This blog is about the adventures and misadventures of the sailing vessel Spalax 2, its captain and crew, as they make their way from Fiji to Australia, across the Indian Ocean to Africa, up the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and back to Slovenia.
I hope you’ll join me on one of the legs of the journey or follow me on the net by subscribing to this blog. Also check out my site and view some interesting videos and photos or purchase one of my books.
Please don’t get me started on democracy. What exactly is democracy? In a nutshell, it’s a way of organizing a society where everyone participates in making decisions for the benefit of one and all. Sure looks good on paper.
But let’s take a closer look at the European democratic situation. Who rules the EU? Who are the decision-makers? The Parliament? The Parliament is a joke. It may be a democratically elected body, but its political power has been reduced to the right of its own opinion. Perhaps the Council of the European Union? Representing the governments of EU member states, the Council is a toothless institution without any political clout.
So who wears the pants in the EU, you wonder? It is the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that call all the shots. The so-called troïka. The Commissioners are appointed; the Board of directors of ECB are appointed; the governors of IMF are appointed, representing the interests of big business and big banks – the 1 %. The societies of this world are run by dictatorships, theocracies, monarchies, oligarchies, plutocracies and kleptocracies to mention just a few, and democracy is only used for window-dressing, propaganda and disinformation.
Now let’s take a gander at the situation on the ground, at street level, to find out how the poor bastards working the machines and doing the paperwork exercise their inalienable democratic rights at their place of work. After all, that’s where they spend most of their productive lives. I wonder what’s so democratic about showing up for work and doing what your boss tells you to do. Sure sounds like dictatorship to me.
Today’s post may be off topic as it doesn’t discuss adventure sailing and tropical locales, but it does concern a matter of general interest.
The EU is so very proud of being a supranational political entity that religiously respects the principle of inclusiveness. Included are the marginalized and the mainstreamers, the underachievers and over-performers, the downtrodden and the overprivileged, the criminally insane and the religiously zealous, the LGBT and the BCBG. Or so it seems.
But let’s take a closer look at inclusiveness on the ground.
Let’s take say a concrete example of a permanent official of the European Commission. Article 2(2)(b) of EU Staff Regulations specifically stipulates that a civil servant of the EU must fulfill the criterion of having – and I quote – “heritable interests constituted by immovable property in the form of buildings” in order to benefit from Staff Regulations when retiring.
This only excludes the nomadic peoples of Europe, the riverboat dwellers of Amsterdam, the squatters of Copenhagen, the troglodytes of Crete and the Canary Islands and one Captain Marjan Golobic, making his home on his luxury yacht in French Polynesia, all god-fearing citizens of the EU in good standing. Talk about inclusiveness!
Laticauda saintgironsi, sea krait in English and tricot rayé in French, occurs pretty much everywhere along the New Caledonian coast. Its semiaquatic lifestyle allows it to hunt at night in the water and digest and soak up the sun on dry land during the day.
The Caledonian sea krait feeds on small fish and squid but its favorite morsel is a plump moray eel which it kills with its lethal bite, distends its jaws to almost 180 degrees and swallows it whole like a snake worthy of its name.
Despite its deadly bite, the sea krait is a shy, evasive and reclusive denizen of the tropical seas that doesn’t bite anything that it can’t swallow. But let’s just say for the sake of argument that you did get a bite on the leg. What do you do? The question is how to prevent the venom from getting into the bloodstream and the answer is pressure immobilization. Immobilize the victim, apply firm pressure on the wound and tightly bandage the leg to prevent blood circulation … and call helicopter rescue service.
Marie and Alex are a Franco-Brazilian couple with three pre-adolescent children named Loulou, Gabriel and Gaspar. They make their home on a 36-foot sloop called Sargaço. I befriended them on the Island of Pines and one fine tropical day we decided to explore the nearby islet of Brosse and spend the night. A camp fire on the beach and a magenta sunset provided loads of ambience. The kids particularly enjoyed the fireworks they choreographed with burning sticks after it got dark.
Then it was time to take the dinghy back to the mothership for a delicious spaghetti supper. I turned on my head torch and got the dinghy ready. Suddenly I noticed a sea-snake in the water, twisting its way towards me.
“It’s attracted by the light,” observed Alex and the children started chanting “tricot rayé, tricot rayé.”
“Its bite is ten times worse that that of a cobra,” Marie informed me nonchalantly as she tucked Gaspar, her year-old son into her baby carrier wrap. “But no worries. These sea-snakes are totally unaggressive and local children even play with them. If you do get a bite, you only have 20 minutes to live,” she added to put my worries to rest.
