The Minimalist Sailor

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Rowing in the snow

Rowing in the snow.

It’s after midnight and I’m rowing in snow that is trying to be rain. It really is the worst state of snow as it is undecided, makes you wet, and cold to the bone.

Eleanor’s light is behind me and every 30 strokes or so I turn around to check and make sure I’m rowing in the right direction, the strong current in the Hudson likes to play tricks on me and send me off on wild tangents.

I’m wearing my sneakers, I didn’t think it would be wet but it is. My feet are sloshing in the nearly frozen 6″ of dinghy water. I wonder why my feet aren’t colder and I realize I’m acclimating to the cold weather, or perhaps it’s the 6 pints of Sierra-Nevada keeping me warm? My stress has been so high, I had to put a turn on the tap at a local pub tonight. It was either getting drunk or crying. I understand why people drink to cope with stress. It’s no solution to the problem of the stress, but it does act like a band aid. I know once I’m under way, and I make southing, my stress will melt like a spring frost.

This project has really tested my abilities as a sailor and I haven’t even raised a sail, or felt the jib-sheet ease through my palm on a mild day.

I pause rowing to enjoy the calm and illusive stillness of the Hudson, it’s unusual. Eleanor’s light calls me, but I feel so far-away from home, so much further than the 200 yards I have to row in the snow.

I feel so far away from the fish on the reef, the touch of my wife’s hand, and the warm breeze. I so wish I could lay in my hammock gazing at the sky, but the bite of the night air forces me into the boat, and close-proximity of the heater.

I realize that in the last 8 weeks I’ve done a bottom job, installed a through-hull, built a battery box, and installed a new house bank, starting bank, and windlass batteries. I’ve installed new manual and electric bilge pumps, a cutlass bearing, pulled, cleaned, and re-packed the stuffing box. Pulled the engine from the boat, had it rebuilt, and reinstalled it after disconnecting the steering and pulling up the cockpit soul. Worked with my mechanic designing and building a new exhaust system with Cintek muffler, and redesigning all the plumbing to accommodate the new exhaust manifold/heat exchanger/coolant tank. Bought and lashed a 125 gallon fuel bladder to the deck. Bought a 50 gallon day tank, plumbed it, and lashed it to to the deck. Removed the head and installed a new one. Bought and installed a new racor filter. Installed a fresh water pump. Bought, restored, and lost a nice rowing dinghy to a 75 knot nor’easter. Broke both of my forward hawse-pipes in the storm, and bent my stainless bow roller forty-five degrees, not to mention experiencing the worst weather of my sailing career. Rebuilt my windlass and manufactured a new chain stripper. Installed a new foot switch and solenoid for the windlass. Installed new navigation lights, and Installed my VHF, and SSB radios.

Why do I work so hard? Why am I always broke, and now freezing in a wet dinghy rowing in the snow, so very far away from home?

Freedom!

I do it and forgo modern comfort, because I want to be disconnected from the system. I want to travel, sail, grow old, and die with a hole in my pocket, a smile on my face, and Love in my heart.

I find the energy to continue my wet row home. I tie off Halyna (The trinka), I kick over the heater, strip my wet socks, and get into two sleeping bags.

I am a classic introvert and contemplate my existence with every spare moment.

I am an addict when it comes to freedom, and a soldier in the fight against the system. My keyboard is my weapon, as is my life-style. The matrix is my enemy, as is the signal that instills fear into the hearts of my brothers who can’t find the will to live their dreams.

I worked very hard in the engine room all day yesterday. My jeans were dirty and I was wearing a black wool cap, and the ragged $8 wool coat I got at the Good Will store.

I walked down the street for a bite to eat and was passed by a police car that slowed, gave me the evil eye, and the once over. They had side-scanners gathering data from all the license plates they passed. The moment felt like a scene out of Blade Runner or The Matrix. I felt hunted. I bite my tongue when what I really want to do is throw a rock through their window, which, by the way, is exactly what I did when I was 14 in Somerville NJ. I really did put my poor mother and grandparents through hell when I was a kid. They said I was a “difficult” child, but all I wanted was to be left alone. And it’s still what I want, freedom to be who I am, and treated with decency and respect.

This is why I’m throwing a small digital hand grenade today, I’m offended.

The only way we can win the war against the system is to demand our freedom. To turn off the television, to embrace republicans and democrats alike, and to love all human beings regardless of their passports. The world is not the scary, over-sensationalized place the idiot-box makes it out to be.

