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Part I - Castellorizon 

I got back from the sailing trip last night.  It feels good to be back in the real world to about the same degree it feels lousy to be out of paradise.  I’ll recount the events of the trip in detail before going into what I believe I’ve taken from it, which I won’t know fully anyway for several days if not weeks or even over the course of my lifetime.

The trip down was uneventful and rather pleasant, as I had a nice window seat for each leg of the journey and was able to thoroughly enjoy some Dave Gilmour music while looking down on the clouds and the ocean below.  We had a short changeover in San Juan, Puerto Rico, then a long line for customs when we got to Antigua.  There was a small problem at the baggage claim when my luggage didn’t come out, and we had to report it as missing.  If the airline loses your luggage, it becomes their responsibility to track it down and get it to you as quickly as possible, so I wasn’t worried at all.  All I needed was a bathing suit, and my dad had packed one in his carry-on bag in case of this very contingency. 

The cab ride to the Jolly Harbour marina was an interesting experience, as it was all the way on the other side of the island so we got a good glimpse of actual life on the island, which we wouldn’t see by sailing around and stopping only at the tourism-geared locations on the shore.  Antigua used to be part of the British Empire, so they drive on the left side of the road and all the signs are in English, but the Antiguans themselves speak in either a heavy accent (which an ignorant American would probably call “Jamaican”) to tourists or in their own bastardised form of English (called “Pelican English”) to each other which is almost impossible to understand.  The cab driver was constantly honking his horn and shouting in Pelican to people in other cars or on the side of the road, apparently recognising a good proportion of the people there.  I’m not sure of the island’s exact dimensions—somewhere between 50 and 100 square miles probably—with 80,000 residents.  The houses and shops were all wooden, run-down looking shacks that looked like they didn’t have electricity or running water, which may very well be the case but I don’t know for sure.  At any rate, this was the closest to a third-world-like environment that I’ve ever actually been in. 

We arrived at the marina in Jolly Harbour, which is one of the biggest harbours on the island with maybe about 50 boats docked.  Horizon Yacht Charter, which is where we got the boat from, has only a small office there and 5 boats.  Ours was a 43-footer called Redwood.  When we got into the office, there was a British lady behind the counter named Jackie, who said “You must be the Michelsens” as soon as we walked in.  At this point it was just me, my dad, and his long-time friend John Flynn, who is another guy in his mid-fifties with white hair, a short beard, very tall but with a big gut, and a propensity to crack a joke about just about everything but the jokes were usually funny.  Definitely the most fun guy on the trip.  The other two members of our party, my dad’s brother Gerry and his friend Rob (who actually graduated from Voorhees high school 25 years ago before moving to Denver) who is a bit younger and clean shaven but the largest guy on the trip, were taking a later flight and wouldn’t get there until around 11 p.m. 

So as soon as we got in Jackie told us she had gotten a call from the airport (because we gave the luggage people the number for her office) and they would not deliver my bag because it was on the plane.  All of a sudden the stupid luggage was an issue, because now we would either have to go back there to get it—which of course none of us wanted to do—or pay a cab driver 80 bucks to go and get it for us.  The third option was to have Gerry and Rob pick it up when they came in at night, which I’ll just say now is what happened rather than go into all the stupid trivial details about how that eventually came to pass.  It was a lot of bullshit, but I did have my bag the next day and there were no lasting consequences. 

Jackie showed us to our boat and we got on board.  I changed into the bathing suit my dad had brought while the others did the same, and a few minutes later we met Eugene.  As I said, Horizon is a very small company with only 5 boats (or at least only 5 in that harbour because for all I know they’ve got locations all over the Caribbean) and the place was run by Jackie and a British guy named Allen who was probably her husband, though this didn’t occur to us until the very last day.  The only other full-time worker there was Eugene, a middle-aged black man native to the island but whom we later found out spent half his time down there and the other half in New York City where his daughters, both U.S. citizens, live permanently. 

Eugene was a nice, soft-spoken guy with a good but very mild sense of humour, and he took us through our “boat-briefing” which is basically going down the check-list of everything on board and a brief demonstration of how the navigation system worked.  Before leaving we would also have to have Allen give us a “chart-briefing” which involved maps and explanations of where we could and couldn’t go and what was worth seeing, but by the time the boat-briefing was over we were ready for a drink, and Eugene pointed us in the direction of the nearest bar, which was a nice place on the deck of the harbour with picnic tables and shaded with strung-up sails from old boats. 

On the cab ride over I’d seen a few bill-boards (there were a lot of them) for Wadadli, the local beer, so I decided to try one.  The bartendress, an excruciatingly beautiful young girl with long wavy red hair, magnificent green eyes, and the cutest fucking smile, offered us Wadadli Gold, which we found out while drinking was actually brewed in Holland or some European country and imported there.  It was decent, but the next time I got a regular Wadadli, which was much better, though having been spoiled by German beer for so long I knew not to expect anything great.  The cheapest beer on the island is called Carib, which is like a Caribbean version of Corona and is as prevalent in that sea as Coors is in the U.S., and that’s what we would be drinking most of the time. 

While we were drinking and the sun was setting over the harbour (which we couldn’t see because it was overcast that day but only that day) a big guy with curly blonde hair started talking to us, I guess because he heard people with American accents and he doesn’t see many Americans, and he turned out to be somewhat interesting.  His job is to be on call for a rich guy who owns a boat down there but doesn’t know how to sail it.  This guy, Andrew, just lived on the boat and took him out whenever he came down.  I couldn’t imagine a sweeter fucking job, and of course the wheels in my head began to turn: what if I take sailing lessons and get really good, then just do what Andrew does and live in fucking paradise?  He must get paid well enough because he has a boat of his own.  As of now it’s not something I’m seriously considering, but I certainly haven’t ruled it out either. 

Several beers later we had worked up an appetite and had dinner at Peter’s Piano Bar and Steakhouse, which was about a 30-second walk from the bar where we were sitting.  The staff was made up entirely of young Antiguan women, but all the grilling was done by this fat old white guy who looked mildly retarded but according to the meat-eaters at my table knew how to grill.  He wasn’t in a kitchen but right out on the patio so we were able to watch him cook the whole time.  He was extremely weird, and we think he was talking to himself (or talking to the meat) but he clearly knew what he was doing and for the rest of the trip we referred to him as “the savant.” 

I finished my small meal with some dessert and a pina colada, which light-weight that I am just about completely knocked me out.  I left them at the restaurant and stumbled back to the boat where I promptly passed out.  I woke up briefly a few hours later when Gerry and Rob got on board, and they had apparently done some serious drinking already because they were quite drunk at the time.  I said hello, mumbled a question about whether the head was working, and was told to just piss off the side of the boat.  Once my bladder was empty, I went back down to my cabin and passed out again. 

I forgot to actually describe the boat.  The upstairs deck was dominated by a narrow plastic bin which had an opening that could be used as a cooler, but because we had a cooler of our own we just used it to store random crap.  The bin had arms which folded out on either side to make a table.  There was a “bench” on either side of the bin, each long enough to fit three or four people uncomfortably but we rarely had more than two on a side.  The wheel was attached to a GPS navigation system towards the rear of the boat, which dropped off in a little platform from which you could sit and put snorkelling gear on and just drop right into the water, but which also served as a convenient place to stand and piss off the back of the boat, which is where most of the pissing was done.