That’s nice to know, I though, but the bloody snake just kept coming.
We eventually managed to get everybody in the dinghy minus the serpentine stowaway and motored back to the mothership for some pasta and tomato sauce.
Next morning we returned to the beach to clean up the remains of the camp fire and explore the island on foot. We encountered three tricot rayés basking in the sun after a long night hunting in the water. And every time we saw one, Loulou and Gabriel would start chanting enthusiastically “tricot rayé, tricot rayé”, while Gaspar napped in his mother’s carrier wrap, oblivious to the universe.
We made it safely back to the Island of Pines and I tried desperately to put this snake business out of my mind.
Three days passed and Marie invited me to a birthday party of her girlfriend also called Marie. Half a dozen French expats and several members of the local Kanak community showed up. I was introduced to Jérémy, a local fisherman, and hesitatingly asked him about the sea-snakes.
“They’re very shy and timid creatures. There’s only been one death from a sea-snake in New Caledonia so far,” he reassured me and added: “Sometimes when we go fishing, we spend the night on one of the motus on the outer reef and a tricot rayé would come and snuggle up to my sleeping bag to get warm.”
I choked, bulged my eyes and almost dropped my Heineken, but managed to keep my mouth shut.
Adventure sailing takes many shapes. As far as Spalax 2 is concerned, one of them is the challenge to decrease its carbon footprint, and today I’ve shrunk it to a minimum by installing a Rainman. (Eat your heart out, Dustin. Just google it.). Rainman is a reverse osmosis desalinator that runs on a 12 V power supply and uses sea water to churn out up to 30 liters of drinking water per hour.
The 12 V power supply is provided by a bank of gel batteries which in turn are charged by three solar panels and a wind generator. Also, Spalax 2, as described in one of the earliest posts, is heavy into the hunter-gatherer mindset, which further decreases its carbon footprint.
Minimizing your carbon footprint is just another challenging aspect of adventure sailing. So why don’t you give us a shout and join us on the adventure of your life on the high seas.
The southern region of New Caledonia offers recreational cycling at its best. Winding its way along surf-buffeted seashore and palm-fringed sandy beaches, a dedicated bicycle path takes you from Numea to Les Boucles de Tina, a recreational cycling facility.
The design of this bike park reminds me of an Austrian ski hill. There is a separate riding range for the kiddies to show off their skills to their parents, but the main part of the park features an easy, asphalted bicycle path for the less adventurous as well as a host of well-marked dirt tracks of varying levels of difficulty, ranging from green (easy) to black (expert).
Great recreational fun for the whole family, off the beaten grid and out of the cyberloop.
Last night I went for a sundowner in the Au bout du monde restaurant in the Port Moselle Marina. I didn’t see a single mask or pair of gloves. Things are getting back to normal in New Caledonia and the local tourists are once again flocking to the beaches of their favorite destination, the Island of Pines. Air Caledonia took to the sky again and the ferry is running again.
Unfortunately, New Caledonia is still closed to the outside world. The risk of the virus relapse is just too great at the moment. We all have to learn how to be patient. La zen atitude, comme disent les français.
My neighbor Alex and his wife Marie were good enough to lend me their SUP. IT was my first time ever, so naturally I was hesitant. But I didn’t fall in the water, not even once. All you have to do is keep your feet wide apart, legs bent and take long paddle strokes. It’s a cinch.
New Caledonia’s Ile des Pins at the southern tip of the archipelago is a botanical outlier. The endemic columnar pine trees and the improbable colossal ferns, straight out of Jurassic Park, vie for living space with the ubiquitous coconut trees, giant agaves and the lowly eucalyptus trees.
But this tropical paradise would not make the top ten adventure travel destinations without papaya, mango, passion fruit and grapefruit, growing wild and waiting to be picked by the intrepid adventurer. Indeed, mother nature at its tropical best on the Ile des Pins, New Caledonia.
I seem to be broadening my horizons regressively in terms of conventional human development. A websurfer-hyperconsumer from Luxembourg is turning into a hunter-gatherer in the tropics. Yesterday’s catch of the day included bamboo sticks, heart of palm, oranges, bamboo shoots, coconuts, avocados and a “Frozen” baseball cap. Today’s take was eight avocados, two coconuts and four oranges. I gotta fight this hunter-gatherer urge. The boat is beginning to list.