also travel and live and work at sea, in a boat. I dedicated my life then to sail around the oceans, through different projects. After some years, in my early thirties I had the feeling I was missing something inland and I left my captain jobs.

I felt seduced with the creative world, and I don’t know very well how, but I managed to start working as a shoe and clothing designer for Camper shoes. This was a very nice time, but after some years I started missing Nature. That’s why I bought ‘Narinan,' thinking that I could be a designer during the week, and have my weekends and summer holidays to be back at sea. But the Nature call was too big and I finally went totally back to boats, leaving the creative world behind, falling badly into a desire of being outside civilization. I love Nature in general, not only the sea. I am into sailing because I know the the job since I was a kid, I have a career at sea that helps paying the bills, but I wouldn't mind at all to live in the mountains.

My boat “Narinan”, I bought her when I arrived into Barcelona seven years ago. She was totally abandoned, needing a huge restoration. We never sailed for the first year and a half. During that time I spent all my free time away from designing fixing this and that, returning her to the sailing life.

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What attracts you to sailing and being on the water?

Sailing is the easiest way for me to be close to Nature. Since some years ago, I have a passion for better understanding the natural world. I would like to be friends with anyone who takes care and respects the environment, and sadly this is is getting reduced to the animal world. At the end, they are almost the only ones whose lives don't badly effect our big community home, the planet. There are some human beings who also live respectfully, but not enough.. So I am very interested in being surrounded by everybody who doesn’t harm the Earth, it doesn’t matter if they are birds, fish or humans.

Sailing has been my world since I was a kid, that’s why I’ve chosen it over land. For me it is mainly a kind of a real world, what the world has been for millions of years, slowly evolving, well balanced. The other world, of course it is totally real, but it is very new, created only by humans only for human benefits, with lots of contradictions, a kind of matrix where you spend most of your life doing things just for the general and harmful system to keep on running, not for a real you, for others, for the huge community - not even for your children or grandchildren, who would have a technologically better world, but a worst place to live.

I would like to transmit some of these values, and as I am sailor, I think I can do it through the boat, taking people to sea, sharing the boat with whoever is interested in disconnecting from a few days from the big wheel. I would like to introduce this world to anyone who is willing to be away from everything.

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What are some lessons you've learned from crossing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans?

Ocean crossings are some of the best days of my life. Being surrounded by Nature for weeks, with no way of communicating with anyone, connects you a lot with Nature. We are very small at sea, the only important thing is who we are as an individual. It doesn’t matter what you do, who you are in your community… At sea there are not trees to hide, from others or from yourself.

I like Celestial Navigation, finding exactly where you are only by the help of the sun and the stars. When I cross the ocean, I do that daily and it allows me be in a small kind of cosmic connection. In the ocean, sailing like our ancestors, forgetting about electronic devices, gps, etc, you can learn and be very aware of what makes our world be. It is mainly Nature, the universal laws, not human's creations.

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 In your bio, you talk about the Narinan experience vs "the elitist side of boats" -- tell us more about that side, and why you think that hinders from the true boating experience.

Normally, at least in the Mediterranean sea, maybe also in the Nantucket and Newport world, sailing boats are related to rich people, or to a kind of posh world. I respect a lot of other people's point of view on the sea, but I find there are very few boats that take people to sea with the approach that we are referring to in this interview.  Boats here are very related to luxury and showing off, to a social status, more so than being close to Nature and learning something from it.

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 It's almost a cliche at this point to say that life is too connected technologically -- do you see your patrons having a hard time disconnecting, and when they do, do you see a marked change in their attitudes/behaviors while sailing on the Narinan as a result of turning off their phones, computers, etc.

The most important for me is that they can connect a bit with this kind of real world. Electronic devices disconnect us from it, and you can only care about something you are connected with.

Crews get very relaxed in the boat. It is very easy to notice that, even they don’t disconnect the phone completely, there is a clear change in their eyes, their faces and their attitudes, from day number two. Being away from computers, tv, news - that’s already something that makes happier and quieter. It’s easy to see that in the boat.

"Electronic devices disconnect us from nature, and you can only care about something you are connected with."

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What if any books would you recommend to get someone to understand the experience of being out on the seas?

There is an american sailor, Joshua Slocum. He was the first sailor to circumnavigate the world at the end of nineteenth century, alone, with no electricity, no autopilot, no electronic devices, being guided by the sun and the stars… He wrote a book called “Sailing alone around the world”, absolutely beautiful. He started everything about singlehanded ocean sailing.

For Spanish readers, I would like to highly recommend “Eh, Petrel” by Julio Villar. That for me is the best book ever written about being out at sea. It’s a pity it hasn't been translated to other languages. He was a sailor who went around the world in the late sixties, with a six meters long boat, alone, also with no electricity, lights, no electronic devices… It’s a very poetic book, very touching. I dedicated my life to the sea because I read it when I was a teenager. I keep on reading it every now and then.

There is also a french sailor who wrote very nice books. His name is Bernard Moitissier. He is translated into English. “The Long Way” it’s a very nice one. He was sailing mainly in the sixties and seventies, he was a very deep person who inspired many sailors to leave everything and go to sea.

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Thanks to Kenneth for pulling things into perspective for us with his gentle words. It was slightly refreshing putting this together piece by piece as Kenneth would frequently message, "I'll be off the grid for the next week or two, and will be back in touch once I'm back." Normally, we'd be antsy, but this time we were okay with it.

Like this? Then step into a slight different world: The Surreal World of Photographer Ryan Schude.

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