Below deck was a nice big area with a table surrounded by a cushioned bench in the front right (starboard) quarter, which would probably be the best place to eat in colder climates.  It was usually pretty stuffy down there so most time was spent above-deck.  There were two cabins in the back with just a mattress (cut to fit the odd shape of the cabin but still bigger than my twin-bed mattress at home) on a platform and a little bit of space between that and the door where I kept my bag the whole time.  There was also a cabin in the far front and a very small cabin with two bunk beds to the side of that.  There was one tiny head next to the front cabin, and another, somewhat larger head which also had a little shower stall on the rear port side.  There were enough beds for everyone, but Gerry and Rob slept on deck every night so none of us took the bunks and we all had the nice big cabins all to ourselves.  Mine was on the rear starboard side, close enough to the head but not right next to it so I wouldn’t have to hear and smell all that shitting in the morning.  The toilet operates by pump, which seems kind of nasty at first but you get used to it very quickly.  Pissing involves just pissing and pumping out, but to shit you have to pump water in, do your business, then flick a switch and pump it out.  You’d usually have to pump more water in and out before it was completely flushed.  There was a tiny little air freshener in there, and I was shocked to find throughout the trip that it didn’t really smell that bad. 

Okay, so I think all the trivial little things explaining what it’s like to live on a boat have been sufficiently explained, and I can get started with describing the actual trip.

The following morning we had our chart briefing with Allen, and we learned that about a third of the island was actually off-limits to us, so we wouldn’t be able to sail completely around the island unless we went way out on the northeast side.  Yacht chartering companies don’t let you take the boat to places with a lot of shallow corral reefs because they’re hard to navigate and you can easily fuck up the boat.  Of course you can sail there but if you do fuck up the boat you have to buy it, and that’s half a million dollars of money you don’t have gone in a split second.  So we obviously weren’t going to chance it.  But Allen pointed out all the places of interest on the island where we could go, a couple of harbours to the north of Jolly (which is about halfway up the west coast) and a couple on the southeastern side.  This wasn’t nearly as much as we had thought there would be, because these guys are used to sailing the British Virgin Islands, which has several islands and several harbours per island making for more than you can actually see in a week.  We had more than enough days to see every harbour and even repeat a few, which we ended up doing. 

But the chart-briefing is where I learned about Barbuda, another island about 30 miles dead north of Antigua which Allen said was about a 4 or 5 hour sail.  Barbuda is the same size as Antigua, but unlike Antigua which has 80,000 people, Barbuda has only 1500, and almost no tourism industry to speak of.  Because there were no bars or restaurants, Gerry wasn’t very interested, but the way Allen talked about these miles of deserted beaches and turquoise waters, I knew that was at the top of my list of where to go. 

Part II - Holiday 

We finally got out of the harbour at noon, and because half the day was gone already we decided to sail north to Dickenson bay and to go up to Barbuda the next day.  We had to motor out of Jolly Habour which took a good half hour, but once we finally made it to the open water and put out those sails, I was finally reminded of why I wanted to go on this trip so much.  There is no feeling quite like letting the wind blow you across the sea, riding the waves while your body is wrapped in a warm breeze.  It was a beautiful day in the mid-80s with blue skies filled with fluffy clouds, and it felt absolutely spectacular.  Sadly though, almost nothing that came afterwards could live up to that initial high, the first few hours of being out on the water and the same feeling I felt six years ago come flooding back to me.  We cracked open the beers and I put on Rick Wright’s Wet Dream, letting it cycle through a couple of times as we just sat and let the amazing feeling sink in. 

There wasn’t much talking during sailing, but the silences were never awkward because conversation is not really the idea, and to be bored while you’re out on the waves is almost as impossible as being bored on a roller coaster, or more accurately while listening to “Comfortably Numb”.  You are right where you want to be, your mind wanders aimlessly but you are as much in the present moment as it is possible to be.  Even when the mind drifts towards more depressing thoughts, as it invariably does, your body and soul still feel great so it doesn’t matter.  I found that you just have to tell your brain to shut the fuck up every few minutes and just enjoy what’s happening.  Sailing is food for the spirit—not for the mind.  Thinking too hard about anything will ruin it, but luckily the waves and the breeze prevent your from doing that.  Thinking while sailing is an entirely different process than thinking on land, and it took me a few days to realise this but I think it’s because while sailing you are in a state of constant motion.  On land you sit still and think and consider different ideas and work towards reaching some sort of conclusion, but on the water thoughts are as fluid as the sea, drifting in and out without ever sticking around long enough to bother you, or to allow you to analyse anything.  Unless you really concentrate, which I did a few times when I thought I was on to something, you’re not going to discover anything.  Most of the revelations that came to me—and there were several—just kind of drifted in out of nowhere, a couple of neurons that would never have fired at each other suddenly came together and BAM you’re in that Enigmal state having just understood something that you had never understood before but which should have been completely obvious your entire life. 

All of the thoughts in the previous paragraph are thoughts that came to me while sailing, but certainly not all at once and this is the first time I’ve put it all together.  As a thinker I found I couldn’t resist trying to analyse the effect of sailing on my thought processes, though this analysis only came through—and there’s no better way to put this—in waves.

It was an excellent sail that day but it only lasted 2 hours and then we were in Dickenson bay on the northwest corner of the island.  There was only one other sailboat anchored there, which was in sharp contrast to the harbours in the British Virgin Islands where you’d never see less than a dozen boats in a bay.  It wasn’t much of a “bay” per say because the shore was pretty straight and the water was quite open, but that was nice because the waves are stronger than in an enclosed space, and even when you’re anchored you get that feeling of constant motion, an extremely relaxing gentle rocking back and forth that goes on all day and night. 

Gerry had put on a Simon and Garfunkel CD, perfect for the relaxed mood we were in, and we sat and drank some more beer, getting more talkative now that we were no longer sailing.  We jumped in the beautifully warm water and swam for awhile, then went back on the boat to dry off and drink more.  I stuck to light beer and not much of it, but the rest of them had cocktails.  Gerry is a functioning alcoholic, and he had been drinking since he woke up that morning, starting with beer but eventually drinking Scotch straight out of the bottle.  By the time the sun went down he was passed out on the deck.  The rest of us went to shore for dinner, then we came back and went to sleep. 

Part III - Along The Shoreline 

I woke up the next morning ready for a nice long sail to Barbuda, then a long afternoon on empty beaches.  The beach in Dickenson Bay was dominated by a Sandals resort, one of these loud obnoxious places with live entertainment at night that could be heard all the way out on the water as loudly as the Mexicans who used to live around me in Santa Barbara.  Of course you can’t get quite as aggravated out on the gently rocking sea as you can in a tiny little motionless box on land, but I still longed for some peace and quiet. 

