Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Part One - Waypoints - Where is Bill?

I am sitting below, wishing for the 1,000th time, that I had not pitched the table when I replaced the mast last year. It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially because I had trimmed the table with the delicacy of a Russian midwife, with a saw-z-all no less, while frantically stepping the mast after the Italian tornado disaster. You see, I had to hire a crane, a monster of a crane, the kind used for building hideous beachfront condos not for stepping masts, and the meter was running at 500 euros an hour. With 15 Italians gesturing frantically, we had to work fast or risk bankruptcy. When the new mast didn’t fit through the oval hole in the lovely table, I hastily enlarged it. It looked terrible. Three weeks later, in Spain, with the crew of an upcoming transatlantic passage egging me on, we removed it. No that’s not quite right, it was a mob scene, an angry crowd ripping the poor teak and ply table out of the boat like crazed revolutionaries. “Give us more space below, death to the table,” they screamed as they hurled it onto the quay like Romanians dispatching a former dictator. And yes, there is more space, but there’s nowhere to eat or write, alas.

Quetzal is tied to a ragged wharf in St. John’s Newfoundland. Although this blog is going to commit blogging treason by eventually working backwards, I am writing in real time now, as real as it gets, we just bounced off the wharf with a dull thud and I have to stop writing and adjust the fenders. I am alone, waiting for the arrival of hurricane Bill. Of course you are never really alone in Newfoundland. You don’t need a Face Book page to have friends, all you have to do is sail to Newfoundland. These people abhor the idea of a stranger. Anyway I am back in real time, hopefully the fenders will also stay in real time too.

Yes I did say hurricane Bill. What’s the matter with me? I always seem to be where the action is. It defies irony though to live in Fort Lauderdale and have to spend a ridiculous amount of money for a last minute air fare to Newfoundland to have fun with a hurricane. This should put an end to the global warming naysayer’s. Of course the Newfoundlanders are embracing global warming, it’s going to be good for an already good business scene. This place is hopping, what a difference from when I last sailed here 15 years ago. But that’s getting ahead of the story. I know, blogs are not supposed to be stories, they’re supposed to be spontaneous, immediate, intimate, detailed like a log book entry, but I am storyteller, I can’t help it, I have always written backwards.

I wasn’t supposed to fly back up to the rock, as they call it up here, until early September when I have a passage back to Nova Scotia via Cape Breton. I have been on the move this past year and a half, and that‘s saying it quietly. Since last April I’ve logged 16,000 miles aboard Quetzal, visited 24 countries and taken 70 people on passages of one sort or another. Although I am always crossing oceans and always traveling, I am usually able to find a better balance. Last year was hard on my wife Tadji, my kids, and me. Typically I am away 90-100 days, which means I am home 250ish days. Or least with my family for 250ish days as we spend the summer sailing together. And when I am home I am really home, I am not at the office working. I lounge around the house, pretending to be a writer and planning new trips by throwing darts at a world map in the garage. I have plenty of time for soccer games and debate tournaments. Last year I was away 140 days. It was crazy. We retraced the route of Odysseus, sailed all over the Adriatic, led a charter fly and sail trip around the world, rerigged Quetzal and frantically sailed the length of the Med, crossed the Atlantic, sailed up and down the Caribbean chain three times, and then north and east all the way to Newfoundland.

I was really looking forward to the first day of school tomorrow. My daughter Nikki is starting high school and my step son Alex is starting middle school. But I am here, not there, waiting for Godot, oops, waiting for Bill. I was tempted to leave Quetzal in the steady hands of my Newfoundland mates, but with the Italy disaster fresh in my mind, and knowing that I’d be a wreck at home, monitoring NOAA, Stormpulse,Weatherunderground around the clock, I decided to come. Quetzal has been so good to me, and I have sailed her hard and put her away wet for years, I needed to be here with my girl. I am her captain, flat out. My wife thinks it is creepy that I think of the boat in these terms. She loves the boat but to her it is still fiberglass, stainless steel and teak. This is one of those things we agree to disagree about, because…she just doesn‘t understand, as my daughters would say.

Where’s Bill? Environment Canada, the excellent Canadian weather service is saying we should be having 30 to 40 knots out of the SE. It is supposed to blow 50 to 60 from the SW later tonight. We’re lucky, Bill will be a tropical storm when he arrives, not a hurricane, but what’s he doing, it’s calm. My friend Randy Gulliver, who runs a whale watching boat here in the harbor and who has been keeping an eye on Quetzal, actually left the dock for a midnight harbor cruise a few minutes ago. You have to love Newfoundlanders, they judge the weather by going outside and looking at the sky, not by watching the television or staring into a computer screen.

The name of this blog is “waypoints.” I am eventually going to write about waypoints, really. Of course anyone who has sailed with me knows I hate waypoint navigation. I am just not an A to B kind of guy. Staying on the “highway” or “roadmap” is no way to sail or navigate or live your life. I like charts, even electronic ones but mostly I like paper charts. I like to spread them out, I really liked it when I had a table to spread them on, but even using the galley counter I like to put position on chart. I like to see the big picture, to see where we are in relationship to something other than a waypoint. I like dividers and course plotters. I am like an Amish navigator.

Waypoints can be dangerous, blindly steering toward a waypoint in current swept waters can sweep you right onto the rocks. But it is more than that. A waypoint should be significant, someplace worth remembering. This summer I found my way to four memorable waypoints. I’d love to tell you more right now, I am in the mood for writing, but Bill might just be turning up after all. It is starting to rain, it’s starting to blow a bit. It’s getting late. I think I’ll put the tea kettle on, it may be a long night. I will say that these waypoints have little to do with latitude and longitude, just to keep you guessing..

So, lets make a pact. I promise to keep this blog going, to let you know about the waypoints and if Quetzal and I survive Bill. You promise to keep reading.

This is interesting. It’s been sultry, almost silly hot by Newfoundland standards all day, now it’s cooling off big time. Something is going to happen. I am glad I came up after all. Ciao for now.

1 comment:

  1. The one important waypoint is 26.092N 80.095 W the waypoint into ICW at Ft Lauderdale