Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Marina Del Rey is the largest man-made marina in the world. It is also a rather expensive marina to dock at, so it is not uncommon for boatowners to dock at other marinas along the California coast even if they live in the LA region. Also, there is a long queue for allotment of slips. However, if someone decides to live in a boat (and I knew at least two persons who did), the rentals come out to be much cheaper than renting an actual apartment. That is of course, if you have a rich uncle who writes you a sailboat in his will. Or you find a run-down but still-functioning boat at rock-bottom prices (that's how one of my acquaintances got hold of his boat). Personally, I wouldn't want to live on a sailboat for extended periods of time. The constant rocking motion, the cramped spaces, and the antiquated mechanism bathroom would get to me in a few days.

I think my personal best of continuously inhabiting a sailboat has been 6 days so far. When we finally finished the 6-day trip and docked at Lavrio marina, I almost leaped out of the boat. But then, I think it was a gruelling trip (at least for beginners) by all accounts. We made it all the way to Santorini from mainland Greece and back, and did mostly non-stop sailing. We left the sailboat only thrice for a few hours each time, and we sailed continuously each night. The winds in the Aegean are strong, and I almost got thrown off the deck in my sleep one night in the Santorini harbour (an unprotected marina with strong waves and winds). We sailed in winds that were 7 Beaufort at night and then were stuck in the middle of the seamless ocean with no wind annoucing itself to our senses. Will I do it again? Absolutely. But I still wouldn't live on a sailboat.

I think I dwelt too much on the rigors of the journey without saying anything about what made it so worthwhile and many things did. The experience of being in the open sea at night, with only the barest glow from a distant island in sight and only the light from your own mast is an indescribable experience. The only sound being the sound of bait lowered from the back of the yacht in the ambitious hope of catching fish, and the chorus of Greeks paying their own special tribute to Dionysis Savvopoulos by singing "Sinefoula". The joy of watching sunsets and then being part of the perfect sunset picture of that hundreds of honeymooning couples might have clicked in Santorni: a sailboat cruising against the backdrop of the sun dipping behind the caldera. An experience beautiful, humbling, enabling and reassuring, all at the same time.

But then, do I need to live on a sailboat to experience all this? No. So yes, S, even though I could see that look of longing in your eyes as you watched the sailboats in the marina, I'm not giving up the ground beneath my feet.