Every journey begins with an idea. The idea for this one was born a few years ago in the middle of a bitter Canadian winter at a dinner table. It sounded something like this: Get a sail boat and travel all over the world. And it wasn’t even our idea, a friend called Mitko (who could drink alone a bottle of any hard alcohol known to mankind and ask for another) one day just dumped it on us with a conspiratorial smile on his face. But ideas and dreams, like germs in the right environment, can be dangerously contagious. They can awaken blinded minds and activate conciousness. Immediately, the idea begun growing and taking shape until it became our incurable goal: To get a sail boat and travel all over the world.
You might ask in alarm, as so many before you have already done: But do you know how to sail? What are you going to do about money? And the kids, you can’t possibly stop them from school? What about pirates and storms, seasickness and sharks, giant squids and wrong waves, whirlpools and sea monsters? And although the short answer to most of these questions is No or I don’t know, but we are planning to learn or find out, let me try to defend myself.
About our sailing experience.
In June of 2006, the kids, Ivo and I spent two unforgettable days and nights aboard this same friend newly acquired sail boat in Rhode Island. Our first and only sailing experience, if we exclude that time when we went canoeing on a river and took an umbrella with us. (If this is enough information for you to form an idea of how good sailors we are, then don’t read the rest of this post)
The boat ironically called Outsider, was a beaten old fibreglass 40-footer unquestionably unfit for living aboard or cruising (not even for short periods; not even for two days), used only on weekends for racing and who knows what other suspicious activities. It was a fast boat with the tallest beam in the whole region, attached to a buoy away from the docks in order to avoid paying the marina’s fees.
After an hour of rowing in a dinghy with a broken engine, we found ourselves in a space with no inside walls and floor, without a stick of furniture, except for the two narrow rotten beds on both sides. The kitchen, or galey, was a small portable gas stove which we brought with us and used to make instant noodles and coffee. Oh, and in the middle of the saloon (I don’t know how to call it, so I call it a saloon, but this word sounds far too spacey and clean for the crawlspace bellow deck I am referring to) there was a small nasty toilet seat. No walls to separate it, no door, just a seat. I don’t want to describe the smell of this space, as I don’t want to remember it. I don’t want you, my innocent reader, to have to imagine it. And if today is your birthday, I wish you never ever to have to inhale such a thick horrible stink, a mixture of mildew and human shit.
So, if one of us wanted to use the toilet, or the head, as our friend proudly called it (a valuable item in his view), everyone else had to go up and out on the deck, so the whole saloon turned basically into a toilet. And anyways, we didn’t mind being out on the deck. Seen from the vantage point of the stinking down-below, the deck and the cockpit seamed much more appealing and breathable. Thus, the first day, sunny and fairly calm, we occupied ourselves with all kinds of outside activities: playing with ropes, hinges, and sails. We even sailed for a while and it was wonderful.
By the second day, as you might have guessed, after a sleepless night in the stale air and wet beds, things started to deteriorate dramatically and our sailing ordeal began. The morning skies were suspiciously calm and dark clouds have already gathered. A storm was brewing on the horizon, but Mitko and Ivo were determined to sail again. At this time of the year, storms come up quickly and experienced sailors make sure to check the weather forecast at the marina before setting sail. We weren’t experienced sailors. So we took off gracefully for open sea and soon enough we regretted it.
We were already far away from the harbour when the wind picked up and the waves begun to gather, growing big and nervous. Me and the kids left the two skippers to deal with the boat and took cover bellow deck. There everything: bags, food, coolers, the little gas stove and the pot we used to make coffee in, started to fly around us like in a washing machine. But what really frightened us was the sound. Not the sharp shrill of the wind trying to tear off the sails, nor the violent thud of the waves smashing the hull, no. The sound that I will never forget was the paranoid hysteria of the two men running above us in a frenzy, screaming delirious commands and insults at each other, at the boat, at the sea, and basically at everything they could think of. It was as if they were deliberately destroying the boat and killing each other . Years later, when Maya who was 3 years old back then, remembered: It somehow felt like the first day of my life.
We made it back miraculously in one piece, after we almost lost the main sail, almost broke the mast, and Mitko almost vanished overboard trying to save the sail. Having finally arrived at the docks, we felt incredibly proud. Wrapped in our blankets, we could now do anything.
Having written this account of our first and only sailing experience, I realize it doesn’t sound much fun, and I wonder why we all loved it so much. We couldn’t wait to get back at sea and do it again. But our friend abandoned his boat because he had some personal problems, and we never got another chance. Until now.