Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Link to Maldives photos...

Happy Birthday Alyssa!!!

blog karma

Per & Elly keep a travel blog for their adventures on Sybaris. Here's Elly's introduction of their new crew (Alyssa and me):

Monday, March 30, 2009

In Egypt...and ready to sail again

Alyssa and I arrived in Hurghada, Egypt yesterday…to get on another boat! We didn't want to jinx the trip by announcing it in advance because it seemed too good to be true. It was a last minute decision and we didn’t have time to research it before we got on the plane. We decided about a week ago not to continue on the Millennium to Chagos, so we came up with a few new travel options. We found on the internet a boat in Hurghada with plans to sail up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, over to Beirut, Lebanon, then to Greece – the only issue was that they planned to set sail on 30th March. So…we hustled to fly from Gan to Male, then Male to Cairo (via Dubai where I bought a new iPod, yippee!). We spent one night in Cairo, then yesterday (29 March) we took a 6 hour bus ride to Hurghada and a taxi to the marina. Per and Elly, the boat owners, met us at the Hurghada Marina and helped us lug our bags to their boat, Sybaris. They are super cool, the boat is really beautiful, and we are set to sail this afternoon or tomorrow. First stop is an island on the way to Port Suez.

I’ve got lots of previous blog entries and photos to post, but not sure when I’ll have enough quality internet access to upload. Hopefully soon!

New post of old blog entry

Slowly but surely I'm going to post all the stuff I have written along the way. Here's something that gives a little more insight as to why I decided against going to chagos:

(click to link)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

John H. Richardson, Francis Bacon, BofA and Me

My favorite writer and great friend, John H. Richardson, surprised me this week by using one of my email stories in his weekly on-line Esquire column: The Richardson Report.

To all the BofA friends mentioned, sorry, but it didn't occur to me to change the names to protect the innocent;)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Gone to Gan

23 March 2009 - Anchored at Gan, Addu Atoll, Feydhoo, Republic of Maldives

I haven’t been blogging because it sometimes seems cheesy and disingenuous. I write pages and pages journal-style, then later try to quickly edit down a few blurbs for the blog…but I edit all the real stuff out and leave in all the “surface” stuff…so it’s not only boring, but doesn’t really say much. It’s tough because you all know how much I want to tell you the frustrating and hilarious stuff…but it’s a public blog, so, well, you know… Also, I was having a pretty big meltdown in the Andamans and just wanted to whinge about all the stuff driving me crazy.

Alyssa and I are calling my meltdown the North Button Meltdown. We had anchored at North Button, a tiny deserted island in the Andamans, for like three or four nights. Surely a lot of my meltdown had to do with being a high strung, city living banker for 8 years, suddenly confined to a yacht in the tropics…but adjusting to boat life has proven difficult for everyone, not just me. Sacha would probably disagree (since he’s a contrarian), but I think he had a bit of a Sea Passage Meltdown. Alyssa has most assuredly had a Maldives Meltdown. She was a vision of joyfulness and strength during my North Button Meltdown, but now that I’m acclimated, she’s resolved to get off the boat – way more resolved than I. We’ve both thoroughly enjoyed the past 6+ weeks, but we both have limited time and money to travel and want to try something else. Neither of us wants to anchor in the “paradise” of Chagos for six weeks. We have three rough plans in progress and it’s going to be a complete surprise and totally hilarious to see which plan comes to fruition.

By the way, before you start worrying about us and our breakdowns, don’t even think about it. Alyssa is hilarious and we laugh hysterically about all of it. If she weren’t here I would have gotten off in the Andamans, but since we stayed in it together, we’ve built a repertoire of inside jokes about everything under the sun…and we can’t even look at each other in the morning without bursting into giggles. So…these are good, funny meltdowns. Besides, we’re sailing the Indian Ocean…who cares about a few little meltdowns.

The sea passage was about the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’d put up with almost anything to do that again. There’s a 900 mile passage from Chagos to Seychelles, and I’ve seriously considered doing the 6 weeks in Chagos just for the passage to Seychelles. Turns out, though, there are quite a few opportunities throughout the year to help people do long sea passages…so I think I’ll have plenty of opportunities to do it in my life.

So…the big lesson of the past few weeks is that I love sailing and sea passages, but I do not love anchoring in “paradise.” I can see why John and Nat love it. I think you have to be settled in your life, own the boat that you’re traveling in, and know that people whom you’re traveling with (preferably family, friends, lovers). That would make confinement in paradise more pleasurable – you need something specific to do. John is a really interesting and totally self-contained guy…he built Millennium himself 16 years ago and moved onto it permanently 8 years ago, giving up his job, his marriage, his life. He loves his lifestyle and he knows every square inch of this boat like the back of his hand. He can fix anything and he likes to design things and build things from scratch. He’s the first person I’ve really gotten to know who’s been brave enough to give up all the trappings of security and comfort to really go out and live at sea. I hope to write a lot more about him at some point. I’ve learned a lot about him on this trip.

