San Cristobal, Galapagos
Dangerous incident. Jeopardizes entire Pacific crossing. Family was sitting in cabin eating potato and eggs in a basket breakfast when bow of cruise ship slowly came about, bulk pushed by wind, poorly tended by crew. Nearer it came to Sarim; we prepare for collision. Bow 7 feet above Sarim’s deck, anchor chain came across, made contact, dragged, clanked, grinding, breaking across starboard hull of Sarim. Stanchions bent forward like thumb breaking toothpicks. Lido filming. Bow of vessel “Galaven” continued unfettered, pressing in Sarim’s hull. Bow catches on rear stay, or shroud, and bends it well outside of carrying capacity; lucky that their ship bow angle curved, lucky by one foot; stay snapped backward, twanged off edge of ship’s bow, and remained intact.
Captain came to Sarim–indignant, defensive, blind; a cowardly man. Was not even aboard his ship during incident. I am tasked with translation. End up taking over argument, yelling at this captain about physics and alloy compositions. Man flustered, enraged, insisting there was no collision, despite damage; leaves and returns with port captain authority. Explain likewise to port captain, show video; port authority takes our side. Lido and captain come to final agreement; 250 dollars must be paid.
Captain never returned; next day I am tasked with clearing waters with our agent–we already legally checked out of Ecuador two days previous. Leave following instructions with agent: Captain of Galaven must pay 250 dollars to municipality to buy better slide for children’s playground, or crew member aboard Sarim will visit English language tourist forums online and slander Galaven and company, and Sarim will make video evidence public, and optimized for search engines.
Engine problem: one cylinder not working. Power steering loose; bleed system.
Sit around table, we make a bet: how many days to Marquesas? Write down guesses on separate pieces of paper. Kelly stakes 28 days, Lido and I both 24. This is longest single crossing from land to land, 3000 miles from San Cristbobal to Fatu Hiva, first island in chain (though, Hiva Oa is first official port of entry). Longest sane crossing, that is; few would sail from LA direct Japan.
Picture the expansiveness, the loneliness of this sea: imagine the United States barren of life, barren of reference points, and in many places barren of food, and where there is food you can’t see it except for when signaled by the zing of the rod when your lure is taken; now put yourself on a small craft dependent on invisible wind to move its snail pace, and plop yourself in the middle of this desolate plain. Now make the plain into water, so that your body is constantly moving, which is strenuous on the muscles, especially the upper back and neck. For 1500 miles east and west and for many more miles to north and south, there is no one and nothing to be seen. No help in case of emergency, no shops to buy spare parts if something breaks, no grocery. You depend on a water maker to daily supply yours and three others’ necessity. The fatigue you feel dulls intellectual capacity; you can’t be bothered to do anything or discuss anything interesting, whatsoever; you are in a cramped space and often everyone is shitty with everyone else, at least it seems.
Sun resigns to other longitudes, leaving pink knife blade horizon bearing weight of armored gunmetal clouds.
So begin weeks at sea.
Speed: 4 knots
Winds pick up after heading in northerly direction from outset. Galapagos Islands rather spread out–now floating north of Santa Marta.
Morning cooked banana pancakes. Kelly always concerned with provisions, gives me impression everything is running out all the time, which, I suppose it is.
Came into the feeding grounds of a pod of whales. At first they were far, but Sarim drifted to middle of their spouts. Great bubbles rumbled from the deep–the creatures’ method of capturing fish–and just beside the boat, like an aquatic apparition, a huge lumbering body clearly visible beneath the surface, reflecting the un refracted light of midday, came gliding through its world, shining turquoise, evanescent and pure. I go into the water down the swim ladder with goggles and snorkel, the boat having no speed and the sea somewhat calm. From the waterline, the calmness could have been a desert filled with massive watery dunes the way I saw it. Look into the depths. Light filtered as through a kaleidoscope, or some kind of prism, which causes it to flare like ethereal flowers; beyond this, unimaginable depth, a dark vacuum of space, something to cause vertigo, to strike a note of fear, which for me it did. Massive bubbles suddenly erupt from below, and boil up beneath me–but I cannot see the whales in this their frightening abyss.
