Same – Casa-Blanca: Another BD, another departure, ethanol, back to ANTARES

August 9,

Last was an eventful week.  On August 05 we celebrated Marina’s 16th birthday. Friends came over at night for a BBQ and stayed until the early morning. Despite the dancing, we probably consumed too many calories and too much ethanol (in the form of wine).  Still, the next day Natalia was able to get up relatively early and pack. The three of us had lunch at the beach and shortly after Natalia left in a rented car that drove her to the airport in Quito — a 6h ride.  Her final destination was Washington DC (via Houston) where she has spent the weekend. Today she flies to Greece to meet her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephews. They’ll have a 10-days family vacation by the beach. I will miss her.

The last two pictures were taken this week. My friend Juanjo, an Argentinian, reopened his bar/pizzeria. Marina and I had dinner there the other night. The picture before those two was taken last week. Natalia and I had a date, out last before her trip.

I finished reading Drunk by Edward Slingerland.  It is a very well researched book. The following quote captures the main message:

“[…] far from being an evolutionary mistake, chemical intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers. The desire to get drunk, along with the individual and social benefits provided by drunkenness, played a crucial role in sparking the rise of the first large-scale societies. We could not have civilization without intoxication.”

We evolved to be able to consume alcohol probably as a way to capture the calories in ripped fruit.  Contrary to many species, we have the enzymes that break and eliminate alcohol from our bodies. ADH breaks ethanol into acetaldehyde (still quite toxic), that is then converted into acetic acid (a much less dangerous chemical) by ALDH.  Without the latter, ethanol would make us feel very sick and we wouldn’t drink. Some Asian populations don’t have it and they don’t drink. But the mutations that neutralize ALDH have not spread to the majority of the world population.   

Singlerland also writes about the social problems associated with the consumption of ethanol, including the millions of deaths that occur as a result of drunk driving, alcohol induced violence, liver failure, and various forms of cancer. Part of the problem, he argues,  is the emergence of distilled liquor.  In human history, distillation is a relatively recent development.  We evolved to consume small concentrations of alcohol, not 60% vodka or gin.  He also notes that although part of the benefits of alcohol come from social interactions today many people drink alone.  Singlerland recommends drinking mainly beer and wine, regulating the production and consumption of distilled spirits, and never drinking alone at home.  Probably all these recommendations make sense.  But I enjoy having a G&T late afternoon and, sometimes, I like having it alone, particularly when I am in the boat.  

And what about solo sailors? Should they become teetotalers?  Webb Chiles, who at least while crossing oceans solo drinks solo, wrote in one of our exchanges:

“I have thought and I believe somewhere written that if alcohol has shortened my life, it has been a worthwhile trade off for making what I have lived more endurable.   Consciousness is hard.”

On this note, I will be going to Grenada at the end of the month to spend some time with ANTARES.  From Quito I’ll fly to DC, grab all the boat gear I left over there, and then fly to St. Georges.  I am not doing a passage. Will do some downwind sailing with the Genoa polled-out to see how the wind-vane and auto-pilot perform, this in preparation for the passage to Panama.  But otherwise, the plan is simply to anchor for a few days/nights in Dragon Ba, and maybe Tyrrel Bay or another anchorage in Carriacou, and enjoy the solitude.  I will have with me wine and beer, but also gin and tonic water.  

I have to be back to Beirut by mid-September, certainly before Natalia’s birthday on the 25th that we we are spending in Lisbon.  Both of us would like to return to the boat for Christmas and New Year. The passage to Panama should take place before or after hurricane season next year…  

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