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Cassiopeia - Episode 6/6 – Laaaaand!

There was a joke going around at some point about a two-page literary composition: "The horse entered the forest and went thubalup, thubalup, thubalup, thubalup, thubalup, thubalup, [...] thubalup, thubalup, thubalup until it got out of the forest." What if the composition had to be 4 pages long? No problem: more 'thubalup'.

Same goes for me, with episode 6. What else is there to tell by the end of it? The same: more stories from Episode 5 – “Tradewinds”! But here comes a new element ... a telluric one. For me, these were the most memorable moments from the sea adventure movies when the sailor in the crow’s nest would shout as loud as they could: ‘Land ahoy! Land ahoy!’ to the great joy of the crew.

I must confess that I felt a bit like cheating by having all that on-board equipment. In the old days, navigation was based on the captain’s calculations and measurements that resulted in an approximate position that, most of the time, wasn’t even shared to the crew. Kept in relative darkness, with a constant sensation of wandering on the watery desert, the “Laaaand!” cry would suddenly strike them like a miracle, a divine gift.

In our case, the GPS would permanently inform us on where we are and, more importantly, how many miles were left until we reached our destination. So, on the 22nd day we knew that we only had 69 miles to our destination and that land would soon be visible. I was restless. I woke up at 5.00 am, more than an hour before dawn, and I went out on the deck. 55 nautical miles left. My watch was due to start three hours later but I did not care. My gaze was fixed on the horizon. 49 miles left, 6:12 am. I was gifted with the most beautiful sunrise in the entire expedition. 45 miles left. The sun was up by now, making the view clearer. 41 miles left. Is that a cloud in the distance? A stray wave? An illusion created by too much desire of seeing something too early? No! It was real! A mountain peak... Grand Piton, the iconic landscape of Santa Lucia Island! “Laaaand! Laaaand!” And a photograph through our binoculars’ lens to capture the moment!

The cry also propagated electronically! One by one, my wife, sister, father, Valentin got the message. So did my crewmates’ families / friends. Even far away, at the receiving end of the radio waves, the noun that turned itself into a sentence and, eventually, into a whole story had more than one ‘a'!

That was it! We arrived. Or, at least, we were very close. Just a couple of long, very long miles away. Miles that now felt as long as some of the hundreds from when we were half trip. And then there was the finish line, marked by a beacon so familiar to us, participants in so many regattas. The longest course of the regattas from previous years has been 60 nautical miles - 24 hours. This time, the course has been 2900 nautical miles long, 510 hours travel time. Yet, the beacon was the same. The ship was the same. The crew was the same. As for the feeling? Priceless!

The End. Or is it? For us, the adventure goes on. Everything here is exciting. The temperature, Rodney Marina, palm trees with Christmas decorations. Meeting the supermarket employees who wear Christmas hats when you burst through the store doors for a breath of air conditioning to escape from fainting in the streets from the heat. Their Jamaican English. The local rum -   rum punch actually. In fact a local rum cocktail with passion fruit, mango and strawberry puree, all frozen like a sorbet. The ocean water, perfect for a swim. The street posts / names with 'West Indies' written on them, something that I am crazy for in this context. The rasta people, an absolutely common sight. The ubiquitous smell of ... mint (??). Reggae music.

Once you get here you realize Bob Marley was not an accident. He was the international epitome of a culture that, eventually, has been condemned to give such an artist to the world. Everything here has reggae-flavour. Even the music coming from the low-riders with tinted windows and drivers wearing sunglasses, cruising with their elbows on the sills is reggae... admittedly, too loud up and sounding a bit “kitschy-ed,” but still. Pop and rap are considered exotic music and rock / punk / heavy metal are missing altogether from the picture. No offense for genre fans, but that would be totally inappropriate here. “Why the anger, man? Bless." :)))

I have no idea how it feels traveling by plane to spend your holiday on Santa Lucia Island. But I know how it feels crossing the ocean on a sailboat to get here. The moment you arrive to the West Indies the old way, carried by the wind. When you shout "Laaand! Laaand!" after almost a month of endless sea. That feeling is the feeling of being on top of your own Everest, made up of sailors / skippers, and insatiably breathing in the air. An air flavored by colonial spices and reggae ...

This time I will not wish you a good watch, as I did before. It's time to drop anchor.

But thank you for our watches together. Once reconnected to the internet, I found that there were a lot more of you than I imagined.


Yours truly, Ovidiu Drugan/Cassiopeia


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