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After some time in the city, one needs to get out and breathe.

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Summer 2015 on Zaspirucho's travel map.

Air

Air

After months in Mexico City I ached for some movement. So when friends in Berlin confirmed my spot working in Fusion, I jumped at the chance.
Here's some of the things I learnt this past month in Germany:

Learn the language!
Smile no matter what.
Life is better with good shoes.
Friends make everything be worth it.
Open skies, stars, fire, and a blanket.
Sometimes, umbrellas are unavoidable.
Hammocks are grossly underrated.
Gemütlichkeit.

Fusion Festival is a place of joy, vegetarian food, any kind of music and good vibes. It is awesome and great. There's fire spitting dragons and hammocks and more fire. If I get the chance, I'll be there next year too. It is a huge festival, with some 70 000 attendees this year, and you can very easily lose your group. So people carry poles, decorated umbrellas or just any kind of funky tall thing to find themselves. I would just wander alone, then meet back at camp or in our designated meeting points. Yes, I would recommend it. It was awesome!

Dragons!

Dragons!

Summer!

Summer!


Too soon the week was over and we were back home. Berlin's the only place I've been to every time I've been to Europe. That's only three times, sure, but three makes a pattern. I could certainly spend more time there, but everyone says very nasty things about the Berlin winter, and I don't feel like proving them wrong... So maybe next summer?

Kiel

Kiel


When travelling it is very easy to meet people, at least when you get in the mood. I find it a curious thing that first approach, when you must make clear you don't speak the language, without being that guy that expects everyone else to speak his. After the Festival I met some boat builders and travelled north, to Kiel. I know resin and wood, so maybe they had some work I could assist them with. After all, almost half of it is sanding! It is a nice city, Kiel. I mocked the summer, though. "It's like 15 degrees outside, they said, yep, summer alright!". Well it felt like a cold spring to me, but I guess we are just too spoilt in the tropics.

On a borrowed bike I went further north up to Arnis. "Statt" Arnis. It was exactly what I needed. For a week I stayed there, in a small town of some 300 people, enjoying life.

A great place for little walks

A great place for little walks


Arnis is located next to the Schlei, a fjord, so connected to the Baltic Sea, but feels like a lake. It is a great place for little walks and fine sailing. The water is cold and salty, delicious to swim in. Skinny dipping is not frowned upon either.

There's worse places to spend your time

There's worse places to spend your time


For such a small place it is very touristy. There is a ferry there, you see, and lots of people cross it on cars and bikes. So while you wait for the ferry to come, why not have some coffee? Between the ferry stop and one of many little piers, there sits the Freies Arnis Café. Not a bad place to spend your time! I even ended up working there for a couple of days, helping with the dishes. And working helps with the language skills. After a month and some basic mp3 course, I could almost begin to understand things. Guess life might not be too short to learn German after all!

And it's good coffee too!

And it's good coffee too!


I made good friends there, in the north. Slept under the stars, sailed and cooked chilaquiles. I left promising to come back and I intend to keep that promise. I even left my tent over there! But it was time to move on.

Arriving in Rotterdam felt incredible. "This is what coming home should feel like", reads my journal. A friend was having a birthday party, so I had a reason to be there. I wasn't the cross-the-world kind of epic, but still in that department. Up until the moment I stood at their doorstep, they still believed I could be joking. It had been a year since last time I stood there. So long, yet it felt like barely a week had passed.

Then after beers with friends, meetings, catching ups, dancing, biking, and a few more beers, I left for Mexico.
The truth is, you see, I shouldn't have gone to Europe. Left on a whim, with barely any savings, and just a tiny possibility of working in Belgium. Since that didn't come through, I'm now in the red numbers. But hey, what's life without a little adventure? On that note people, take my word, never book stopovers with less than an hour between flights. I have now been one of those pale faced airport runners. It is not as fun as it looks.

But I made it back, and now some plans are brewing. Looks like soon I'll have something to write home about!
For now, thanks for reading!

