Maya and The Pride Parade

June 30, 2013, Key West, Florida

„Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well“

-Barack Obama

Every year in June there is a Gay Pride Parade organized in Key West. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender from the local community as well as from all over the world gather on Duval Street to carry the longest rainbow flag on the planet, one mile and a half in length. Locals and tourists come to watch the colorful loud bunch of gays, as well as gay supporters, as they parade from one end of the street to the other celebrating freedom of sexuality. The euphoria builds us, pink confetti, shiny beads, and little round packages with condoms fly over the crowds of slightly drunk onlookers.

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Ivo, Maya and I go to check out this year’s parade. We are a bit late and miss out the long rainbow flag. We get to the New Orleans House bar. On the sidewalk in front of the bar there is a crowd of dancing people dressed up in pink feathers and high heels, suntanned buff guys in tongs, transvestites with silicon breasts. Everyone is dancing and drinking and laughing. The music is so loud and irresistible, Ivo and I join the celebration.

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Maya is shocked. Although I talk to her before we go to the parade and try to prepare her for what we would see, she is stunned and not happy at all. At her age, nine and a half, sexuality is something of a mystery. Homosexuality even more so.

A young guy from Kansas, twenty one, drinking and dancing with the crowd tells me he has a sister Maya’s age and that he wouldn’t bring her to the gay parade. “Kids should not see such things, not before they are eighteen,” he tells me. “What things? You mean “reality”?” According to him, children should be kept comfortably ignorant of the real world and all its nuances, differences, miseries, injustices, and sufferings. Little girls like Maya shall have shiny pink bubbles to live in until they are at least eighteen, and little boys: shiny blue bubbles. Like little Buddhas, the harsh reality should only come to them as a shock when they are older and smarter and more capable of coping with it. Including homosexuality.

I explain to him that as travelers, our children are exposed to all sorts of sights his little sister in Kansas watching kids-friendly shows on TV will probably never see.

Travelling is discovering reality away from the screen and the school system which establish values and set social norms for our children. I also tell him that each kid is different, individuality should be considered in this matter. Maybe for his sister is best not to be exposed to certain things because of who she is or who her parents want her to become. But it’s not the same for Maya. And then I ask Maya what she thinks about the whole thing: the gay parade and gay people in general.

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“A gay person is someone who is a boy and likes boys. They are OK. Like Raceton, I like him a lot. But Transvestites I don’t like because it’s not normal, they are guys that look like Lady Gaga and have boobs. I think this is wrong. I didn’t like the parade, I only liked the music. I felt awkward and embarrassed especially when my dad had his picture taken with the girl-guy, not cool… I think kids should not go to such parades, only teenagers, if they want too”, Maya tells me after the parade.

So maybe I am wrong? Maybe gay parades should be rated 18+? Or maybe Maya simply doesn’t like the fact that her parents don’t just look at the show, like the rest of the “normal” people, but participate in it: dance, pose for pictures and interact with gays and transsexuals. Maya is forced to be a part of the show herself, maybe that is what she doesn’t like? At least now she has a realistic idea of what a gay person is and a transgender . It is a valuable lesson for her; she has just broaden her horizon and she is now more at ease with the subject.

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Although at this point of her life she doesn’t fully understand and approve of some aspects of homosexuality, she is wise enough to understand difference and cope with it. She already had an experience of rejection by her peers based on differences, and her answer to this is I don’t care about theses people who don’t like me or understand me. The important thing is that she likes and proudly accepts herself the way she is.

“I know I am not a normal kid, I am special, but that is different [from being a homosexual]. At school I once showed up wearing a traditional Chinese dress and people ignored me, they didn’t talk to me. They didn’t like me in school, they thought I was crazy and didn’t want to play with me, and that made me feel sad. When I showed up with a short haircut nobody recognized me. They thought I was lying when I told them I saw the Northern Lights, and a volcano, and that I was swimming in a canyon with my clothes on. I am different because I travel a lot. But I don’t care about those people at school and what they think. Nature is my new school and I will learn everything from Nature and Travel.  Besides, I never think I travel too much, it’s impossible to travel “too much”. I love travelling, it’s totally my favorite thing to do and I shall keep doing it”.

