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Back in Asia

So where to from here?

semi-overcast 25 °C
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 Comments (1)

Liberty's looking east.

Provisioning starts.

View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

For some days here, morale wasn't too high. Motivation was difficult to find, and the heat didn't help. We started to slack, but then, the engine started. With it's deep roar it gave us a much needed energy boost. Then the new battery was hooked up, and music started to sound. We can do it, it seems! We can get out of here!!

A month I've been now, in this limbo. Neither at sea, nor in India. Days and days we've spent on this Bolgatty Island. With it's green garden and blue pool, it's not a bad place to be. For a week maybe. But then again, we plan to spend weeks at a time sailing, even a whole month! At least here I got space to walk around. And fresh food and water. Gerd cooked one night something akin to what we'll have on the third week at sea, when all the fresh produce is gone, and we have only some staples. Flour, powdered milk, potatoes, onions, garlic, and ghee. Some canned or dried food might complete the meal. Peanut butter for some luxury.

Ryan arriving!

Ryan arriving!

The food commission (formed by Ali, Majed and Ryan) got the first provisions today. Four boxes of noodles, peanut butter, coffee, oil and some more things. Promptly everything disappeared into Liberty's holds. With all the junk we've thrown away, there's plenty of space for food. And water, we'll be taking a ton of that. Literally.

Feng shui?

Feng shui?

So what is there left to do? Some projects we have going that started the very first day. Everything feels now like it's at 90%, but it's those nasty little details that take the longest. As Marc said, it's so that the first 80% takes 20% of the effort. Yet things are starting to fall into place. We're now spending more time into sorting things out and stowing them away, than in cleaning, or making them. Yet I'm going to bed as tired as always! Don't seem to ache as much in the morning though. Maybe I'm getting stronger? Maybe workloads have just gotten smaller. Even paint jobs are getting done, we're now painting inside: the floor, the walls. Green is the best color against seasickness, says Tristan Jones, so we paint the floor dark green. But Gerd wants a parrot boat, so there's also orange, yellow, blue, and bright green going around. Try everything! He said. It's going to look great on film. There's a new bamboo project being though of. Relatively quick to put in place, and will increase Liberty's anti-yachtness. We shall see.

Paintin' the mast! Taken by Majed Neisi

Paintin' the mast! Taken by Majed Neisi

For now, the ship has made it's first movement. up till this moment, we had been working with it looking westwards. For years it sailed in that direction as well. But we have turned it around. We now look east. It is important not only for it's symbolical significance, but because we got to work on some details on the other side, and because the harbor opens eastwards. So, in other words, we are getting ready to leave.

And I must not forget. If you care to contribute with a beer or some fishing lures, come here!

Posted by Zaspirucho 10:27 Archived in India Tagged food india sailing liberty crew beginning provisions morale Comments (0)

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)

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