Later, pass Isla Isabella, where sunset pink licks mountaintops, but then slowly slurped away from its rocky host.
Speed: 2 knots
Fallen in with 2 knot current. No wind. How to describe ocean currents? As with the ocean itself, I find that an appropriate metaphor is difficult to come by; anything that fits would work twice as well inverted. So, in the crowded streets of Tokyo, crowds shove forth all together and easily sweep you away in their direction like an inescapable ocean current. If the direction is yours, all is well; otherwise, you fight the stream. The ocean is more like a collection of rivers in this regard, coiling around each other, picking up vessels and off-setting their course to a considerable degree, etcetera.
Lido flies spinnaker, watches it for 30 minutes before satisfied with stability. Next, sets fishing line in following manner: an 8-foot stalwart piece of bamboo intended as a tiller is aboard; attaches a pulley to one end with cord, and passes fishing line through; he extends bamboo out over starboard water; he secures the line to a hatch, and secures bamboo end in a port hole. We’ve become a fishing trawler. On port side, fishing rod line cast. What projects will he think of next?
Like this I go to sea. How easy it is; do nothing but let spinnaker float spectrally, such a calm thing to make the round-the-world journey. The world is known; dangers are known; problems exist on scales the size of countries; such small, capable sailboats are relatively new in human civilization; here we are with all the necessities of technology, making the world even smaller.
Speed: 2 knots
Shifty autopilot, lots of movement, new clicking sound as it steers; need to watch it. Boats on AIS, GPS on iPad–totally nonsensical sentence 20 years ago. Gil cries “peepee” or “caca” and bucket is furnished, little naked man does business, bossman disposes contents overboard.
A few frustrations, already, and to be expected. Some days are good, and some are neutral-bad; I know which as soon as I emerge from forward cabin and come back to cockpit. Sometimes I feel observed, talked about. Can’t understand German. Uninterested in learning it–is it ocean travel that makes one illogical? One cannot expect rationality on the high seas!
American sense of courtesy is engrained in me; and now that I’m warmed by years in the company of Latin Americans, I find coldness here–but it’s an ebb and flow.
Finished Twains “Following the Equator”. Shiver at his 19th century conception of “civilization”, with words like “savage”; with preoccupation of skin color; with praise of Englishness; with too many stock and bond metaphors. Otherwise, damn it if the man can’t dance with language and tell a fine story! And who else to compare in perfect time the Taj Mahal to an ice storm?
Speed: 2.8 knots
Larger seas today, lumps of 12 to 13 feet. Gil’s swimming pool on deck in morning, toys abound. Cook fluffy banana pancakes; go over well with family.
Begin reading Maro Polo’s “The Travels.” Dry account of places during Mongol rule. Somehow enthralling all the same. But no personalization. What of all those moments that make a story in his travels? Lost in time like tears in the rain.
Install teak folding chair on port deck, in shade of Ginny, and peel oranges, suck their juice, lean on safety lines, stare at bluishness. Ocean’s dimples; border between worlds. Mammals living in the sea–dolphins, whales–a plight? Always obliged to take a breath–prisoners in their environment. But then, our having to take a drink is twin to their having to take a breath. Is there a mammal that can breathe and drink of the same substance, like fish in water?
Speed: 3.5 knots
In this diary I will write highs and lows (in time with sea?)–this is me resisting being upset by sometimes uncomfortable circumstances, the inconsistencies and incongruences, resisting that pugnacious resolve, those nightmares in a hot sweat stuffed into a damp coffin cabin. But squeezing lemons into your eyes with these words won’t help a damn.
Quick current–no wind. No wind kills morale. I was humming today, when Kelly suddenly and abruptly said “that’s not nice for us, don’t do that. You’ve been doing it for 5 days and we don’t think it’s nice.” I seethed. They were talking about me, for days, building up a tension. How unfair: “you’ve been annoying us for 5 days but we didn’t tell you because we’re blunt objects and preferred to wait until it got really, really annoying so that we could be sudden and therefore harsh in our rebuke.” I said not a word, repaired to my cabin for the evening.