We got the motor stared, battened down the hatches, and were all ready to go, but fate had a different plan.  Gerry and Rob couldn’t get the anchor up.  This is not a rare problem with sailboats, as anchors will occasionally get wedged into something really tight and the reel won’t be able to bring it in on its own.  But quite anxious to get going, I threw on my snorkelling gear and jumped into the water for what I liked to think of as an EVA.  Apparently not trusting my ability to get the job done, Rob put on his gear and did the same.  I found the anchor line and pulled myself down, thinking I could hold my breath for a lot longer than was actually the case.  I saw the chain cutting into a slab of solid concrete, but the anchor itself was nowhere to be seen, apparently wedged underneath the slab.  I found I badly needed air after only a few seconds down there (alas, too much smoking since the last time I’ve been in the water) so I quickly came back to the surface.  Rob went down and confirmed that yes, it was in there pretty damn good.  We each went back down and tugged on the chain but it wouldn’t give an inch.  My dad, who was steering the boat, tried to motor it so that the weight of the boat itself would pull it out, but this did nothing either.  Sensing that the trip to Barbuda was slipping away from me, I went down one last time, out of breath already by the time I got down there but still somehow managing to press my fins against the slab and pull on the chain as hard as I could, but it was to no avail.  That anchor was stuck, and so were we. 

What was this slab of concrete, you ask?  The foundation of a mooring that was apparently no longer in use.  Moorings are little buoys with ropes on them, which you can tie to your boat in order to prevent yourself from drifting.  Most harbours have moorings and they charge you a small fee to use them so you don’t have to anchor.  Why wouldn’t you just anchor and save yourself the money?  I think that’s pretty obvious. 

I got back on the boat and we were all feeling pretty disappointed.  My dad called the Horizon office but there was nobody there so he just left a message.  Things don’t get done very quickly down in the islands, and we all pretty much knew that we wouldn’t be going anywhere that day.  We all cracked open a beer and decided we just had to make the best of it. 

It wasn’t even noon yet, and that beer was the nastiest thing I’ve ever drank.  I struggled to finish it and by the time I was done I found I had no energy at all.  All that swimming and tugging at the anchor chain had drained me of all my energy and the beer just topped it off, so I went below deck to try and take a nap.  While I was down there the others decided to go on shore to drink at the many bars they had there, but I wasn’t moving so I wished them well and stayed on board. 

A surprisingly short time afterwards, I heard people walking around above deck.  I looked out and saw that Eugene had already arrived with a helper, another native Antiguan, much younger, who I think was named Dion.  I went above deck and watched them do their thing, which was pretty much what we’d already done: snorkelling and trying to pull the chain, and motoring the boat to try and drag it out.  Eugene acknowledged that it was stuck in there really good and we were just really unfortunate to have dropped anchor in what must have been the worst possible place in the bay.  Eugene and Dion then left to get some scuba gear, and I put on some Reggae music (Dub Side of the Moon) and relaxed above deck. 

Incidentally, each boat comes equipped with a dingy, which is just a little raft with a motor which is how you get to and from shore.  Eugene and Dion had apparently driven to Dickenson from Jolly Harbour, found the rest of my party at a bar on shore, and taken our own dingy back to the boat.  With no dingy I was more or less stranded on board, not that I knew how to work the motor anyway. 

They came back and I watched Dion put on the scuba gear and dive down there.  He came up a few minutes later, still with no success.  So they decided to switch that anchor with the spare anchor that we had apparently had in the storage bins under the benches the entire time.  I was kind of pissed off that we hadn’t just switched the anchor ourselves that morning and gotten on our way, but I guess if we had simply abandoned our original anchor we would have had to pay for it.  This way they would tie the original anchor to an empty container which would float and serve as a marker for where it was, then come back and retrieve it with more heavy-duty equipment. 

We had no such empty container, however, so Eugene sent Dion back to shore to grab something.  This left me on board alone with Eugene for a few minutes, which turned out to be an opportunity that would never have come about if our anchor hadn’t gotten stuck.  I was just casually talking to him most of the time about Antigua and the climate and the nature, asking questions like whether the palm trees were native or if they’d all been planted like they were in southern California.  Apparently they’re native to Africa but were brought to the Caribbean a long time ago and now a bunch just grow “naturally” all over the place. 

The previous day after our boat-briefing when we offered Eugene a beer, he declined because he didn’t drink at all.  So I brought up how I don’t usually drink and how I couldn’t keep up with the guys I was with, who were all now getting wasted on shore.  I told him I usually just smoked marijuana, and he told me he drank marijuana tea every night to relax before going to sleep.  He also told me some funny stories about when he was a kid and he and a friend of his planted some seeds just to sea what would happen and ended up with about five huge plants that they just gave to someone who knew what to do with them.  I said I’d be trying to find some but I figured it wasn’t safe to go up to the natives and ask to buy drugs, but he laughed this off and said that I could go up to any black man on the beach and get weed.  There were a lot of them on this particular beach.  I resolved in my head to try. 

Once Dion returned and the anchors were switched, the two got ready to leave and I asked them for a dingy ride to shore.  They gave me one, and by another stroke of fortune Dion had forgotten his clothes back on board, leaving me and Eugene on the beach while he went back to get them.  I didn’t say a word, but Eugene walked right up to the first black guy we saw and said something in Pelican to him which I completely understood without knowing a single word.  That black guy went to the beach bar right behind us and called to another black guy in a Rastafarian hat who was playing pool, and the next thing I know he was offering to sell me a quarter ounce of grass.  I tried to tell him I didn’t need that much but he insisted, then left to go get it and come show it to me. 

Eugene pointed out where the rest of my party was—which just happened to be at the same bar—and said goodbye.  I thanked him and he left, then I stood out there on the beach awkwardly waiting for the Rastafarian to show up with my ganga.  But before that happened my dad spotted me from the beach bar (which was in the shade but still had only a rear wall and wooden pillars to hold it up) and called me over.  All of them were already quite drunk, having had about 5 cocktails so far.  It was Gerry’s 60th birthday, and he was quite amusingly coming on to a fat, middle-aged woman at the bar who was there with her other fat, middle-aged friend whom he was also coming on to but who wasn’t nearly as nice about it as the first one. 

I answered their questions about the anchor and told them they just switched it out and would get us a replacement anchor tomorrow if we called.  I also told my dad about how Eugene talked to someone about selling me weed, and how I was currently waiting for the guy to come back.  I thought I saw him right there at the pool table, but I didn’t get a good look at him the first time and for all I knew the guy playing pool was a totally different black guy in a Rastafarian hat.  I wasn’t worried though, because I could just go up to another black guy and ask for weed if the first guy never came back. 

But they insisted on getting me a drink, so I ordered a Wadadli from the really cute, skinny, jet-black bartender, who was impressed that out of everyone there I was the first one to pronounce it correctly.  I later found out her name was Yuon (or Yuanne, or Euwahn, I have no idea), and she was laughing at Gerry and the other drunken assholes at her bar the whole time.  She was shocked that I was a part of the same group, as was the fat lady Gerry was working his game on.  She took an interest in me later on and I found out her name is Joy and she has a time-share on the island and she’s here with her rich friend who is starting to piss her off because she won’t do anything for herself and so on and on.  There was also a very heavy black woman sitting next to me who I thought was Antiguan but was actually from England and had only gotten that black from being in the sun for so long.  I hadn’t really known that black people get blacker in the sun, but she had the tan lines to prove it. 

