Another one bites the dust

12-Apr 2012
Leg 1 to Galapagos
Day 22, day 9 at sea

Via many a mouth and pen have come the same warning regarding doing a long passage at sea: Choose your company wisely. Despite this, I, holding the self-image of one who is quite easy to get along with, didn’t heed this warning with much gravity (although admittedly I had a bit of cold feet in the final moments, based on some weird transmissions.) Ultimately I chose not to over-think it, trusting events to run their course and play out as they may.

As I wrote earlier, after a trial-period on the boat before we left Panama, Hubert decided to amicably part ways, deciding he’s be better-suited joining his countrymen on a French boat that’s heading the same way. Maybe it’s too much info to share here, but for his reasons he cited: Safety (lack of a life boat, which is law in France); Language barrier (although I adore his cute Frenglish); Itinerary (he wishes to spend more time on the islands than our swift Pacific-crossing schedule); Crew dynamic (already an experienced sailor, this “boot-camp” style of learning aboard Tropicbird contrasts with his true purpose: leisure), and Personal differences (he and the Captain butt-heads). Now that we’re well on our way, and I can see how much indeed any and all issues need be addressed and solved for a successful rapport to be established. It’s all for the best that he found that which best suits him.

Which takes me to our current state of affairs. We’ve had our share of both harmonious and difficult moments, when an air of cooperation and jolliness fills the vessel and spills overboard, and others have been a bit tense, when we need space, get a touch of the cabin fever, or aren’t so receptive to alignments and criticisms from the captain. Some issues are inwardly personal, and others inter-personal. We all have our moments, and together we share mostly all of them! (although mostly good ones :) At times, however, there are clashes, and while I can say the crew are all pretty mild-mannered, or at least inoffensive, our captain is a tough cookie at times, and taking orders or being sensitive to his command is not always easy.

Jacek has announced today that he will be permanently departing our ship upon reaching the Galapagos, in approximately four days. I’m bummed because he’s smart and knowledgable, we get along really well, and our frequent philosophical exchanges keep things interesting. His history on the boat goes back a bit further than mine, as he joined Tropicbird almost two months before we set sail, having arrived early with much enthusiasm to help make preparations, which by and by wore thin as our departure date got set back repeatedly. As our most experienced crew member (apart from our captain), he’s much like a “first mate”, and has certainly paid the most to be here (as our daily rate to be on board included each and every day we were anchored in Panama – a major point of contention among all of us actually, but most severely applicable in his case.) Although I’d rank personal issues with the captain as the primary reason for his need to move-on, the fact that he burned deep holes in his pocket to stay aboard before we left will actually prevent him from having sufficient funds to make the passage without stopping to work, which I think sucks. But following his heart on this, I believe he’ll find a way which is ultimately best for him. (He’s even thinking of going to South America in pursuit of shamanic answers to his life questions instead of crossing the Pacific — major re-route!)

We’ve all had our tough moments, and I’m sure I can speak for us all in saying that we’ve each contemplated re-routing at some point. I’m only ten days out to sea, and while it’s had its share of beautiful moments (like the sunset in the doldrums tonight: absolutely top notch!) as well as skills expansion and consciousness development, at times I just want to be off doing other things. It’s rather exciting to daydream about divergent paths from the plan, as embracing change and unknown direction is of superior adventurous caliber than sticking to a long-plan. My biggest question at this point is whether the journey itself or attaining the goal of sailing experience is more important to me in this case. Another variable is whether my company are part of the adventure or simply a means to an end. I usually say that I’m not destination-oriented, rather the journey is the true path, but I can’t help but to often look forward to distant, unexplored lands and peoples. So says the explorer who finds himself uncharacteristically confined to routine!

With that I’m off to make bake bread and prepare hummus! (We eat good out here, thanks to the resident vegan gourmet who’s’ always got to change it up!)


this was to be April in our "Boys of Tropicbird" pin-up calendar. (L: Kuba, R: Jacek)

ADDENDUM — AND ANOTHER ONE GONE and another one gone… (14-Apr)

The other Pole of our group, Kuba, has announced earlier today his eminent leave at Galapagos, due to personal reasons. I won’t get into it right here and now (but upon request I can send you the link to my private post on this). I don’t want to step on any toes this early in the journey with my brand of honest speculative journalism!

I will say that in the wake of Jacek’s announcement, and now Kuba’s, Julian seems to have chilled-out a LOT — in fact he’s downright pleasant. Maybe he’s trying to preserve the crew he still has, or maybe this is a pattern in his life on which he wants to improve, heeding the reminders. Here I find myself caught in the middle, on half the team we started as two weeks ago, wondering if this situation’s satisfactory for me, and if this relative time of peace is temporary or sustainable.

I could write more about my intentions going forward, but I’d rather for now see how it goes, as my own personal matters are considerably milder than with the others, and I’m on the fence. The expedition has already suffered enough blows that perhaps all involved will make a substantial ongoing efforts to stay civil and keep the dream afloat.


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