Can hear Lido’s pounding feet. When he’s upset, he makes noise. His way of venting, I suppose. Irascible sometimes, but all of it remains where it got to first: under the skin. Sometimes hope the man finds a suitable out.
Both speak to me about the other. I have responsibility of neutrality, and have no outlet but diary. Should I complain about fairness? There are happy moments here, but if sailing is mostly stressful, which I reckon it to be, then I am not taken. Why, then, am I here, sailing across the sea? Marco Polo traveled in a retinue of hundreds, and sometimes thousands. For all our lamenting modern justice, we have it extraordinarily good compared to the past; but what the past lacked was planes, those things that make being away illegitimate.
Caught Mahi Mahi today. Lido: flour + salt + chili pepper + Dijon mustard; fried; delicious.
“Look at all the shooting stars,” I said.
Lido replied: “With you Americans everything is shooting.”
Speed: 5 knots
Thinking happy birthday for a friend.
Mostly take late-night watch 12am to 4 or 5am. Then back to cabin to sleep until 9 or 10. Enjoy standing on cockpit benches, leaning over polyester roof, not yet finished, and be beside boom, under stars, of which are countless, and seeing happy inverted shadow of Buddha on spinnaker bobbing jovially with each wave back and forth. In cabin flanked by tomes, listening to stretch of rope, squeak of it around a winch, trickling waterline across hull, clanking pulleys and steel cables clattering in mast; sheet perpetually damp; mold forming at head; my legs in sleeping bag, also moldy; weak headlight illuminates carpeted walls; I write, I write, I write.
Speed: 6.5 knots
First vessel on horizon: Ecuador flags, fishing trawler. I speak last bit of Spanish with them over VHF emergency channel 16, switched to 10. They were from Manta. I spoke of El Carmen, Ayampe, Montanita, Salinas, Guayaquil, Quito, Misahualli. I spoke away the last breath of Spanish I would use, like pressing out the last air out of a once full and comfortable inflatable mattress.
High waves. Banana pancakes made oval by movement–cook not pleased. Flying fish everywhere, sputtering, then lifeless on deck. In daylight, Sarim surprises their schools, which breach waves in groups of hundreds, like little fairies, but with boney bat wings and agility of hummingbirds; more industrious of them would fly on forever if waves didn’t get in their way. They all splash down, like a fistful of pebbles chucked into a pond.
Fish on the bamboo trawling line; lost.
Rod line caught in wind generator; cut loose.
Gil and Lido make 4-layer cake of banana pancakes.
Speed: 6.2 knots
Day of fish! We’re a fish factory, as Lido put it. Steady seas, blue, sunny. 4 “small” Mahi Mahi on lines. These have prominent foreheads, and are of a brilliant iridescent aqua-gold fading to lifeless silver upon death (though, peculiarly, my hands stained turquoise by their flaying). Sometimes small brain difficult to find, and they wreathe; when their mouth lays open, they are dead. Open belly from the anus, remove guts; cut off head and toss to sea; rip off fins; slit at tail and along length of dorsal and ventral apexes, on both sides, so that 4 slits are made; cut back skin from tail, then rip off in one go; upper and lower filets on each side, yielding 4 filets.
One Mahi Mahi corrupted by worm, orange paste between muscles, yellowish color–returned to sea; nothing is wasted in the sea.
Fishing line taken once more, but overloaded, snaps immediately, lost. Reset lure with sinker weight inside sparkling squid rubber, connected steel line with pressed iron clamp.
June 6th, 1944- Normandy. Don’t bother talking about it with hosts. Germans quite sensitive about those days–weighs heavy on cultural identity. I remember being at those beaches, though, and at those fields.
Twain was “fond of war.” Am I? I haven’t experience of it (as easy as it is for an American to get), but lord knows I’ve accumulated several world wars of imagining. Many writers seek the experience of war; why? Does traveling like this serve as a replacement, an equivalent experience on the opposite end of the spectrum–absolute peace, total mobility? Depends, I suppose, on the answer to the ‘why’.
Speed: 9 knots
Confused seas. One of capt’s off days. Consciously doesn’t understand my English suddenly? I tiptoe to no avail on floor of eggs. Can feel these bad days. Result? New rule: one hour manual steering per day.
