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Monday, March 12, 2012

A Whale of a Story

We are in the last weeks of preparing to sail off to the pacific
islands. It's a dream come true and the biggest adventure of my life.It is so far from my prior reality and that of most of my landlubber friends, that I cannot make them understand my new reality. Often they talk of the risks, like pirates and storms and shipwrecks and death.

I've grown to realize how protected we are in the states. There was a big change just coming to Mexico. Big holes in the road or sidewalk are not marked or barricaded. If you don't watch your step you fall and it's your own fault. Along walkways there are sometimes drop offs of 20 or 30 feet without a rail. Same thing, you must look out for yourself. No one seems to follows rules or laws; they seem to be open to interpretation. If you're stupid enough to lose all your money or
to pay too much for something then you deserve to lose it. I haven't heard a single person mutter the words I'll sue you since we got arrived. But Mexico is tame compared to where we are going.

You can't take the same kind of risk in the states. You are prevented. Well mostly you are prevented. I've a bit of time out in some of the wilderness areas.
You are on your own and no one can hear you call for help. But the opportunities are a bit rare to get that self sufficient with little or no safety net. Even walking around a bad section of town after dark there are usually some people around and someone will call the cops eventually.

This is a whole new ball game. On the first leg of the journey we're going 3000 miles without any back up:we are completely on our own. The ocean is big and mighty. It occasionally reaches out and smashes some little boat into oblivion. Often no one ever knows what happened even with GPirbs(satellite emergency beacon - we have one). I'm not fretting. I'm just realizing that we don't often get to do this kind of man against nature things in this day and age. We've been in Mexico for a year and a
half; in that time three boats have been lost here. There will be more than 100 boats heading to the pacific islands this year and a couple will end up lost. There is very little help and you must always stand on your own.

It seems hard to explain why someone would take the risk. Maybe the best way is through some seasoned cruisers eyes. Some friends who have been cruising for a couple decades were telling us about a whale charging their boat. At first there were two big males breaching and tail slapping up a storm. They were off in the distance but clearly big and energetic. If you've only seen whales on TV or on the deck of a big metal ship you may have a hard time realizing how huge and powerful
these animals are. They are gigantic and strong and fast and in their element. They are the biggest baddest mothers in the neighborhood and we are pretty much the wimpiest.

All of a sudden one of these huge males broke away from his pal and started heading for their boat. It charged straight at them very fast. It was making huge waves and frothing up the water just like some horror movie. When it was a hundred yards off it lifted is head up above the water still swimming very fast and making huge waves. They could see it's big eyes making sure where they were.

That's when they saw two dolphins surfing in the head wave it was generating. They were riding the wave as the whale thundered on toward the boat at a terrific rate. At the last possible second the whale swerved away and departed with dolphins still riding the pressure wave. The boat was jarred sideways and was rocked heavily. For a while it wasn't clear whether they'd been hit or not because there was so much motion. There was no heavy thud that would have indicated the side of the boat getting caved in or the keel or rudder being damaged. The whale and his two sidekick dolphins swam off a bit slower than the charge. As time passed it became clear that there wouldn't be a second charge and the boat was unharmed.

It was a harrowing experience that scared them deeply, but they just kept going on and on about the dolphins riding the head wake. I can see them surfing in my mind can't you? The giant whale is thrashing up mighty waves and lifting his head to looking right at you, right into your eyes as he makes his deadly charge. All the
while two dolphins surf and jump and dance in the wave as he thunders toward you. While they charge, you remember several stories about friends of yours who lost boats to whales. The fear is tangible; these beasts can kill you very easily.

One can't see dolphins from a cubicle. These dolphins can't actually be seen from land at all. One can't see them on a cruise ship either. Nor can they see them from a whale watching boat. To really see them, you must stand on the deck of your own boat and be charged by a whale. You must sell your house and all your stuff and start a new life on a little boat and sail halfway around the world and
through several storms to a place so remote that no one can help you. You must feel the great strength of the beast. You must know that sometimes the whale chooses to sink the boat. Then and only then can you really see the dolphins as my friends saw them.

We cannot see them yet. We'd like to think we can, but we can't, not really. We still have a long way to go. We are only beginning the journey. Someday we will have a whale of a story to tell. We will try very hard to tell it well, but most will only see the shadows of the real story. Some things just have to be lived and that is why we are going… we want to see our dolphins.


1 comment:

  1. We pray for your safe passage, for a friendly following sea, and a steady breeze across your stern.
    We hope the skipper has the generosity to give the first mate sufficient rations of rum, but the good sense to keep a sober hand on the wheel.

    Bon Voyage Bill & Kat we can't wait for you to arrive in the friendly South Pacific!

    Love Judy, Mark,Melanie, Andrew and Meghan in Sydney