Maya, don’t you think that gay people feel sad too when someone doesn’t like them and tells them they are not normal?

They are who they are, and you are who you are Maya, and there is nothing wrong with this.

Maya

Maya

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The Shrimp Who Became a Shark

June 27, 2013 Key West, Florida

I wake up one morning to find a small transparent shrimp on the steps of our boat. Looks like a suicide.

Next day Ivo finds another one. And another one the day after. A dead shrimp becomes a part of our morning routine. We wake up, we make coffee, and we collect the inevitable shrimp.

The first (or second) dead shrimp

The first (or second) dead shrimp

There must be a shrimp kingdom beneath our boat, Fata Morgana. The shrimp king, a fat orange fellow with long antennas, probably had concluded, after a restless night full of hallucinations, that Fata Morgana is a powerful shrimp goddess. One who’s anger and might could annihilate in a minute the entire shrimp population for no particular reason. “Therefore, he had announced to all, sacrifice is needed to appease the powerful goddess hovering above our shrimp kingdom”.

I take the little carcass and gently place it on a hook on one of the fishing poles. I don’t have to cast far. I just drop the hook with the shrimp directly beneath the boat. Two minutes later I catch a small fish. With this little fish as bait Ivo pulls out a bigger one.

Mira with fishes

Mira with fishes

And with the bigger fish we catch a reef shark, about four feet in length or maybe even five.  It isn’t easy pulling it out of the water, the animal resists and tries to free itself. Its heavy body is silvery grey with a white belly. Its head and jaws are smaller and less impressive than the Great White shark we have all seen on TV. The Reef Shark is a common coral reef dweller and they are not dangerous to swimmers. Once, a six-foot reef shark passed nearby as we were snorkeling around a reef and none of us panicked.

A Reef Shark

A Reef Shark

Thrashing about on the deck of the boat, fighting for its life, the creature doesn’t look scary at all but frightened and helpless. It is a beautiful animal and I am against killing it.

„100 million sharks are killed each year-by longlines, by „sport“ fishermen, or by a barbaric practice known as shark finning. Hooked sharks are hauled onto boats; their fins are sliced off while they are still alive. These helpless animals are then tossed back into the ocean where, unable to swim without their fins, they sink towards the bottom and die an agonizing death.

With 90% of the world’s large shark populations already wiped out, sharks are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. This threatens the stability of marine ecosystems around the world. Sharks are vitally important apex predators. They have shaped marine life in the oceans for over 400 million years and are essential to the health of the planet, and ultimately to the survival of mankind.“ (from http://www.seashepherd.org/sharks/)

 

Sharks are endangered species but Ivo and the kids insist on grilling and eating it. Ivo says he is not exterminating large shark populations, just providing protein for the family, like Bear Grills would do…

The shark we caught

The shark we caught

And so we do. We eat the shark. There is so much meat and no bones. It is not bad at all but a bit chewy. I feel guilty…

The next day my belly is killing me, swollen, hard and hurting like hell. I feel like dying. The pain goes away very slowly; it takes me a few days to feel good again. I am sure it is the shark meat even though everyone else is fine. I knew we shouldn’t eat the shark…

Often in ocean predators bigger than four feet heavy metals accumulate, like iron and mercury, and people avoid eating them.

Shark fillets on the BBQ

Shark fillets on the BBQ

 

Today, we are more aware of the problems posed by unsustainable fishing practises around the world. New legislation regulating the overfishing of sharks are being implanted around the globe.

Shark are critically endangered and faced with extinction and some species are already wiped out due to overfishing and shark finning practises. From predator they have become pray. The survival of this marine creature with false bad reputation is being threatened. And it is not just the sharks who are in trouble. All life is interconnected in a fragile balance, and if sharks disappear, our own survival is at stake.

Personally, our family has become aware of the horrific shark-hunting industry thanks to a 2006 Canadian documentary by Rob Stewart Sharkwater. The film is not only informative on the subject, but also full of thrilling action, suspense, and hidden camera footage, as the film crew gets chased by poachers and police in Guatemala and Costa Rica, exposing the illegal shark trade and corruption. It is a must-see documentary.

