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An Ocean of Love to Traverse
The expression ‘long-distance relationship’ has never had quite such a literal meaning – young couple Jessie Zevalkink and husband-to-be Luke Yeates has proven that love knows no bounds – or distances – after sailing from Michigan, USA, to Cornwall, UK, in an 88 day long trip across the half-frozen North Atlantic ocean.
A love found at sea
The two had lived on different continents almost their whole relationship, she in Michigan and he in Cornwall, but their mutual interest in sailing and the sea had them meet at the Annapolis Boat Show, a popular sailboat show held in Annapolis, MD, USA, which attracts about 40,000 visitors every year. Sparks flew between the two as they re-lived Yeates’ Hobie cat sailing days, during which he set a speeding record. Zevalkink was smitten.
Having had a blazing passion for sailing since his youth, Yeates was already half prepared for the journey before he knew he’d have to make it. He had been sailing since childhood, where he had captained Optimists and the like after having regularly skipped school to go sailing for hours at a time. His passion developed into a career in racing, and so despite his home on land, his life was at sea.
Zevalkink, on the other hand, had no such lifelong passion – although she had grown up around boats and sailing, her interest in traversing the sea only developed once she had bought and sailed her own boat, a 1979 Cal 27. Prior to that, her experiences of sailing were limited to leisurely weekends away on Desireé, her father’s 1962 Pearson Invicta.
It was on this very boat that Zevalkink and Yeates sailed the North Atlantic Sea in the ultimate test of premarital commitment. After saying yes to Yeates’ marriage proposal, Zevalkink made her own proposal: a 4,800-mile journey from her home in Michigan to Yeates’ in Cornwall, with Desireé as their vessel. What came after was months of preparation, research, and much financial investment. They upgraded Desireé’s nautical facilities, doing their utmost to ensure the success of their journey.
Having timed their journey to coincide with the region’s more favourable weather, Zevalkink stated that their overly cautious preparation had given her the mindset that their journey would be far more treacherous and difficult than it had been. Luckily their only close encounter happened in ‘Iceberg Alley’ – a known iceberg zone on the south coast of Newfoundland. Unable to see much further than a few dozen feet in front of them, and with the temperature holding at just above freezing and the fog and wind testing their resolve, they saw a large berg at almost the last moment, passing it by with bated breath. While they were already sleeping in shifts for their journey prior to that moment, their shifts thereafter were much shorter, and the trip less pleasant, as each wave caused more concern than before.
All’s well that ends well
Despite a few moments of near-panic, Zevalkink and Yeates’ ocean expedition had a happy ending for everyone after all. The couple experienced something years of married life would give them in just under three months, and Zevalkink’s father enjoyed the safe return of the ever trustworthy Desireé.