A Travellerspoint blog

Meanwhile, in Ernakulam

Almost getting almost ready

sunny 25 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

This is the first country I've been to where asking around doesn't really get you anywhere. People just seem to repeat the last couple of words you said, but give no indication of having understood what it is you were saying. They bob their heads sideways, with no clear indication of yes or no (although a generally affirmative gesture, I've come to interpret it as an ok or "hmpf") Then, when and if they understood what you were saying, their first answer is generally no. Even if you are just asking for directions on how to get to the store next door. No. I may exaggerate a bit, but although there's many people with a great understanding of english, the above has already happened separately to all of our crew, more than once. It may be our own fault of course, assuming that in a former British Colony people would speak english...

It's a chaotic place, for sure. But I come from Mexico, so it doesn't really scare or astound me. Indian chaos is above the mexican, and over turkish chaos too, but not by that much. At least not in the south. Go to the north, they say, go all the way to Kathmandu if you want chaos. It's airy, slow and quiet here in comparison.

Yet India, in this part of the trip, has been more a setting than a player. I've spent most of my time in the ship, carrying this and sanding that; learning slowly how to fix a thing or another... It's still gorgeous place. At sunset, you see some shadows moving in the dimming light. They fly towards the sun, towards the orange pink horizon. They are not birds. Atop the mast, you can see their little snouts and big eyes. The flying foxes come quite close to the boat. Never too much. They keep their safe distance. Not like the magpies. They don't realize your presence until they're about to perch, and leave crowing displeased. Or will angrily crow at you while you climb that big, white stick, before flying away.


The actual players for this trip are:

The Liberty Sailboat.
A 30 ton sloop, ferrocement, big and sturdy. It's slow to wake, but will race away once momentum has gained hold. Her aesthetic is that of a truck. With big pipes, a new gray tarp, huge anchor and roaring engine. Born in New Zealand, registered in Vanuatu, it is a first class ocean crosser, almost ready to get back out there.

Photo by Gerd Fehlbaum

Photo by Gerd Fehlbaum

Has been sailing for longer than I've been living. He has lots of stories to tell and techniques to share. This is his house we are living in, and his journey we are sharing . He is a security freak, and handhold fanatic. His accident record while at sea is an impressive cero, and we intend to keep it that way.


He's the oldest of the bunch, yet full of life and energy. An Iranian adventurer, he has done a couple of ocean crossings, and teaches dinghy sailing in the San Francisco Bay Area. He sings persian songs while working, and talks in a deep voice when teaching something. Strangely enough, he also likes humming La Cucaracha or Cielito lindo, not songs I thought I'd hear in India, from an Iranian! Por all you farsi readers, his thoughts are published here, on The Boum Project.


A young filmmaker, he met Ali a few weeks prior to this trip and wished he could join the adventure. His wish was granted and he is now the volunteer cook while we are in harbour. As a rule, Gerd does not take on any crewmember that does not speak English, French or German, but has made an exception for Majed. So he is now learning and improving daily. Smart and couragious, he has filmed in Afganistan during the fighting, and has been featured in film festivals. He intends to capture this journey and the life at sea. We haven't even left and he already has hours of video!


An Iceland based Bulgarian linguist, he loves to travel and bike the world. He has already been to New Zealand, and may very well go all the way there again. He is already learning farsi from the persian gang, and helps me explain some Spanish concepts to Ali, or English to Majed. He joined this trip not only for the adventure, but because we're going through some of the most language diverse places in the world, and he is eager to learn some more.


The youngest of the crew (for now!) he's the nephew of one of Gerd's best friends. A proud Alaskan, tall and strong, he was the last to join, but fell straight into working. Twenty-nine hours of travel? What jet lag? He brought with him nice and shiny fishing equipment, lures and even arrowheads. It seems like it will be fun having him around! Too bad he's only here for six months though.