Mahi Mahi steeped in marinade of soy sauce and honey, with fresh potato bread, spicy squash soup. Kelly and Lido cook a fine lunch.
Rolling seas. Jesus could walk on water, they say. I can walk on land, but I can’t balance on a gym ball, which is what trying to walk on the ocean would be for that Messiah. When you think of it, the ability to walk on water isn’t that much of an improvement on the default.
6 fish on lines today, 4 brought aboard; 3 mahi mahi, 1 barracuda-like king fish. Mahi Mahi now flashed spots of bright, resplendent blue-violent as life flared and slowly dissipated back to industry gray, and death. King fish black-silver-blue tiger striped; long and slender, angular head with overlaid jaw, double row of round powerful teeth; meat more tender, lighter than mahi mahi.
The sea has a curious way of opinioning. “Should we cast the lines again?” I asked. The sea was first to respond, with an eager wave that broke beneath the rear deck slats, and soaked my lower body. “I guess not.”
Speed: 7 knots
Always late-night watch. Wake to high velvety clouds over an ashen, confused sea; not pleasant. 35 knot winds. Lido reefs the sail, meaning bringing main down a section or two. Rain, storm system, larger waves. Wind shocks boom from one side to the other. I’m yelled at. “Focus on course,” Lido said when I retook helm. “The problem was not that I was here–” I started, but: “Just focus on the course,” he said; “I am, but for peace of mind could you secure the boo–” “–Just focus, concentrate on the course.” “But I think–” “–No emotions, no thoughts, no feelings, just focus on the course, make a meditation. Nothing else.”
Cooked roasted potatoes with garlic. Rolled king fish in flour-salt-thyme-chili; set frying in butter; finished nicely breaded. Kelly’s honey cake for dessert.
Can’t sleep. Think of November. Lido never in any hurry, but here we are the last of the boats to cross this season. 1500 dollars bond in Marquesas, 3 month limit for me. But they’re European, they probably get longer time. By the time we make it to Tahiti maybe I’ll only have a week left to get out of country, and maybe they won’t want to go just then. Maybe they won’t want me aboard anymore. Maybe I’ve become idle aboard, because what else can I do? But maybe they don’t like that. If not with them, with no one, because the trickle of boats is drying up. 5 months. 5 months before cyclone season begins once more, and makes the last crossing from New Caledonia to anywhere else treacherous. Dirk will leave his boat on the hard in Fiji; Lido wants to go to Australia, but there is never any urgency, and I’m in no position to be offering advice on the season. I need to sleep, I hate these thoughts.
Speed: 6 knots
On watch until sunrise. Everything is the sun’s audience at dawn, which lights the obedient faces of the clouds, now oriented in a grand semi-circle crowding around to welcome daylight with their whole attention; it’s ceremonial, ritualistic, humbling, loyal.
Sunny again, and good thing: Lido discovered water in forward starboard hatch. Ropes and spinnaker floating. Empty hatch, quit water, wash down with fresh, replace hatch rubber, grease latches. Here, aluminum hull walls expanding and contracting, like a breathing mid-section, and me there between them, huddled, washing floor. I find corrosion in aluminum from contact with steel, some grave.
Contemptuous day. Each character flaw made a hundred times more irritable on the sea. Tiring to be stressed, feel angst, dislike someone, question yourself, like them again; it taxes emotions.
Today made worse by incident. Spinnaker had been drying in sun, Lido decides to fly it. Main sail already hoisted. Spinnaker flies, but a rope snags, drags, curls the fabric, and wind blows it out of control. It wraps swiftly around headsail. Sudden and bracing was Lido’s terribly cry; the prang on the air, which turned cold and shot down to the marrow of each of us–a cry of a great frustration finally finding that suitable out, and it was accompanied by other agonized roars as situation worsened. I kept wind from the back at helm, then ran up with Kelly to yank on sail, which by then was too powerfully billowed, and picked Lido clear up off deck–had to release it. I returned to helm. Deafening flapping of yellow fabric, screams, Closer and closer to destruction for not only spinnaker, but most important headsail as well. Finally they managed to unravel it, slowly, from the Ginny. Kelly’s idea to twist sail, and bring it under control in that way, thereby denying the wind its surface area.