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Posted by Zaspirucho 21:39 Archived in Germany Tagged adventure germany berlin sailing backpacking coffee kiel fernweh arnis Comments (0)

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)

The turnaround

Fifty miles off the Equator

all seasons in one day 25 °C

“No more coffee??” You could almost see the blood leaving Gerd’s face. We were fifty miles north of the equator, yet still far from the coast of Sumatra. It was a fine day, gentle wind blue sky. The date, January the 3rd.

One of those days

One of those days

Since morning, Gerd had been in what Tiho and I had taken to call ‘the mood’. That is, when he gets haggard, quiet, and tries to do everything at once. He becomes very rude and difficult to be around. During this spells of inefficient activity he uses very few words and barks directions at everyone, with always a sneer and a smartass reply at the ready. But after ten weeks with the guy we were used to this; we just stayed out of his way, of did as he said. This day turned out different thogh. This day his musings led him to do the one big thing he had postponed for almost a month now: he decided to weigh the gas bottle.
Our 16 kilo gas bottle had been refilled in India, after two failed attempts at getting a good local cooking device. It had done a good job. But we were six people back then, and there’d been cooking aplenty. The original estimate had been that the full bottle would last eight weeks. By this the 3rd of January , seven of those weeks had already slipped by. So neither Tihomir nor I were the least surprised when we found out we had around two kilos left of propane. We had urged Gerd to weigh the bottle while still in India. We had strongly advised at getting a second one. The Captain had dismissed our concerns, “It will last, it will last” he would say. Yet we weren't even nearly half way to our destination, yet less than a fifth of the gas remained. That day at sea, when confronted with the facts, for once Gerd became speechless.
We the crew had long since made our minds to a life of rice and explained thus to Gerd. How, if we wanted to make last ten days’ worth of gas into another forty, drastic changes would ensue. One big pot of rice a day, maybe pasta or potatoes on the pressure cooker, and specially, he would have no more coffee. “I just make hot water! And everyone benefits from it!” he cried defensively, knowing it was not true. Tihomir could very well live without his tea, and it’d been at least a week since I’d given up coffee... After some more talking and thinking, he came up with a solution. “I don’t want to go into full survival mode. Rice like a monastery, and no coffee! No. I think we change course, go to Malaysia...”

Now THAT caught us unprepared. This would effectively cut the journey by half, the new estimate being ten days! Our minds filled with swirling images or land, people and pizza. Merely ten days!!

Weather changes quickly down there!

Weather changes quickly down there!


But Gerd’s decisions are as stable as the equatorial weather. By that very evening he called us out to the pilot house. It was squally outside, on and off showers and sudden gusts of wind. While he steered and we stood in the bleary, wet cabin, he monologued at will. After much thought it turned out, he had decided that having no means to cook our food ‘could’ actually be considered an emergency. No matter he'd nearly call me an idiot for mentioning that earlier, huh? He now saw no real reason to leave our course, especially with this wonderful wind we were having. In fact we should try to make the most of it, go as fast as possible. We should probably reef the sails, go the safe way and have a pleasant sail. Or better yet, set a watch and hand steer through the night! Thus I was left at the wheel, mood as dark as the weather, cursing our lack of cheese for the hundredth time.
A squall passed. Another came. Then there was no wind. Slowly the wind came back. We gained speed: 1.1 knots, 1.3, 1.7, 2. Then it picked up, from three knots we jumped to 4 and five. I had just eased the mainsail a bit when a gust brought us up to a good seven knots. We heeled so suddenly and heavily that there was no need for me to call out to Gerd and Tiho. As I fully released the main, Gerd tried to steer downwind, to ease the pressure on the sails. But no, the wind was to strong, the sails had to come down. As Tiho steered Gerd released the halyard, and I ran to the bow, caught the sail and brought it down, lashing it to the deck, trying not to get blown off the ship by the wind or flooding waves. We brought the mainsail down as well, just leaving a small foresail on. Even then, with almost no canvas up, we were making a good 3.8 knots. So we set the self-steering and went to bed, thinking all was fine. Yet morning had another story to tell.
With the first light, we tried hoisting the sails, but the main had a big hole where a baton no longer stood, and the foresail was even worse. Two big gashes looked back at us, each a full arm's lenght (the pictures died with my iphone, but that's another story). It tore as soon as it was released... We could temporarily mend the holes by hand, we could, but to properly fix them, a good sewing machine would be required. Even a sailmaker maybe. The thing is, Gerd had spent a good six months in Dili and found none to speak of… So we looked at each other. It was decided for sure then. We set up the reserve mainsail (which was the better one anyway), and turned north. We never reached the Equator.