And Andrés
Then there's me! The only non-smoker on the boat, who will take any chance to ask for donations for the trip|!

Photo by Majed Neisi

Photo by Majed Neisi

Three more are supposed to join us in Singapore, yet they feel as part of the crew already. Milie, Kiki and Filippo, we can't wait to meet you!
For now, the full moon is here, yet we are not ready to sail. I'm getting restless but, slowly but surely, we're getting there.

Posted by Zaspirucho 07:28 Tagged india sailing liberty crew Comments (3)

Work, play & sail

Thoughts on yatching and working for it

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There is a general idea that yachts and sailing are a life of luxury and spending, a world reserved for the rich and/or retired. The thing is, the sea is big. Bigger than any human is, and it cares not for bank statements. In this community there are all and every kind of people out there, and there may come a moment when the super-yacht calls out to the rundown family boat for assistance, an extra liter of diesel, or a friendly smile.

There are, of course, the super-rich skippers, who will throw money at their problems and let experts solve them. There's also the average Joe, trying to make a living like everyone else, solving their problems through time and creativity... Because owning a boat is problems, never doubt that! Big and small. And the bigger the boat, the bigger the problems. But if you want to sail, you have to find a way through or around them. And we want to sail. Gerd is, well, not a rich Swiss. He's a lot closer to broke than rich. And his boat is big. So we're working on a small budget and a big ship. Lots of problems, lots of tasks. "Slowly but surely" has become the slogan for this stage of the trip.


What tasks?--you may ask. Well, kind of everything! From learning to fold (flake) the sails, to making coffee and getting rid of rubbish (lots of those two)--but mainly tapping rust. That was my first task: get the anchor chain out, and start tapping the rust away. That's an euphemism for tirelessly hammering down the chain until all the flaky rust has fallen, then wirebrush it to get rid of some more. After that I had to tap the rust out of the chainplates and stanchion posts. Then the mast. And of course, I also had to clean the tools out, for we would be using them later. That was the first two days, then there was more people, and I was relieved of the chain. Mixed in-between all the maintenance tasks, there are also the projects: we are expecting to have some heavy rain on the way, so we put up a heavy tarp on the cockpit; some parts of the self-steering mechanism had rusted away, so we had to repair it. And one of the guiding principles in this boat is that when something breaks, you should aim to make it better than it was before. So the boat is a longterm project, always open for improvement.

Like paint!

Like paint!

As for the short term, we are soon ready to leave! Well, "soon". There's still several things to finish: getting the motor and electricity up and running, stitching the sails and stocking up on food, water and diesel, for example. And thinking of supplies, anyone feels like helping out for the trip? I set up a croudfunding page, for none of us has a bulky wallet, and every penny helps! So if you feel like helping an adventurer out, click here!! As for the workload, the crew's finally complete, all six of us are now in the boat! So I hope one day I can escape to nearby touristy Cochin, and see a tiny bit more of the surrounding India. But the final stretch is coming up, and it promises long working hours, well into the night. We need to make the mistakes and have the problems now, early on, when we can fix them, and not later on, when we are somewhere in the ocean! So back to work!

Posted by Zaspirucho 04:22 Archived in India Tagged india sailing sailboat working crowdfunding Comments (0)

Stoves and soot.

Of food and cooking on the pontoon.

sunny 26 °C
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"How can these people aim for Mars, when they can't even make a decent stove?", we were wondering one of this days. Food has been an interesting aspect of this experience, and it promises to continue being so. Being in India we are in contact with lots of new flavors and combinations, but working on the boat we don't eat out too much, we mainly cook ourselves. And there lies the source of some of our headaches: not the food, rather the cooking devices.

First we got a kerosene stove. It was worth 800 rupees. It is worth 800 rupees, not a penny more. For starters, there are lots of shops selling this kerosene stove. They are specially designed for kerosene. So, do they sell kerosene? Nope. Nowhere around can you find it. People just use it with diesel. So it smokes. A lot. It also spits and blows out if you look at it funny, AND there's no valve to regulate the flame. You just pump air into a tank, and try not to pump it too hard, or too little. And of course, anything in a close radius will get all black with diesel soot. Not nice.


