By Tomislav Perko
A huge wave hit us, and I got up to ask the captain when we should start evacuating. He just smiled, ‘we have good speed, and the sea is relatively calm’. Calm? 2 meter waves, boat rocking on all sides, groceries all over the cupboards, and he says it’s calm? What have I done?
One of the crew members changed their plans, so I can offer you a position on our journey to Africa. Are you still interested?
The email reached me at the worst possible time – I was just settling down in Australia after one year traveling here from Croatia. I had found a job, a place to live, a few friends, and I was a bit tired of traveling. But how could I reject such an offer? When will I have the next opportunity to sail across the Indian ocean?
I bought a plane ticket to Christmas Island, spent few days sleeping in some abandoned military barracks, and on the fourth day I saw my new floating home.
I met up with Captain Mike (USA) and the rest of the crew: Sebastien (Belgium) and Li Ti (China). Two of them were hitchhikers, just like me.
“Have you ever been on the open sea?” asked the captain, introducing me to some basics of his 13-meter yacht.
Not really, I told him. I was on some boat cruises in Croatia, and many times on a ferry.
He smiled. I wasn’t sure if he was already sorry he had taken on a guy with no experience for the second longest ocean passage, or if he found it funny and couldn’t wait to see how I would react once we started sailing. He showed me the hallway bench where I would sleep (both berths were taken), and the adventure could begin – our first stop was Cocos Islands, a thousand kilometres away.
The first night was tough. Whenever I closed my eyes on my bench/bed, I was woken by the moving, in ways I had never felt before. After one huge wave, I got up and went to see the captain to ask when we should start the evacuation. He just smiled and told me we had good speed, and that the sea was relatively calm. Calm? 2 meter waves, boat rocking on all sides, groceries all over the cupboards, and he says it’s calm? What have I got myself into?
I was seasick, especially staying inside the boat, so I tried to spend most of my time on the deck. My favourite part was raising or lowering the sails – but that happened only a few times per day, if that.
Other than that, there was absolutely nothing going on on the boat. We got up, had breakfast, read books, had lunch, went to the toilet, had dinner, and took turns on night watches. We tried catching fish, but with no success.
Prior to departure I didn’t want to read anything related to sailing, scared of what I might find out, and scared that I would give up. I had no idea what life on a boat looked like. I had no idea how far Africa was. And once I found out it would take us almost two months to reach our final destination, I felt as if I was standing in front of a judge, sentencing me to two months in prison. The only difference being jail sounded like the better option. Jail at least doesn’t rock back and forth all the time, and you can have a visitor once in a while.
After 5 days of sailing, we reached our first stop – Cocos Islands. In that second I realised the point of sailing, at least for me – to arrive. The monotonous days on the sea made sense when I saw land for the first time, especially since it turned out to be the most beautiful place I had ever seen.
The downside was we had to leave soon. After just 48 hours of paradise, fully stocked up we sailed away. This time we weren’t stopping until we reach our next stop – Mauritius. It would take us almost three weeks.
Again, I had plenty of time to think about the past year: where have I been; who did I meet; what did I learn? I had enough time to read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and may other books. I taught myself what it’s like to be alone, to be quiet, and to listen; things I always had issues with.
The sailing was going very smoothly, thank goodness. The captain said it was his most boring crossing, which was a good thing. Nothing broke and we had no nasty storms.
He was a great captain; he had plenty of patience with us, as inexperienced sailors. People pay a bunch of money to sail; we were for free. People spend so much on learning how to sail – we had on-the-job training!
18 days after leaving Cocos Islands, we reached Mauritius.
We stayed there for a week. While the captain did some repairs, I spent the entire time away from the boat, laying on beaches and hanging out with locals – I missed that human touch. I had to rehabilitate.
The last leg of sailing was to reach South Africa, my last stop.
Life on the boat was getting easier, even though I caught myself talking to myself a lot, and shouting at the ocean when I didn’t like him. I learned bunch of things about sailing and life on the sea and realised – it’s not for me.
I love the land, and a variety of people. I don’t like to be limited with space. I don’t like the feeling of rocking all the time.
But I love that I took this opportunity. It’s something that will stay in my memory forever.
And on the top of that – I came to Africa!
Tomislav has been on the road for the past 6 years, traveling on $10 a day. If you want to know more about him and his adventures visit www.tomislavperko.com