And we rounded Sumatra...

And we rounded Sumatra...

We had no more technical issues, and plenty of pancakes, potato salads and noodles. We rounded the tip of Sumatra and crossed the Strait of Malacca. A good 17 days later we arrived at the Malaysian port of Lumut, after much toil and motoring. And on January the 20th, after a night anchored in quarantine, Gerd got up and put the kettle on. But surely, as expected, there was no more gas.

Posted by Zaspirucho 18:53 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food boat sailing plans wind equator liberty emergency Comments (3)

Sailin' fine!

Somewhere off Trivandrum

sunny

Sailing is like a game of cards, or a tabletop game. They explain it to you in great detail, you think you understand, and then on the first round you realize you have no idea what you’re doing. By the second round you’ve got half of it, and a few rounds later you wonder how it is you had doubts in the first place. So it is a bit similar here. We’re realizing that no matter how much we read and talk and demonstrate, doing is quite different.
Feels like longer we’ve been out here, even if it’s just a couple of days. Maybe it is because many things can happen in a day, so they feel very, very long. Or because we’ve been on this boat for more than two months now. Also might be because the nights are active too. Unless there’s absolutely no wind. Like last night… but even then I was woken up by the radar, big ships coming our way, it said. Nothing dangerous, just have to keep them in sight. Until now, only one cargo ship we’ve had to contact.
There are certain rules in the sea. For example, any ship that overtakes another has to take it into account (meaning go around it). Also, as a very general rule, sailboats have the right of way. So it is interesting to see a big cargo ship changing its course for us. A bit different than the land world. Here go are all equals, all creatures of the sea.
Creatures I say, not people, for it seems we have a passenger on the boat. Gerd went up the mast and, to everyone’s surprise, out flew a big, sleepy and startled fishing owl. It would not be strange it if made of our mast its new base for a few days at least. And under the boat we have a few resident fish under the boat as well. We’ve been sailing next to the shore to have some land or sea breeze, depending on the time of day, so there are some hours when there is no wind. Flat. So twice now we’ve gone swimming and diving and scraping the hull. We like the birds, and the fish too, but not the mollusks. Sorry, mollusks, it’s just how it is!
We’re almost at the tip of India. now There’s just no wind in this place, that’s why we hug the coast. But there is wind up ahead, we can see it in the maps and forecasts. So as soon as we get there, we’ll start shooting off towards the south point of Sri Lanka. More than twenty knots of wind over there! Better than our lazy three knot wind of the past days!
It’s great being out here. We ate flying fish today, it was given to us by some fishermen as thanks for not going through their net. It was better than the usual boats who come to us asking for cigarettes and alcohol. If we had brought a couple bottles of vodka with us, we’d be bathing in fish oil by now. But there are no drugs on this boat. Well, just the 20 kilos of coffee and tea! Apart from that, no drugs: no alcohol, nicotine or pot. No meat or cheese either! I’ve been craving a grilled cheese sandwich for a couple of weeks now. I’ll have to wait ‘til Dili for that... We’ll arrive there as planned it seems, sometime during the next 40-50 days. In the meantime, we are learning steadily. The other day I successfully hoisted and dropped the foresail on my own, with no fuck-ups. As if to compensate, I also dropped it into the sea. We lost some potatoes to the maggots, and a couple of old green beans. Apart for that, we are great! Healthy and tanned!
I’ll later try to add some photos, if we get another internet session before leaving the coast! But if not, well, see you later!