But here I go babbling again and not really saying anything. I’ll just fill you in a little bit on what’s gone on since we left the Andamans…

We arrived in the Maldives late in the day on 16th March after 14 days at sea. We crossed the equator that morning and had a big Equator Party. John dressed up in an Equator King costume we constructed out of a defunct spinnaker…and Alyssa made Equator Crowns from all the recyclable wrappers from the candy we consumed on the journey. Sacha made one super cool folk art crown out of a Thai beer can and gold wrapper…I think it’s art and want to take it home with me. I hadn’t really slept in 3 days so the equator crossing is all a blur to me. I took the 3am shift until about 8am every morning, by myself while the others slept. It was my favorite time, I love watching the sunrise in solitude and silence. But…I drank a cup of coffee at 4am every morning and it triggered a crazy adrenal fatigue insomnia episode where I didn’t sleep much for three days at the tail end of the journey. I’m recovered now.

I can’t believe so many days have passed since we got to Gan. We haven’t done a thing and I’m not bored at all. We’re anchored in this tiny harbour with a handful of other boats headed to Chagos. There’s nothing to do in Gan aside from a bit of snorkeling, which I’ve not even done yet. There’s a quaint and shady little community center with a youth icafe and an outdoor hut restaurant. We hang out in the shade, play on the internet and sip iced Milos (Nestle chocolate milk) in intervals throughout the day. We dinghy back and forth to/from the boat. We walk the long road to a different restaurant for almost exactly the same food. We sit with the local guys and talk about nothing. Sometimes we sit with them and don’t talk at all. Everyone here is so chill, it’s just a nice lazy place to be. There’s a teenage metal band that sets up in the community center every afternoon and jams to 1980s Metallica songs over and over again, until everything shuts down at 6pm for prayer. Everything resumes at 7pm and we sip our iced Milos to very distorted renditions of Master of Puppets, Seek and Destroy and an occasional cover of the Cranberries’ Zombie. The metal guys are adorable carrying their guitars, wearing Pantera t-shirts, with longish hair and rocker attitudes. We only see them when they arrive because they practice behind closed doors.

Yesterday, Mas-Ood and Musaid took Alyssa and me out on motor bikes so we got to go through some rougher terrain to get to pretty vistas. They’ve offered to take us on an overnight (or two) boat/road trip to see other islands in the atoll. We hope to leave today. But who knows…things just happen when they happen around here.

I wrote a ton about the sea passage to put on the blog…but I’m just way too lazy to post it.

Maybe one day I’ll get tired of doing nothing, and I’ll do something…

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunset in Maldives

Motor Bikes on the Atoll

Here are Mas-Ood and Musaid trading their car for two motor bikes. We didn't know what was going on - Musaid stopped the car, we got out, two guys rolled in on bikes, we said hello, then they drove off in our car. It's a nice place, people share like that;)

Musaid and Me

Alyssa and Mas-Ood

Chilling with Friends at Galleesha Restaurant

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dirty Feet

This trip is all about being dirty and grungy and stinky. It's impossible to stay clean on a boat near the equator.

Three Musketeers


I'd be happy to give everyone haircuts when I get back...Add Image

Sacha's Mohawk

Sacha wanted a mohawk so I shaved his head after breakfast our second morning in Gan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Walking on Sunshine

This is the first time we used our legs in 14 days...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Equator Party

16 March 2009 - O degrees, O minutes...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chaos Girl

12 March 2009, 6am Thursday - Day 9, at sea to Maldives; at 02°28.036N and 77°34.715E, traveling 5.5 knots per hour, 282 miles to go.

…okay, the 6am log entry is done. We’re two degrees one minute above the equator so it’s only a matter of time now…only 282 miles to go. We only did a hundred miles the last twenty-four hours, so it could take about two more days if the wind stays at around 5-6 knots. It would be great fun to get wind and do 9+ knots again for a while (only after my shower), but then we’d be there in no time. We could be there in a day…tomorrow at this time. I can’t bear the thought of this being over…and I’ll have to endure two more weeks of the Maldives version of paradise before I get to do another sea passage. And it will be only 350 miles to Chagos where I will have to survive six freaking weeks of paradise before the passage to Seychelles. The good news is that the passage to Seychelles is 950 miles and then to Madagascar another 600 miles. But…as luck would have it, Seychelles is supposed to be another fucking paradise so John wants to chill there for a week. It really frustrates me, all this paradise. I just don’t like it. I keep telling Alyssa it’s all North Button to me. Oh, I’m sounding so cynical. She assures me it all isn’t North Button – that there will be other yachties and we’ll have our own dinghy. I’ll admit, one thing this trip demonstrates is that I am incapable of predicting what will happen and how I’ll feel about it. Still, truths come to the fore, and I’m just not that into paradise. Or, maybe I’m not into anchoring in completely uninhabited paradise. North Button was a deserted island with no sign of human life anywhere, no yachties, no divers, no fisherman. Nothing. The snorkeling was phenomenal, the beach a dream, the jokes and talks with Alyssa were my saving grace, but still I felt a bit crazed. Maybe if we had sailed around the paradise islands of the Andamans more aggressively, I would have enjoyed it. Like, we could have endeavored to cruise by all the islands so we’d be raising the sails, tacking, jibing, navigating, racing against the clock to see everything. That would have been kick ass. But instead we chilled out for days…which is…fine…I’m just tormented by the notion of chilling out for six weeks in Chagos. I’m sure relaxed, chill people would argue that I need to relax for six weeks, that it would be good for me. But all I feel right now is the tiny thumping of agitation around the edges of my heart. Two weeks in Maldives, six weeks in Chagos, one week in Seychelles – that’s a total of nine weeks in paradise. John just loves paradise. He eventually grew to love India and discovered the friendliness amidst the chaos in Port Blair, so I hope he is able to do that in Madagascar. But he’s a Paradise Guy. I’m a Chaos Girl. If I had it my way, I’d spend no more than three weeks in these paradise places and add an additional six weeks in the madness places – I’d have stopped in Sri Lanka and maybe up to Kerala, then the emphasis would be on Madagascar. But I respect that John is a gentle soul and the crazy cities and busy cultures overwhelm him. Oh god, does this mean peace overwhelms me? I’m not going to think about that.

