The Real World

Modern man in the big cities is like a captured animal. We have all the comfort and food we need, still we are bored. But because we live among millions of equally bored people we do not notice the gloom. Only occasionally do we meet a surviving free spirit and wonder why he is so happy. It is not comfort which makes me happy.
Sven Yrvind

We invested a wonderful two weeks on Lanzarote in the delightful company of fellow local liveaboard expatriates Sam and Terrie. The Euroballgames were on, a bizzare spectaculum whereby seemingly sane apes of the species sapiens rally around a flag they were assigned due to sheer geographical coincidence at birth, and huddle in front of their teleprompters to watch 22 select hairdos prance about a pretty lawn. When in Rome do as the Romans do, they say, and, accordingly, we invested a few weeks living by their panem et circenses [bread and games] recipe to keep our underling minds in tune with the societal status quo. Yep you guessed it, I'm not a big football fan. Although it does offer an excuse to have lagers at all the wrong hours. Anyway, enough blathering about one-dimensional man in the age of the society of the spectacle.

Luckily there's always plenty of water around islands, and we got quite a bit of snorkelling done. We never shot anything or anyone with our spearguns, but enjoy ourselves thoroughly we did. Sam patiently drove us around the island to show us all his favourite secret spots, and I got a glimpse of my old favourite, Isla Graciosa, from the Mirador del Rio on the northern cliffs of Lanzarote. We also discoed our backsides off in Playa del Carmen, which must have the highest concentration of Irish bars outside of Dublin. The 'one hour all you can drink' ticket delivered one of the most severe hangovers in the history of the Republic.

Around this time, we were joined by charming Kassie B, a scarily athletic type, who brought cognac and pimms, and inspired myself and Arron "Barry" "Barron" to do some sports. A local friend, Magda, revealed that the island offered yet another secret: dark and moist holes, inaccessible and indeed out of bounds to mere mortal package tourists. Intrigued by this promise, we followed the GPS coordinates and found a large lava cave, which required a bit of semi-challenging rock climbing to access.

Getting down to the end of la Cueva de Siete Lagos took us 45 minutes. We only had one headlamp and a tired iphone LED light to guide us, but find the bottom we did. And moist it was. In fact, there are seven lakes, but by this time we were so concerned with our lecky supply we opted for a quick dip and escape. Any experienced caveperson would have told us off on health and safety grounds, and once the happy survivors got back to the road, the park ranger asked me where we'd been. Luckily he was satisfied with my answer: A little walk. In the park. Which was sort of true.

Next followed a little overnighter to Las Palmas for San Juan. We had a nice following NE 4 and got there in good time. This port is the traditional starting point of many a transatlantic voyage, and is packed with fellow travellers. We befriended Stuart, a liveaboard and documentary filmmaker from Germany/US, and René, a boat gypsy turned local businessman offering cars and rides to and fro the airport. We also encountered some locals, Canarios, who informed us that they are to this day being colonised by 'the Spanish', as people from the peninsula are known around here.

Before too long, the lovely Hanna S turned up with sister Jill B, and we ran into Anna P from Switzerland, who had made her own way to the boat. Team S and Anna quickly turned into part of the furniture on board. Our stay on Gran Canaria climaxed in a silly event called San Juan. Much like Christmas itself, the Christians like to stake an entirely fabricated and of course monopolistic theological-historical claim on it, when in fact its just a plain old pagan midsummer night party. Everybody goes for a swim at midnight, and the girls jumped across the fire seven times, which allegedly means they'll have good sex or something like that - veracity TBC.

We sailed or rather mostly dieseled across to Tenerife in an uneventful 18 or so hour stint with little wind and minor levels of seasickness. Adding insult to injury, the fishies ignored our live, rotting bait. Las Galletas on the southern tip of Tenerife turned out to be a rather charming spot. We spent most of our time shrouded in a rather persistent mist, rendering the surrounding volcanic landscape, well, mystical, for want of a better word. We snorkelled the rocky shoreline, encountering a bizarre type of massive sea slug, and generally enjoyed our holiday.

I never get any time off really, but I thoroughly enjoyed this little vacation from the usual chores. I purchased a couple of kilos of Tuna (Bonito) off a local at the fish market; he non-chalantly ripped the skin off and cleaned the poor beast for our amusement. Anna and Barron climbed Teide - against all odds: I had bet him a sixpack that he wouldn't the night before, since he was so severely inebriated. I also managed to procure another Rolex for my collection. Their Chinese production facility has been yielding wonderful and rather affordable items lately.