Second one was a gas stove. More "expensive", at around 1200 rupees in the market, with a 4kg gas bottle included. All seemed fine, the burner sits confortably atop the cylinder. After some fiddling around we managed to turn it on... A short time later though, we smelled gas. Our brand new cylinder was leaking. So we tried to adjust it, and realized it's sealing is almost non-existant, and even when we got it under control, the stove itself decided to go on strike indeffinitely. No luck with this indian stoves. Yet how many people are cooking with this pieces of useless scrap? Of course, better off people have no need of this outdated technology, yet in a country so big, even if just one in every hundred are using them, that's millions!


So, rumaging through the ship, we found an old emergency stovetop, and a gas bottle. But of course, it wasn't going to be that easy! First, every country has it's own different standard for gas fittings, so you can't just, you know, fill it. And second: gas tanks must be, by indian law, painted red. But even if we just painted ours red, that still wouldn't solve the fitting issue. The solution is to get a local cylinder, conect it with a hose to ours, and turn it upside down on top of the other so the gas flows down. Then pray no one dares to smoke anywhere close... So a local guy with "friends" took our cylinder, to be given back to us next monday, full. A simple thing done in the shadiest way possible.


So in the meantime, we have no fire, even though we have three stoves laying on the pontoon. Fortunatelly, you can go far with an electric kettle and a persian cook. And in this heat, who wants anything other than a fresh salad? We have tea, we can cook quinoa and noodles, and get fresh acid yogurt or some fried finger food from the stores around. We could deffinitely be worse.

We are now starting to provision ourselves for the crossing. The trip may take anywhere from three weeks to three months, if winds foce us to follow plan B. We must be ready for anything... So how to stock a boat for six people, for three months, in a way we won't finish the trip eating just rice with canned beans? And do so in the cheapest way possible? That remains to be seen. For now, there are more pressing matters at hand, like checking all wires and getting electricity working on the boat, fixing the self-steering mechanism or launching the sailing dinghy. One day at a time, slowly but surely, we are getting there.


Posted by Zaspirucho 03:35 Archived in India Tagged boat india sailing cooking gas stove diesel soot Comments (0)

Once upon an Autumn Night

Some thoughts from atop the mast

View Eastern European Adventure & Western Europe Adventure & The Clipperton Project: The Journey South & Hitchhikin' the USA & Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

It's funny how some things turn out. They say that everything you do will help you, or will be useful someday. It does seem that way today, at least if you follow your path. If you take the opportunities that are presented to you, and flow along, everything will fall into place... It's that time of the year again, when I get pensive and stare at the sky.

I feel like I'm exactly where I should be. Suddenly, all those years learning and studying make sense. Everything I've done leading me here. From learning english and climbing trees, to sewing, sanding wood or setting fiberglass. All abilities help me now, aboard this ship.

"You must change your attitude, acquire the culture of the sea", the captain said to us one morning "You must think of this as a job, but unlike any other job you've ever had, on this one, your life depends on your doing it right". Strangely, this doesn't feel like a job. It's not a vacation either. It's more like learning how to live life another way... What do you do in your life? Ali asked. I'm learning how to sail, I answered. No, in the real world!, he insisted. This IS the real world... This is life, and I'm living it the way humans are supposed to live, not stuck to a place, not stuck inside a box. Both men and ship rot in harbor, seamen say.
The concrete deck is my bed, the sky my ceiling. If it weren't for the mosquitoes it would be perfect. I can't wait to set sail! There are no mossies out at sea. Among other niceties of leaving this place! Nothing against India. It's lovely here. Not the place I'd settle in though, not by a long shot. Although to be fair, I wouldn't settle anywhere at this point.