On Sarim, when it’s not something, it’s something else.
Speed: 5 knots
Reading the last, should not be surprised at our discovery today. A crack in problem beam, that beam we took 2 weeks to repair in Galapagos. Appeared where our new wood inserts had to be buffeted by an inch of epoxy–epoxy broke under load. Lido cigarettes, sunken eyes. Poor guy. I stare at the thing, decide that it’s not condemning. Place my hand over it–horizontal movement, not vertical: a good sign. Yesterday we had tightened the braces’ screws, act which had inadvertently placed more load at this spot. Following scientific method, loosened them once more. I do what I can to reassure Lido all is well–wish I knew how to help his happiness along and not irk a passive, soft, hostile reaction as often as I seem to do.
Cooked: fish soaked in red vinegar, buried in flour-salt-chili-thyme mix, fry on high heat. Learn that pan must heat before adding olive oil. Remove fish, pour in white wine, which sizzles and spits. Add butter, stir, remove, pour over fish and rice.
Wind from the rear. Genoa trimmed to half. Moderate sea. Moon returns. Halfway point–1500 miles to go. The only constants? A seabird, even here; the schools of flying fish; and seesaw contempt-love.
Speed: 4.6 knots
Neck aches from keeping these 8 pounds upright. Set tackles–hook, line, sinker. No takers.
Finish Marco Polo. My mind most interested in monotonous description of battles. I’m drawn now to know Mongolia. Additional thought after the reading: people cannot bear their neighbors invading and ruling over them through conquest. But on a different plane they’re willing to abandon what they knew for a different kind of king, who comes invading in the form of missions and martyrs and prophets and books. Human resoluteness in this regard is very curious–people fall before things of legend, myth, and said to be eternal. If they can see the professed ruler, his message is easier to resist.
Thought: I could die by wild beast. There is no reason but for their nature, whereas to die by a man’s hand perhaps marks a failure of reason. I would not want to be murdered. Nor would I like to fall, in accident, cause only by clumsiness. Know now that if one day I die by wild animal, however much I will suffer, I still prefer it to any other violent way.
Calm seas. Wind east southeast, sunny skies. Finally left hatch open to air out.
Smirking moon rising; alleycat moon; tangerine peel smile.
Speed: 5 knots
Heavy clouds, mild rains. Bring down main, let fly Ginny. No fish second day on either line. Begin reading “Ireland” by Frank Delaney. First impression: good storytelling, attractive and enthralling language use, but no unique style discernible.
I wonder what’s happening in the world.
Humming banished to cabin finally yields a written work, a chantey to the score of The Last of the Mohicans. I copy it here:
Far and away
In a city where I stayed
There’s a lady
And she loves me, to this day
Long has it been
Since I’ve seen her and her kin
Since I felt her
Since I held her, within
But now on the sea
Do I see her clearly
And I wonder
Shall I see her, again
For woe did she say
When she said unto me
What trial this torture doth bleed
Bitter would I be
That my loving
That my caring, had ceased
Far and away
In a city where I stayed
There’s a lady
And she loved me, one day
Speed: 5 knots
Same striped sailor’s shirt; same black board shorts; same gardenerâ€™s brimmed hat. Cabin begins to smell rank, as do I. Layer on deodorant. No showers here. Could dump salt water over head–choose not to; too itchy. Wash some clothes in WonderWasher TM.
