Tuesday 7th March 2023
A series of interviews, setting focus on the X-Sailor and the yachts behind them.
The Kjær-Jepsen family onboard their X-402, Xaga
Tell us a little about who you are, where you come from and why you have decided to set sail in your X-402?
We are a family of 4 consisting of Peter, Malene and our two children, Sarah aged 17 and Johan aged 13. We come from Hejlsminde, which is placed a little north of Haderslev in Southern Denmark.
The dream of crossing the Atlantic started several years ago for Peter. Over the last 2-3 years, the rest of the family has come along with the idea. We bought Xaga, an X-402 in December 2019, as a boat community with another family. This boat community is very well-functioning. An invitation to spend Christmas on their own boat in the Caribbean made the idea easy for the other family to join. Then we spent 2 winters on a thorough renovation before we left in July 2022. In the year 22/23, there was a natural window in relation to school and work. The children are growing up, so we decided, that it would be now if we were to travel as a family. The idea of putting a bonus year into working life works well in our thoughts on “Work life balance”.
When you choose to use the boat as your home for so many months, how does it work for you with work and school?
Peter works as a consultant in the energy industry and Malene as a manager at the town hall in Haderslev (with a view to X-yacht’s factory). We have both been granted leave. Sarah takes a break between 10th grade and the Gymnasium. Johan has finished the 6th grade and will start the 7th grade when we get back.
There is teaching along the way, which relates to the many places we visit, the people we meet and everything that comes with sailing a boat.
When planning the trip at home, it was not intended that Johan should participate fully in the 24-hour shift schedule, but he did that very quickly. There is a lot of learning involved in that as well. Sarah has attended the sailing course at the “Hou Maritime Sports School” and naturally takes a large part of the responsibility for planning and carrying out the sailings.
For me, a year off from school hasn’t concerned me that much, the thing that has concerned me, was a year away from friends and family at home
Why an X-402?
We bought our X-402, as it had everything we missed in our old smaller boat. There was room to invite the children’s friends along, and sailing skills are top notch. We are proud to show off its beautiful, classic design and when people come on board it’s a not insignificant bonus.
We were lucky enough to find a model with a rebuilt keel, so that with its 1.70 m wing keel it can enter our home port of Hejlsminde. It is rigged with a mast and boom from the 1-tonner and is actually rigged more for racing than ocean sailing. It gives us a bit of a challenge when there are big waves and light wind.
You have already been to many interesting places in Xaga. What have you learned in the last 6 months and what experiences have you gained?
We have learned many things. We have learned to relax in sailing and trust fully in Xaga – even in rough weather. In the beginning, the big concern was, when we were going on night sailings, but now it is more relaxed and with a greater surplus. Suddenly, a voyage of a few days is a small trip, and 3-4 meter waves are just small bumps.
When you sail in a boat with 37 years of water under the keel, there are naturally things that break along the way, and that presents challenges. One night in the middle of the English Channel, ee lost half the propeller. The original Volvo Penta 2003 engine was given the death knell in Tenerife, just days before the departure across the Atlantic, to be brought back to life by a stubborn and resourceful mechanic. He became our hero. In these situations, we have experienced heart-rending helpfulness from both locals and other long-distance sailors.
We normally live in a large house full of things, but have experienced that we can live in a little space and with a few carefully selected things, and that it works. Little, but good creates order – both on the boat and in the head. It’s one of the things we want to take home with us.
In a busy everyday life at home, it can be difficult to find time to be open to new people. On this trip, the greatest experiences lie precisely in meeting others. To be curious about others when we come ashore. To hear other people’s stories and ways of living. Especially locals and but also other long-distance sailors. We get to know ourselves better by mirroring our lives and family in others.
What have been your greatest X-Moment in the last few months?
There have been an incredible number of highlights during the entire trip. There are many who think that the best highlight is the Atlantic crossing or the Caribbean, but the whole trip has provided many good experiences that you did not expect. The touching farewell from Hejlsminde, where friends, family and many from the harbor and the town waved goodbye. Canal sailing and Gay parade in Amsterdam. The feeling of victory when we had crossed Biscay, which was our first longer trip. To cast the hook in a quiet bay in Spain, where we are all alone in the world. The first time the dolphins jump around the bow. Or when a large orca came very close in Portugal.
Of course, it was a huge highlight when we dropped anchor in Barbados after 17 days in the Atlantic. Our small informal front of approx. 10 other Danish boats gave us a reception of royal dimensions with horns and flags. We were very proud when we were able to put on the red trousers after crossing the Atlantic in an old lady from 1986.
What do your future plans look like? Do you have a plan for when you will return home?
Our plan has always been, that we should be away for a year and thus return home in July. Johan and Sarah both have to go home and continue with school, and Peter and Malene have to go back to their jobs. Fortunately, we still have 5 months ahead of us with lots of new experiences in sight.
Would you recommend other families to rethink their lives and just set sail and live out their dreams at sea?
Yes, we will, of course. You learn an incredible amount about yourself, the world and each other. However, it is important that everyone sails off with a mental surplus and makes an effort to be the best version of themselves. All 4 of us take our commitment to our small community seriously, because we are deeply dependent on each other. We have gone from being a family with 2 adults and 2 children to becoming a team of 4 – and that is actually the biggest benefit of this trip.
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