| 1200 PM local time, Friday, May 17 (0900 May 17 UTC) 31 33 N 032 17 E.
Temp. 81, Humidity 57%, Cloud Cover 5%. Underway in the Med.
The dust is gone, and I wish I could see all obstacles in my way, but I
know I can't. Last night I took note of the fact that the Big Dipper is once
again high in the sky, the lip of its cup pointing to Polaris. Now Egypt lies
astern, and we're finally in the Mediterranean Sea, the sea where Xerxes
launched his ships enroute to his ill-fated attack on Greece, where St. Paul
sailed as prisoner on a Roman Galley, the wine-dark sea of Odysseus'
wanderings where we find the rosy fingers of dawn. My favorite Homerism,
though, is where Marge thinks the family needs more exercise and makes them
go for a walk, but Homer whines that, "The wind is making my hair move and I
don't know how much longer I can keep complaining."
The histories of all the other bodies of water on earth combined have
little to compare with the events, mythological and factual, recorded of the
Mediterranean. Across the Pacific, our voyage took us over waters where
everything up to about two hundred years ago occurred before written history.
The ancient near eastern texts and the Bible give us some history of some of
the lands of the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt, but of course Australia, Asia,
and Indonesia were not part of this. Herodotus is generally considered the
first historian, and he was a Greek.
A few weeks ago, as Theresa and I stood gazing at the sphinx and the
pyramids at Giza, I said to her, "Sweetiekins, long after these ancient
monuments have weathered into dust and become lost amongst the infinite
desert sands, my ardor for you will continue to burn ever more brightly, day
by day." Unfortunately, she had wandered off to take a picture of some Omar
Sharif look-alike on a camel. However, I did get a rather fetching wink from
the stout, toothless frau standing next to me. Things don't always work out
the way we expect, and often our troubles come out of nowhere, which, as I've
said before, seems to hold a lot of stuff for someplace that really should
have none at all.
Now that we've finally managed to reach this watershed, it's time to
review the experiences of the last six months or so and compare them with our
expectations. When we left Australia at the end of October I shared
misgivings about the upcoming segment of our voyage through Indonesia,
Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Oman, Eritrea, and up the Red Sea,
encompassing as it did countries less familiar and perhaps less friendly than
those of the South Pacific. I said that, having passed through "paradise," we
perhaps were now to enter "purgatory." If good fortune prevailed through
these trials it seemed we might be spit out at last, departing Port Said,
from these ethereal realms back onto the terra firma of Western Civilization.
Adding to our concerns and those of our friends and loved ones back home were
the events of September 11, then fresh in our minds, after which many
including our insurance company advised us to abort, modify, or at least
postpone our voyage.
At the time my response to this was, "We aboard Maverick have faith that
the vast majority of Muslims, even in the relatively rare cases where they are
extremists and loathe America, are unlikely to act violently no matter what
that guy is trying to make you think." Admittedly, we were a long way from
ground zero, both geographically and psychologically, and weren't exposed to
the nightly doses of fear you heard back home. In any event by now you know
that no boats or crews were treated with hostility as they traversed this
area of the world, and even the pirates stayed at home. The worst
misunderstandings had nothing to do with religion or politics, but rather
that equally old source of conflict, money. Every American boat had family
and friends at home who advised them not to continue, but twenty-six
US-flagged yachts came up the Red Sea this year anyway, four from the San
Francisco Bay Area, five if you include Santa Cruz. These were, besides
Maverick, Lloyd and Sandy and their kids on Warrior and Andy and Jill on
First Light, both from the Richmond Yacht Club, and Jean on Peregrine,
affiliation unknown. The Santa Cruz boat was Nordic. As of the end of April,
87 boats had come through the Suez Canal, and by the end of the season this
total will be about 110, a little down from other years.
The worst troubles in the Red Sea this year were groundings and engine
failures. One boat was dismasted, five ran up on reefs, and at least two of
these were total losses, probably three; many boats had engine, gearbox, and
rig problems. I've related these stories earlier, and won't repeat them here.
The Muslims of course have been very nice to us, seeming to want to put a lot
of distance between themselves and acts of violence, but also because it
seems to be natural for them. We do, however, look forward to being in
Christian countries where it is no problem to find a gin and tonic. A
Christian, says Mr. Shrode, is the next best thing to a proper heathen.
Withal, we are very happy to have emerged from the Red Sea and be
sailing, or actually, motoring at present, in the blue waters of the
Mediterranean on our way to Turkey. We bid the very nice purgatory section of
the world goodbye, but leave with our hopes high. The only sad note is our
congruent farewell to all the other crews who have become so very close to us
in the part of the world's oceans between Thailand and Port Said, reserved as
it is for voyagers who undertake to sail around the world, as we shared our
fears and consequent triumphs.