Sharkwater.com

Sharkwater.com

We decide, from now on we will no longer fish for and eat sharks, unless we are forced to do so by extraordinary circumstances.

* A link to 100 Great Points of Interest in Sharks and their Conservation by Erik Brush

 

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The More We Sail, the Less We Yell

Since a few days now all that needed to be repaired and fixed on the boat is repaired and fixed. Fata Morgana is ready for sailing. And we sail pretty much every day, not more than a few hours, keeping close to shore.

Fata Morgana under sail.  -Photo by Tyler Bullock

Fata Morgana under sail.
-Photo by Tyler Bullock

Sometimes, our friend and boat-neighbour Tyler is coming with us, helping us and teaching us what to do and how, and sometimes we go sailing just the four of us in order to see if we can do it without help. We did it, all right, but we almost killed each other the first couple of times.

Everything in the beginning is stressful and difficult: anchoring and pulling the anchor up, hoisting the main sail and bringing it down, unfurling and furling the jib, adjusting the sails, tacking and jibing, reefing, even keeping a straight course, are all maneuvers that excite much screaming and panicking among the four of us.

– I told you to go port, not starboard!

– I did it! I am all the way to port! The boat doesn’t listen to me!

– Pull that rope!

– Which rope, what are you talking about?

– Use your common sense, god damn it!

– Fuck, we lost speed!

– It’s your fault!

– Watch out that other boat!

– Don’t scream at me, this is not a car, it reacts slowly!

– Don’t talk to me like that!

– We are drifting backwards!

– It’s not my fault!

– I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!

I remember once reading a heated debate about guns on board: should we have some or not. Well, let me tell you, I wished I had a gun those two initiation sails, so I could kill everyone on board, believe me.

But then, we come back to the anchorage, drop the anchor in our usual spot and all goes back to normal. Life is beautiful again. Love is in the air.

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

People tell us all this is normal. “Happens to everyone in the beginning. You can tell the newbies when you see a boat approaching a quiet anchorage and everyone on board is screaming and panicking. It will get better as you learn, though. The yelling and hating will slowly diminish, your skills will improve, and sailing will be fun.

And I believe this is true, as each time we go sailing we do a lot better than the previous time. Now anchoring is a routine two-minute operation, hoisting the main sail is a few steps job which Maya and Viktor can do by themselves. As we are getting better at sailing we are also getting more relaxed and we begin to enjoy the ride. We don’t need guns on board any more.

Ivo at the helm, Mira and Viktor raising the mainsail -photo by Tylor Bullock

Ivo at the helm, Mira and Viktor raising the mainsail
-photo by Tylor Bullock

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Happy Birthday Tony

Tony's B-day cake

Tony’s B-day cake

Tony was born thirty something years ago on June 6 sometime in the afternoon. Legend has it that he was born with tiny baby dreadlocks which grew longer, darker, and thicker as the years passed. He uttered his first baby words when he was only a few months old, still in diapers. With determination and a very serious expression on his face, he said: “beer” and “bike” (in that order). People thought that he would grow up to be a prophet or a genius. They were pretty close to the truth; he became a sailor, adventurer, punk-rocker, anarchist, freedom-seeker, beer-drinker, and biker. He became Tony Beerbike. He also became our good friend.

Chopper and Tony

Chopper and Tony

We met him and his trusty companion, Chopper, in Stock Island where he is working on his sailboat Pisces, a 28 feet Cape Dory, getting her ready for ocean travel and adventure.

On June 6 this year, we improvised a small birthday celebration and went out for a short sail on Fata Morgana with Tony and a few other friends. Tony made a huge pile of Mexican rice, so good, from now on this is how I will make it.

Tony making Mexican rice

Tony making Mexican rice

The sailing was fun and pretty much uneventful. We had a bit of waves that made the boat jump up and down. At the end we tried to anchor without using the engines, but a minor storm came out of nowhere, wind and rain, and we ended up using them.