But anyway, before I even sat down the black guy at the pool table realised I was the same guy who had been standing on the beach before, because apparently all white people look just as identical to him as Rastafarians do to me, but he went and got his stuff and called me over behind a shop next to the bar we were at.  The stuff was very sticky like he said but it looked like the mid-level shit I used to roll up in blunts in college.  He insisted it was great shit, grown right on the island.  It looked decent enough and I knew I’d rather be smoking some and drinking some than smoking none and drinking a lot, so I did want to buy it.  He wanted to sell me a quarter ounce for $80 but 1- I didn’t want to spend that much and 2- I couldn’t smoke that much in a week.  I told him I wanted half but he said he had to sell the whole thing.  He gave me a reason, but his normal English wasn’t very good and I had a tough time understanding him anyway.  I offered him $50 for half but he didn’t want to do it.  I said I wouldn’t buy the whole thing because I was leaving on Saturday and wouldn’t be able to smoke it all.  “But it’s only Monday” he said.  I didn’t know what else to say, but sensing that my offer was final he agreed to sell me half for $50 which is still a good fucking deal for him (most people would have haggled him down) and he still had half which he could sell to another asshole white kid, and there were plenty around. 

Back at the bar I had plenty of time to look around the beach and get upset by all the hot girls in bikinis whom I would never fuck.  There was one particularly super-hot hottie in a little black bikini lying right on a lawn chair in front of the bar, who would occasionally come up to get a drink.  I just wanted to eat her ass with a knife and fork.  I try to avoid seeing girls in bikinis as often as possible but there was no avoiding it now, and this one looked so fucking delicious that I’m getting hungry right now just thinking about her.  Her face was slightly freckly from the sun which made her fall just short of drop-dead gorgeous, but her smile reminded me of dear sweet Nathalie from Germany, and well I was just fucking smitten.  Of course I studied her movements long enough to see that she was there with her hot young boyfriend, together with another hot young couple who were probably down there for spring break on the money from their parents’ credit card.  Oh how I hated them. 

So a few hours later, now the middle of the afternoon and getting later, everyone was about ready to leave and go back to the boat and maybe get some dinner going.  The charter company had stocked us with four meals’ worth of fish and meat which everyone but me wanted to take advantage of, so we stumbled back to the dingy, a few of them fell in the water while trying to climb inside, and eventually got back to the boat.  I promptly rolled myself a spliff, threw on some chill music (Bob Marley), and tasted what I got.  Only Rob took me up on my offer to share, and my dad said nothing as he laid on the other bench and slowly faded to unconsciousness.  Rob only took a puff though, and I was about half-way through it when I realised it was actually much much better than it looked.  Apparently my Rastafarian friend had not been lying. 

I had a pleasant evening, nice and stoned while the rest of the party was absurdly drunk.  Dinner took about 4 hours to cook, and the sun had already gone down by the time Gerry even started grilling the burgers.  I had bought two packs of veggie burgers from the supermarket at Jolly Harbour before we left, but there was only room on the grill for one of them.  While he was cooking Gerry lost track of which was which, but I kept telling him I would have no problem spotting it when it was done.  Down below deck, John—who apparently loves cooking—was whipping up some delicious potatoes and not-so-delicious broccoli.  And eventually we all ate except for my dad who had passed out several hours before.  The meal took four hours to cook and about eight minutes to eat.  I then smoked the rest of my spliff, took my I-pod out on the forward deck and laid down and listened to more great music while the waves rocked the boat back and forth.  If it weren’t for the god-awful music coming from shore, it would have been perfect.  But apparently that night at the Sandals resort was “Beach Games” so there was an obnoxious DJ constantly shouting things like, “How are my guys doin?  And how ‘bout the lay-deeeees!!!”  At one point there was a musical chairs competition, which meant 30-45 seconds of horrible, horrible music with only the lyrics “sexy girl” repeated over and over again, followed by silence and then the DJ shouting to identify who was out.  Needless to say, I was quite ready to head up to Barbuda. 

Part IV - Take A Breath 

But as it turned out, we would not be heading to Barbuda the next day either.  We pulled out of Dickenson just after I got up, and I noticed we were heading the wrong way.  Apparently there had been some discussion before I got up, and we were running low on water (for things like showers and dishes) so we had to go back to Jolly Harbour and re-fill, which would take some time so we’d be going to Barbuda tomorrow. 

It still turned out to be a nice day though.  Half-way to Jolly was Deep Bay, where a sunken ship from the turn of the century had been accumulating corral for a century, and I finally got to do some snorkelling there.  This was a giant sunken boat, but sunk in shallow enough water that the top of the mast was still sticking out, though it was completely grown over and unrecognisable as a mast unless you could see the whole thing.  There was even a crow’s nest which had broken up and was now lying perpendicular to the rest of the ship.  A lot of neat corral (though mostly dead from a hurricane that wiped out most of the reefs in recent years) and cool fish.  We anchored there for the snorkelling, had some sandwiches for lunch on board (cold-cuts for them, PB&J for me), and got ready to sail to Jolly in the afternoon.  I rolled myself another spliff and smoked some of it while we took off, so I was nice and high when we set out, ready to experience for the first time in my life the combination of two of my favourite sensations: marijuana high and sailing.  There had been a Billy Joel CD playing, but once we got under way it was Gerry—scoring more points with me than at any other point on the trip—who put on Dark Side of the Moon.  Man oh man.  The winds were fantastic, the waves were lovely, and the music sounded almost as good to me then as it did that night in Camden at the Roger Waters concert.  So that was one of the best 40-minutes of the trip, but when it was over Gerry switched to more chill-out music that I was unfamiliar with, Christopher Cross.  Nice, but not really my cup of tea. 

As we pulled into Jolly Harbour, Eugene and Dion pulled up beside us in a speed-dingy, the same sort of plastic-bottomed raft as a normal dingy but with a serious motor that can bring it up almost as fast as a jet-ski, and they boarded our ship and switched the anchor, putting the spare back where it belonged.  We thought they were just bringing us a new anchor, but we later learned that this was the same anchor we’d started with, and that they had just returned from pulling it out of Dickenson. 

We “docked” at the diesel station and filled out tanks with water, walking back to the supermarket in the mean-time for more beer and snacks.  Then we took a mooring at the mouth of Jolly Harbour, did some drinking and snacking (while I did some smoking) then took the dingy in to shore for a hot shower, which you couldn’t get on the boat (cold water only) but which they had for public use at the marina.  As we were there, however, we noticed water pouring in a constant stream from the bilge pump, and after having filled all our tanks for a combined total of 800 litres, saw that without using any we had already lost 300 litres.  Clearly we had another problem, but having already gone three days without showering we figured it wasn’t worth it to lose another day having them fix the water leak. 

Showering on shore was fantastic though, and afterwards we drank at the same deck bar from the first night and ate at the same restaurant with “the savant”.  The bartendress at the deck bar this night was older, blonde, and pregnant, and while clearly very hot was not attractive to me at all, so I wasn’t distracted.  At least not until the bartendress from the first night rolled up on her bike to have a drink of her own, and some of the other guys started talking to her about her bike, which was a very nice bike but so what?  Yet at that time it really seemed to me like they were genuinely interested in the bike and not so much in her.  Luckily she wasn’t around long enough to make frustrated, and the image of that super-hot hottie’s ass in the black bikini was still burning in my brain…as it continues to burn even now but is thankfully fading fast.  God, what an ass, though!  At one point she must have sat on the beach because there was some sand on her ass when she’d come up to the beach bar one time and I just wanted to reach over there and brush it off but her boyfriend was right next to her and….Okay, I’m completely losing track now.  So we had drinks and dinner and went back to the boat and passed out.  

