May 31st, June 1st, 2nd 1982

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Another day.  Only 2 things to note.  Val made some biscuits, a la Jonas, which were universally (our small universe, at any rate) acknowledged to be excellent.  So much so that the whole batch were consumed within 24 hours.  I have decided that I no longer prefer the burnt biscuits.  In fact, I think I have thought this for some time, but have hesitated to voice my change of taste, since I have been confirmed as the burnt biscuit eater in the Jonas household, and have not wished to disappoint anyone… principally Val’s mum.  Second event – I read an interesting book – The Book Of Lists.  Contains all sorts of lists about all sorts of things.  I think I may emulate – it’ll help lass the time.  We do approach Galapagos, I believe… but slowly, oh so slowly.  And still no fish, so our diet is worsening.  Beans today, lunch + dinner.

June 1st – an even less notable day.  A big disappointment in the morning, when we discovered our supply of porridge oats was all mildewed.  Just when I was so looking forward to a good, hot, filling breakfast.  And with the meals on board getting worse.  Horrid crackers + worse cheese for lunch, along with bruised pineapple + cold, rancid rice pudding.  And beans again for dinner, tho’ thankfully there was mashed potato too.  Still no fish on the line.  Ah well.

June 2nd – Bob’s birthday… again.  33.  Good God.  We finally made it today onto a chart containing the Galapagos, rather than having our position plotted on a large piece of plain paper.  Something of a psychological boost, tho’ not something to get too excited about – our progress is still pitiful – 2 weeks away tomorrow, + still a few days away from land.  We finally persuaded Jack to draw up a contract, but it wasn’t overly generous – a straight $5 per day each, + not necessarily with full refund upon cancellation.  However, we had already tacitly agreed terms when we came on board, so weren’t really in a position to argue.  More substantial meal tonight. (Has Alma been reading this?)

May 28th, 29th, 30th 1982

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Little to report today, apart from the weather, which clouded in again, + the fact that I cleaned up my Sony Walkman, which meant we were both able to use it on the night watch.  It really does prove a blessing then, so that, once I’m up at any rate, I even enjoy myself.  And, for the time being, we have enough tapes not to get too bored with the selection.  Val not feeling too well – she has a cold.

Today Val feeling worse – suffering from some sort of a headache, eyeache, something.  However, she struggled along, + at lunchtime cooked some delicious pancakes with a mock maple syrup.  For once, I felt almost satisfied with the lunch offering.  Discovered  in the afternoon that England had beaten Scotland 1-0.  Have kept up to date with the news – and sports news – recently, since have discovered a reliable time + frequency for the BBC.  Unfortunately, the generator is often on at that time, which provides too fierce a source of interference to be overcome.  Weather nice again, so spent much of the day just lounging.  Jack has been busy ever since we left with minor repair jobs, + sometimes I assist or take over some of those, but the rest of the time I just lounge around, reading.  Val has more to do than me, helping with cooking etc, but she too is by no means overworked.  My watch was a bad one, since the autopilot had broken down overnight, + I had actually steer the thing.  It reminds one of how useful the autopilot is.

Nothing more than procedure, really – keeping a diary on board a boat is rather like keeping one in prison, I imagine. Not all that much happens, and one is constrained by the four walls around you. Surrounded by the ocean, in our case; not that that provides much of interest.

Apologies for the repeated photo – the same comment applies to photos as much as diary entries – not much to record. (Though it does make me wonder why we did not record those few moments when something different was there to be recorded, such as my birthday, for example. Still, no use worrying about that now.


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Two of our Eritrean guests – tied up!

One of the difficulties of the Drama project is the impossibility of ever knowing who is going to turn up, of whether they have been before, of whether I will ever see them again.  Which demands a certain… flexibility.  Nonetheless, I decided I would prepare for the possibility of making some progress with the Little Red Riding Hood story by writing a section of script and stage directions for the section we have done so far.  It would also provide a measure of variety, as we have not worked from the written word as yet, so this would provide an opportunity to test that out.

As more or less expected, there were just four for a while – my two most reliable and committed members Aisha and Hamed, soon joined by Sherwan and Rabar, both of whom have been pretty regular attendees.  They were all able to cope pretty well with the written word, and I gave them the task of rehearsing the short scene between Leila and the Wolf.

