Chris & Carl, Acceptance

If you've been reading regularly, you'll know I'm stuck here in Gran Canaria waiting on equipment to arrive via the worlds most aggravating postal system. Obviously post is still delivered by horse, cart, and steamship... I've been expecting this stuff to turn up any day, and every day I've anxiously done my run-around, looking and worrying, and getting increasingly concerned. A friend offered to lend me a Gennaker (a large sail, like a Spinnaker) for my crossing, so I could speed across the Atlantic in 24 hours (no, not really), but unfortunately this package ended up becoming cursed, with couriers unable to find the pickup address, to getting stuck in a warehouse for lack of bureaucratic paperwork. In the end, I just had to tell the courier to send it back - It was becoming a very unfunny comedy of errors. If I had known from the beginning I was going to be here for a month or more, I guess I would have made an effort to actually do some interesting things. On occasion my anxious personality overrides everything else, and I can do little else but busy myself with concern. I could have sailed over to the other islands, done some more exploring here in Gran Canaria, worked harder on learning Spanish, taken up ocean swimming (!), or a myriad of other interesting activities. But instead, I just spent the last three weeks thinking I would be "leaving any day now"... So this morning Paul came with me to the post office, to help translate my postal worries. Eventually after what seemed like at least 15 minutes of rapid-fire Spanish, the women decided to actually look into the problem, and finally found the last received information on the whereabouts of the item was on the 13th of Feb, in Madrid. She said it was on a container ship headed for the islands, and expected it to be awhile yet... So I finally resigned myself to just getting on with things, and letting the parcel arrive whenever it felt the need. Most people probably would have come to this conclusion somewhat earlier, but what can I say... I have accepted my fate, and started filling my day with interesting jobs and activities instead of needless worry. Over the past few days I have begun listening to Spanish learning tapes, dusted off my German book, and even begun listening to a 20 hour French course. I bought a cheap set of computer speakers, and mounted them in the cabin, which has been probably the greatest improvement to general living aboard so far. I'm also becoming acutely aware of my unique situation, and rather than waste my days away with impatience, I could really be more productive on many different levels, taking care of all those things I've been putting off.

In an attempt to do some exercise, The Austrian (now referred to as Chris) said I should come swimming with him. Sure I thought, why not, the weather is nice, and the office hasn't called, so hasta luego, I'm going to the beach! I borrowed my next door neighbors hot pink flippers, grabbed my shorts (or rather jeans with the legs cut off), and we set off. After an incredibly lengthy walk through Las Palmas, finally we began to descend down to beach level, and resume the days swimming activities. As I stood there in my unevenly cut shorts, pink flippers on, about to jump in and act like an Otter for the next 20 minutes, Chris donned a special wetsuit, goggles, and informs the lifeguard that "he might be a while" and proceeds to vanish off over the horizon. As I stood there at waste level, tripping over myself, Chris had already vanished beyond the breaking waves and turned right, for his daily three hour swim! Some people like to sail away from land, and it seems others enjoy swimming where land is but a dot on the edge of the sky. Chris is one of those crazies I keep managing to attract (and hey, don't say they're mirrors!) who both pique my interest and test my human sanity detection circuitry. Chris is out here looking after a boat, which seems to have had one of the saddest fates I've heard. A German father and son team sailed down here, on route to a Caribbean circuit. The father stood out the front of the toilets here in the marina, smoking, and suddenly died of a massive and entirely unexpected heart attack. The trip was clearly off, the son going back to Germany, agreeing to let Chris look after the vessel until arrangements could be made. What a horrific end to the trip of a lifetime.

When you loiter around a place long enough, people eventually become familiar faces on the street. You start remembering the names of the little French kids playing on the dock, notice the recent German ship has a new crew, and people start asking you about your missing post or finally inquire as to what your name is. Two weeks ago I met Carl at the infamous Sailors Bar, after subconsciously noticing we were both out here alone. There must be an unspoken rule, in that there is a period of time in waiting before one makes the effort to strike up a conversation. Because sailing is so transient, sometimes it's almost a fruitless exercise making any kind of connection with someone, because it's highly likely they will be gone the next day, never to be seen again. Nevertheless I was glad to have met Carl, a singlehander doing a delivery of his former yacht to the new owner in Guadaloupe. We spoke casually on and off, but I recognised there was something more to him, and I was unusually disappointed to see him off yesterday. It was really an unexpectedly intense experience, as I stood on the pontoon watching him sail out through the breakwater, I really felt a pang in my heart for his undertaking. Not a feeling of fear for his safety, but really just a level of understanding in what he was doing, and even a glimpse of what was to come. There was such a quietness in the air, and even an early onset feeling of solitude to his departure; this act of a lone person sitting there in the cockpit of their boat, in something so small, about to voyage across such a great expanse of 'nothingness'. I could sense his nervousness as I pushed his bow off the pontoon, even though he was highly experienced. I watched him sail out without glancing back, departing sans spectacle, as people nosily watched from the cockpits of their boats with disinterested looks, as another boat left the marina. The problem is, some boats are so incredibly different than others.

Out here you meet all manner of folk, but only very rarely do you meet someone who speaks not of theories, ideas or stories, but someone who only exudes their experience. These are the most exceptional people you can ever hope to meet, and if detected, must always be given all manner of questioning, in order to learn as much as you possibly can. Carl spent ten years sailing around the world with his wife and three children, but did the journey with immensity, surviving quite literally by his own wit and hard work, feeding his family at times with only fish and island fruits. He is the type of person that no matter what you did to him; whether you dropped him the desert, or threw him on a rickety raft in the Atlantic, he would survive and carry on with little fuss. I guess in a sense, this is one of the reasons I'm out here myself; to build the kind of character that is strong, experiential and effortless - An attempt to wash away those illusions we've encased ourselves in, whether we constructed them on our own, or had them thrust upon ourselves by others.

It would be nice if everyone who reads this, could spare a thought for Carl, because right this very second, he is out there alone, fishing, reading, tending to his vessel, wholly insignificant, and blissfully in the middle of nowhere; metaphorically like each and every one of us.