The ship Otis completed 2 circles around the world. She wasn’t a luxury yacht, Adrian bought her for 10,000$ in Guatemala. I was offered rides upon more luxurious ships, however, as usual, I gravitate toward things with character, not luster. We used a laptop for navigation and sometimes paper maps, both of which were incorrect at times. We had a depth meter that worked occasionally. Always, the most trusted on a ship is one’s own eyes. Someone must be always watching. We were two people, I and the German captain.
A few days after we departed New Zealand, we hit a hurricane. I was in the cabin cooking brussel sprouts on a swinging stovetop when the seas began to bounce. Adding the spices carefully I thought the waters would pacify. The boat began to thrust violently from starboard to port. Brussel sprouts flew about the cabin, miniature hot cabbage bombs. Littering the bed, attacking the walls, filling the bookshelf. I went outside to access the situation.
“Get back inside” he screamed as I emerged from the cockpit. He was wearing oilskins and his beard was dripping with saltwater, they call sailors “old salts” for a reason. After years at sea, the ocean has some sort of petrifying or curing effect. It enters the skin, the hair, and eyes. In his eyes was the vast turbulent sea, aquamarine sprinkled with danger and loneliness.
At that moment, a huge wave crashed, and water began to fill the cabin, the window was open over the laptop.
“Shut the damn window, Scheisse!” he said, followed by a stream of German obscenities.
I rushed in to shut the window as another wave hit. Water drenched the laptop, our only means of navigation. The window didn’t seal correctly, so even shut properly, water still streamed in. I moved the laptop and paper maps to the bed, the only place seemingly safe from the violent sea which had pushed our mast parallel with its turbulent surface. He pulled the sails and started the motor, an old Mercedes engine which was often reluctant to turn.
“Get a bucket and take the water out of the bilge!” He instructed me in a confident panic.
I began scooping the murky liquid from the bilge, a mixture of saltwater, boat scum, and diesel fuel. The motor leaked diesel, and the fumes were oftentimes unbearable. I didn’t dare complain now.
One solar panel was stolen by the violent tide. Everything on deck was subjected to nautical theft. The swell was merciless, sweeping anything not bolted down deep into her belly. Moving anywhere on deck was extremely dangerous as the boat thrusted back and forth tossing us against the loose wire rail. He needed to go to the bow to drop the anchor nothing was automatic on this ship. Normally, one would attach a safety rope around the waist to assure they wouldn’t be tossed to sea, but in the chaos of the moment, he went without one. The bow raised in the night fog. A grey mist enveloped with rain coming from every direction. It was difficult to see him from the cockpit. His presence was only a grumbling shadow. He stumbled from the bow to the cockpit trying to secure the ropes and sails as the waves pounded the ship.
The dingy was still tied behind the boat and one of its ores was falling out of the rings. We didn’t have a spare. Most sailing boats possess a motorized dingy ours was an old aluminum micro-boat powered by two wooden, heavy ores. Sometimes, he would stand up and row and I felt like we were in Venice.
He wasn’t always in a good mood, most of the time some grumpy mixture of discontent, boredom, and arrogance. He had a stormy character, thick German accent, fluent Spanish, and 15 years of stories which always mesmerized me and provoked me to try to overcome him with wild experience. I was only 24 at the time. He was 35 and had lived a circus life, fire spinning, was previously a yogi, and had already made one circumnavigation upon his ship. I was in awe of his curious nature and his stained teeth. My teeth were too perfect, the kind of teeth that only Americans have. Perfectly aligned with no spaces between, bleached white. He had a gold tooth that gleamed from the left side that he acquired in some South American country. He looked like a pirate. I was too clean-cut, I lacked experience.