Ali arrived at that point, and I knew that he would struggle, as, despite being a natural comedian and clown, his English is very poor.  But I worked with him, while the others continued on their own.  It was when we reached the stage that all were performing their pieces that there was a sudden incursion of about seven Eritreans, a couple of whom I had met before.  This was at about ten to three, so there was still time for them to be involved… provided I could come up with something.

At something of a loss, we played Zip zap boing (as much to give myself some thinking time) and then a couple of mime exercises, before allowing them to work on paired scenes involving a (mimed) rope.  Some of which were, in view of the circumstances, most effective.

And then we had coffee and cake, the latter provided by Hamed (courtesy of a local food bank), and which was a remarkable concoction, a chocolate cake iced to look like a bee hive.  Much appreciated by all (including one of the security guards.)

May 27th 1982

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At last the day we’ve been waiting for, of glorious sunshine, + beautiful smooth sailing.  For just about the first time, we could all just laze about in the cockpit + watch the world go by.  J + A don’t like anyone venturing outside, unfortunately, so we couldn’t get put from under the canopy + into the sun, but it was still pleasant enough.  According to the reckonings of our navigators, ie everyone except me, we’re not moving along too fast, which is a drag.  One accepts that this is not a fast-moving mode of transport, but it would be good to get to the Galapagos.  There, Val + I are hoping to remedy, to some extent, our second grievance, which is that we don’t get enough to eat.  J + A do without breakfast altogether, which means we do too, + as a rule, the other meals are far from ample.  Obviously, we can’t load the boat with our own stores, but we are hoping to be able to buy a few little goodies to help us thro’ the day – chocolate, biscuits, fruit.  Other than that, life continues to be easy.  We aren’t called upon to do very much.  In fact, Alma can be very annoying in this respect, taking upon herself jealously a no. of tasks, not all of which is she the most fitted to do.  She guards the fishing rod from all others… + hasn’t yet been able to pull in a single fish.  Ah well.  I shouldn’t get too pompous, since I got myself in a horrible mess while on watch.  Jack told me to use the autopilot to keep us close to the wind, +, lacking proper instruction, I used too heavy a hand on the blasted thing (we call it Simon) + managed to turn us completely round, with sails flapping + everything.  J + A, both naked, or nearly so, had to come + rescue me.  They were fairly forgiving too – well, Simon was to blame as well.

Evidence that we are not moving as fast as we ought – the projected time from Panama to the Galapagos is supposed to be about nine days, and it is clear that we are going to exceed that comfortably.  The worst aspect of which, from a personal point of view, is that it costs us money, and money that we can ill afford.  Still, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it… apart from complain in the diary.

False dawns?

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The race!

Well, beware of cries of breakthroughs – at least, premature ones.  Much smaller numbers today, and a smaller group of people.  I had also set us quite a difficult lesson today, working on the physical theatre concept of people as things, playing doors, trees, furniture.  Which only works when the participants also get the idea that these objects have personality.  Tried out some reasonably successful exercises – as always, I am reassured when there is a certain amount of laughter – but it proved far more difficult when I tried to apply it to the opening of Red Riding Hood, creating first a cottage, then the woods, then the forest.  Which is a lot to take in at one time, and I should have remembered how tricky it is to go through the early stages of such physical scenes.  Even so, I was a little frustrated.

I had hoped to be able to cast someone other than Taiba as Red – she already has a very similar role in The Boy Who Cried Wolf – but there did not seem to be a sensible alternative.  We were also able to welcome back Ali, the hugely charismatic guy who has been missing for some weeks.  And gave him a first try at being the Wolf.  Unfortunately, his lack of English meant he was not really able to grasp what was required of him, and he withdrew – always a pity when I give someone something with which they cannot cope.

Ultimately, therefore, from a personal point of view, something of a disappointment, and all the more so after what had been a very successful class.

And the next lesson, I was back to just a few – six, reducing to four part-way through when Amjad and his mother Akram had to withdraw – they had received a phone call, so I presume had an appointment to attend.  Tried the lesson on slow-motion once again – it seemed that no-one remembered doing this before, so maybe I was just lucky.  There were some entertaining scenes – a couple of races, which are always full of potential.  And tried to introduce the idea that slow-motion and other devices were a way of sanitising, even mocking, violence.  But I also tried to convey to them that dealing with such a subject had to be their choice.  Rather a subtle concept, so I don’t know how successful it was.

Completed the lesson by sharing some cake with them; after all, it was my birthday!  Another plus was to get to know Hamed, from Iran, who told me his story.  He is a very nice man, and seems to be a loyal attendee, even though he has to come in from another nearby hotel.