The birthday celebration at sea ended with a traditional dinghy ride in the rain to a near-by uninhabited boat which was dragging her anchor quite a bit in the direction of some other uninhabited boats, and so an intervention was needed. Cherri, Tyler, and Ivo went aboard the stray boat and successfully deployed two more anchors to stop her from dragging and crashing into any of the other boats. We received thank you calls from some of the neighboring boats who witnessed the whole thing. We felt good about ourselves. And tired.

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Ninety Percent Chance of Showers

We are now anchored north of Fleming Key Florida, a 5 minute dinghy ride away from Key West downtown. There are hundreds of boats anchored out here. It’s free and you can stay indefinitely. We are still doing repairs on the boat, still waiting for parts we have ordered, so we will be here for a few weeks. We have to fix the starboard engine, we need a longer chain for the anchor, and we have to deal with the headsail: either buy a new jib or have the old one re-stitched.

Every day here in Key West is beautiful: either a beautiful sunny day or a beautiful rainy day. There are tons of things to do when it is sunny: sailing, fishing, snorkeling, hanging out with friends, bicycling or walking around town. When it is rainy, there are things to do as well, things you can’t do when it is sunny.

Here is what you can do when it rains (and if you can think of other things-to-do-in-the-rain, please let us know in the comment box bellow):

  1. Give the boat a nice scrub, especially if she has spent the past two months in a filthy boatyard;
  2. Collect rainwater to fill your freshwater tanks;
  3. Ride a bike and get soaked, but feel happy;
  4. Take a shower.

Freshwater shower is a luxury for people of our lifestyle and so an opportunity like this (a free and abundant downpour) needs to be grabbed and enjoyed.

Ivo and Vick taking a rain shower.

Ivo and Vick taking a rain shower.

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Maya collecting rain water.

Maya collecting rain water.

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The Booze Cruise Turned Survival At Sea.

“Waiting is not a waste of time. The patient man succeeds.”

-An ancient Inuit saying

Wednesday May 29th.

The boat is finally ready to sail and we decide to move her to the anchorage near Key West, north of Fleming Island, about two hours of sailing from where we are in Stock Island. It is getting late, the sun is almost ready to dip in the ocean, and this means we will either have to wait for tomorrow or navigate at night. We have no charts, we have no sailing experience, and we have a problem with the starboard engine, it won’t start. We decide to get going anyway. We have been waiting way too long.

The crew members are: our family of four plus Tony and Tyler who are coming to help with the sailing and guide us. We have no experience except the one month sailing school in Saint Petersburg, where we learned the basics of sailing on 18 feet keel boats.

Tony

Tony

Tony has been crewing and working on boats for some time, but he is also pretty new to the sailing world. He is currently working on his Cape Dory 28 on the hard at Robby’s Boatyard getting her ready for the sea.

Tyler

Tyler

Tyler has a lot more time spent on boats. He is the one who knows what he is doing. He has two boats anchored at the same place where we are heading.

Sailing into the sunset

Sailing into the sunset

As we get out in the channel we hoist the mainsail for a first time. We are finally sailing! We have captured just a bit of the wind, a tiny air stream, which is filling the sail and is making the boat move swiftly in the direction we want.

Hoisting the main

Hoisting the main

I once saw a baby struggling with a toy, trying to fit the right shapes in the correct holes. I remember the triumph in his eyes when after much effort he finally succeeded. He laughed and he screamed with excitement jumping in his place, and he was thus proud with himself as if he had performed some sort of a miracle.

First time sailing on your own boat feels the same way.

Ivo at the helm

Ivo at the helm

It gets dark. We are sailing with a speed of six knots. At some point we have to jibe. Jibing is much more radical than tacking and as the boom swings from one side to the other, the stopper for one of the lines breaks and the same traveler that Richard just saved a few hours ago breaks loose and flies off the track! We hear bearings rolling down the deck and into the sea. But the traveler is attached to the lines and so it doesn’t fall in the ocean. It hangs in the air swinging around. Tyler and Tony rush to attach the loose mainsail which is flapping in the wind with much noise. They succeed to secure it in place and the traveler is saved again.

