As an old saying goes: There are plenty more fish in the sea, usually used when someone dumps you.
We beat that theory. During our whole journey we managed to catch only one fish which we had to eat the very same night since we didn’t have a refrigerator. Where had the fish gone? There was not a sign of a single dolphin, a shark or a whale. Every now and then a flying fish flew to the deck, sometimes missing us just for a centimetre.
In Africa, a few months after the sailing, I will watch a documentary “Sharkwater” which will give me a sad, but true answer to satisfy my question about why there are so few fish in the sea. Slowly, but steady they are being extinguished. For example, sharks, which had been the kings of the oceans for the past 400 million years (!!), are very close to being extinguished. The reason is pretty clear and always the same – profit. You should watch the documentary, you can find it online. Become aware, if you already haven’t, of what we are doing to our Planet.
When the nights happened to be calm I slept in the open, in a cockpit. It felt good to be in the fresh air, but you had to be careful and watch out for the waves which could splash you very easily. Beside the stars which were amazing, but still not shiny enough for picky me, the reason for sleeping (and being there during the whole day) in the cockpit was the horrid smell coming from the inside of the boat. Some pump was broken, and it stank. My bench-bed was next to the very source of the beautiful aroma.
Ten days, plus the first five, which was the time it took us to get to Cocos Islands: that was how much it took me to see the sea as a friend. Metaphorically speaking, we synchronized our watches, starting talking: we became one. I didn’t see it as something that was necessarily there, as a vehicle, but as a big brother who had decided to show me the way and keep me company to my destination.
A typical Stockholm syndrome: I made friends with my kidnapper – the ocean. Sailing, as a matter of fact, in many things reminded me of a prison. Not that I had been in one, but I’d seen it on the TV. In fact, I developed a theory (I had plenty of time) that a prison was way better than sailing across an ocean. You couldn’t get off the ship, just like you couldn’t get out of a prison. Moreover, you share a certain space with a bunch of people you cannot choose, once again, same as in a prison. You are counting down the days till you’re free/on the land. On a ship you have to cook for yourself, while in prison you don’t have to do that. That’s a plus for prison! You eat fish more often in prison. Two pluses. A prison doesn’t sway back and forth all the time. Three pluses. There were no storms in a prison when you keep on being afraid for your life. Four pluses. There were no lightings that could hit the ship and cause such a damage that we could easily, as our captain used to say, sink the ship in the middle of the ocean. Five pluses. You couldn’t receive any visitors on a ship. Six pluses. No communication with the environment. Seven pluses. You get to shower, on average, once in five days, and usually in salt water so there are some problems when rinsing. On a brighter note, on a ship, there is no one sneaking behind your back while you are soaping yourself. One plus for the life on a ship!
As you can see, a prison is way better; in case anyone had any doubts…
Even the captain said a few times: There are two happiest days in a life of a ship owner: one of them is when he or she buys a ship, the other one when the ship is sold; not necessarily in that order.
The life on a ship is not that difficult, but rather monotonous. I’m aware of the fact that sailing across an ocean sounds like the adventure of one’s life, one of the biggest things in a life, as something romantic…but – it is not. If I had to use one word to describe my experience, the word ‘monotony’ first comes to mind. I managed to read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, started editing my video clips, and did some writing. Also, I pondered about the most difficult moments during the journey. The biggest challenges.
The hardest thing was going away. Starting off. I didn’t matter that I knew I was doing the right thing, it wasn’t comfortable having that sense of guilt for all the pain I was causing to my loved ones for leaving them. However, can’t stop it once it’s started.
The toughest challenges weren’t all that tough: hitchhiking through all those countries, being homeless, sleeping in the homes of strangers, jumping out of a plane, crossing an ocean. While doing all those activities I felt normal, I felt that I belonged there and that I was doing the right thing. My heart was at ease. I never felt as someone special or adventurous. The secret is probably the fact that I hadn’t thought much before I did any of those things. It’s no use over thinking things: if you do so, you probably end up giving up. Also, plans = expectations = disappointments: one of the most important lessons.
I wonder how many people give up their life-long wishes/passions because of fears. Because of over thinking things. Because of playing safe. Because of listening to other people’s advice. Because of traditional values. Because people usually think: I could never do that. Because any reason you can think of; and not one of them is worth giving up.
Anyway, don’t believe those who say that something is difficult, impossible or special. They do it just to boost their ego, and discourage others from trying out the same thing, because, in that case, their adventure doesn’t seem all that adventurous. Whatever someone else does, you can do it also. If you set it as your priority. If you want it enough. If.
Captain Mike is a cool guy. In his youth, he was a famous American rock star: he played and sang in several bands; he’s the only person who had travelled on his Harley from the very south to the very north in USA; he was a millionaire. He had it all, but then his career was ended due to arthritis. He bought a boat, went on a trip around the world with his wife, but she had to go back because somewhere near Galapagos she caught a sea sickness that didn’t seem to go away. Since roughly at the same time all their savings had been gone because of the financial crisis they decided to sell the ship. However, there was that crisis and there were no buyers. That was the reason why the captain, for the past few years, was sailing on his own, every now and then taking on wanderers like me to help him out with the work on the ship, and he was trying to sell it.
Sebastien is a Belgian cop. He quit his job when he realized that it didn’t fulfill him so he moved to China where he spent most of his time with Li Ti, his loved one. They got bored in China so, just like me, they decided to do an unusual thing: sail across the Indian Ocean, even though they had no experience on the open sea, just like me. We talked a lot, and became good friends.