Part V - This Heaven 

The next day we were finally ready to sail for Barbuda.  I’d had it in my mind to get high just as we put the sails up, then listen to Pink Floyd during the bulk of the 4-5 hour sail, but that didn’t end up happening.  The winds were pretty strong that day and the waves were higher than they were at any other point, and by the time we were really out to sea (in the dark blue rather than light turquoise water) I was already getting queasy.  I couldn’t even go below deck for more than a few seconds without my stomach wanting to explode.  I sat on the edge of the boat for most of the sail, which ended up taking 7 hours because the winds were blowing in the wrong direction, and instead of smoking I found myself puking, though I had almost nothing in my stomach so when that was done it was done. 

Unlike Antigua and most Caribbean islands which are…not “mountainous” but at least “hilly”…Barbuda is extremely flat, it’s highest point somewhere around ten metres while Antigua’s highest point was at least several hundred.  So we didn’t spot the island until the journey was almost over, and as soon as I could see land I started to feel a bit better.  There was one boat in the lagoon when we pulled in and dropped anchor, and one other boat came after us but we were all far apart and it was pretty secluded.  The beach was a couple of miles long and although there were some houses and small buildings on either side, there was not a soul to be seen on the shore.  The complete antithesis of Dickenson.  I was quite happy to be there, and after a PB&J sandwich and a few hits of weed, I was already feeling great again. 

Unfortunately the sail had taken so long that it was already mid-afternoon when we got there, and for some reason nobody else but Rob and I wanted to go to shore.  But Rob took me to the shore in the dingy and we spent about an hour on that beach, not together but within sight of each other, until we were ready to head back. 

And my fucking god, words cannot describe this place.  I’ve never seen a beach so fucking beautiful, so absolutely serene and lovely as this.  Not a soul around for miles, just a strip of white sand about 30 metres thick with palm trees and vegetation stretching back for miles and miles inward.  I walked around on land for awhile and studied the vegetation and the sea-shells, enjoying the feeling of the powder-soft lovely sand on my feet, then walked down to the water and waded in.  Holy fucking shit, what a feeling!  The water was the most perfect temperature water can be—somewhere between cool and warm—and the bottom was pure sand.  No fucking rocks.  No goddamn sea-weed.  No jelly-fish to watch out for or annoying little kids swimming by you and pissing in the water.  Just sand.  Clear, light-blue, warm water with perfect not-too-big, not-too-small waves crashing on shore and pulling out forever and ever, moving absolutely nothing but sand.  You could stand in one spot up to your waist, feel the water rise to your shoulders and lift you off, then find yourself placed on a little shelf of sand and be up to your knees, splash back down and swim out a bit, float around, dive down and touch the bottom, jump up and down like in a wave pool, and just fucking absorb the whole aura of the place, the most beautiful fucking place I have ever been.  East Beach in Santa Barbara might as well have been the Jersey Shore compared to this place.  This place was not just paradise—it was the definition of paradise. 

But that hour ended so quickly, and before I knew it we were back on the dingy and headed back to the boat.  My plan had been to just throw on some snorkelling gear and swim back to shore by myself to play around while the sun was still up, but when I had gotten geared up and swam from the boat, I tried swimming back just to test the current and found that it was a huge struggle.  I could get to shore easily enough, but there was no way I’d be able to swim back.  Asking somebody to come get you in a dingy without having them agree beforehand to come get you is just bad boat-etiquette, so I got back on board and figured I might get some more time there the next day.  I knew Gerry didn’t want to stay a whole day because there were no bars around, but I thought I might be able to talk the party into it, or at least going to shore in the morning, which Rob said he wanted to do. 

It was another pleasant evening on the boat though, if not the most pleasant.  I smoked some more and put on Dave Gilmour’s On An Island while the sun went down.  I don’t think I’ll ever listen to that music in a more perfect setting.  After dinner that night I laid out on deck again with my I-pod and listened to it again, but this time from the “Remember That Night” DVD from which I’d ripped the music.  Way better than the studio version, but unfortunately I couldn’t burn it on a CD so my I-pod was the only way to hear it. 

The next morning while discussions were under way about where we’d be going, I asked why we had to go back today.  We had more than enough food, water, and even beer to stay another entire day without ever seeing civilisation, and since we weren’t using the water for showers that wasn’t an issue.  Gerry said it was because we’d “run out of shit” but the only thing he could think of that we would run out of is ice for the cooler.  “And we’ve been known to drink warm beers before,” he said, “but…” and his voice trailed and that was kind of the end of that discussion. 

I was angry, but too engulfed in the aura of this place to really feel the anger at that point.  I just kept thinking that now I have to actually care about money so one day I can afford to come back to this place with my friends who don’t care about cold beer, and just spend the whole fucking trip sailing around Barbuda and seeing all the different beaches for ourselves. 

The evening before, my dad and I were alone out on deck for awhile and he made a comment about how relaxing it was and said, “But unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you have to work for.”  Now, he may not have meant it in a negative way, but all I heard was, “You haven’t earned this.  You’re just lucky I married your mother so you could come along for the ride.  But if you want this kind of experience for yourself you’d better stop being so lazy and trying to live your life for the moment, and do what the rest of us do and suffer most of the time so you can have great experiences for a small percentage of the time.”  He may really not have meant it that way at all, but that comment will stick in my brain for the rest of my life and you can be sure of it. 

Anyway, we wanted to get going early because the winds were not favourable, so the idea of going back to shore was lamentably nixed.  That’s just what happens when you sail with guys who can’t go two nights without heavy drinking.  I’d been having a lot of fun with them to that point, and they are fun people, but after Barbuda I just kept wishing they weren’t there, and that I was there with Corey or Krissi or someone who could actually appreciate beauty and who would never even dream of leaving paradise the day after they found it. 

But all these lamentations aside, I did find paradise and I spent an hour there.  One short hour in an entire lifetime, but it’s still infinitely better than none. 

Part VI - Far From The Harbour Wall 

I was smart enough to smoke early on in the sail back, as weed apparently does help a great deal with motion sickness, though the wind was low and the waves weren’t nearly as big anyway.  As we were pulling out of the harbour, four dolphins swam right up to our boat and swam just a few feet in front of us for awhile, apparently just for the fun of being pushed ahead by the boat.  We saw quite a few dolphins and sea-turtles throughout the trip, but only individually except in this case.  So that was extremely cool. 

There were a few good hours of sailing, one of which I spent listening to The Division Bell, but by the time “Lost For Words” came on the wind had died down completely.  We had no choice but to flip the motor on and motor back to Antigua, which meant a loud motor over “High Hopes” and the rest of the music for the day.  Still, motor-sailing is the second-best thing compared to actual sailing, and I was high and enjoying myself so I didn’t care.  Cutting through a windless ocean like that was actually kind of cool, as the day before there had been rollies and whitecaps all over, but today there were no whitecaps at all, and the water was as smooth as the surface of a swimming pool.  My stomach had no problem at all. 