During these 10-15 minutes of panic, nobody pays attention where the boat is going. At some point we see boats anchored where there shouldn’t be boats anchored. Or maybe we are not where we think we are? In the dark, we are navigating by looking at the channel’s green and red lights and the lights on shore. Without a GPS and charts, the only electronic device we are monitoring is the dept sounder. And the numbers it shows us begin to get smaller and smaller so fast, we have no time to think and react. Twenty feet, eighteen feet, fifteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, five, four, alarm!, alarm! , three feet!, two feet!

We run aground. The boat gently stops, there is no crushing sounds.

Remember that excited baby with the toy? He just pooped himself.

The shore is far away, there is just water around us. We are stuck in a sandbank. Great. First time sailing and this is what happens.

There are some weird metal structures sticking out of the water. One is pretty close to the boat. In the dark it looks white.

We take the mainsail down and we try to start the port engine and go in reverse in order to unstuck the boat. But it doesn’t start. Both engines are dead.

With the dinghy Ivo takes the spare anchor away from the boat, in deeper waters. The anchor line is not very long. Tyler says it would be much better if we had a longer line.

The plan is to deploy the anchor and pull ourselves away from the shallow waters by pulling on the anchor line. We work like crazy, pulling at the rope, and it is a heavy job. Tony does an incredible job pulling. I’m sure he won’t feel his arms tomorrow. I just hope no one gets hurt.

We get unstuck but the wind picks up and pushes the boat towards the metal structure. It is now just a few feet away. If we hit it we will damage the boat for sure. At least the port engine starts and we now have a hard time pulling the anchor up by hand. We finally succeed and we start motoring away from these forsaken shallow waters full of strange metal structures. We motor back to the place where we got lost and sometime after midnight we finally get to the anchorage in Key West.

As we go to sleep for a first time anchored out at sea I reflect back at what has just happened. On the positive side of it, I think that we have acquired a valuable experience; we have learned what to do in a situation like that without any damage on the boat. We have also learned that charts are important, engines are important, and most of all: patience. We should have waited and sailed in daylight.

Lesson learned.

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Me And My Bubbles

This job is the deadliest job in the world. More than soldiers or astronauts. Combat soldiers will back down. We never back down. We are trained better than soldiers. Astronauts’ only problem is drifting out in space. Zero gravity is their major issue. We train astronauts. We are commercial deepwater divers. We go to the depth, do the work, we go to the decompression chamber.

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There is the thing. Working underwater is deadly. Most guys who have been diving for a long time don’t want to know the names of the new divers because they are most likely to die. One-time divers. We know that.

When you work as commercial diver you do deepwater work on the oil rig. Welding, repairs. You also pick up side jobs inland. Anything that is not ocean diving. I’ve done both jobs.  Once, I was in deep shit. Literally. Had to do a repair inside a sewage treatment plant. I agreed to do the job. I signed up for it. I didn’t care if I am covered in poop or radiation. I had to do the job. I had to. I was trained to do it. That’s me.

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The working ratio is 3:1. Anything you do for 1 hour on land equals 3 hours underwater. Whether it is striking a hummer of breathing. Breathing underwater is hard.

I loved it. “Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep!, I would beg. Please, send me deep!” You know why? Deeper you go more money you get. But mostly I wanted honor. I was young. My deepest dive was 311 feet. I spent four and a half hours in decompression but when I came out I was smiling.

Fuck decompression, you keep going. Never wanted to return. My happiness was underwater. It was me and my bubbles. It was romantic.

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A few years ago, Richard Michael Jaworski, commercial deepwater haz-mat diver, got hit in the head by a forklift as he was preparing for a dive. Half of his face went missing. In the hospital he died three times but the doctors saved him. He had to undergo hundreds of facial reconstructive operations. They took a piece of his skull to replace his missing right cheekbone. He doesn’t look the same now.

Richard survived the accident. Thanks to science, he says, he doesn’t believe in God or miracles.

We met Rich in Key West Florida and became friends. He lives in a fishing boat out in 3D Boatyard, not far from where our boat was hauled out.

