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Cuba: 1960 under Castro
Hiking: ME to GA, AZ, AK, HI, Canada, Norway, Germany, Japan, Mexico
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It sounded like it, anyway. Apparently my boat had struck an unbuoyed uncharted wreck. The hull heeled abruptly and was swung around by the waves. On the next swell it was lifted free, but in the following trough the crash was louder and the boat heeled more. Clearly the third impact would be the final one, and the sea would pour into the grounded hull. I had no life raft, and the nearest land was several miles away, beyond the swift currents of the cold dark sea.
The QUOTES above are the immortal words of Snoopy, another would-be author. To find out if (?) and how I survived, read on.
Here I am 90.3 (as of 2017), an Ancient Mariner, a Valuable Antique, and have made little progress in writing a book about my travels. Part of the delay is knowing that others have had more exciting experiences and have written about them more artfully, and part is sloth. So I'm starting the book with this blog.
Andy Warhol said everybody would be world-famous for at least 15 minutes. An exaggeration, but I was spotlighted briefly by Lowell Thomas after crossing the Atlantic alone in 1957. He was the newscaster who had made himself famous by making Lawrence of Arabia famous. Soloing the Atlantic was uncommon sixty and more years ago, and always resulted in media coverage, and often a book. Now many have done it, because of precedent and improved technology (GPS, self steering, more). I didn't have much of either.
Often I've been asked why I did that. For those who don't mean, "What possessed you to do such a foolish thing ?", here's from whence the infection came:
* Richard Halliburton, whose vagabonding books I got one Christmas at a time when I was a kid, starting with the seductive Royal Road to Romance.
* My grandfather. Not the German immigrant who got run over by a streetcar in Harvard Square when I was a year old, but my mother's father, Frost Paine Bailey, who was closer to me than was my father. The Baileys barely stayed afloat financially in the Depression by a little farming, a little real estate, a little taxi service, and his part time job as the Harpswell, Maine, agent for Casco Bay Lines. All my senses recall the shiny swirling grey green water, connected to the rest of the planet, in the narrowing gap between the high dock and the little steamer Aucocisco, which Grandpa met twice daily.
* Miss Heald, my teacher in our one-room Winslow grade school, who instilled a love of geography. She told us about the Euphrates flowing past Baghdad to join the Tigris and form the Shat al Arab at Basra: obscure to us then, not so now.
* My appetite for exciting voyages was whetted by two flights from Maine to Mexico in my $800 Commonwealth Skyranger.
For about two decades a succession of things had crowded out thoughts of the sea: puberty, girls, MIT, World War II, marriage, jobs, small planes, fatherhood. Then divorce in 1952, which meant the trauma of losing my treasured daughter Carol. That year I went to Greenland as an engineer. The hours were long and the tax-free pay was high. Four years later I took ship passage from Montreal to Holland. I thought my opportunity to sail across an ocean might never come again.
PS in 2017: I was not only free of obligations, but also relatively free of concerns about money. In other words as an American I was rich in postwar Europe, which had hardly begun to recover from the devastation. From The Economist of 8/26/2017: "The average wage for a labourer in the early 1960s was $39.70". That's a lot less than a dollar an hour for a work week of 48 hours or so, and it was worse in the 1950s.
There was a lovely surfeit of girls on the steamship. That's a Long Story, which means you can read between the lines, I don't know who will read this, and some ideas thought to be modern have really been current for a very long time.