I was also in good spirits from the residual effects of the dream I’d had the night before, which was one of the coolest dreams I’ve ever had only because it took place in the Caribbean and became lucid, so for a long time I was just flying over the sea from island to island and feeling magnificent.  My dreams that whole week were particularly vivid but that was the only one that became lucid, and I came to find that my emotional state during a sail was largely dependent on the strength of the emotions of the dream the night before.  One night I had a dream involving Sara, my first love whom I had loved even on my first sailing trip 10 years ago, and to carry the beauty of that emotion with me throughout the day was rather pleasant.  I was only afflicted with one Jessi dream, but I was thinking about her often enough anyway without being prompted by my subconscious.  I found the gentle melancholy feeling brought on by thinking of her to actually be rather pleasant, though sometimes I’d get slightly overwhelmed with wishing I could share an experience like this with her—or any girl I’ve loved. 

Anyway, the trip back to Antigua was long.  We’d left at 8:30 and didn’t get into Jolly Harbour until 7:00 p.m. (all of us agreeing we didn’t want to spend another night in Dickenson and figuring at Jolly we could at least take more hot showers).  The day was hot and with no wind, the sun was pretty oppressive, especially in the later afternoon when it dips below the boat’s sunshade leaving almost nowhere to hide but below deck, which was far worse because the hatches are all closed and it’s stuffy as hell.  But also because there was no wind they were able to attach one of the bed-sheets to the sunshade with clothespins and provide a little relief.  Cracking open some beers helped too.

But we did make it to Jolly, and took a mooring again, and had hot showers again, but this time we didn’t eat at the place with “the savant” but at an “Italian” place right across from it, where I got some pasta that turned out to be the best meal of the whole trip.  But another thing went wrong on our trip from the boat to shore, this time with the dingy.  The kill switch was loose or something so the motor would start and it would die a second after shifting into gear unless someone physically held it out.  Gerry ended up using a fork to pry it out, which was the only way the engine would stay running, but even that was an imperfect solution.  The engine died at least 10 times on our way back to shore, but we made it and knew we would have to go through the same shit again on the way back. 

But as luck would have it I actually bumped into Eugene after my shower, whom I was surprised was still there at 9:00 but who asked us how things were going.  I said everything was great and almost forgot to mention the dingy, but I remembered and he said he’d have a look.  He was able to get the engine started fine, and said the kill-switch wasn’t in there straight but it should work now.  We offered him a drink at that point, and to my surprise he took us up on the offer.  He had a “crush” which is a virgin pina colada, and he actually hung out with us for a good half hour during which we learned all about his family in New York City and many other details about Antigua and Barbuda and whatnot.  Apparently he lived all the way on the other side of the island, and I guess he was in no hurry to get home because it was about a 40-minute drive “when you’re careful” he said.  Why this cool, soft-spoken black guy would want to hang out and talk to a bunch of loud, drunken, asshole Americans still puzzles me, but he didn’t seem uncomfortable at all or anything. 

When he left, the attention at the deck bar shifted to the bartendress, my lovely red-haired, green-eyed beauty whom I’d been fantasising about for days.  Apparently they didn’t notice her until then, but she was dropping stuff from trays and basically being the quintessential cute clueless girl and soon enough we were all fantasizing about her, some more vocally than others.  Lots of anger there.  But because Gerry actually has balls he did wind up talking to her and I was able to learn her name was Alex and she’s from Nova Scotia, working down there for the season.  We would be back at this bar again on our last evening, but mercifully this was the last time I’ll ever see beautiful Alex, unless I head up to Novia Scotia and pop into all the bars there, which I can’t help but considering. 

Anyway, I already wrote all there is to write about dinner, except I guess that when we got there our fat black waitress was angry because the kitchen was about to close.  She said we had to order in the next four minutes or that was it.  John made light of the situation in the kind of way that only he could do, by yelling at the rest of us in front of her to “order quickly—this lady was just about to go home and then these assholes show up and now she’s got to stick around and listen to our bullshit” and that sort of thing.  He must have been expressing her thoughts perfectly because she was practically in hysterics and she treated us very well the rest of the evening. 

So we had that delicious dinner and got in the dingy to go back to the boat, hoping Eugene had fixed the problem, only to find that the exact same shit happened.  The engine, however, only died three or four times on the way back. 

Part VII - Drop In From The Top 

There were two harbours on the southern coast of the island off to the east called Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour, which were right next to each other.  Since we had only one full night left, we decided to spend it in one of them.  Eugene had recommended Falmouth because there were moorings and we wouldn’t have to anchor, as well as many-a-bar to be found, but there was apparently some good snorkelling in English Harbour so I wanted to check it out for at least a little while.  Gerry had said, “Well, do we want to snorkel or do we want to drink?” to which I gave him a resounding, “I want to snorkel” because snorkelling kicks fucking ass and we’d only gone for that brief half-hour in Deep Bay several days earlier.  On all my previous trips we’d gone snorkelling just about every day, but to be fair the reefs in the British Virgin Islands are much better anyway.  But I got them to agree to go drop anchor in English Harbour for snorkelling and lunch, then to just head right around and pick up a mooring in Falmouth for heavy drinking. 

I was hoping for more good sailing the next day, but unfortunately the winds were very light and not blowing in the right direction anyway, so again we had to motor the whole way, which didn’t stop me from smoking and listening to Meddle, if only to put something good in my head because Gerry had popped in a Richard Marx CD that morning and I wasn’t going to sail with “Hold On To The Nights” stuck in my head for three hours.  Meddle turned out to be the perfect choice, however, with “San Tropez” never sounding so good and complete silence through the 25 minutes of “Echoes” during which I managed to get that Enigmal feeling once or twice.  At any rate, it was the perfect music to have in my head during the snorkelling later. 

English Harbour was lovely, with the “Pillars of Hercules” right at the far opening and an old British naval fortress lining the opposite side.  It was packed with boats however, unlike the other places we’d gone.  But we anchored close to the pillars, which is where the reef was located, and got ready to snorkel.  Gerry offered to dingy us over there because it was against the current, but we couldn’t get the dingy working and because you needed a fork it was a two man job, and he wouldn’t be able to get back while the three of us—me, my dad, and Rob—were snorkelling.  John couldn’t swim because he recently broke his neck and though he’s well on his way to being completely recovered it was just not a good idea.  Gerry went swimming a few times but he just had no interest in snorkelling. 

The reef was mostly dead but still very cool.  There were plenty of tropical fish, some pretty bad-ass looking sea urchins with long black spikes and red centres, and coolest of all was a school of barracuda.  The “Pillars of Hercules” themselves were on the shore, on the corner of the bay so one side of them was facing the bay and the other the open sea, and they looked pretty cool but under the water was just a shallow rock shelf—so shallow that I was afraid I’d hit the bottom a few times.  There was one really awesome rock completely covered in brain corral and those little sea urchins, which I came very close to smashing against, especially with the current as strong as it was.  We went right up to where the open sea began and it was no longer a good idea to go, then swam back, finding along the way that a boat full of tourists had unloaded about a half a dozen kids to go snorkelling right where we were. So we got out of there at just the right time. 

We had lunch back on the boat along with a couple of beers, then we motored on over to Falmouth Harbour which took all of 20 minutes.  By the time we had picked up a mooring—the closest mooring to the dock because of our dingy problems—I was exhausted.  Snorkelling can certainly drain your energy faster than you realise, and I had had those two beers on top of it.  While the rest of them got ready to go on shore for cocktails I sat still, and I let them go without me. 