In night, clear skies. Prismatic shooting star that lit sky aflame garners my mind’s attention for hours:
Bright falling star, a white-hot sword tip slashing the cold steel surface of night sky. Perhaps the last remnant of some cosmic firework, falling to just above the horizon in sapphire heat. It’s a slightly longer than brief slit, quickly healed over by sparkling black gauze, but scarring. A sudden silent crack in ice before melting away. An impossibly thin icicle falling deep into the quick of night, emanating a last fiery blue breath before becoming buried and forgotten. Piercing. Impaling the atmosphere. O! If it made a sound! A bowstring drawn over the edge of broken glass. That it’s gone before as soon as it comes makes it timeless, or heartless. How long, though, had it traveled through space, and how did it happen into movement? This frozen chunk of matter, this valiant space debris, its particles now scattered and without memory–though, I was the lone observer of its last moments. Such a beautiful sight. A beautiful and succinct rendering of all possibilities in the heavens–out there, so much more happening than here, now, on Earth–and the fallen star just a hint, an instantaneous insight into immeasurable activity–a reminder that in the boiling pot of the universe, we aren’t even a drop, not a molecule. It’s easy to understand worship, religion, abstract improvable beliefs–it’s because of the mystery of the sky–whenever you feel like yours is a sour lot, there’s the sky to remind you that it doesn’t matter, and maybe you don’t think of it like that, in those terms, but alone with the mysterious sky it’s easy to feel that all those heavenly eyes are upon you–and why wouldn’t we talk to it, ask of it things. What does it hurt to seek comfort in the seemingly unknowable, the vague eternal?
When there are no stars, one finds their terrestrial equivalent in fireflies, and their marine counterparts in the glowing algae stirred up by our rudders.
Speed: 4 knots
Iridium news from Dirk and Inge on Lola; 26 days to arrive–13 for just the last 1000 kilometers. I doubt I’ll see them; must rush to Tahiti to meet lovely daughter. Saddens me that I may never see them again. Nor might I see the Swedes, who are probably as far along or further.
Last night, could see a black anvil of cloud weighing on horizon. Damn. It breaks. Heavy rain, variable winds; forced to sit at helm, steer; soak pants, long johns, shirt, hoodie, coat, hat, shoes, socks through and through. Biting cold afterward.
Today, something else. A shuttle that attaches main sail to mast broke out of track. Pull down main after climbing mast partly to release a lazyjack caught in pulley. Absent-mindedly, we swing boom, which crashes into plastic covering of iridium satellite antenna, shattering it. “SCHEISSE”. Later, Lido replaces covering with yellowish water bottle. “This is better,” he said, “fits in with the boat.”
Shuttle screws had been blown off. Also discover broken plastic link runner. Lido finds spares, we do work, and continue underway.
Speed: 4 knots
I imagine that the way we sometimes avoid each other on this boat is a lot like the way mountain climbers act toward each other when they reach altitudes where oxygen is slight. That is, sparingly.
Kelly left salt water pump on, fuse blown. Lido careful about it, tip-toeing in silent fuming. Kelly ostracizes in defense–proud, strong-willed and bold, perhaps because of something in her past that has hardened her; but it also makes her obstinate, and sometimes capricious, like that sudden determination to confront my humming. These be slight observations, of brief moments–mostly, she too is magnanimous.
When next it was me who left pump on, Lido’s response different: “Next time someone leaves the hull port on for longer than two minutes, they must pay 100 dollars.” Ridiculous, and I said it outright, and he dropped it.
I am not part of the family; better to fume at me than at Gil, the three year old boy. I am a drain. When Lido or Kelly’s temperaments reach boiling point, they can choose to let it cool, or pour it down drain. Drain gets hot, but eventually cools down, or, as is often the case, cool water gets poured soon thereafter–because, as it happens, the two are cool people.
What am I rumbling on about for? These things are all under the surface; no one is aggressive; no one means to be hurtful here.
Light winds, still no spinnaker, which remains coiled in its bag.
Hair so dirty, natural dreadlocks forming.
Finish reading “Ireland,” feel enchanted. A good read.
Steady wave action, perpetual blue, steady sun.
Speed: 4 knots
Line snapped, reel it in, discover two-pronged hook missing; something’s force had broken the stainless steel loop of hook clear off. Reset line with new, three-pronged hook.
All day writing, a first; captain begrudging me power outlet. Getting bored of writing about moodiness, of impatience. Glimpse at myself in mirror surface of oven door–speaking of Jesus.
The sea has made even me garrulous. Rather would I choose to be idle. Sometimes the most powerful words are those left unspoken.
