Thursday, February 8, 2018
Saint-Laurent-du-Maconi, Guyana, La France.
54º01´685´´, North, 005º30´618´´ West
LAND IN SIGHT
The Fools are up the river Maroni. The world change from blue to green. After a fortnight of an undisturbed horizon abounds the jungle around. Still at sea a fucking couple of turtles prepared them a jolly welcome. In the river they got stuck in the mud, catched by the low tide. The Dutch have an evocative expression for this: “With the balls in the mast” (met de kloten in de mast). A nautical imprudence. At hardly a mile the city is visible. The biggest danger now is the ship sinking more and more in the mud. Already the city shows a beautiful wreck that has stranded in 1925 and that is covered by palms and jungle.
Nautically speaking, crossing the ocean in this periode and at these latitudes requires a seacraftmanhip worthy of a Sunday sailor. You know in advance that the currents and the winds are steadily pushing you forwards and that in the worst of cases the gentle breeze turns into a fresh breeze. Even if the motor explodes and all the sails torn apart, you´ll still be at the other side in a few weeks. How much mdutch hsre treacherous is the Mediterranean where from the imperial sky suddenly a severe gale could descent. The only condition obviously is that the capacity of your pumps is bigger then the holes but here the fools dispose of an ample margin. The reputation of the transatlantic trail must be based on a kind of initiation rite: “Go West, Young Man!” It´s charm must be its stilness when time shifts tones. It´s challenge must be the vastness of the ocean¨- and your loneliness, where nobody will come to your rescue. Most exiting are the flying fishes that desperately keep on offering themselves for dinner. The small ones fly for one or two meters and keep rebounding in the waves. The biggest ones go sturdy like a cruise missile and, taking the ship for a wave, take to the air. One made it straight to the steerhut, probably in a desperate bid for personal revenge. The ship cat Moretti prefers them served fried.
Things change drastically once speaking about sails and sailing. The powers of even a pleasant breeze again bended the main gaff and two booms. They´re supposed to pull hundred and sixty thousand kilo of iron. Upon departure, we proudly hoist seven sails to make a nice picture. But after two days only the smallest one still is in function. Simon and Miguel emerge as master sailors and got mending and welding four sails up again. Simon is our dudeplayer who grew up in the Galician Ria of Pontavedra, notorious for its mists and tides. La Costa del Muerte. Miguel comes from an Andalusian village right from the mouth of the Guadalquiver from where Columbus set sail. His village owns it´s name to measuring the depth to the mud. In vain. The sailing is the beginning of an endless proces of experimentating, improvising and improving. We discover with wonder that the ship is eager to return to her original vocation of a sailing vessel. In 1928 she got a one cylinder motor and said goodbye to sailing. Nothing is definitive. With sunrise we stop the engine and make 3-5 miles. Exercises in Eternity. This is pretty sensational news. In it´s lowest gear you cut the ocean like a good old cheese and bring down the diesel consumption to a fraction. This is an open invitation to cross the pacific following the trade winds to Australia. The cheese is rationed. The last packet of wine, never rationed, we threw to a passing fishermen canoe. That was just before gettting stuck in the mud. They made the international sign of booze.
As dramatic are the improvements the mechanic Frédéric gradually introduces in the motor room. For decades the motor is miraculously run by a linguist without much passion nor talent for mechanics. He undertakes action only when things turn wrong. His chief engineer master Niels hates sailing and usually is only to be consulted at distant control, with some luck within telephone reach from the sea. Sometimes he comes over to exotic destinations, just to make sur that everything is OK or else to save the ship from disasters like sinking. Now glimmers a new dawn. Stiffened tubes and petrified bolts are being replaced, peevish taps greased and spanners and wrenches positioned in order, ready for battle.
The best compliment in Africa we got the last days on the island of São Antão when we offered the schoolteacher to bring all the local kids on board for a theatrical visit. He didn´t say “How nice!”, he just said “That´s important!”.