The sun was still relatively high when they left, but when they got back it had already been gone for a couple of hours, so I don’t know exactly how long they were gone but it was definitely quite awhile.  I couldn’t have minded less.  I just smoked and listened to my music and relaxed the shit out of myself.  There were a few minor annoyances, of course.  The sun, for one thing, but I quite resourcefully rigged up a sheet with clothespins that helped reduce the problem.  The other was the fact that we were so close to the harbour, and apparently they were giving sailing lessons that evening because for about two hours there were around eight people just sailing around the buoys in tiny little sailboats, about the size of a dingy and with only one sail.  There was one black guy, the instructor—whom I could hear shouting directions at the rest of them—and the rest were white guys.  I would have liked for them to have not been there of course, but I made the best of it and found that watching them could actually be kind of interesting, seeing how they operated these little boats and how some of them were far far better at it than others.   

But finally the sun went down, the class was finished, and I had a couple more hours to smoke and relax as the stars came out.  I was able to listen to some of the stuff I wouldn’t have put on while the rest of them were on board, like Broken China, but I was quickly running out of stuff to listen to and starting to hope they weren’t eating on shore without me.  I was two-thirds of the way through Amused to Death when they all came back, which I quickly switched off (it’s not the best water-music anyway but it worked surprisingly well, especially under the stars with the crickets chirping) and put on somebody else’s “Best of the Eagles” CD, which sounded fan-fucking-tastic and will never sound as good again.  I got a little drunk just to approach their wavelength, and while Gerry passed out completely below deck the rest of us had a nice meal on board, topped off with some Cuban cigars that John had brought from Cuba, where he apparently goes every year to some food festival and where he’s met Castro (both Fidel and Raul) several times. 

Part VIII - Then I Close My Eyes 

The next morning I was hoping we’d finally be able to do some sailing because I’d been dying to listen to Wish You Were Here under sail for days but the right opportunity just hadn’t presented itself.  We had to be back in Jolly Harbour that night, all docked up and ready to go for the following morning, so today would be the last sailing day if we could in fact get any sailing done.  There were winds blowing so the prospects looked good, but John wanted to cook some breakfast to use up some of the provisions we still had, so we had to be under motor (much less rocking of the boat) until that was all done.  It took fucking forever for him to make breakfast, which by the time we finished the boat was already in one of the narrow channels between the land and a corral reef were we were told we had to motor anyway.  After the channel we’d be on the southwest corner of the island, with Jolly Harbour less than an hour up the coast. 

As soon as we got out of the channel my dad asked if we wanted to put up the sails for awhile, to which I said “please” and we finally got the sails up and the motor turned off.  I would have liked to just appreciate the peaceful feeling for awhile but I didn’t think there was much time, so I immediately smoked some more weed and tossed on Wish You Were Here, even skipping “Welcome to the Machine” because we were rapidly approaching the harbour and I didn’t want us to be already under motor again by the time “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” reached its climax.  I was so fucking concerned with timing in fact that I was barely able to appreciate the music, but I did manage to shut my brain up enough to soak in some pleasantness. 

I was worried for nothing though, because it was not even noon when we reached the mouth of the harbour and my dad suggested we turn and sail out to sea for an hour, then turn back in.  That was the best thing I could have heard.  I tossed on Wet Dream again, because more perfect sailing music has never been recorded, and I had yet to listen to it while high and sailing, which turned out to be somewhat of a let-down because it had sounded so fantastic on that first day out and weed or no weed this couldn’t compare.

But when that was over I was determined to enjoy the fuck out of this experience because I wouldn’t get the chance again for god-knows-how-long, so I put on disc 2 of PULSE and smoked my last joint to almost the end. 

That did it.  I sat up on the space between the bench and the rail, looking back toward the island, which was now small enough to see all the way from Dickenson bay at the north end to the channel we’d just motored through on the south.  The sky was clear except for a patch of fluffy clouds covering the land, and a more picturesque sight could not be imagined.  The waves were high but not too rough, and the breeze just absolutely wrapped you up in its embrace.  “The Great Gig In The Sky” sounded particularly incredible.  I could tell the others were enjoying the album too, because a few of them sang along to “Money”, and nobody said a word until half-way through “Us and Them” when my dad decided it was time to turn around. 

That took some doing so I missed out on most of that song, but for the final leg of the sail I smoked the rest of my last joint during “Any Colour You Like” and was exactly where I wanted to be for the remainder of the album.  A few of them sang along to “Wish You Were Here” and by the time “Comfortably Numb” came on I was just hoping to Christ that somebody wouldn’t decide that now was the time to start a conversation. 

It’s just one of those things—you can be so concerned with manufacturing a perfect moment that you completely lose the moment.  During most of “Comfortably Numb” I was just waiting for somebody to start talking about something they’d seen on an episode of “Deadliest Catch” and completely ruin everything.  My thoughts were just getting in the way of the experience so much that I finally just closed my eyes and shut everything out except for the feeling of the wind and waves, and the sound of the most intense and awesome song ever heard.  This was around the time of the second verse, and once we got to “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse” I was where I wanted to be.  I took myself completely out of that boat and the other people in it and just imagined myself flying through the wind on my own, one centre of consciousness on a cosmic journey through the universe, finding myself at that exact moment in the kind of moment that was the very reason for taking the journey in the first place.  All of my thoughts were nothing.  I had only the emotions I had cultivated and the present feeling of the moment with the waves below me and the breeze surrounding me.  As the solo delved deeper and deeper I felt the feeling rising above me, flashes of memory from every other time I was there in the song—watching PULSE with my headphones on as a teenager and longing for the girl I loved, seeing it with Corey at the Roger Waters show in Camden, and of course at its most intense during the Live 8 concern in London, as well as every other time that song has put me in that exact spot—and I felt time disappear and for an instant I was not just right then and there but I was with all of those other persons I was at those other times and places, tapped into some cosmic connection between points of consciousness flowing through the infinity of creation at all times and places, and understanding down to the bottom of my soul that this time, this place, this moment was one of the moments, one of the moments when God itself swells up from the core of Existence and peers out right through your eyes, until you are no longer you but God, both the creator and its creation, Brahman and Atman, marvelling in the most awe-inspired wonder at what it has brought into existence. 

When the song ended, it was as though I had just filled myself up with a much needed meal for the spirit, and I felt absolutely perfect.  I knew that whatever had happened or whatever would still happen on the rest of the trip, it was all worth it if for nothing else than to have that experience.  Before “Run Like Hell” could start up and change my mood I darted below deck and popped the CD out, replacing it with nothing.  I’d let that song fade from my head at its own casual pace.  For the rest of the sailing trip, no other music was played through that stereo. 

I got to close my eyes and feel the sailing feeling with that song in my head for a good long while after that, although the Enigmal feeling was gone and regular mundane thoughts continued to seep in through the cracks, but it was still a fantastic stretch of time.  Eventually conversation began again, and before I knew it we were close to land and the wind died suddenly.  The motor switched on, and I knew that was the last sailing I’ll be doing for many years.  No regrets though.  I appreciated it as fully as one could possibly appreciate anything while it’s happening, and now it’s firmly implanted there in my soul, as unshakable as the moment at Live 8. 