Speed: 5 knots
New novel, one from the bunch grabbed from Playita Marina book exchange. “Absolute Power.” DC crime thriller. Same story hashed out again and again. Filled with cliches; I hate cliches; a writer should avoid them; “beady eyes”, “like a bat out of hell”, “shock of red hair”. Reads like technical writing. Blunt, dry, technical adjectives cut an image off mid-sentence. Too much lip-service to real companies: “Dairy Queen,” “Morton’s”, “American Airlines.” Predictable characters, too much time developing even those with but brief appearances, and giving them first, middle and last names to boot. Each character same male archetype. Everyone attractive. Football, baseball metaphors drown the ink. Frat boys one and all. Dialogue far too idiomatic: “I’ve got 12 years of Catholic school behind me, I’ve got to believe in something,” “it came with the territory,” “the press had a field day,” “shit-eating grin,” “in a New York minute.” Author’s dim-witted sense of morality and virtue reads in every paragraph; cardboard cut-out of a man, to steal from lame idioms; communism bad, patriotism good, Israelis good, God pure, “I got thrown in jail all over the country during the 1960s; those causes were good, but hey, we all grow up (my italics).” Can’t like the book if can feel the author and don’t sympathize with his worldview. If author is more a Woody Allen type, must be a fucking genius to write this.
Fish! 3 large mahi mahi, each a meter in length. First at 5am, me in dark alone reeling it in, killing it, flaying it–becoming so proficient that without skin or head fish muscles still contracting, startling me. Later, observe school of large mahi mahi about the boat, ghosts in the wave crests, all chase flying fish to eat; veritable torpedoes through their murk. “Oh, how beautiful!” we say of them; later, stabbing them in the brain. Poem:
Plenty of fish in the sea
They say of men and women
But depending on the sea
They all seem to be mahi mahi
Father would be jealous of meal today: fish soaked in flour-water-salt-pepper-lemon batter, deep fried. Served with roasted potatoes. Sprinkle salt and vinegar over these freshest of fish ‘n chips.
Speed: 4 knots
Good day. Great day. Rambling on about stress is only in my head–it’s all me, and some days I prosecute unfair conceptions of my benefactors. I cook. Ample conversation after dinner of fish, rice, coconut milk yellow curry sauce. Speak of Greyhound bus system and its worth in world of storytelling. 3 year old Gil on Kelly, pretending she’s a plane, “two motors, here and here,” patting her breasts. Laughs.
Large school flying fish collide with boat, 30-40 sputtering on deck, crew kicking them back to sea.
All day reading in irksome novel. Tempted to chuck it overboard–refrain, out of respect for writing process. Book is entertainment, pure and calculated. One wants to know what happens next; stomachs the self-righteousness and singularity of its text. Would discard this book had I something else to read–options limited. Captivating, coherent, well-timed: I give it these things. But lacks originality, passion, some tangible proof that someone tried to express their understanding of the world, be it the author or characters. Everyone ends happy, financially-stable. Crowd-pleaser. Run-of-the-mill storytelling. But, storytelling entertains; master storytelling affects. Entertainment versus art. A pat on the head versus a scalple to the brain. Sex versus making love. The jazz guitarist laments that so many people love the 4 bars and 3 chords of entertaining rock ‘n roll; his is 3,000 chords of expression, and he knows that his is the more perfect tool of rendering life–they do not, cannot.
Speed: 5 knots
Bluishness endures, up and down. Wind steady. Friend boat SuperMolly 300 miles in advance. Will arrive first in Fatu Hiva.
Finish novel. Will keep and trade for other; at least can understand someone else’s interest in it. Though, learn once more that “New York Times Bestseller” means nothing. It is what is popular. Popular is often crap. Praise in back of book from other authors reminds me of travel bloggers, who comment on each others’ sites, who furnish praiseful quotes for each other; all within their little angleworm bottle community; nourishment from only each other–a false authority.
“Human” in novel: this idea that to be “human” is to be “humanitarian,” to not kill, to be “good”. Years ago might have agreed. Stare out over ocean, this thought tumbling into mind: that someone is human is not reason enough for their preservation. Second thought: I’m changing.
Speed: 5 knots
Seawater now warm. Air also warming. Clouds as flocks of sheep.
Begin reading “Shantaram”, borrowed from Lido, who borrowed from Isham. Thus far: beautiful language, perilous adventurous story and sub-stories, moral and aesthetic principles thought-out and explored, scrumptous vocabulary, good rhetoric, witty, clever turns of phrase, cinemascopic feel, good character development, new idioms that test the waters of life’s sea and sink deep, much to learn about Bombay.
