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Back in Asia

So where to from here?

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View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

I have been trying to explain why I abandoned the Liberty. It's been difficult to tell without making it sound horrible. But it wasn't. The sailing was great. It was an awesome trip fixing the ship then crossing from India to Malaysia... So why did I leave? There were no big incidents. Just a build up of small details. Well, I'll try explaining once more. So let’s start at the beginning.
When we left India we were shaded by the continent, so we had barely any wind. And Liberty is a heavy thing, so it needs WIND to get moving. Leaving the Indian coast, and then sailing southeast past Sri Lanka, that was interesting. India shades the wind, and Sri Lanka too, so in that channel between them… That was the roughest passage we had, with young rambunctious waves, and plenty of cargo ships to look out for. The A.I.S. radar kept beeping all the time. And after that, the deep blue.

I do mean blue

I do mean blue

As we sailed east, the currents would push us south, and so strong they were that even when the compass said we were going full southeast, the GPS would say full South. Rarely would those two agree. Then, once the currents abated, we continued southeast, towards the Equator and beyond. We had good wind, nice weather. For days we didn't need to adjust the sails. We ate pancakes, we read and watched the clouds move. That day came though, when we changed course, avoiding the flimsy equatorial weather and went up and around Sumatra. There we anchored next to an island and made a two day illegal visit to a fishing village, where I had my first good coffee since Kuala Lumpur. After some more days motoring and watching out for cargo ships, we crossed the Strait of Malacca, and then, one month later, it was all over. The wind on my skin, the warm waves flowing on deck, the rain washing the salt off my face, the dolphins playing on the bow, they are were now just memories to treasure, of my sailing adventure on the Indian Ocean.

Dancing would describe it better!

Dancing would describe it better!

When we were nearing departure, when we were docked still, I started looking at prices of sailboats in New Zealand. Maybe I could get my own when I got there! Where would I sail her? What to do? Where to go? I was also wondering though, what could I do different from this Captain? I wasn't learning too much; a trick here, a useful technique there… I was rather applying all I’d ever learned before, and that felt good too. It wasn't the work that bothered me. It was the delays. One week at a time, one day at a time. And we worked in such an inefficient way, that things just didn't get done. We toiled for a full week, well into the night, yet the essential tasks kept getting postponed. And Gerd had openly told us that he gets very nervous before departure. We learned though, he also behaves like a jerk when he’s nervous. But everything would be better when we’re at sea, I kept telling Tiho. Just wait till we’re sailing, and we're relaxed. Everything will be fine then.
And while things DID get better at sea, they never actually got to be fine. Somehow, everything felt like this was the first time ever that the Liberty set sail. Say, for example, how can someone have lived in there for years, yet have no place to keep the food? Gerd insisted upon keeping the potatoes in their sack, in a shelf in the galley. When they started rotting, his solution was to spread them on the floor. So on one side of the table the floor was taken up by his 2 meter wooden statue, on the other we had potatoes… The onions he kept in a crate inside the bathroom; in the least ventilated place in the ship. I took it as my duty to sort out the rotten or moldy ones. At some point ALL of them were moldy. This is just an example of how unprepared we were for the trip.

But the sailing was good. NOW I was learning. A ship is a big mash up of so many complicated systems! The steering, the sailing, the engine and communications... Many new words, lots of new meanings! The metal sheen over the evening sky, the halo around the moon, and the shape of the waves. Some things I learned from Gerd, and some from books. We talked a bit, read some more and slept a lot. For almost a week there is no mention in my journal of the captain’s craziness, most only sunrises, wind and distant lands.
It was around New Year that the mood shifted... “Will the whole trip be like this?” reads my journal, “saying one thing, then doing another?” Two weeks into the sailing, ten weeks since I’d first seen the ship, and I still could not feel at home. Everyday Gerd became more morose, distraught, and openly rude; definitely not a good company. I started thinking of time and money. I wasn't really happy, and spending way too much of both to be in a place where I wasn't happy… I decided first I wouldn't go all the way to New Zealand. It would be New Caledonia for me, then I'd make my own way south. Then it was “wherever we are in July”. Then June. But then disaster struck! We broke the sails, we had no gas, and we turned for Malaysia. I was ecstatic. Such was the feeling of release at having a chance to leave the boat soon; land so close at hand, that I decided to go no further.
I had known from the very start that it would be difficult, I just didn't know how much so. Not the sailing, not the working, I enjoyed those! But being a part of someone else’s story… not having power of decision, having to ask for permission to move or adjust or do anything, go anywhere; not being responsible for myself, being only a character, part of the crew, part of the boat. Liberty just didn't live up to its name, not for me, and I didn't see that changing anytime soon. Then I was given a second chance to explore Asia, and I took it. This is, after all, the first time I've been this side of the world!
So now I’m back in Malaysia, where this journey started last October, that chapter closed, a new one beginning. I pour over maps and visa requirements, I chat with my fellow travelers and learn of routes, tricks and places. Very soon I will move on. I enjoy the anxiety of possibility, of decision. Where, how and when? That awaits so be seen, there’s no rush. No rush at all.

What is to come, will come. In the meantime, Happy New Years everyone!!

Happy year of the Horse!

Happy year of the Horse!

Posted by Zaspirucho 07:12 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel malaysia sailing equator liberty crew desertion crazy_captain

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The "human factor" is key. Neither boat nor environment can compensate when the feeling is not right. On the other hand: Lack of coffee and even a broken sail won't fuck up the experience if the spirit is right. Out there, masks eventually fall. Therein lies adventure and risk. Is the Liberty not stuck in Malaysia without the two of you (and after the departure of three other crew members before the voyage even began)? An own boat? Nothing gives more freedom - and nothing ties down more. But if you go there, you may want to look at Eastern Indonesia (Maluku and Nusa Tenggara), Fiji and Cooks Islands. That's where my dreams are at home. Happy travelling!

by Tom

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