The Magic Is About To Start
I hate drunks. They are insensitive, self-obsessed, boring, stupid, and uninspiring. Unless, of course, I am drunk too, in which case they are entertaining, insightful, delightful, clever, and uninhibited. How can this be? How is it possible that my perceptions so radically oppose themselves depending soley on whether or not I share the same drug? I’d like to offer you a sensitive, insightful, clever and entertaining answer, but drunk or sober it’s a contradiction I can’t resolve.
I started drinking alcohol in my teens (Don’t Cry, It’s Only Teenage Wasteland). In my twenties I augmented alcohol with other drugs (Stairway to Heaven). By the time I was in my thirties I’d pretty much settled on alcohol as my drug of choice (You Can’t Always Get What You Want). By then it wasn’t often that a day passed without at least a glass of wine – and as we all know there are four glasses in a bottle and an opened bottle of wine does not keep, mostly because there is this myth that an opened bottle of wine does not keep, and so alcohol became a very firm part of my life. When I wasn’t high from the effects of alcohol I was more or less hung over. I estimate that about half of my life was spent in one of these two states. Looking back, it’s a mystery why I didn’t see the negative effects of my habit. The attractions overcame the downside and there was something heroic in continuing to suppress the pain in my life with such large amounts of alcohol, because life hurt and alcohol was not just an anesthetic but supplied a high of its own.
When I moved onto Anjea I knew it was a milestone. This was an opportunity to change things. Even in the early days in Hobart setting the boat up, I knew I was doing the right thing. Gradually, I drank less. Slowly, dimly, I started to realize that alcohol was holding me back, that it wasn’t really necessary, that in fact my life was pretty good, and that taking an anesthetic when I wasn’t in pain was preventing me from experiencing what my new life had to offer and was actually quite stupid.
Well, realizing I didn’t need alcohol was one thing and kicking the habit is quite another. Not a day goes past that I do not crave a drink when the sun goes down. If alcohol is available then I will have it and, just like always, if one glass is good then the second must be even better, and so it goes. But I have found ways to control the amount of alcohol I drink. The most important is not bringing alcohol onto the boat. If there’s no alcohol available at sunset then I get thru the witching hour just fine.
I’ve used alcohol as a social lubricant all my life. I am uncomfortable with others if I don’t have a glass of wine in hand over dinner. So I sail alone. Sure, there are other reasons I sail alone, but that’s another story. For now, sailing alone means I don’t experience social stresses so much and that puts less strain on my resolve not to drink.
I have not stopped drinking alcohol. That high is pretty special, and the less I drink the more I appreciate the effect. This realization means that I doubt I will ever become teetotal but I’m OK with that so long as I can find ways to limit the number of occasions on which I succumb during that sunset witching hour.
When I first started crewing on race boats on Port Phillip thirty years ago I was amazed at the number of skippers who arrived at the club for lunch, had four or five drinks, or even skipped lunch and just had the four or five drinks, and then proceeded to command a boat in a race. If they were in a car they’d be charged with drunk driving. There was more to it though because to me being on a sailboat was a kind of magic. It was a special privilege to be out on the bay in the sun, rain and wind, using nothing but the elements to power us, and was a high of it’s own. Alcohol would have spoiled it for me. I’ve held onto that thought and it is still true for me. Every time I set the sails and kill the engine a thrill goes through me that the magic is about to start.
So here I am in Sabang, in Aceh, the northernmost tip of Indonesia, waiting to head off to Africa. Initially I thought to stop at Sri Lanka, Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Madagascar… there’s lots of idyllic Indian Ocean paradises where I wanted to throw out the pick and do the cruising-life thing of not very much at all. But then the difficulties started: Sri Lanka got a bad rap for corruption and needing an expensive shipping agent to clear in; Maldives, ditto; Chagos is a military base run by brits and yanks and they don’t want anybody and so make it real hard to get a visa; and so on. So I thought to hell with them I’ll just go strait thru to Tanga in Tanzania, and that’s now Plan A. If things don’t go so well then I can always pull in somewhere for assistance. After all, help will always be less than a thousand miles away. Hmmmm…
I’ve been waiting a long time for this. I missed the opportunity to cross last year because both Anjea and I were somewhat beaten up by the gearbox failure. Now we’re ready and I have to hold myself back and watch the weather – it is still early in the season and storms and cyclones are a possibility. Things are looking good for the first week of January though, and my calculations are for a fast, comfortable crossing. It could take as little as 3 weeks to cover 3600 nm. That’s an average of just over 7 knots. Anjea is capable of that but I’m not sure I can sustain the pace: it means sailing full speed when the wind allows leaving less margin and putting a strain on everything from boat to sails to crew. I’ll probably elect to go a bit slower for the sake of an easier time. Still, I anticipate being in Tanzania sometime in the first week of February.
I bought an Iridium Go sat phone recently so theoretically I can send position reports and stay in touch. However, I have not had time to set up the fancy vessel tracking option so am just sending position reports to a few friends. Let me know if you want to be included and you’ll get a regular email with a link to Anjea’s current position on a Google Map.
So the magic is going to start very soon now. Willing crew, a good boat, plenty of sailing, no booze – will it be enough? Will the magic get me there?