Posted by Zaspirucho 01:11 Archived in India Tagged fishing sailing fishermen liberty open_sea Comments (0)

Slowly but surely

We're leaving!!


View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

It seemed like it would never happen, yet now we are gone. The pier was clutter-free, things got stowed. Tanks are full of water, engine running smoothly. We just need to get our papers back, adjust this and that, clear out and be off. But we have a nicer view now, have left that bloody pontoon. It hasn’t really sunk in. We have left the port.

We destroyed this pier

We destroyed this pier

mast.jpg


We had our good share of problems. After a year in India, the boat was covered in a solid coat of gunk. Most metal surfaces were rusty, and some important ones had even rusted away. So we remade them in wood, stronger than before. We cleaned and replaced and threw stuff away. Then we threw some more stuff away. But it is done now, and a new leg of this journey is beginning. Building is done, time for sailing has come!

sunset.jpg

It’s not that I don’t like India, but I’ll be glad to see it shrink in the distance. This time here has not been easy. I've never had this many communication problems. Anywhere. It’s not even a language barrier, since most people even understand some English. It’s something else, deeper. A barrier exists that I cannot properly describe… And it doesn't help that this whole experience has been very tiring and tense.
It is incredibly demoralizing to miss a deadline. Especially when it happens not only once, but time and time again. First, we wanted to leave by mid-November, but the weather didn't agree, so we had to change course. The new plan was longer, so we had to prepare the ship better, get everything tighter. Then Ali and Majed left, so we lost a couple of days of work, and two able hands. So that was another week. And then Ryan left. A family emergency called him back to Alaska. In a way, it was even good that we had been still in India, it would have sucked big time to get some bad news in arrival to Timor, or worse, in a remote island in Indonesia where he couldn't even get off the boat. He’ll maybe (he better) meet us back in Timor.

See you soon man!!

See you soon man!!

At least, right before Ryan left we managed to take a day off and explore some of the Kerala Backwaters. There we remembered why we are doing this, and where we want to go. Just getting out of the city made our hearts grow stronger, our lungs filled deeper. We got to a place where people asked How are you? not Where you from? They smiled and welcomed us… We didn't sail there, but were testing the dinghy’s new outboarder. It was an eventful day; we got stuck on shallow waters, motored at night and got in a fight with a fisherman. It was dusk, and a fishing line got entangled in our propeller. Although the net wasn't marked, it was still our fault, and we should have compensated him, after all, we did cause some damage to his fishing net. But he got very aggressive, very quickly. Seeing his paddle raised in front of me, where he could have easily broken my arm, did not make me want to reach for my wallet. So we broke his hold on us and sped off (rather dickishly) into the night. Not proud of it, but it is how it is. We must learn from to be extra careful with fishing nets.

We don't want to get into a fight with them!

We don't want to get into a fight with them!

So we are now three men crossing to Indonesia and beyond. It is not easy, things are tense. There were some motor problems, and last minute fixing of this and that. But it is all nearly done. We cannot clear out on Saturday, nor Sunday, for we must go to three offices, and at least one of them is closed at a time. But at least we have now left the Marina! Port Authority gave us permission to anchor in front of them, so here we are. Last minute fruit buying in town, and then off! This shall be my last post in India...

So now. We have read and listened. We have practiced our knots and ropes. We know what to pull and when to do it. We have ached and bumped and hurt. He bled, we healed. I would say we are ready. Let’s hope the sea agrees!! In the end, it was one month later than what I predicted. But it seems on one thing I was right: we sail on the Full Moon.
See you in Timor!

Lets sail!

Lets sail!

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Posted by Zaspirucho 11:47 Archived in India Tagged ocean india sailing done working liberty departure thoughts stowing Comments (0)

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