Aboard (but not “on board” yet)

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23-Mar 2012
Colón, Panama
Day 2.

Very well. Was off to a rough start, specifically in the days approaching, as some communication snafus had cast some doubt to my suitability as a team member in my captain, Julian Rowe. I felt good, however, as I sat in the shade of a tree in the marina, stretching, anticipating our first meeting. While I was nervous in the days before due to strained emails, in these final moments I am calm, here, and believing that it will be okay. He was smaller than I imagined, as I saw him zooming-in on his petite dinghy to the dock, in fact I initially thought he might have sent one of the young crew members to fetch me, and bring me back to Tropicbird, which is anchored out in the harbor.

He was in a hurry, quickly shook my hand, and told me that we must walk and talk, and we was about to unleash a talking-to that was well-warranted. Ok. As we walked the three blocks to the dentist office, he expressed his dissatisfaction with my communications in this last month prior to this meeting, and my apparent lack of commitment. I learned quickly and urgently how important communication is on-board. I still I honestly don’t know which communications I defaulted on, but I have an idea what was incompatible about my style, and I’m happy to see that now it’s water under the bridge, and we’ve moved-on without indulging in the details on a matter that is now in the past. It was a lesson and a good one that I can use going forward.

With the original faith he had in me eroded somewhat, I would be on a trial for the next few days, to see if I have the right stuff to be crew on this boat.

The crew is nice. I’m sharing the berth (personal quarters) with Spencer Smith from California, an athletic and confident fellow in his mid-twenties who plays soccer and I’ve asked many questions about the boat. Jacek Spera, Polish, is the Bruce Willis of the boat, complete with shaved-head, witty and friendly, and a bit wild.

Hubert Sikvain is a middle-aged fellow from France. His English is intermediate and I think it will take some effort to acquaint with him very personally. He’s reportedly a good cook, and last night we shared the dinner preparation, as they were cooking chicken in a curried cream sauce and I needed to take care of myself, emulating his meal with my mock Protisoya (vegetable protein) and without the cream, (which he doused my bowl with in the final moments anyway in error, after I had expressed that I wanted to include all the same ingredients except those from animal.)

Chistoph is hired-on for a couple days for line-handling in the canal, extremely personable, smiley, and conversational. He brought beers and wine back to the boat last night to share, which surprised me as I inferred that our captain frowned upon alcohol on board (being in recovery for some years now). I was so relieved that I declined his generosity when later in the evening he spilled his wine all over the area we shared including the cushions (which I read in advance Julian was particular about). It was an eruptive moment, panic ripped through the crew in search of towels, Julian deployed a somewhat constrained, practiced explosion which I admired somewhat, simply blurting “Just clean it up” and “Damned alcohol on my boat”, coupled with a retreat to the bow to sit an cool down. Hubert announced “I’m going to bed” and I actually did the same, not to avoid fallout but because I was dreadfully tired.

I feel quickly integrated in the learning process here on the boat, taking initiative to adopt the regimes practiced here. So far I see my order in the hierarchy, and I’m counting my blessings for this opportunity to become seaworthy.


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