’Slow or fast, I’ll get to Mexico,’ she told herself

Galia Moss, the only Latin American woman to sail solo across the Atlantic, plans to set another record when she sails from Mexico to make aliya.

By AIMEE NEISTAT
March 5, 2010 19:38
Galia Moss in action.

galia moss 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The first ever woman in Latin America to single-handedly sail across an ocean, Galia Moss, wants to give Israel a new world sporting record with a similar title. Moss, who is also an Israeli citizen, said she plans on being the first ever Israeli and Mexican woman to solo-sail across the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. She is currently searching for sponsors that will enable her to fulfill that dream.

Moss spent a week in Israel during February while attaining her Israeli sailing license. During that time she gave a lecture to members of Herzliya’s Via Maris sailors club about what it took to turn her dream of solo-sailing across the Atlantic Ocean into a reality, and in doing so raised enough money to provide 688 houses to homeless people in Mexico.

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Moss began gymnastics training at the age of five, and when she was nine she asked her mother if she could stop studying at school in order to train full-time and reach the Olympics. Her mother told her she had to stay in school.

When she was 24 years old, living in Boston and studying music composition, Moss went on her first ever sailing trip, for the duration of one month.

“The day I didn’t see land and I knew that for another two weeks I would not see any land, I felt at home,” she said. Soon after, she read the autobiography of Tania Aebi, a young American woman who solo-sailed around the world.

“When I started reading the book I thought [Aebi] was crazy. Just imagine: The ocean, a small boat and her. She’s a small dot in the ocean. But I reached a chapter where I said, ‘OK, maybe she’s not that crazy. Or I am crazy. But I want to do this. I don’t know how to sail, but I want to do it,” Moss said.

At first, Moss kept her target goal modest, choosing to tackle one ocean, and not necessarily the entire the world.

“I decided that if I was going to do this project as a Mexican, I wanted to sail to Mexico,” she said.

She selected a route from Vigo, Spain to Xearet, Mexico. The wind and waves move in the direction from Spain to Mexico, making the route relatively easy, according to Moss.

“I knew I was going to go with the current, and I knew I was going to go from Spain to Mexico, but I didn’t know how to sail,” she reiterated.

MOSS HAD made aliya in 1997 before moving to Boston, but returned to Israel three years later to study sailing. At first she had trouble finding work as a crewmember due to her lack of experience, but after volunteering in any capacity on board in order to learn via observation, she eventually succeeded in getting proper jobs..

In 2002 she moved to Barcelona, where – according to Moss – there are numerous highly regarded solo-sailers. There she continued her training,  starting at first on a Tall Ship, then buying a Mini Transat, and finally moving on to bigger boats, such as  a Mum 30. She finished her training on the small Laser and Laser 2 boats, in order to feel the strength of the waves and the wind.

Moss was familiar with much of the technical training, for she had trained and worked as a commercial pilot and the navigation skills were similar in both fields, she said. But the physical training was much more challenging. In order to develop the strength required for solo-sailing, Moss swam three times a week, and throughout the rest of the week would either run or go to the gym. She also started doing yoga, particularly for its mental benefits.

“It’s not easy to be alone, and I’m a twin, so I wasn’t even alone in the womb. So I started doing yoga in order to start connecting my mind and body,” she said, adding that because human beings are controlled by their minds, she wanted to have more power to control it.

“I started learning my negative thoughts and changing them to positive thoughts every time,” Moss said.

When Moss was finally physically and mentally ready to carry out her project, it was time to raise $250,000 from sponsors. Yet something bothered her. Although her project was going to set a national record because no Latin American woman had ever solo-sailed across the Atlantic Ocean before, she couldn’t justify asking for so much money without giving something back to the community.

“My project became about more than just crossing the ocean,” she said.

It took Moss two years until she got her first sponsor.

“I approached more than 150 companies, showed them the project and got no response. [I could have given up and thought that I’d never get the money], but one day I told myself, ‘If there [are people who say] no, there [are people who say] yes. That’s life,’” she said.

Eventually she got 13 companies in Mexico to sponsor her project, and one of Mexico’s largest charity organizations, Fundación Televisa, to agree that for every eight nautical miles she sailed, they would build one house for homeless people in a central American country.