Posted on 30 March 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sacha, Alyssa and John...Sea Passage Day 1

Departing Port Blair - Sea Passage Day 1

Monday, March 2, 2009

Black Label and Dredlocks

Our last night in Port Blair, we had dinner with Sacha and his friend Hugo, a Swedish backpacker with a guitar. This day was the first time we'd been in civilization in many many days (North Button Meltdown!) and had spent hours on the internet reconnecting to the world. Sacha said he was surprised to hear how the "geck" (global economic crisis, coined by Fuzz) was affecting his friends. We were about to embark on a conversation about it when Alyssa interjected a question to Hugo, "so are you growing dreds?" And then the conversation happily turned to growing and maintaining dreadlocks since Alyssa's worn them too. Phew, thank goodness we had our priorities straight...that geck thing could have been a total bummer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Holy Cow

1 March 2009 – Sailing from Havelock #7 to Port Blair.

I’ve had two amazing days so I think I’ll carry on to the Maldives.

This morning on our 7am snorkel, Alyssa and I saw about six rays (we don’t know if they’re manta rays or sting rays, but they’re giant and scary) sitting clustered together on the ocean floor beneath us. We got up our courage to approach the gazillion dollar yacht luxury liner yacht named Maverick from the Marshall Islands. We could make out in the distance that two men were standing outside near the rear of the gigantic three story yacht. Upon our arrival, they invited us aboard, but we politely insisted on staying in the water. We waded throughout our thirty-minute conversation with Jervis, a nice 60ish man from the UK, and Jim, a 50ish man from Florida. Alyssa and I were giggling swimmers with snorkel masks on our heads explaining that we’re sailing to Madagascar on a boat full of strangers. Jervis is on holiday, a guest of the yacht owner, and Jim is the dive master hired to teach Jervis to dive. Jim gently told us not to panic, but to notice the giant fish circling us. “He’s a Jack and he won’t hurt you but he’s curious and will swim very close.” Well Jack is gigantic and at a glance, to me, looks like a freaking shark, especially the way he was circling us. After our chat, we were swimming back to Millennium when I noticed Jack was tailing her! It was adorable to see Jack trailing The Little Mermaid, but it wasn’t so funny when Jack turned his attention on me. It scared me to death. I was terribly relieved to finally climb aboard Millennium and observe him from the safety of our boat. I desperately wanted Nat to see him, but with Alyssa and me out of the water, Jack immediately disappeared. So, in a rare moment of bravery, I jumped back into the water and waited patiently in order to lure Jack back. Yep, I allowed myself to be bait for a shark-looking-giant-fish, just so Nat can see him. Sure enough, Jack returned to peruse my wading body and Nat enjoyed him as much as we’d hoped. Jack became our buddy and stayed with us the rest of the day.

We only had a few hours to spend at Havelock 7 so we dinghied to the beach for more chai teas and samosas. As planned, Alyssa and I traded two of John’s paperbacks for a very raggedy copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns and an even more raggedy copy Holy Cow.

Tonight Alyssa and I completed an excel worksheet to calculate the distance & time from Andamans to Maldives to Chagos to Seychelles to Madagascar. We want to make the sea passages in record time, but have been averaging 4 knots in the windless seas. Our worksheet reflected columns ranging from 3 knots to 6 knots, arriving at total sea passage time range of 23 to 45 days. Alyssa said hopefully, “go ahead and add a column for 7 knots per hour.” “Yeah,” I said, “maybe there will be a storm and we’ll have really strong winds.” We were mesmerized by the 7 knot scenario which arrived at only twenty days. Alyssa then said very seriously, “okay, put in a hundred knots just to see.” I entered a hundred knots and we stared with incredulity at the prospect of getting to Madagascar in less than a day. If only…In the next moment I managed to state coherently before the convulsive laughter hit, “You know, there is a way we could do that. It’s called air travel.”

posted by not ali

Zorba the Greek & Maverick

Zorba belongs to the French couple, Mark & Julie.
Jervis & Jim were passengers on the Maverick...and they introduced us to...
Jack the Fish

Jack the Friendly (giant) Fish (shark)