It took us 18 long days before we saw the land: Mauritius!
We arrived to the harbor, did what we had to do on the customs, I got a stamp which meant that I could stay there for the next 15 days. See all the stamps from different countries I realized that soon I would be left with no empty space in my passport.
Once I got the stamp, my only thought was to buy a local card for my cell phone and call my folks. It had never been so much time in my whole life, 18 days, that I didn’t communicate with my parents. In fact, the record before that one was five days: also during this sailing tour – the time it took us to get from Christmas to Cocos Islands.
Mum’s cell was ringing a few times too many. Dad answered it. He’d never answered on mum’s phone. In a split of a second I started imagining the worst: what could have happened in these 18 days? Soon, after we’d exchanged few words, I supposed that mum had seen an unknown number on the screen and being afraid she didn’t want to answer it by herself so she handed it over to dad. Their lost sailor son was safe and sound! They just started worrying because some nasty storm hit the USA; it didn’t matter that I was sailing across completely different ocean.
After the conversation was done I fulfilled one of my wish: to be gluttonous in eating and drinking. Eighteen days of eating pasta in tomato sauce and stale warm water was too much. Junk food, fresh fruit and vegetables, cold water, ice-cream: I felt like a child in a toy store.
I got back to the ship, the three of us cleaned it, while the captain had to see some ship repairers because there was some work to be done on the ship before we carried on with our sailing. The verdict was made: we would spend an entire week on Mauritius! It was great. I really needed some firm ground.
The moment the ship was clean, maybe even a few moments before, I dashed away and with a small rucksack on my backs I left my new family and went to visit my couchsurfing one: Maja and her husband Xavier, a Serbian-Mauritius couple would be my hosts. A smile, hug and a beer in a local supermarket: it was enough to feel at home again. I ate bread and cheese. I went to Xavier’s sister birthday party. In the evening I was in a big, warm and steady bed. Immense happiness.
The following day we moved to the house of Xavier’s grandparents which was on the beach. This was the place where I’d be resting for the following few days, going on a few short kayak trips to the island that had been declared a natural park, on dinners with their friends, on a party accompanied by drums and camp fire and stuff like that. I didn’t explore Mauritius and I wasn’t too interested in its history and culture. Same old, same old. People, that what was all about.
However, a walk down the streets got me back to the familiar chaos. I was starting to feel that I was arriving to Africa: there were no more order and cleanliness of Australia: the streets were colorful, full of aromas and sounds; people were giving you curious looks; everyone was jumping out and in the running buses: everyone was selling something. I’d seen it somewhere before: I knew, in fact, that Africa, with few exceptions, would be a copy of Asia. Once again I was a rich white tourist, as opposed to the image of wanderer and a homeless guy that I had in Europe and Australia…and that I learnt to appreciate.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to turn back into a rich white tourist. While on Mauritius I got an offer from another captain to join his catamaran on its way from South Africa to the Caribbean Islands, only a few weeks after we would arrive to Africa. If only I arrived to the Americas, even though I’d still be in underdeveloped countries I wouldn’t be a rich white tourist. I’d perfect my Spanish in few months, and once you know the language everything is easier.
Still, it would mean that I would have to skip Africa. Also, that would mean a minimum of month and a half of sailing across the another ocean. Most importantly, I’d be giving up the idea why Africa had been appealing to me for a few years. Once, back home with my parents I’d watched a documentary about African wilderness. Then my father, probably for the first time since I’d been born, revealed one of his life wishes: if only I had a chance to go on a safari and see all these animals; I’d die as a happy man.
During all those years this idea was stuck in my head: wouldn’t it be nice if I could make my father’s wish come true; if, as opposed to all those past years, I were the one to make his wish come true? And now it was the right moment to do it: I would be in Africa, I had some earned sponsorship money, and I hadn’t seen my father for a year and a half.
Mum is afraid of planes.
After a few days thinking it through I made a decision: I decided to spend a few months in Africa, give it a chance. I would have to put aside the fact that I didn’t feel like travelling and that I may be wasting my only chance to visit the continent that had always been most appealing to me. Never mind, things will fall into their place, like they always do.
I contacted my girls in one tourist agency in Croatia, asked them about the best package tour for safari, and shortly, with a blessing of my MasterCard, I had a date with my father – mid February, in Kenya. We would be in a safari for eight days, like true retirees, and after that we would have six days of wandering around until he was to go back to Croatia.
In the meanwhile the sails had been repaired, our groceries stock renewed, I got myself a new stamp in the passport, and we were back on the sea. It would take us two weeks before we arrive to Durban, which is situated on the eastern African coast. The captain feared the most this very part of our journey; he said that we would feel as if we were in a washing machine once we’re south from Madagascar. Oh, well.
Once again the first two or three days were marked by my seasickness, and the rest – the usual monotony.
One day after another, with only one stormy night accompanied by thunders.
One night, while I was on watch I saw a bright green shooting star. It was so unbelievable that I had to wake up the captain to ask him the colour of a signal rocket used when someone is in trouble. It wasn’t green.
Also, during our last day of sailing we saw two dolphins. Two dolphins, in 36 days of sailing and 4,500 nautical miles.
With the sunrise of the thirteenth day we finally saw a new continent before us: the fourth one I was visiting. Each I had visited had added something important to my life: it remained to see what Africa had in store for me.
GALLERY – INDIAN OCEAN.
YT VIDEO – INDIAN OCEAN (3):