The project was on, and Moss set out to buy a boat. The search took two months,  but when she found El Más Mejor (Spanish for “The Very Best”), it was “love at first sight,” she said. The boat was a 9.6-meters-long, three-meters-wide Beneteau First 31.7 cruising-racing boat. It had a 13-meter mast, and was designed by the same architects as her Mini Transat.

The boat came equipped with all the navigation equipment required for crossing an ocean, but Moss installed some extra devices that are specifically suited to solo sailing. She installed an autopilot on the tiller that steered according to a Global Positioning System (GPS), to be used while Moss was changing sails, resting or eating. She also installed a solar panel to help charge batteries.

The boat’s safety equipment included a life raft, a solo-sailing life vest, first aid box and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), which she wore at all times.

Moss spent three weeks in France working on and living inside El Más Mejor.

“I could have worked on the boat during the day and slept in a hotel, [but] I wanted to know the boat as though it was a part of my body,” she said. “El Más Mejor has its own sound.”

Just like a mother knows why her baby is crying, Moss wanted to know every sound El Más Mejor made so that if she were to hear it make a noise during the trip, she would know how to fix the problem.

“You are never going to wait for a storm to start to change the sail. You’ll always do it beforehand,” she said.

AFTER SEVEN years of preparation, Moss set sail on April 22, 2006. The weather was cool, and there were 35-48 knots of wind.

For the first five days she almost didn’t eat. She was both excited that her dream was finally coming true, and apprehensive about being alone in the ocean. All she did was work like an ant and avoid thinking.

“If you start thinking, you start feeling, and [when you’ve just set sail] you don’t need that!” Moss said.

After the first five days the initial nervousness passed, and she started feeling at home.

Among her navigation equipment was a satellite phone which she used to maintain contact with the Mexican media. Four web cameras were installed on the boat – one at each end of the boat and two inside the cabin – and for two hours each day her computer used those devices to take six pictures per minute while she continued working. At the end of the day she sent the pictures to the media.

She forbade herself from calling her family while on board because she knew that the moment she’d hang up she would feel immense loneliness.

Moss blogged on her website every morning and night.

“At first I thought it would just be my family looking at the website, but on the second day there were 500 visitors on the web page… and after 31 days there were more than 139,000 visitors,” she said.

Moss had to be very disciplined with her daily routine. Every four hours she recorded where she was according to the GPS, and every half hour checked her surroundings for other boats, for she did not have a radar on the boat.

She started every day with breakfast at 6 a.m., and each day she had one bag of food that she had to consume. Her sister, who knows about nutrition, prepared them for her.

“I didn’t care about what she put inside. I knew that if I ate what she gave me I’d have [all the nutrition] I needed,” Moss said.

A typical breakfast included a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or cereal with non-refrigerated milk or yogurt. In order to save electricity, Moss did not bring a refrigerator. For lunch she would eat canned corn with salties or Spanish ham on bread, and for dinner she ate dehydrated meals.

Moss always had to be prepared for an emergency.

“The weather maps and forecasts are just that: Fore-casts,” she said, emphasizing that she was never too sure what was ahead of her.

Since Moss was “her own radar,” she had to scan her surroundings every 30 minutes in order to avoid collisions. As such, she would not permit herself to sleep any longer than 20 minutes at a time. For two months leading up to her trip she developed the required sleeping habits by sleeping every second night for 20 minutes at a time for four hours.

On the third day of her trip, Moss accidentally slept for three hours straight. This accident could have cost her her life.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Oh no, now I’ve lost speed.’ But then I thought, ‘Galia, you’re alive!’” she said. To avoid a recurrence, she decided to sleep uncomfortably for the rest of her journey: In an upright position.

“I had to be strict with myself to stick to my routine. Because once you fall out of a routine, it is hard to get back into it,” she said.

For leisure Moss read five books and took music with her. But she only listened to her music for four days because she preferred listening to the sound of the ocean.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, she had to cross the Caribbean Sea, where there were smaller waves than in the ocean. Her love for speed made it hard for her to accept these new sailing conditions.