The ensuing sushi orgy was followed by a little and only moderately successful henna party. One of the dock workers read my "el futuro es nuestro" out loud and seemed rather pleased with it; an event reminiscent of my fateful borrowing of the obscure Ego and his Own from the philosophy department's library many moons ago, when a passing professor remarked "Stirner, eh?".

Having lost Kassie and Jill B to the so-called real world, we sailed on to La Gomera. A delightful motorsail in light winds with the correct mix of dolphin and pilot whale spotting and a little dabble in nudism turned into a bit of trauma for Hanna, the most junior offshore sailorette on board, when we hit the famous Gomera acceleration zone. I did remember reading something about "extreme winds" around that island, but I considered that old wives tales. After all, the locals say the devil lives somewhere inside Teide. Getting through this mess, however, made nihilist moi feel like the old bugger was certainly lingering somewhere in the area.

We explored beautiful Gomera and its rain forests, which are apparently fed by the moisture of the trade wind clouds getting caught in the mountains. A refreshing bit of green after having lived in or travelled in arid Almería and north Africa for the past months, and also a first taste of the tropics, giving your narrator a bit of fernweh [yearning for distance].

Somewhere up in the mountains we ran into a hermit called Henk, a former Dutch social worker on a mission to clean up a rotting finca. "Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensible, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind", as my second most favourite American in the world, Thoreau, wrote (Walden, "Economy"). Despite living in splendid solitude one of the more tasteful places on this dirtball, he seemed rather pleased to see us and showed us around his pretty abode in the middle of sweet nowhere. No man's an island, they say, and in my opinion the place should really be a proper commune with communards breeding their little Pipi Longstockings.

I'm not quite sure what is so fascinating about moist little holes; Hank pointed us towards an irrigation tunnel as a shortcut to the next valley, and handed us a lamp and a map. We made it to the famous Chorro, normally a waterfall of some 175 metres, now sadly dry following two years without rain. The onboard scientific consensus attributes this to the impending apocalypse. But hey, who needs a climate when you have a lovely air-conditioned mall to sit around and sip frappuccinos in.

One sad day the crew ventured on minus Hanna S, who had evaporated, while I stayed back at the ranch, bereaved, drowning my loss with a few local lagers. That very night the Euroballgame orgasmed when the Spanish delegation won. Judging by their fierce competition with the Italians for the prettiest hairdo and most sincere-looking dives, this wasn't much of a mean feat, but the locals certainly seemed most pleased for their colonial overlords on the pensinsula.

Next I will be travelling to Gran Canaria to change crew, before going back up to Fuerteventura and Lanzarote to meet local friends. I will then attempt to tack up to the elusive Isla Graciosa for a little holiday from my holiday.

Return to Tatooine

What surprises me most about humanity is man. He sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies never having really lived.
Dalai Lama

A long winter of hard work and no play nearly made this humble narrator a dull boy. Barry R turned up a full month early to help bodge the boat up to ocean travel standards. And turn the aft cabin into a fully fledged orgy platform. My local friend Sandra helped redo the name on the stern with a stencil. And we mounted some solar panels. And my neighbour Klaus gave me a lovely rotting rib, which should do us for a season or two. And we had a lot of fun, too. Pamela the South African also came to help, sadly she had to leave again due to Visa issues.

A bout of incessant goodbye partying commenced, which escalated into one particularly vicious and slightly absurd event called the "Goodbye Almeria Not Party"; it got its name since I definitely didn't want to have a goodbye party, even though it turned into one. More crew arrived, and a first attempt to leave Almería against an everlasting Levanter (strong southwesterly, ie wrong direction) was launched. Gale force winds drove us back to base, and more goodbyeing followed. There were even accusations that your narrator's enamoured state was the actual reason for our failure to leave.

Eventually the crew crystallised into a bit of a dream team, consisting of Cody "the botanist" G, Barry "Baz" R, and my old friend and soulmate Mike V. And Ursula of course. The wind changed, and a light Poniente (northeasterly) drove us down to Melilla, our first stop on what was to become a tour of weird European exclaves. We met some fairly pleasing boat gypsies there, including a guy who had built a lovely wooden schooner, or two, as he explained, since the Irish customs took his first one and put him away for half a decade upon discovering a ton of hash in the keel. Frank had just finished his round the world trip and impressed us with his tales from the south seas. Tahitian fertility dances. And so on.

