Øystein Hegertun Bratgjerd said the whole thing started as an unrealistic idea. Neither he nor his wife had ever sailed a boat before. And with two kids in school and busy careers they loved, it wasn’t exactly a ‘natural next step’ to take a year off and sail across the Atlantic.
The key to transforming a farfetched idea into the best year of their lives, as Øystein recalls, was to simply pretend like they were going to do it until it actually happened.
“In our busy lives with kids and work, suddenly 10 years flew by. Our kids were eight and 10 years old, and we thought, it’s now or never.”
Before becoming a full-time sailor, Øystein worked in financial control at Scatec. He was used to the idea of taking calculated risks and planning down to the minute detail. It was a skillset that he felt he could copy and paste from his day job to his future on the open seas. And so, Øystein was granted a leave of absence from Scatec, with a promise of a place within the company following his big adventure.
“When we decided to do this, we knew there were risks involved. We used a year to prepare. We took courses, read up, watched videos made budgets, and learned about safe routes and how to manage weather. But in the end, when you get out to sea, it’s real life and the unexpected can happen.”
The family of four set sail from Oslo in July 2021, enroute to Las Palmas on board the sailboat “Maiko”, a 44-foot Sun Odyssey from 2013, which they had upgraded and equipped to be an offshore home – featuring a desalination machine and solar panels, naturally. From Las Palmas, they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Caribbean, after which they set course for the USA.
“It was a steep learning curve out at sea. There were several moments when I thought we wouldn’t make it. When you’re alone in the middle of the Atlantic, you tend to think about how the closest person to you is on the International Space Station. What happens if a killer whale chews off your rudder or you run into a container ship then?”
Øystein says that the experience has given him a different perspective on risk – and on life in general. He’s become more relaxed and has more of an appetite for the “risks he can live with”, as he puts it.
In total, the Hegertun Bratgjerd family visiting 26 countries and completed their journey safe and sound. Øystein says that he’s frequently asked to share his “favourite moment” from the trip, which he says is an impossible request.
“There are 20 different categories with ‘the best’. It’s impossible to pick just one. I could write a book on it!”
In August 2022, the family docked in Oslo and Øystein sold “Maiko”. He bought a family car instead, and the four of them slowly eased back into normal life. Øystein says it was a challenge. He resumed his role and gave himself time to adapt to the company once again, following a year of rapid change on the Scatec side as well.
Many of the things he learned during his time at sea, he says, can be applied to his daily life in Scatec. It’s an unexpected benefit that has made him even more grateful for the experience.
“I learned that you shouldn’t dismiss crazy ideas too early. Not everything needs to be fully in place when working towards a plan. I see this at Scatec as we approach projects that may be too complex, or missing capacity, etc. But we are a company that works together towards the goal. If we were to wait until everything was in place, we would never accomplish anything.”
Inside the Hegertun Bratgjerd family’s life at sea
About 12,000 nautical miles.
- Getting stuck on a shallow sandbank in Sweden at the start of the trip
- Discovering a crack in the boom in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean
- Having to zig-zag between thunderclouds on the Chesapeake Bay
Most frequent meals on board:
- Family taco each Friday
- Oatmeal at sea
- Tandoori pot (Norwegian style, from a mix)
Favourite countries visited:
- Dominican Republic
- Turks and Caicos
Best animal encounters:
- First whale, which was larger than our sailboat and passed only two meters to the side of us.
- First sea-turtle. We had hoped to see some during our trip, and soon they became our house-pets which we swam with daily.
- First dolphins, swimming at the front of our bow and guiding us along the coast of France.