Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz is mostly looking at the waves. The “First Lady of the Ocean” is 72 and wears a short skirt, showing her sporty legs. Krystyna was the first woman in the world to sail alone around the globe. That happened between 1976 and 1978.
Andrzej Dębiec is smiling. It is difficult to imagine him not smiling. His light blue eyes are looking with attention and openness. With a captain’s hat on his head, he is making coffee in an old sailor’s machine. Andrzej has been the owner of Zejman Sailors’ Club in Gdańsk since December 1999. The club is located in an old granary, dating back to the 17th century.
Gone with the Sea
Krystyna’s sailing boat was designed just for her, by her husband. She started her journey from Las Palmas, Canary Islands. She then crossed the Atlantic Ocean, the Panama Canal, then Pacific Ocean, sailed around Africa and finished at Las Palmas. Altogether 28,696 sea miles. The course of her journey was not the shortest way around the globe but it was the safest one. White women in wild parts of the world have to be careful.
Over the last twelve years Andrzej has collected 5,000 exhibits for his club and today there is no more place on the walls or ceiling. Old photos, books, paintings everything somehow connected with the sea and sailing. Bottles, ship’s equipment, wooden parts, ropes, compasses, banknotes, coins from all corners of the world. 80 percent of these souvenirs Andrzej collected on his own. He was sailing on the Baltic Sea but also on oceans, looking for his favourite place in the world.
Love at First Sail
Krystyna loved the sea from the beginning. She was studying ship construction, sailing in all her free time. She was very well prepared for her lonely trip in 1976. Knew everything about all difficulties and dangers. Was looking at the boat from a very professional point of view, reasonable, forgetting about romanticism.
Since the Zejman Club’s beginning, Andrzej has also been head of the Sailors Association. Every week there are many guests in his club, captains from different countries. Andrzej likes to say that the Baltic Sea is connecting people, is a path that takes you to friends.
Krystyna is still helping at a university and giving sailing lessons to students. But she is complaining that young people are too weak to sail. That they prefer easier sports, easier ways of spending free time. So all her free time, she spends on her boat. Not big but comfortable. Tomorrow she is sailing to Sweden.
Andrzej’s sea story started with cruises for boys from a reform house. He was challenging them with the elements, showing simultaneously both the easy and more difficult sides of nature. Re-socialisation by the sea. Now he is also organising sea workshops for 7 to 8-years-old kids from the seaside. More than 1,000 kids took part in it so far.
What does the Sea Mean to You?
Krystyna does not like this question. “Sea is sea, a big amount of water with its rights. You can respect them or not. You can learn how to minimise risks or not.
This is it.”
Andrzej is sitting up on the wreck of an old ship in front of his club. “It is like a strong man, self-confident, courageous, knowing very well what he wants, respected, adored by men and women. No no… But wait. In the evening, when it is slowly getting dark, sea is like a mystery woman: very sexual, tightening her body, secretly asking for attention.”