Trip Reports

I Can See Clearly Now (17-May-2002-12-00):
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.

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