The day after we launch Fata Morgana we receive a part we have ordered a month ago. A part that costs hundreds of dollars. It is called a traveler and controls the boom and the main sail. Without it we cannot sail. Ivo is happy to finally get it. But, as he is about to install it, the thing slips and falls in the water, at the muddy bottom near the docks, some thirty feet below.

We experience a miniature death.

The water here is dirty, full of all sorts of rusty debris and it become thick with mud at only about ten-fifteen feet. Jumping after the traveler and finding it at the bottom is not an option for Ivo. We need a professional diver. We need Rich.

He arrives in his full diving gear, black as the wet feathers of cormorants. We begin hoping.

Very calm, he sits at the edge of the dock, smokes a cigarette, and tells us not to worry, he will get it for us for sure. There is a strange change in his eyes, something I haven’t noticed before. They are almost transparent and white. Like water or like ice.

He disappears in the water. We become silent. We hold our breath and stare in the direction where he vanished. Bubbles emerge. A huge one followed by millions of tiny ones swishing like champagne foam does. A minute passes, or just a few seconds. He reappears holding the traveler above his head, so that it is the first thing we see coming out of the water. A truly epic moment.

Richar Michaels Jawarski
photo by Richard

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The Launching of Fata Morgana

Tuesday, May 27, the day of the launching of Fata Morgana.

The day doesn’t look good. During the 57 days we have spent in 3D Boatyard in Key West FL working on our boat, there were only two gloomy rainy days one of which Tuesday, May 27. The problem with the rain is that we still need to paint a couple of spots on the hulls where the boat has been perched on two wooden props, and this needs to be done when the hulls are dry and the boat is lifted in the air by  the boat crane, an hour before launching.

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

All day we wait for the rain to stop or just give us a few minutes brake, but it doesn’t. It rains persistently, hopelessly: a monotonous female rain, filling the puddles with grey waters. It’s trying to hold us back, to worry and discourage us, and it succeeds for a while. We consider postponing the splash for a dryer day but decide to go ahead and paint in the rain trying to keep the spots on the hulls dry by holding towels above them. This is Tyler’s idea. Tyler, Cherri, and Tony have been helping us with the final works for the last two days, great guys, and together we do a good enough job painting in the rain.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Around 4 pm we are pretty much ready to splash. Tony and I stay on the boat, all the others watching from beneath as the crane gently lifts Fata Morgana like a sedated exotic animal and makes its way among the rest of the boats who watch paralyzed with nostalgia from their places in the boatyard.

The end of the day

The end of the day

Afloat, after so many dry days, Fata Morgana awakens, slightly starts rocking back and forth, feeling content and happy. She doesn’t sink to the bottom of the ocean after being loaded with so many heavy things and that is reassuring for me. The two hulls are submerged exactly to the waterline. Altogether she looks beautiful. She is everything we have imagined.

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And then all sorts of miracles happen. The sun, glorious, makes its way beneath the thick clouds to the west and sets on fire both land and sky. With vengeance.

A rainbow appears in the ocean like a mountain of candies, and you could reach up and touch it.

Three frigate birds like slow kites descend from their usual heights and begin circling above us.

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All this time, a grey carrier pigeon in a cage not much bigger then a shoe box has been sitting on the deck, watching us with one paranoid eye.

Cher Ami.

It becomes evident that we need a ceremony. We are now a tribe of water people aching for a ritual.

Ivo with champagne and hummer

Ivo with champagne and hummer

So, we sacrifice a bottle of champagne (which like the rainbow, the frigate birds, and the caged pigeon, materializes out of thin air) spilling its foamy white blood with a violent explosion over the bow of the boat. Glass shatters, Fata Morgana is christened.

Christening Fata Morgana

Christening Fata Morgana

We decide to take her for a short sail. We motor in the night without stars, with no horizon, only red and green lights blinking in the blackness. We release the pigeon. A ball of feathers disappears in the dark.

In the times of Pharaohs, sailors used pigeons as a sole communication with the land world sending news to their families that they were on the point of returning home. We send a message to ourselves.

It’s time to return to shore and wait for the morning. Tomorrow, we are going to the anchorage near Key West, where Tyler’s boats Rocksteady and En Cavale are too. Tyler and Cherry stay for the night. We are all exhausted.

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