I am an anarchist. I believe in my bones that I should have the right to govern myself. And the international sailing community is an anarchist society.

It’s up to us to find immigration when we enter a country. Sure we need to obey the local laws of whatever country we are in, but the nice thing is if we don’t like them we leave. That’s what I love so much about living with the Indians in San Blas, I’m just left alone to be a human being, to fish, to love, and live in peace.

Every step I walk here I’m afraid I will be extracted of another dollar. You can’t even park your car for free in the street. Glad I don’t have to deal with all that is involved with owning a car, or a house for that matter.

Sailboats are freedom! Yes… sometimes the wind blows too hard, sometimes I’m freezing cold and uncomfortable and have to walk or row long distances but freedom man, that’s what I’m all about!

I know why I’m so uncomfortable in the United States. Here I’m categorized as “indigent”, and “transient” because I choose to live debt free, and on the hook. My net worth and credit score make me sub-human and not worthy of having health care, or respect from passing police cars.

In Panama I’m the rich guy with my plate overflowing with friends, love, and family. BIG difference!

Today is the day we put fuel, water, and air to the Diesel engine along with a 12v charge to the starter. Hopefully the atomized diesel will combust under the compression of the pistons and turn Eleanor’s propellor granting me the freedom to sail away to warmer and more peaceful latitudes.

Funny thing about the motor. I’ll have it perfect, only to use it as little as humanly possible. I don’t like running the iron jib, but it is my insurance, and need to be able to depend on it when I need it.

The motor started right up. I have been working with my friend Darryl from New Zealand every day from sun up, to sun down. There has been so much custom fabrication because I moved over to this European exhaust manifold/heat exchanger/coolant tank. If I had to do it again I would have looked much harder for a standard exhaust manifold. In the end however I have a very modern Perkins 4.236.

I have a crew member arriving on Monday. I need to button up a few things and install the autopilot, and I hope to be off on Wednesday morning, Thursday at the latest.

The last months have been incredibly taxing. I’m not used to this kind of stress, being in such a foreign place, and away from Carla. It’s all worth it, and I know it was the right thing to do, but it’s time to go.

Tomorrow I’m going to run the engine hard and try to seat the rings and make sure all the systems are performing satisfactorily.

Well I just took Eleanor out for the first time. I ran her up to temperature and scooted along at about 7 knots. She feels smooth and powerful.

My crew member leaves around the end of the month If anyone wants to join me for a spell let me know.

On to new horizons :)

Sail far and live slowly.

-alex

Updated: November 16, 2014 — 19:39

10 Comments

  1. Hi Alex- I had all these thoughts going through my head as I read this, and wanted to say so much. But in the end, all I need to say is thank you. Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration for me. So you are thinking you need crew in about a month from now? I will have to try and see what I can do to make it to the east coast. You have been such an inspiration to me I really want to get some face time and learn first hand.

    1. Jason,

      Thank you for the kind words. Let’s talk if you want to travel with me a bit.

      I’m so looking forward to being back on the hook and free again.

  2. I´m very proud of being your friend. I hope we will meet very soon and listen to the whole NY story! It´s for sure this will be one of the most important chapter of your future book!

    1. Rudi,

      You are much more than my friend, you are family, and a man I have a lot of respect for. I love that you have dedicated your life to the love of opera. Your a genuinely good man an have done a magnificent job in raising my wife, for that, I owe you so much!

      I’m really looking forward to our time during Christmas.

  3. Keep the faith

  4. I often wondered why the elder people in my life, mentors, had a smirk on their face during my times of trouble and stress. It used to really piss me off. Not sure who came up with the rules of life, but these changing times events have grown my roots. Life fair? Not really. It is a matter of survival eh. I have learned to just ignore the system man, it’s not for me either. I can’t fight it, it’s a bully. Turning 180 and going down my road of peace fits me. Hope to meet up one day. Ur an inspiration.

  5. I swear Alex, it seems like you prefer working on sailboats more than sailing. :-D Anyway, it’s too bad your trip south won’t bring you Biloxi-way. Still, I hope to catch up with you one day. Yep, one day, in my yet-unrestored boat, to shake hands with a friend I’ve never met in person. It’s on my list. B safe.

  6. Alex, will you be coming through Marathon this time like you did with Namaste? Love to buy you a drink if you do.

  7. You’ll be fine. Times like these remind you of why you have chosen the path you are currently on.

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