Chris and cake

May 26th 1982

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Val taking advantage of the sunshine

At last, the weather broke, + some sunshine at last.  A rather hazy day, but real sun for all that.  And so, for the first time, we were able to obtain a sextant reading.  Unfortunately, it showed us to be a good bit further back than we’d thought, but then it’s no good being nourished by false notions.  Also managed to pick up the BBC, + so discover that Britain had launched their invasion of the Falklands, + had established a bridgehead, that the Pope was shortly arriving in Britain, that Aston Villa had won the European Cup, that Spurs and QPR had drawn in the Cup Final.  The replay was tomorrow, being broadcast live over the World Service, + so we were hoping to pick it up.  It felt almost uncanny to be listening in on England – we even caught a snatch of the Top 20 being played – + may have had something to do with our homesickness rising again.  Val + I had one of our periodic conversations about food – cups of tea, buttered buns, hot crumpets… Perfick, as Larkin would say (Pa, not Philip.)  A fine meal in the evening – chili, followed by cold rice pudding.  For once, there was even enough for me.  And then first watch for me, under a starry sky.

Things seem to be moving along just fine, with even the weather contributing.  And news from home is always good, even though it does create a certain tension, as I have to use the ship’s radio, and Jack does not think this is a valuable use of it.

Larkin, by the way, is a reference to a series of novels by H E Bates about the Larkin family – well worth reading, if English bucolic is your thing.

May 25th 1982

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Jack, looking back

But first, May 24th Part II.  Idiot that I am, I forgot the presents.  She’d sneaked 3 surprise presents on board, + gave them to me with my meal.  They were: a set of Spiderman stickers, a magnetic backgammon set, + a smart T-shirt.  I’ve always berated Val in the past for her lack of imagination over presents, but I was really quite chuffed to receive these.

Anyway, May 25th, + a year away from home.  Makes you think, don’t it?  Though not much.  It’s longer than I thought we’d be away.  And we’re not heading homeward yet.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  However, apart from being an anniversary, not a day of note.  The weather showed the first signs of brightening, but still no sun.  I find the watches infinitely more bearable – or even pleasurable – now that SWII keeps me company.

So well done to you too, assuming you are one of the (small) group of regular readers – a whole year!  Thanks to Val for the presents, and no need at all for the slightly sarky comment.

SWII is Sony Walkman 2, by the way – another technology that is virtually no more.

May 23rd, 24th 1982

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A dull, dreary depressing day.  Not too much rain, but grey, overcast + drizzly, with the wind coming smack from the Galapagos, so we had to motor all day.  The smell of diesel really gets to one, + when we had crackers for dinner, I’m sure they tasted of the stuff – they’re kept in a cupboard in the engine-room, as the only dry place aboard the boat.  I’m reading “The Once + Future King” now – enjoyable, but I can’t read too much of it at one time.  Best part of the day was my watch, from 9 till 12 (we’ve moved back an hour once again.)  The weather cleared up, + Iistened to the Walkman for 2 of the 3 hours.  Bonnie Raitt + the Police kept me company.

But then, of course, my birthday.  I washed myself thoroughly to mark the occasion, + even had my first shave of the voyage.  And tho’ the weather didn’t brighten, we did hoist the sails + switch off the engine – blessed relief.  (You can tell we’re still sailing now by the improvement in my handwriting.)  We still haven’t caught a fish, despite Alma’s promise that we would do so.  She suspects the lure to be at fault.  Val baked me a cake during the day.  Unfortunately, not a great success, since the movement of the boat slopped a good deal of the mixture over the sides.  The rest of the day we passed in the usual manner, with a few small chores to perform, + much lazing around + reading – my book becomes more interesting as you get into it.  The highlight of the day was the evening meal, I suppose.  (Oh yes, I had porridge for breakfast too.)  Not really from a culinary point of view, since tho’ the main course was nice, the cake was disastrous, despite Alma’s painstakingly gluing the whole thing together with chocolate icing, + we washed (or sluiced) it down with a hideous peanut butter liqueur.  No, the success was really the pleasant companionable feeling that evening – I even had Happy Birthday sung to me.  All in all, a pretty fair birthday – not as good as last year’s, but pretty good.

A surprisingly enjoyable birthday, by all accounts, bearing in mind we were in the middle of the ocean, and with a couple with whom we had very little in common.  It just goes to show how small matters – a cake, a song – can mean so much.