I am officially on my 27th turn around the Sun. A year ago I was in Mexico City; a year before that I was in the Basque Country. I am now in India. Where will this year take us? What stars will we look at, next autumn? Who will be by my side?
Today we set the new tarp for the cockpit, every day a little closer to setting sail. I need no celebration; what could be better than this adventure I am in?
This is a happy Autumn night. Today I am high on life. Lets sail already!!

Posted by Zaspirucho 05:22 Archived in India Tagged india sail birthday Comments (0)

Liberty ahoy!

Of some first impressions of ship and Captain

View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

I arrived in India at midnight. I have not been in that many airports, I must admit, but Cochin International has been the least welcoming airport I've ever been to. I slept a couple of hours, walked another two, and stared at the empty space a couple more. The first bus for Ernakulam left at 6am with me on it and, after some walking and asking, I eventually made it to the Bolghaty Ferry. And across: Liberty. She looked small, slim, and rugged. It still does. Specially the rugged part.

So at around 8 in the morning, I met Gerd.

My first surprise was how tall he is. It would not be the last surprise. He was craving coffee, so we went to the hotel cafeteria. As things normally turn out in such places, we were received with water, then pinaple juice, and toast with jam and butter. Then fruit. Yet all we wanted was coffee! They took their time, nothing could hurry them; not even an anxious Gerd, asking every 30 seconds for his morning cup. Good thing the neighbors offered us some next morning. By the third day we had bought a kerosene stove, and two days later he stormed out of the marina to get an electric kettle (no more fumbling around that nasty stove). He did not bright food back for the hungry crew, all that mattered was coffee and working tools. Later he did get us some finger food, I must add.
Another surprise was how much he can talk. Boy, can he talk! And even more after a splif. He can go on and on, and to get a piece of information from him entails two or three anecdotes. And great ones too! He loves his ship, and loves to talk about it, and explain everything. Once you get into his rhythm, you really enjoy the stories. I'm in no rush, and eager to learn, so I welcomed them from the start. But I see the faces of the newcomers. Maybe I get the same expression when overloaded with information, barely just after waking up. But as Marc, the neighbor, told me: with the amount of detail he gives you, even if you get only a small part, you will still learn a lot. And learning we are.
Liberty is a floating house, a travelling machine; a big, gray and yellow elephant. It's great. And it's a mess. Even a house will deteriorate when left unattended. And fast. Now imagine a boat, alone for a year, in India. It was supposed to wait here for only a couple of months... but two turned to three, and suddenly a year had passed already.
There's lots of wood to cut, as they say. Lots of work to be done. The past week has only been a small peek of what is to come before we leave. And we need to hurry! The winds are changing already. This is a sailboat after all, and that needs wind! Fortunately, we are 5 people now. By the time the 6th one arrives this will be a hectic workplace. We're using a full pier for all out shit. Hey, we're paying for it! And there's barely a boat here, anyway! So we can do as much racket as we want, and keep on hammering through the night. Or we can smoke a joint, have a shower and chat on deck; that works as well. This will, after all, probably be the last harbour we'll see until New Zealand. Liberty is not a yatch. It is an anti-yatch, with it's concrete walls and bamboo handrails. Anything you'd need it's got. Except for luxury. Go to Bali if you want that. You won't find this ship there. We're going off the beaten path, so to speak, for in the sea there are no paths.
It has been great being part of the preparations for this ocean adventure. They say half the trip is just planning and getting ready, and in this case it is quite true. Painting, scrubbing, de-rusting, hammering, drilling, carrying and cleaning. And we have barely touched a sail yet. No rope has been strung, nor has the engine been tested. And there's still loads to do. We plan to sail in no more than two weeks, for a passage of 21 days, give or take a few. So, will we be able to sail before next moon?

Posted by Zaspirucho 03:46 Archived in India Tagged india ship sailing liberty Comments (0)

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