EXTRACTS FROM THE ONLINE BOOK OF A.J. WANDERLUST - GYPSY CHRONICLES
SNAPSHOTS – Of course I do not want to give away the adventure and tales of travel and seamanship that are to come in the online book, but I do want to give you enough of a teaser to tempt you to join the virtual crew of A.J. Wanderlust on its world cruise!!! Read on for a taste of the adventure to come….. July 2006 – I feel lightheaded and nauseous, but it has nothing to do with the stifling mid-summer Florida heat.I suddenly realize the consequences of what I have done while squeezed into the head (marine toilet) of a sailboat called “Marola.”Dan, the carefree broker, rattles on regarding the boat’s features; he does not notice I am about to be ill and look visibly pained.I put on a brave face and try to ask intelligent questions, same as I have done from my desk in Brazil for the past several weeks.I am nearly ready to scream “game up” – but shutter at the thought of not succeeding, of not going through with any decision I have made, no matter how crazy.But this choice was bloody insane!With little aforethought, to abandon a lucrative career nearing partnership, to buy sailboat over the internet, and all these actions with only a non-descript plan to sail off into the sunset.For God’s sake, I do not even know how to sail! September 25, 2006 – My 37th birthday.I awake to the warm sun and slight breeze of an anchorage in St. George’s, Bermuda.My senses are too much on overload to take in all that is the pastel buildings ashore and the smell of salt air.I ride a scooter for the first time, and also crash a scooter for the first time.Denny and I form a curiosity to the mass of cruise ship passengers who swarm the port during daylight hours.They look bewildered and amazed when we point to the 45 foot sailboat bobbing gently in the anchorage and explain that is how we arrived to this lovely island; quite apart from the several hundred foot long behemoth ship that steamed them here in just an overnight passage.If only there were time or interest enough for us to try and explain the wonderful sail that we had to reach this place.
November 2006 – After nearly three months separation, my beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, Jackson joins the crew of “A.J. Wanderlust.”Big, lumbering 120 pound dogs are not natural sailors.Denny and Jackson initiate a territorial war. New Year’s Day 2007 -My Mom, the great supporter of this venture and all my hopes and dreams in life, is in Gibraltar for Christmas holidays.After a car tour of Spain, it is the moment of truth.For the first time, I take “A.J. Wanderlust” out on my own, as Captain of my ship.No more stunning backdrop could be asked for than the famous Rock of Gibraltar.
February 2007 – It is pitch black for our 2 am arrival into the charming village of Alghero on the island of Sardinia.We tie the lines to an old cement quay and Jackson’s excitement and enthusiasm for a walk suddenly turns into a crisis – DOG overboard! March 2007 – Motoring past the old city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia is like stepping back a few hundred years in time.I consider myself a well traveled individual, but these medieval appearing fortress walls are a stunning sight.I train my camera lens, knowing that any shot will fail to show their true splendor.I imagine what an impression that these walls must have given to friendly or hostile visitors approaching from the Adriatic Sea many years ago.I hold my breath with anticipation to see what is within these walls.What will be the effect of the many years of war on the people within?
May 2007 - I have carried my businesslike attitude into sailing, push and strive to accomplish the goal and maintain the schedule despite any external force.Mother Nature continues to teach me brutal lessons by bashing “A.J. Wanderlust” and her short-handed crew.Out here – in the vastness of blue seas and endless oceans – there are no schedules, just intentions and loose plans of direction.The quote “Oh Lord, your sea is so vast and my boat is so small” comes to mind often as we beat against wind and waves in a self-imposed race to the Canary Islands. June 2007 – Three hundred miles offshore and settling into the daily routine of an offshore passage, when a most extraordinary image comes over the horizon of waves.Denny catches the first glimpse and I cannot believe my eyes as I raise my binoculars to behold an approximate 30 foot open boat overloaded with what appear to be refugees.Worse yet, the boat is listing badly to port.Approaching nearer there is a man waving a red handkerchief signaling distress.The skiff comes closer and I am able to see distinctly the face of a woman wearing a purple scarf over her head, her eyes are hollow and resigned.Her expression indicates that she just wants this voyage to be over, dead or alive.
August 2007 – The Caribbean in summer, I believe I may melt.Jackson is a permanent fixture in the shade or down below in the cabin where the boat’s air conditioner strives mightily to keep pace.The region boasts steady trade winds and sailing is pure joy here.Sailing also creates enough breeze to make the hot days pleasant.Fruity and frozen drinks ashore, assist in keeping temperatures and tempers cool.As we move north up the Caribbean chain, it is always with a wary eye to the weatherfax.It is, after all, hurricane season.Now in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it appears our luck may have run out.The local newspaper’s front page projects the track for the category 5 hurricane to come right over us.We are in a mad race to find appropriate moorage to save the boat and ourselves from a bashing. September 2007 – The Atlantic side of the Panama Canal and a time for meaningful transition.Although it will not impact day to day operations much for the passage through the canal, Denny and I have decided this is the official turn-over location, from here forth, I will be the Captain of “A.J. Wanderlust.”The feeling of accomplishment, achievement and pride is significant as I come through the Flats anchorage at Colon.All my positive feelings are, however, somewhat guarded as I will also pick up volunteer crew here in Panama; they are flying in from the east coast of the US (New Jersey) and west coast (Vancouver)of Canada.Denny will leave the boat to return to Seattle and family, and I will captain her to points further west in the Pacific Ocean. November 2007 – The loneliest and most desperate feeling in the world – 2000 nautical miles from Panama and 2500 nautical miles from Hawaii.Smoke in the engine compartment – FIRE!I ping the radar and see no blips – we are alone.At least within the 64 miles that my radar can see, there is no other ship.There is no 911 to call and we are well and clear out of rescue range for aircraft.“A.J. Wanderlust” is our life pod and we must save her to save ourselves.I tell myself, “you are the Captain, you are not allowed to be frightened, only mildly concerned.”Of course, this disaster occurs near midnight and everything seems eerie and overwhelming in the dark of night. December 25, 2007 – Christmas in Hawaii, on the island of Maui.As desperate as I was to see land during the long, windless, days adrift on the Pacific Ocean, I am once again that desperate to return to sea.Sitting on the guest dock at Lahina Harbor, a spot assigned to me as a distressed vessel unable to withstand the rolling waves that charter boats frequently send through the anchorage.My eyes follow each boat leaving the harbor and putting to sea, if even for a few hours.I long to be “out there”, to feel the motion of the boat, be it tame or abrupt and unsettling; to tighten the muscles in my legs as my feet grip a cavorting deck.Here on the dock I am too safe, land is too close, the smells are all wrong.Jackson remains content with land long after I am ready to again sail off into the sunset.But that cannot happen until “A.J. Wanderlust” has some much needed repairs completed.It seems as well that Jackson will need a major surgery, and I am scared for my beloved furry friend as he ages.
June 2008 – The breeze from the north has been perfect for a spinnaker run from Port Townsend to Seattle, my first sail down Puget Sound.I gaze up at the sea of blue, yellow and red sailcloth.I cannot believe that in a few short hours, I will find my newly assigned permanent slip in Shilshole Bay Marina.I busy myself with stringing together the flags of the various countries we have visited in the past 22 months.Have I really sailed halfway around the world?Crossed four oceans?Survived and persevered through several other harrowing experiences?Perhaps the most frightening realization is that I am not the person I left as, and that is perfectly okay with me.But how will the new me integrate back into the real world, a life that is not dictated by the 45 feet of deck space immediately surrounding me.