My bicycle is strapped to some metal bars and hanging over the water, its two wheels on deck. I’m rocking back and forth to little wooden creaks in the dead black night. The sea is calm. There are a few stars between wispy clouds. Right now I’m sitting on a little ten-metre sailing yacht with an American skipper who’s sailed half way around the world (and just gone to bed) and an English engineer who’s studying hard for some kind of yachting navigation exam—whispering phrases like “Declination six point five thirty twelve…longitude is thirty six degrees”, then rustling through sheets of paper saying “What the fuck where did they get seven point three?!” Together in this little thing we’re going to make the long passage from Thailand to India. Afterwards the captain and I will sail on to Egypt via Djibouti.
All this is modest conjecture. I’ve never been on a boat this small except to cross a river or something. And I actually have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know how to drop the anchor, how to raise the sail, how to do anything basically. (Though from the picture maybe you can tell I can climb a mast pretty good.) All this new terminology too. So I’m heavily relying on the others to get by, show me the ropes (or lines as they’re called at sea) and I might just know a thing or two about sailing by the time we arrive in India. It should take about 15 days to get there. In any case we can’t arrive earlier than a fortnight since India has presently put a quarantine on people coming from Thailand due to the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s super unlikely we can sail that fast anyway.
It’s weird being on a boat after so much time on land. Just a few days ago I hadn’t even seen the sea for almost two years, since I cycled away from the west coast of Turkey in 2018. And I hadn’t seen an ocean since I left Vigo in Spain in 2016. Now I’m going to be living on top of this giant blue thing for the next couple of months.
Surprisingly there are many transferable and relatable things coming from a long-distance bike trip to being on a little boat, though it may not be immediately obvious. I’ve been told it will be hard for me to get used to the space, or the lack of it. No storage, tiny bed etc. etc. But even though this boat is small, to me it’s massive! There are tons of places to put my three little bags of stuff. It’s convenient. Things are just there and not at the bottom of a bag under twenty-five other things, like cooking pots and a kitchen for example.
There are some problems though. Since our watermaker is broken and we can’t figure out how to fix it, we have to take all our drinking water on board before departure. This also means limiting how much fresh water we use for washing and showering. But I’m used to it. The fridge is also out, so the quality of food will be tin-heavy and needs to be rationed. Also used to it. Probably the hardest thing to get used to is the dullness out there. After we pass the Andaman Islands there’s not even going to be anything to look at for the next ten days (no wifi out there either, obviously). I worked out that the average speed of this boat in good wind is well slower than my average speed on the bicycle! But at least we should be hitting that speed 24/7. Like when riding a bicycle the wind can be both your friend and your enemy. But unlike on a bicycle, no wind is a disaster!
China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand were all lovely, and I regret not having or making the time to write about the things I experienced here. But I knew I would regret not telling you about this new adventure even more. So I hastily bash this post out before we sail off into what feels like uncharted waters…
Here’s to the wind and new adventures!