We went on a little daytrip to timidly dip our toes into Morocco. A strange country, where they hide the fairer half of the species away in big, tent-like textiles, with some of them even wearing bizarre ninja outfits. But Morocco had changed since my last visit more than a decade ago, and the textiles are receding a bit here and there. Old habits die hard, however, and the taxi driver clearly preferred negotiating the price with me rather than our local female friends. When he had the cheek to go back on the agreed price just before departure he got a bit of a dressing down courtesy of Louise the Frenchie, I could hardly contain my glee watching this old macho getting the low-down on pricing ethics by a young woman!

As always, we also had plenty of boat fiddling to get through. Noone really knows who came up with Mr. Dolphincam idea. I suspect it may have been the Botanist. Whatever the case may be, we soon bodged together a delightful underwater cam on a stick. Any excuse to get the welder and sergeant angle grinder out. Cody did his first weld, immediately surpassing his teacher in quality and style.. Sigh.

Then we had a little goodbye party, or two, the Poniente showed, and off to Ceuta we went. The dolphins did their usual photogenic thing, and Barry did a superb pan of them prancing about around our bowsprit. Our new, smaller team was proving itself, making cruising the pond seem like a walk in the park. We did Ceuta for a weekend, had a sushi party with some charming locals, had the rest of the sushi for breakfast after getting back from the disco at 0830, and generally did our best to entertain ourselves. We climbed Ceuta's hill and the boys went to visit Gibraltar to round off their tour of weird exclaves. Ceuta has some monkeys too, but there's only three very sad and slightly ill looking ones. Overall, Ceuta seems to be Spain's "me too" on the bizarre territorial claims on foreign soils game.

The next Levanter spat us out far onto the Atlantic, we turned south around 60 nautical miles offshore, and caught northerly winds. Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht [Man plans, God laughs. Yiddish proverb] - but in this case, my plan actually sold and we made it straight to western Morocco, to El Jadida. We anchored right below a 16th(?) century fort, and spent a few days provisioning and exploring Morocco proper. The local custom's person shook us down for whiskey. I let him know I don't drink for religious reasons, bit of an insider joke, and one I got out on various occasions during the Morocco stint.

We got a nikab for the skipper's femme fatale, or his sister Ursula, or perhaps both. Funnily enough, Morocco is moving along swiftly, and this very modest and elegant textile, which has protected women from horny looks for centuries, was actually rather hard to find. In the end, I had to pay an extortionate fee to the local who found it for us. He assured me it came straight from Egypt, land of pyramids, genital mutilation, and, apparently, nikabs. The Henna girls very kindly taught us how to mix it up, and we were all soon covered in the stuff.

We did a swift overnighter to Essaouira, and anchored off the village. This place is heavily tourist infested, I blame Jimmy Hendrix who came here in the 60s, along with Cat Stevens, who allegedly also turned into a nikab admirer following a hefty car crash. We got some legendary Obi Wan outfits, and bid our Botanist farewell. An expedition without a Botanist is something deeply wrong, and, adding insult to injury, there was some trepidation over our next leg to the Canaries: 270 nautical miles entailing 2 or 3 days with just 2 lonesome sailors.

The say risk-free living is a slow death, and our walk in the park to Lanzarote was hindered by the fact that the park reared its ugly head and tried to swallow us. Well, I exaggerate slightly, the gale force wind on our stern quarter was actually rather pleasant to sail. Especially once we'd pumped out the water from the forecastle. It also fired monster down to Lanzarote like a bucking bronco on cheap amphetamine.

We got to Lanzarote in just 40 hours of 2 hours on 2 hours off watches, and commenced docking lager celebrations immediately. The safest place in the world is under mum's bed, but I gather it's also pretty boring down there. And the euphoria of not sleeping for days and celebrating in obi wan costumes is something deeply special. Decision was taken to take the rest of the summer off to explore the islands and get some serious snorkelling done.

Crossing Mar de Alboran to Melilla

Yes I am a pirate,
two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder,
there’s nothin’ to plunder

Jimmy Buffet - A Pirate Looks At Fourty

Playing around with the kite cam - best toy of the season no doubt :)