Part IX - Mad Yannis Dance 

And oh how trivial the rest of the trip seems at this point.  We pulled into Jolly Harbour but nobody at the office was answering our calls, so we took up a mooring until Eugene happened to come by in a dingy and find out that we needed to get back to the dock.  He came back with Dion and they brought our boat back to the harbour and firmly tied it to the dock, in the same spot it had been when we took it out.  While the others did whatever it was they were doing, I went up to the deck bar and asked the bartendress, the older pregnant one whose name was Angie and apparently owned the place, if they had an I-pod charger I could use to charge up my I-pod for the plane.  She brought one right out and I brought her my I-pod, feeling kind of bad that I was taking advantage of this while we weren’t even drinking there, but figuring there was about a 110% chance we’d be there later anyway. 

It was a hot afternoon and we couldn’t jump in the harbour by the boats, but there was a pool nearby.  I walked over there myself to find out how much the fee was to use it, but the guy there said if we just wanted to take a quick dip there’d be no charge.  Once I passed this information on to the others we all went over to the pool for a nice swim.  The water was a little warmer than I would have liked, and there were way too many little girls in the shallow end to fuck with my Chi, but my state of mind at that point was far less vulnerable to that sort of thing than usual so it didn’t really bother me.  As we were leaving though, another super-hot hottie in a bikini came around and I was only too glad to be out of there. 

As I expected, we spent the next few hours at the deck bar, and at one point I got my fully-charged I-pod back (which really came in fucking handy on the return flight).  For some reason there was a problem with cash so I ended up picking up half the tab and leaving the tip, with which I was quite fucking generous and felt like I was now more than even for the I-pod thing.  We had dinner one last time with “the savant” and by the time we’d finished I’d had just one drink too many, so I spent the rest of the night drinking water.  After dinner we checked out another bar down the harbour, which was a much more typical bar-like place than anywhere else I’d seen, with pool tables and such.  I spent most of the time watching a couple of black guys play pool with a couple of white chicks, one of whom was extremely cute but far enough on the chunky side to stifle my otherwise inevitable desire.  They had divided up the teams so her friend was playing with his friend against her and the black guy who was trying to get with her.  When the game was over I watched them go outside and was able to see quite clearly her face as he talked to her and she played the role of the reluctant “I’m not really sure about this” female.  I was rooting for the black guy the whole time, somehow so engaged in this little mini-drama that I believe I was saying, “Go with him, bitch!” out loud.  But alas, we all left before I could find out how it ended, though I like to think he took her home and fucked her so hard that she’ll need three abortions to undo the damage. 

Getting to sleep that night could not have required less effort, but staying asleep was next to impossible.  John, Rob, and Gerry had an early flight so they would be getting up at the crack of dawn and packing and leaving, while my dad and I didn’t have our flight until 3 p.m.  I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst gas I’ve ever had and suffered for the next two hours until the pain had finally subsided.  Of course that was when the others got up and I spent the next two hours listening to them crash around on the boat, worrying that they were going to come get me up to say goodbye (which they told me they would do the previous night when I tried to say goodbye then) but they didn’t.  I eventually did get another hour of sleep or so but that was it. 

Part X - Where We Start 

The morning was just me and my dad on the boat, laying around and letting the soft breeze cool us down from the heat.  Allen, the British guy from the first day, came by and we talked about our trip and he told us a few more things about the island and the yacht chartering company and whatnot.  He set up a cab ride to the airport for us and wished us farewell.  Eugene came by too, and I was able to thank him for hooking me up that day on the beach, but I think this actually happened the previous afternoon and not that morning.  Either way, I was able to thank him for that and let him know it worked out really well for me.  I was so disappointed when that anchor got stuck but now I couldn’t be happier that it did. 

The cab ride back to the airport was fun.  Our driver was a 59-year old dread-locked living stereotype who had been driving a cab on that island for 45 years and apparently still loving it.  He seemed to know just about everybody on the island, slowing down and honking at everyone on the side of the road and singing at the top of his lungs to the Bob Marley CD he must have heard several hundreds of thousands of times by now.  I didn’t mind at all though, as if anybody is going to be singing Bob Marley at the top of their lungs along with the music it should be a dread-lock-Rasta-buffalo-soldier like this guy.  He even charged us half as much as the guy who had driven us to the marina. 

We ate a big lunch at a place Allen had recommended across from the airport called “The Sticky Wicket” which is right alongside the cricket field there.  And that filled us up for the rest of the day, as it had to because planes don’t serve free meals anymore. 

The flight to Puerto Rico was pleasant, but going through customs in San Juan was a dreadful experience, topped off by having to stand right behind another incredibly gorgeous beauty with amazing eye-lashes and the ugliest boyfriend I’ve ever seen with a hot chick, as well as several other annoyances that are not worth mentioning but which really hammered away at my peace of mind.  The flight back to Newark kind of sucked too because my seat was kind of between windows meaning it was hard to look out and a Puerto Rican woman with her 2-year-old kid who couldn’t sit still or keep quiet for more than five minutes was right in front of me.  The 4-hour flight felt like 8 hours, but thanks to my fully charged I-pod I made it through without losing my mind. 

When I finally got home last night, I was even too tired to smoke any of the weed I still have waiting for me, and I went to sleep relatively early, about 12:30.  And today I woke up and did almost nothing but write this journal entry, which seems to have taken just as long to write as it did to actually experience.  I found out I’m scheduled to work tonight which sucks, and I actually have to go in 10 minutes so I finished this not a moment too soon, though I was expecting to put in a few words about how the trip feels like it’s affected me so far, particularly in regards to how I feel about leaving Santa Barbara, but I suppose that’s unnecessary. 

All I really wanted to say was that while I do have the occasional regret about leaving beautiful Santa Barbara for dirty old New Jersey, this week of sailing has altered my consciousness a little bit.  There are even more beautiful places in the world than southern California, and they have the advantage of being not-as-tainted by the merciless beast that is civilisation.  Being in a paradise for only a week forced me to soak it all in and appreciate it all at once, while staying there for almost two years can drain it of nearly everything worth appreciating.  Yes, Santa Barbara is beautiful, but I’ve been there and I’ve appreciated its beauty to the point where there’s nothing left but to try and repeat the same experiences of hiking or whatever it was that brought me to have those wonderful moments in the first place.  You can have spectacular moments anywhere, and I think it’s somehow better to space them out than to try and make them drag for as long as possible.  Santa Barbara was a great place to visit, and maybe even live for awhile, but I don’t need to spend my life there.  I could have appreciated all there was to appreciate in one month, let alone twenty of them. 

So that’s where my head is right now.  I’m still coming off the high from the trip, which should die down entirely in about 20 minutes as soon as I step back into work.  But being away from the routine for awhile does have a way of making you appreciate it more, and I am quite ready to get back to my normal mundane activities allowing myself to fully come down before going off on yet another adventure to add to this life I’m living, which in spite of its many endless frustrations vis-à-vis the female sex does actually seem to be a really fucking good one.  At the end of my last sailing trip, still at the end of high school, I would never have thought things would turn out that way.  But apparently the quality of the experiences I have been able to have are well worth the price I pay in loneliness and isolation. 

I give it about a day and a half before I take that thought back, and laugh hard at myself for ever thinking it.