“On the 37th or 38th day I calculated that I would arrive in Mexico in three more days. So I sent a message to my land crew to notify them. Then the next day the universe told me that I’m not in control of everything: There were 2 knots of wind. I started panicking. I could already see the finish line. I wanted to have a really good shower, not a pocket shower. And I wanted to rest for more than 20 minutes [at a time],” she said.

Moss’s twin sister, who is a triathlon and marathon athlete, had explained to her that long-distance athletes sometimes reach a point where they hit a “wall.”

“She told me that I might [hit] a ‘wall,’ Moss recalled, “But she didn’t tell me how to get [over] it.”

“That morning I cried and cried – just because there was no wind,” she said. For the first time, she picked up the phone and called her twin sister, just like she always did on land.

“When I called her she let me cry a little bit, like a good sister, and then she said, ‘There are three possibilities to get [over this wall]. First, you can turn on the engine.’ I said, ‘No I can’t. This is for the record and there are no engines in this record.’ And she said, ‘It is a possibility. The second possibility is to stay where you are and keep crying. Or the third option is to change your state of mind,’” Moss said.

Moss chose to change her state of mind.

“Slow or fast, I’ll get to Mexico,” she told herself.

It was that phrase that took her to the finish line. She reminded herself that she had worked toward this project for seven years, and now it was almost over. So she decided to enjoy every remaining mile.

The next day eight pilot whales swam alongside her boat.

“This was the best moment in the ocean. In the seven years that I spent in all of those boats… we always went fast. So even when we saw whales we never heard them. That day there was no wind, just current. [I heard] eight whales ‘talking.’ It was incredible,” she said.

Forty-one days after departing Spain, Moss arrived in Mexico. The Mexican navy accompanied her from the moment she entered the Cozumel Channel, approximately 15 nautical miles from the entrance to Xearet National Park, where she landed. Moss waved the Mexican flag with pride when she first saw the people waiting for her on shore.

“That day felt like my childhood dream of going to the Olympics had been fulfilled, because I gave this record to Mexico,” said Moss.

Moss had 13 to 17 interviews per day for the week following her arrival in Mexico.

“I didn’t know that I had become a celebrity while I was in the ocean. I was in my own little world,” she said.

For the first few months after arriving back on land, her body was confused.

“There were nights that I couldn’t sleep [at all], and nights that I slept for 13 hours,” she said.

Moss wrote a book about her project, Navegando Un Sueño (“Sailing a Dream”), which is currently only available in Spanish.

Two months after her arrival in Mexico, Moss was contacted by the charity organization that had promised to donate one house for every 8NM she sailed. They invited her to Pachuco, Mexico, where they were going to build all the houses in one week. Every day 1,000 volunteers, including Moss, joined the professional builders. Between Monday and Friday they built 688 houses for homeless people in Mexico.

“At the end of the week we handed over the keys. If I thought that [the day] I arrived in Mexico was one of the best days of my life, I realized that this was the best day of my life,” she said.

“That night I looked at the sky. You think you’ve seen so many stars. But in the middle of the ocean you cannot imagine how many stars there are… That night I realized that we human beings are just a really tiny, tiny little dot in this universe,” she said. “I realized that night that if you [take an action], the entire universe gets something from [that action]. If you do ‘good,’ you do ‘good’ for the universe, and if you do ‘bad’, you do ‘bad’ for the whole entire universe.”

Galia Moss is currently living in Mexico City and is planning to return to live in Israel. But it is not in her blood to make aliya again by landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. She wants to give Israel a world sporting title, and at the same time contribute to a social cause.

Her solo sail will start in Cancun, Mexico and end in Herzliya – approximately 6,400 nautical miles (11,850km). She wishes to depart Mexico this May and land in Israel approximately 65 days later.

Moss said her boat will bear both the Israeli and Mexican flags, a fusion of her native country and the country she has always wanted to live in.

She has not yet decided which social cause she will dedicate the voyage to, but she is currently negotiating with a Jewish organization in Mexico. She will also visit Jewish schools with the intention of raising awareness and love of Israel, she said.

During her voyage she will stay in touch with those Mexican students and request that Israeli students also contact her. Satellite phone interviews will give the students an opportunity to ask her questions and participate in her project while she is at sea.

Moss is currently searching for sponsors to enable her to materialize this solo sail. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on (+52)15543404410.


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