More Journeys

Last time I left off with how I was in New Zealand crewing on an old cargo ship that was getting ready to voyage around the world. 

Finally the day arrives when we were ready to set sail, even though all of the necessary repairs had not been made because of Vladimir’s abrasive behavior towards the locals. With a broken water maker, and unreliable electric panel we set off for our first destination, Norfolk Island, located off the west coast of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia in the Tasman Sea.

As soon as we leave sight of land, everything falls apart. We have not been assigned schedules so we have no idea when we can sleep, eat, or are expected to be on watch. After a few days we do whatever we want. There is no order, and at sea order is absolute. Without order, everyone’s safety is jeopardized. Vladimir starts to become unglued. He doesn’t bathe, shave, sleep, or change his clothes for the entire two-week passage, and starts wearing his girlfriend’s scrubs.


The interior defense dines under the sabotage.


Bob and Dee have taken to fishing over the side. One day an albatross gets caught in the invisible line. It is too horrific to watch. I cry as this magnificent bird struggles to get free but in the end is so mangled that he chokes on the line and dies. Nobody seems disturbed by this except me. It is similar to when Vladimir asked me to throw the epoxy resin he had been using overboard. I refuse, citing how bad it is for the environment. He gives me a belittling laugh, insisting the epoxy will not pollute the ocean nor harm the sea’s creatures. Again, I am the only one disturbed when Vlad throws the hazardous waste overboard himself, as I would not.


One morning Kurt and Daphne awaken me early. They tell me to hurry up on deck and so I do. There, playing in our bow wave is a pod of white-sided dolphin illuminated by the glow of the phosphorescent surrounding them. To my left is Norfolk Island. A strange and quiet feeling comes over me as we approach the island. Here we were a shipboard community with our only reality and our entire world comprised of being aboard this 127-foot space. So to come upon an island in the middle of the vast South Pacific Ocean with nothing else visible, is really minded boggling. There is nothing around for miles and miles except this tiny, isolated island and the people on it; just a little dot in the middle of nowhere with life happening all over it.


We lower the anchor just off island. Without a harbor, getting ashore can be tricky as you have to time the tide just right, or you risk smashing your dingy into the rocks. The objective is to land at the jetty where a large crane with a hook on one end of it, extends a mechanical arm forward to pull the boat up and out of the water. This is how the islanders unload cargo from ships that stop in route to and from New Zealand and Australia. In the event that inclement weather prevents them from motoring or rowing out to where the supply ship is anchored, they are forced to wait until the following month for another to stop.


While we are anchored off island, things come to a head. The crew had been promised time off because we had been working 6 weeks straight. Naturally, we all wanted to go ashore. After a heated discussion, Vladimir informs me that he never intends to honor our agreement that we had made regarding my work hours prior to coming to New Zealand. We had agreed I would work 2 hours a day less than what was required of the rest of the crew, but since my arrival it has never been the case. The reason for this was to give me time to gather footage to create a promotional video to entice paying passengers to sign up for different legs of the voyage, which is how they were funding the trip.

As matter of principal I decide to get off the boat. Vladimir would not let me back onboard to say goodbye to my shipmates or to pack my own bags. When my belongings were delivered to me on shore, there were a few items missing.

So there I was, sitting on the jetty with more gear than I could carry, not having a clue as to what I was going to do but understanding that going home was not an option. I had just quit my job, sold everything I owned, and had only been gone just over a month. I wanted an adventure. I had two thousand dollars in my pocket. I thought I would take a hiatus and see this beautiful little island, and then fly to Australia and find another boat. Little did I know I would never make it to Australia.


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