When you are on the water, you view the world in a whole new light

Lungi’s story

mid-shot of really happy women on a large yacht on the open water

I find being on the water a truly humbling experience. It reminds me of how small we are as humans in comparison to the elements. Since I started sailing, my respect for the elements has deeply increased. There is a real sense of oneness with everything around you. 

Growing up, I had always been nervous of the water. The first few times that I had the opportunity to be aboard a boat, I would think, ‘It’s okay, I can still see the shore, I can still swim back if necessary.’ I was always so afraid. However, my mum instilled in me the importance of trying everything and facing fears head on. So, in 2017, I dared myself to go to a training centre and learn to sail. 

I was quite nervous on my first day at the training centre, but I quickly fell in love with sailing. I felt inner happiness and joy on the water by the second day. It was the best decision I ever made.

Reaching out with an open hand to more people

Historically, in sailing, Black people have not been visible. It's okay, that's fine, that was history. But now we are here. It's about what we are doing going forward, that's what I think is important. Sailing may not interest every Black person, and that’s fine. But we need to ensure that everyone who wants to have the opportunity to get on board a boat can. It’s about reaching out with an open hand to more people.

We shouldn't be at a point where we must highlight what Black people are accomplishing because everyone should be thriving, but I think Black History Month serves as a corrective measure for the past. Celebrating Black History Month each October is important to me because it highlights what the Black community has achieved in the past and continues to achieve in the present. 

Smiling woman steering yacht on a sunny day, off the coast

You get to see the world in a whole new light

When I return from time afloat, people ask me, ‘Don’t you get bored out there?’ But there is not a single moment when I feel bored. It’s amazing, just you and the elements. You get to see the world in a whole new light. It's really beautiful.

I've always been a person who tries to give back in one form or another. Every voyage for me must have a purpose, such as when I was on board the Maiden with Tracy Edwards, we were raising money for girls’ education in STEM. Everything I do has to align with who I am; otherwise, I would feel as though I was betraying myself.

I try not to care too much about what people say and not to absorb negativity. Instead, I focus on my goals and intentions and try not to sway from them. I remember when we were sailing into Northern France, and some people at the port were looking and pointing. This experience may have made someone else feel uncomfortable, but I realised that the people may not have ever seen a Black woman at the helm of a boat before. If I focus on negativity, then I will succumb to the noise and forget what I'm doing and why. I can only be responsible for myself, my thoughts, and my actions. 

A special moment for me was when we were sailing back from the US on our transatlantic voyage. We were sailing in the opposite direction of the slave trade route and on the way, we visited Gorée Island in Senegal. This is the location where after travelling via ships, packed in like sardines, people would be sold off as enslaved people in Europe, the US, and other countries. 

It’s an awful part of history, but to me, it felt significant because as they were going one way to Europe and the US, I was sailing down the other way. It almost seemed like I was bringing some of their souls back. That's just how it felt at that moment.

smiling woman wearing shades while steering large yacht on the open water

If it doesn't work out, it's okay

My instructor told me, ‘You are safe as long as you stay on the boat!’ Everyday life is dangerous; there are dangers everywhere. The ocean is not something that we see every day, so it becomes an unknown. So often, people develop a fear of the unknown. You have to try. If it doesn't work out, it's okay. You keep it moving. You try something else.

There is so much in us, and I am constantly discovering new sides of myself. You can't waste your life by not trying new things. I believe that there's nothing that we can't do as women or as human beings. If we don't know it, we can learn it. It's really that simple.

Smiling women with two children who are also smiling

Simplicity is key

Ordinary, everyday people that I meet inspire me. I find being around children very inspiring, they see the world through innocent eyes. They have a simplified view of everything and don’t see the barriers in society. I’ve learnt that simplicity is key when you're trying to follow your dreams. If you listen to the noise around you, then you get swayed.

Next steps…

I only realise now, when I have completed my apprenticeship with Maiden, I have completed the transatlantic and I have crossed the equator; just how big those achievements are, especially with my little sailing experience. It’s been really exciting. 

Next on my sailing list is to join a local sailing club and complete my RYA Yachtmaster® Ocean. A goal of mine is to sail around the world alone someday so I need to start actively working towards that!

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