Ko Pha Ngan: Slocum and Woland

June 29th, 2022

I wasn’t sure about what to do with this journal.  My last post marked the end of a chapter in my life; the few years sailing ANTARES in an elusive attempt to reach the Pacific.  We started in Brandford Connecticut where I bought her in September 2013.  From there we sailed in late March 2014 to the Chesapeake Bay via Hell Gate and New York, Cape May, and the C&D channel; it was snowing on deck the morning we left Brandford. In November 2015 we left Annapolis and crossed the Gulf Stream to get to West End – Bahamas.  The original destination was Marsh Harbor, but after a night beating into 30 knots winds on our 7th day at sea, tropical storm Kate changed our destination. From there, in stages, we made it to Grenada the hard – the wrong — way.  I had planned to sail from Turks and Caicos to Cuba and from there to Panama, but one night at the bar in Bob Pratt’ South Side marina a couple cruising those waters convinced me to go East instead: “If you are here already, how can you not discover the West Indies?”  I don´t regret the decision, even if sailing against the trade winds was not always fun.  I discovered beautiful places, met people who are still part of my life, and had good times cruising around some of the islands with the family.  I do, of course, regret the end of that part of the voyage; having lost ANTARES in the last passage from Grenada to Panama via Curacao. 

But unless you stop her, life finds her way through moments of sadness and despair.  It is not about having “the will power,” to continue; I am still not sure about the existence of “free will.”  More likely, given enough time, the genetic algorithms that drive our basic instincts and desires, somewhere deep inside our brains, also clean the areas where pain and sorrow reside; they do not delete the memories, just get rid of the feelings that reduce our functionality and capacity to survive. Well, my bio algorithms got me thinking again about buying a boat and continuing the voyage.

One of the readers of this journal sent me a link to a boat that is on sale in Cartagena-Colombia, not too far, in relative terms, from the place I lost ANTARES. She is a Slocum 43 cutter, a blue-water boat that has already sailed once around the world. The current owners, second owners, bought the boat in Spain and in 2016 crossed the Atlantic landing in Martinique.  For a few years they were cruising the Caribbean, six months in – six months out, leaving the boat on the hard during the hurricane season and flying back to Spain.  In 2019 they did a full refit to get the boat ready for crossing the Pacific, but on their way to Panama COVID19 hit and changed their plans.  They were forced to leave the boat in Cartagena and fly to Spain on the last plane what was heading that way.  I didn’t know much about Slocums, but the boat obviously has the credentials. Plus, the fact that she was ready to cross the Pacific is a plus; she has the gear and systems that I had installed in ANTARES over the years – at great cost in terms of money and time.  Some of the things I like:  a windvane (Pacific Plus) that steers with an independent rudder (the boat’s rudder is only used to balance the boat, so if the steering system fails or the main rudder is damaged the windvane can take over)  ; new radar and other electronics such a AIS, speed, depth and wind; two 270 Watts solar panels (ANTARES got hers installed just a few days before her end); an under deck hydraulic autopilot (ANTARES had a CP2 wheel autopilot that never ceased to amaze me but it was not made for all conditions); and a bimini with a full enclosure for the cockpit. 

I still haven’t bought the boat; I am in negotiations with the owner through the broker. I am not in a rush, for the rest of the summer I will be in Thailand with my daughters, who are visiting, Natalia and Woland.  

If you recall, Woland is the name given to evil in Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. In this new phase of my life, Woland is a Doberman-Pincher, elegant and beautiful as you can see in the pictures, who has been with us for the last two weeks or so; he 2.5 months old.  He too came to my life because of the bio algorithms; I guess I needed to fill part of the emotional void left by ANTARES. Of course, things have become more complicated since we got him.  He needs supervision, exercise, and training; he needs to pee in the middle of the night; he needs to be fed and has high standards for what he eats; we cannot just go anywhere, anytime; until he is trained I can’t travel. But he is a very smart dog. He is learning some of the basics – his name, walking with a leash even if not yet on a formal heel, sitting and waiting for his food, and coming when called or following without a leash.  I am also trying to get him to socialize as much as possible with other dogs.  Many people own dogs around here and they frequent the bars at the beach, so I now have a very good reason to hit the bars at sunset.  The main challenge is controlling the biting. He doesn’t bite me but tries to bite the girls and furniture.  He is a puppy after all, but I am confident he will grow into a well-behaved dog. He is a great companion.  

This morning at 6am Sofia, Woland and I went for a run at the beach under the rain.  It was Woland’s first formal run, and he did great, despite getting completely soaked. 

This journal will continue, albeit with a different name, and more updates about the Slocum 43 and Woland will follow…

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