Last year I wrote in here that I had the opportunity to be part of a sailing voyage. Here is the not so little story.
Usually traveling all over for surf, I often stop by Bali to catch up on sleep between trips, loosen up in the world class waves and time my next move according to swells. This time, I finally was completely determined to find a way to learn sailing.
Since I fell for a surf-filled life as a teen, I understood that sailing shall be a practical part of it eventually. Whether it means hitching rides to remote
locations or sailing myself, the will to learn was to be on standby, but not far. As a distracted dreamer, my days and nights were full of inner escapades. On my lunch breaks or even while skipping school
, I'd go to some peaceful places and religiously read my Surfer's Journals or just hung out, listened to music
and dreamed on. I dearly remember reading a long story about the earliest surf discoveries made in the Maldives
from 2 surfers who sailed by there in the 70s.
The thing with me is I go about making those dreams come true completely, and just doing that makes all kinds of other things come up. Anyways, I thought I'd start at the bottom and learn to maneuver a laser in a calm bay. Take expensive lessons in Singapore
, maybe. I could also look around in Bali and try to get advice and find my way around on the local waters.
But there are deep, long-lasting dreams within us and although we can be wise and rational, sometimes life just has some events
aligning all at once and things you wished are suddenly delivered all at once.
The year before, I had made good friends from South Africa
while on Sumatra, where we had the most amazing string of surfing and hiking adventures, ever. I promised them I'd come visit them in Africa
, and added I'd do it by boat somehow. So, although I was about to go look around Bali for some time in the wind
, deep down the stubborn and adventurous said "well I actually just wanna make my way to South Africa
by boat." This was March; i understood it was early season and my chances of "finding a ride" were confusing.
Long story short, after bitterly looking around in the mid day heat at some filthy anchorage I knew could hold transiting sail boats, and finding a closed sailing club, my hopes were low. I thought " what am i doing here? How can I go about this??" A man in his early 50s approached me. Amicable, he chatted with me a little. He was also looking for a little time on the water
around there. He was a u.s. captain
based in Hong Kong
. I told him my intentions. His eye brows raised. He had just talked to the french owner of a 60ft skooner in the restaurant nextdoor, who talked about South Africa
. He introduced me to him. Had I been on this spot 1 minute before or after, and garanteed I would have missed the boat, literally.
Basically the frenchy and I got along real well and were to discuss. He was waiting for a crew of 2 more guys and one girl none of them had yet met. Before they arrived, after a few days hanging out, he welcomed me to join for the trip. He had enough skilled people so I could tag along and watch and participate. Do i need to explain how good i felt.
I spent a few weeks getting to know the crew and partying on Bali. It was so much fun. Long story short, after ups and downs and too many drinks, one crew was kicked out. The rest followed and they bailed within days from departure. They rode
off around Bali together while captain
and I eagerly finished gathering everything we needed. The girl was scared because the boat was rustic and basic. She eventually fell in love with one of the other guys and today they are still together.
As a surfer, i was rubbing my hands in delight. I convinced captain to stop by G-Land, a legendary, completely amazing, wild surf break on the eastern tip of Java in a national park. It made sense as it was on the way and we could resume cleaning
in the deep and beautiful bay there. I surfed the break and used our kayak
to reach the beach near the break. I felt fit and was living my wildest dreams. Everyone else were in the little expensive, all-inclusive surf camps. That big white boat, there in the corner, yeah thats where i stayed.
We meant to aim for Mauritius island.
This island has always been a big dream of mine. Named the "Forgotten isle of Santosha" in the 70s partly because the first surfers didn't want others to know where it was, located far from everything I knew, exotic in cultures and holding one of the best reef breaks in the world, I'd always been drawn to find my way there. So it was very significant for me, this trip.
It took us 1 full month. A few strong fronts, and a cyclone forming north, but far enough. After a long time being sick and trying all sorts of things, we taped sea shells to my wrists on the specific points, and i was miraculously healed and could go on and learn and help the captain..and fully enjoy..but we were only two of us now..the weathered, well travelled, expert, increasingly difficult and grumpy french sailor, and the stumbling beginner.
I confirmed some things on the trip. I dont have a tendency to be very crafty. Fixing anything with whatever tools like he was. I couldnt cook so he cooked everything, was fine with it but i felt guilty and thought i should learn to cook -more- and especially on boats. It was just too awkward because he is french and im just not very picky, so i just let him do the cooking
. Those two things mainly. Otherwise im courageous, focused, ready to jump any time of day and night for the situations that ask for it. I can be really good if i learn properly with some time, but it was difficult there to do so, and some of his remarks were useless. I held on despite the mental hardships, to the very end. A few scary moments had me helping and being useful and I am proud of it.
The craziest part was when we actually approached the fabled island. The biggest storm. We were to switch sides to then aim for the Lee side of the island. I spotted the sharp outlines of mountains, pointy ones, the ones i'd seen in photos, the background of the legendary wave i looked for there. We had a hard time and it felt dangerous. Some things broke, snapped, teared off. I held the wheel
carefully while he did some work at the front, and the seas were huge.
Once we got to the lee side, the sun came out and the swell decreased. Pure bliss. We would have a few hours to watch and study the coast and the port. I was in awe, drained, emotional, and elated, speechless. I thought I could live there even before setting foot on it. I would go and eatanything in the world I loved, times 1000.
I saved his jib
from crashing along the concrete wall in the port by pushing against it as we motored along to change spots, to which he unknowingly told it was useless from the very back. He couldnt tell what was happening at the front and although i weighted nothing on the boat, I could still make the difference.
I paid us a huge meat special meal that night and a good beer
. The next day I would go on and do my own thing and remain on the island. We decided it was best for both of us. He would fix a few things and go on towards Africa, the ultimate goal being to return all the way to France
and dispose of the boat he had been on for years. If i had been better skilled and less introverted he would have been glad to have me on the long journey, but thats how it is. The next morning for our last breakfast, i told him my thoughts, the way he was and how i also admire him. The guy is a true mariner, can do anything on his own, has heart. I can never forget him.
I was free on Mauritius. With my boards, my health
, some cash, and some waves to find.
I rented a car and slept in it for the 30 days allowed on the island. The place is heavenly with easy temperatures, some wind
to keep mozzies away, and free open green spaces to hangout and enjoy life along the blue lagoons. I met a girl who surfs as well. That was another encounter with a timing I couldnt have dreamed of. We made love on the beach, surfed together. She introduced me to locals who would become really good friends. I found the ultimate wave, the one, actually fiercely protected by local surfers. So i rode
it at night in the full moon, which was unbelievable, all by myself. I got to surf it early mornings too. I risked myself trying to surf a distant reef pass during a huge swell, from which the coast guard attempted capturing me. The whole town was on the beach once i made it back. The wave is the most unreal, most perfect with no one else out.
It was hard to leave. But i had to go find my south African friends, and surf one of the other best waves in the whole world: Jeffrey's Bay. Which I did. We climbed a mountain barefoot.
I seemed to wanna take a long break from being on the open ocean, from boats altogether. I was a bit traumatised. But with time, it will come back and i'll want more, and to learn more.
Today i am back in Bali, ready for more adventures. It would be weird going back to Mauritius, by plane.....meanwhile I have plans to kayak
through some remote
atolls and look for surf...and sail boats.