Honeydew horizon slurped up by a thirsty vanishing point.
Speed: 4.5 knots
A mare among the sheep.
One of those days. Resentful day. Spiteful day. Day of airborne scorpion stings, conversation like a venom. Slow winds. Too much main sail tacking. Morale low.
Shantaram captivating, riveting, splendiferous, heartfelt. Only complaint: tough guy with the suffering life understandable, but some moral principle conclusions at end of chapters break the dream–I predict Christian conversion by the end. Reminds me of so many men met on the road who “used to drink, be bad, but I found God.” Otherwise, exceptional writing talent. Metaphors, mutli-tiered, relevant to feel and to place (“eyes like the polished bronze of a temple vase”, and not “eyes like the gold of an Oscar”)
Moon forming up.
Speed: 6 knots
Spinnaker an unruly halo–good, but not that good. Dances about, wreathes, withers, returns to billowing.
One surrounds oneself often only with those who indulge or permit their more irritable qualities. Air is stiff. Conversation met with silence. I sit, read, watch. Spinnaker coils, spins off to starboard; Lido at helm, patient. I suggest an adjustment of starboard rope; Lido explodes in anger and criticism. Here it is, all the pent-up frustrations, the whole journey, exploding finally out of ice-blue eyes. I try calmness. Decide that no one aboard feels appreciated. That’s the sea. It makes you mean to others, sometimes. Truth from Lido’s ranting about me being unaware: he wants to feel appreciation, and he wants an equal sailing buddy to do things as fast as he does them. I can’t even grind pepper as fast as he does.
Moon rises from pool of honey, sets in redwood varnish.
Speed: 4 knots
Clouds white bulbous mashed potatoes plopped onto atmospheric plate.
Shantaram, published in 2003, but a book finds its reader in this world, no matter when. Story of pugnacious man escaping Australian prison, fleeing to India, living in a slum unwittingly starting a health clinic there, working Bombay black market, joins mafia, thrown in Indian prison, fights in Afghanistan, seeks revenge in Mumbai, lives and loses true love.
Only critique: Sometimes stories should speak for themselves; 937 pages; in some places, it’s the story and its own exegesis in one; final words do ring slightly Christian–prediction close?
Incredible connection with characters. Witty intellects. Reminds me of my time in Lima with Franco and Camilo. Favorite character Didier: “A dream is where a wish and a fear meet. When the wish and the fear are exactly the same, we call that dream a nightmare.” Many phrases of this nature–can’t always agree with them (indeed author himself doesn’t always agree), but appreciate their aspects and cleverness. Master storyteller–affects. With this non-fiction novel, I feel the struggles, the loses, the happiness, the sorrow, the love. The love–if you have loved, you will love this love–a mad love, that permeates throughout the whole work. A book with which I can laugh and cry aloud. A beautiful read, from a deep life.
Irony: TWO detective novels void of heart, which talk of the singular notion to punish. This novel, written by ex-con, full of heart, is the punished; and it was not the punishment that gave him heart.
Shadowy clouds whose riddles have been solved by the milk-honey lamp of moonlight. Moon orange circle, black lengths of cloud like fissures in crusty, cracked, clay sphere. Seen this moon before, in Baja, in the Amazon… think of friends, and movement–constant movement.
See meteor. Not shooting star. Meteor. In stratosphere, blazing a fiery trail across the sky; ring bursts emanate from burned oxygen trail; blue, white fire; leave long palpitating trail, a glimmering trail of some celestial slug; lasts 2 minutes.
Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
Beauty merits more than stunted diarist’s entries.
Sailors say they can smell land, or continents. Fatu Hiva is 5 kilometers in diameter. Can’t smell this land, but can feel it, in the heart, a riling to bring the earth into those now turbid compartments of love. Heavy-breathing; for there, not far, the commanding towers of landmass, opaque against the dawn horizon, soon to burst to life under revealing sunlight. Mountains, which I never sought–don’t seek, don’t want, I say to myself, will it, and love… and once more I’m somewhere meaningful.