Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dec 1 2005 - Dec 1 2008

I had lost one of my Birkenstocks on the shore of the Red Sea. It was 1991. My only other footwear was a pair of hiking boots that were too big. I had to wear 2 pairs of socks to make them fit and it was 118 degrees in the shade. That and the fact that I was sleeping on roof tops, eating food off discarded plates, and living on credit card cash advances signaled the rapidly approaching end of my trip. It had taken me under a year to travel from Portugal to Egypt and 30 days later I was back in Tel Aviv being strip searched before my flight home, and though that adventure was over, I see it now as the training for this voyage. As of today, I've been living on the sea for 3 years.
How long can I stay gone?
3 years at sea. It seems impossible. Since I left California and crossed into Mexican waters, I've sailed to 15 countries and hundreds of islands. I've crossed the largest expanse of water on the planet. I've seen the best and the worst that nature can offer. I've exhausted every superlative I could conjure when confronted with the splendor of the world. I've spewed every expletive I could spit when I was shit scared in the middle of the night, beyond exhaustion with systems continuing to break and wind and seas building. I tell myself its all good training. That I'm building a resume, or a book, or at least stories for the bar stool.
We are exhausted. It's been 12 days now on the move. 5 days ago we stopped in Wangi Wangi for a much needed rest. The water was too deep to anchor so we had to tie to the concrete dock. We were up all night fending off. Concrete eats plastic boats real fast. The engine blew an oil cap and I spent the hours from 3 - 5 am cleaning the bilge and looking for the cap. The next night we tied to a big fishing boat and a squall came in. We hand to leave at 1 am when we started bashing into the boat. It broke my secondary outboard. We drove around in circles for 5 hours waiting for the seas to calm so we could tie up again and get the diesel and all the engine maintenance done. 9 hours of sleep in 3 days. As a final, "Thank you sir, may I have another", a very large ferry boat bounced off my port side as he rushed to get to the dock. No damage, just another layer to our perfect nightmare cake. Now it's 5 days later. It's very hard to recover from your sleep starved state when you can only doze for 3 hours at a time.
On Nov 19th while sailing on the north side of the island of Buru, a fast boat with 2 men in it circled us, stopped and stared, raced to catch up with Emelia (the sailboat we were in company with. They've since had total battery failure and are heading directly to Bali), raced back to us, and then moved a short way off and waited. They may have just been curious fisherman, but I saw no fish, no smiles, no waves. It didn't feel right and it looked very suspicious. I notified a group of friends back in the US and asked them to stand by in case we didn't make contact in 10 hours. What great friends I have. These guys rallied the consulate, got a US Navy Admiral involved, and even learned a few words of Bahasa just in case. Happily, it was a very anticlimactic story. Nothing happened, unless you count the rise in the level of respect I have for my "Ground Crew" back home.
I had a very low point in Costa Rica after my brother, mother, crew, and this new girl I'd met named Suzi left me. Couple that with the depression of the rainy season and it was almost too much. I wanted to quit. I'm there, in that horrible place again; this realm in which your dream turns into a nightmare. Be careful what you wish for. My reserves are running dangerously low on stamina, optimism, money, and frankly - courage. Sometimes I feel like I have absolutely lost my nerve. If Bali is the half way mark for my circumnavigation, how in the hell am I ever going to make the other half happen? The low is no longer a depression on a weather map. It's real and it lives inside me and I can't seem to shake it.
I do have a few comforting facts that I suck on when I need a mental lozenge:
1.) Its only 360 miles to Bali. I will make it damn it.
2.) My brother is coming for 3 weeks and that has huge healing potential
3.) 3 months in a marina with a/c can heal a lot of saddle sores
4.) In those 3 months, I'll get this boat back to ship shape. That's the crux for mental security
I can't say that today, the 3rd anniversary of my departure, is much of a celebration. I'm sorry if this wasn't the fanfare email you hoped for. It's been hard, and I'm drained. I can say that I've proven to be resilient in the past and my mom thinks I'm "formidable". Bob Sullivan was my freshman philosophy professor, and his often quoted phrase was, "It's important to learn to suffer well". I'm learning. He also said, "If it's good to be alive, it's better to be more alive". Maybe I'm building more than a resume.
I think I just saw my Birkenstock float by,
Capt Bob









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