First Crossing (Part I)A land-lubber tells us what it's like to join a strange ship and travel across the ocean
Some months ago we gave you our thoughts on hitch-hiking. If you’re a singlehander then the advantages of having an extra crew-member aboard are obvious, but so too are the disadvantages; and if you’re not short of watch-keepers then there is no reason whatsoever for allowing a complete stranger to take up residence in your home.
Having established that fact we then provided some words of advice for that class of persons who hangs around on the waterfront, confident in the notion that the world owes them a free living and a free passage to wherever their hearts’ desire.
Then, having offered the world these wise words, we promptly disobeyed them and took a hitch-hiker on board.
Adam was different from your average pierhead stalker. Indeed, he was not even looking for a ride when we first met him.
A young Israeli brought up on a kibbutz, Adam was a hitch-hiker who had thumbed his way across Europe, kipping on other people’s couches. Like other back-packers he carried a massive rucksack and a guitar, but there the similarity with your average back-packer ends, because Adam was no hippy putting the world to rights over a joint and boasting of his/her ability to slide through life without ever footing the bill for bed, board, or travel costs. On the contrary.
Having joined our company Adam was eager to pull his weight.
He began by diving on the boat to clean it. He was also very keen to learn the arts of the sailor and although we made it clear that it was our pleasure to teach him Adam ensured that he paid us back, and in a similar currency, by giving music lessons to Roxanne and Caesar.
He also paid his way financially – of course.
Best of all, Adam was one of the nicest people that we have ever met. He was a very good advert for Israel and for the kibbutz system – which is why we agreed to take Miki on the next leg of our journey.
Who is Miki?
If Adam is different from the usual crowd, Miki stands out like a beacon. Born in Jerusalem, she has a Japanese mother, a Jewish father, Iraqui grand-parents, and a completely unpronounceable surname; even worse than ours.
She also has the largest rucksack that I have ever seen. I’m sure it’s twice as big as the one I lugged around Canada in my youth, although this might just be a matter of scale, because Miki is also one of the world’s smallest back-packers.
In her first letter to us Miki said that she wanted to cross the ocean to Brazil in the way that the African slaves travelled.
“In chains?” said Nick.
We resisted the temptation to give her a berth in the bilge and keep her down there for the duration of the voyage. Instead, we prepared Xoë‘s cabin.
What does a land-lubber expect when she signs up for an ocean crossing? It’s quite an undertaking, but your average dirt-dweller knows so little that she (or he) doesn’t even realise that there is anything to know. He lives a life of such complete and utter ignorance that he doesn’t even realise that he ought to be worried! Thus, it becomes the duty of the sailor to worry for him.
Before we took Adam to sea we made sure that he had a little glimmer of a hint about what he was letting himself in for: we took him for a little day-trip. While others who joined us for this expedition were wretching over the leeward rail Adam remained in firm control of his stomach… or at any rate, his control was sufficient for him to retain ownership of his breakfast. This boded well, and we reckoned that Adam would survive the long haul down to the Cape Verdes. And he did.
Miki planned to join us just before we set off across the pond. This – we realised – was foolish; and so we did a bit of worrying on her behalf and suggested that she join us while we were still cruising in the Cape Verdes. This gave us time to discover that Miki is just as lovely as Adam – (indeed, they are both so amazingly pleasant, helpful, hard-working, and well-adjusted that we have had to revise our image of Israel as a hot-bed of religious fanatics…) – and it also gave us the chance to see how she fared on a couple of short passages. The first of these expeditions – being the passage from Mindelo (Sao Vicente) down the wind-funnel to Tarrafal de Santo Antao – was a very unfair introduction to ocean cruising. It would have reduced many a full-grown macho male to a snivelling, puke-smeared wreck whose only desire is to sit in the shade of a tree. Indeed, the channel is so rough that the journey has been known to reduce seasoned sailors to this sort of state.
Poor Miki! She probably imagined that the whole ocean crossing would be just as awful! What thoughts must have chased each other through her mind as she considered the prospect of spending three whole weeks rolling along in this manner, with our living space flung to and fro and up and down, like a fairground ride, and the the side decks slooshing in and out of the water…?
Just to put the matter in perspective, during this short passage one of the lockers in the aft cabin was flung open, deposting my precious art materials on the floor. And some seashells which have spent the past year perched behind the sink, in the galley, were finally dislodged from their habitual abode. The cupboard, admittedly, has been flung open once before, some years ago, on another rough trip; but those seashells have circumnavigated the North Atlantic and ridden out a gale without ever before being thrown on the floor.
We didn’t tell Miki that this was probably the roughest trip that she would ever make in our company – we didn’t soothe her nerves or offer consolation – but she stuck it anyway, without a whimper of alarm; and so now we knew that things were going to be okay.
And they were. But I’ll let Miki tell you the rest of the tale herself…
For Miki’s story, see First Crossing (Part II).