May 21st, 22nd 1982

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Wrapped up against the weather

A common or garden day under sail – + really under sail this time.  The wind was thoroughly against us, but nonetheless Jack decided to hoist the sails, + start to tack.  That was certainly OK by us – sailing is far preferable to motoring.  It is far more restful + peaceful, + also provides a far smoother ride (compare the handwriting for yesterday’s page, written under sail, + today’s, written while motoring.)  Under sail, the boat keels over to one side, + then just pitches up + down.  With the engine on, the  boat just ploughs on thro’ the waves, pitching + rolling violently.  Unfortunately, we had to switch from sail when we met a storm in late afternoon, so dinner had to be prepared under difficult conditions.  (Delicious tho’ – steak + potatoes.)  Val + Alma not feeling well – sea-sick, especially when down below.  I even felt not perfect myself, + I’m never sea-sick (as I keep telling myself.)  My turn for the dawn watch, 4 till 7 (we’ve moved them all back 1 hr.)  Very tedious – not a ship in sight, + nothing to do.  Tho’ I did see my first shark, the usual ominous dorsal fin, then a dark long shape, 5 or 6 ft  long, right next to the boat.  Weather squally + unpleasant, + the wind still in the wrong quarter, so we used the motor.  I read “The sailor who fell from grace with the sea” (prophetic?) – a frightening tale.  Not much of note for the rest of the day.  Hooked our first fish, but he broke the hook + got away.  Jack put a new hook on, but left the rod lying about, + I got a hook in my bare foot, tho’ luckily without damage.  In the afternoon, Val cooked a superb stew, (tho’ she would put lentils in it!) which was appreciated by one + all.  And after that it was just about time to start the watches.  Mine was first, 7 till 10, + a dismal 3 hrs.  The weather was lousy, + the time dragged.  About the only excitement (?) was that the running lights kept going out.

Of course you can’t compare the handwriting, but believe me, the difference was notable.  Otherwise, just a pretty normal day on board – passing the time reading, eating.  Unless there is something dramatic going on with the weather, it is all just a bit dull.  In particular, we were well stocked with film for the camera, but soon discovered there was very little to take pictures of, with the ocean in particular being spectacularly dull; there are only so mant pictures you can take of the ship’s wake, and the rest of the view is uniformly dull.  But we are travelling, with the prospect of more exciting adventures to come.

May 20th 1982

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Alma, Val and Jack

Our departure time was put off until 2 – first, because J + A wanted to see if their friend Jan was returning on the morning launch, + then because Jack wanted to pass Cape Malo in daylight tomorrow, so that he could calibrate his walking log.  In the meantime, I completed a couple of jobs Jack had asked me to do – file off the rubber post cap so that it would sit properly, + hang a picture.  The first job I completed to my satisfaction, the second less so (the picture hung crooked).  However, those little chores completed, + lunch finished, we winched up the anchor, started the motor, + set off.  And you can believe me, it certainly felt good to be on our way again – we have had more than our fill of Panama, especially since we were only going to stay for 3 or 4 days.  One huge advantage of the Alma over the Crusader is that it has an automatic pilot, relieving one from the tyranny of the helm.  They only keep a formal watch at night – during the day, just anyone who is up on deck keeps an eye out for ships etc.

A leisurely afternoon – I finished reading “Beggarman, Thief”, the sequel to “Rich man, poor man” – of course, + tho’ I sort of enjoyed it, it wasn’t anything like as good as its predecessor.  Far more melodramatic + unreal.  I’ve now moved back to “Kon-Tiki”, which I’d started but not completed, + val, having finished Catch 22, joined me in a nautical oeuvre, a book of short stories called Sea Quest.  A good meal of onion soup, followed by mango pie, + then at 8 the watch began, 3 hrs apiece.  Val had 8 till 11, Alma 11 till 2, me 2 till 5, + then Jack.  I slept till my watch, + even so did not find it easy to stay awake.  There is a good system they have worked out, using as kitchen timer to mark off every 30 mins, when one should check gauges etc.  The rest of the time, you just watch out for ships – or rather lights.  I was delighted when 5 o’clock came, + I could crawl back into bed for a couple of hours.

Ande so, a life on the ocean wave – at last! – and relatively calm and emotion-free on board. It is fortunate that they have a substantial library on board, as it is clear I at least will be getting through them very quickly. And the autopilot really does make a huge difference – the thought of manning a tiller 24/7 is a daunting thought… but that was what we had been due to manage.