Friday, October 08, 2021

out of step

I am a frustrated sailor.

I came to the sport late in life. At least, late compared to a number of my friends who spent their pre-school days on skis and in the cockpit.

My first hand-to-tiller experience was in Greece. The American detachment on the Greek air force base (Άραξος, for those of you, and you know who you are, of a detail-splitting mindset) where I was stationed had just acquired a small sloop. It was barely larger than a sailing dinghy. Colonel Galpini, our detachment commander, decided that I would be in charge of it because I was the only officer who had sat in a sailboat -- and my name was WASPish enough that he thought I must know how to sail. Genetically, I guess.

Fortunately, I discovered a security policeman who had grown up on the shores of Connecticut (Greenwich, if I remember correctly) and had sailed Long Island Sound most of his life. His "Cabot" surname certainly outranked mine on the WASP scale. If I were a WASP, he was a hornet.

We spent the year I was there sailing the Gulf of Patras. A perfect body of water for a beginner -- with the exception of the commercial ship traffic. Thanks to Sgt. Cabot, I learned the basic ropes.

During the two years I served in England, I would drive to the coast as often as I could to rent a boat. There was something about the solitude of sailing on my own that I came to crave. I also learned to my cost that English weather is far more unpredictable than sailing off of Patras. Those days fed my adrenalin addiction.

England was going to be my last assignment. I was headed to law school as soon as I hung up my dress blues.

My discharge date was set for July 1976. I was given the option of being discharged in England (giving me an opportunity to tour Europe before school began in late August) or I could fly to New Jersey and be discharged there.

Then, I happened to see a movie that almost changed my life. The Dove is the semi-factual story of Robin Graham -- then the youngest person to sail solo around the world. I went back to see it three times. Not because it is a good movie (it isn't; it is dreadful), but because it lit something in me. I knew what I wanted to do.

I checked with personnel to see if I could be discharged early in England. I could. I then started planning a trip that would take me across the Atlantic through the Panama Canal and up the Pacific coast to Oregon. Solo.

Almost everyone I talked with at the Totton moorings thought the idea was adventurous, exciting, and just plain daft. The list of problems was long.

Finding someone who would lease a boat to a person who had obviously gone mad. Sailing through the Caribbean on the shoulder of hurricane season. Paying the exorbitant Panama Canal fees -- if I could even get a reservation at such a late date. Trying to beat up the strong currents on the Pacific coast. The cost would eat up all of my savings for law school.

Even with all that I was ready to take the leap. Then, the Air Force fired a shot below my waterline. I would not be allowed to leave early. I needed to fly to New Jersey to be discharged.

That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The date was the week of 4 July 1976. Even though I did not get to sail home, I did get to see the largest collection of tall ships assembled. It was a pale replacement, but a memorable one.

After law school, I considered buying a sailboat and living on it. I didn't. My sailing sorties were relegated to a week each summer in the San Juans and the Gulf Islands.

But I essentially did buy the equivalent of a sail boat. Eventually. Here in Barra de Navidad. My house.

I thought of my failed career as a buccaneer this morning. Martin and Victor have returned to help remedy the leaks that persistently show up on the upper terrace (keeping the house afloat). Just like a boat, leaks in houses need to be tended to early.

The two of them are busy at their task as I write. I have now become accustomed to the sound of the saw that grinds out the mortar. If I have it correctly, Victor called it a grillito (a little cricket) due to its racket. I truly appreciate Mexican ironic understatement.

But their work is keeping me from my walking routine today -- and probably tomorrow. Ever since I publicly fell in the dark (falling down sober), I have been walking on the upper terrace. My original daily goal was to limit my steps to 10,000 to 15,000. About 5 to 7.5 miles. That morphed upwards to an obsessive 30,000 steps. 

Once I get started, it is hard to stop.

Martin and Victor have put a stop to that. While they re-seal my tiles, the track is off limits for me. That means today and tomorrow. And longer if they encounter more cracks.

So, I will walk outside. In the daylight. In short bursts.

After all, my boat will soon be re-caulked and be ready to set sail.

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