SOS or life on 36 meters
Don’t know if in the end I shall publish this “cri du coeur” once I finally get to internet when we arrive in Chuuk in a couple of weeks… I hope I won’t change my mind. We (Infinity Expedition) are now anchored near Elato Atoll, state of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia (in the middle of nowhere in other words). Today is the 13th of September, and now it’s 23.30 local time. I’m sitting outside on foredeck pleased with myself after washing my hair secretly in the sink, enjoying the moon view and smelling fresh. Everybody is asleep, very quiet, precious time. I have all 36 meters pretty much for me alone.
On the 27th of August we finally left Palau and headed towards Federated States of Micronesia. We had no place to clear customs at, so we are still sailing kind of illegally (By the way, Infinity Expeditions doesn’t bother to have all the necessary documentation when clearing customs and immigration, which often leads to delays and fines). Our first stop was an uninhabited atoll Sorol. Really beautiful place: reef with sharks and loads of other huge (and tasty) fish, picturesque lagoon, long beach with white sand, palm trees over the water and lush tropical vegetation, many big lizards, birds and crabs. From there we sailed further east, part of the passage we were going under the sails, but fortunately the wind disappeared right before we approached the inhabited atoll Ifalik (if there was wind, we would have gone straight pass this wonderful island). What an amazing place this was! Locals and their Chief invited us pirates to visit their island, and the next three days were incredibly interesting for us and for the islanders. Ifalik’s population is 750 people, there is a school, catholic church and a hospital with one doctor. Everybody on the island is related; people fish, make canoes from breadfruit trees, weave bags from palm leafs and always smile. A lot of locals speak English. Alcohol is forbidden, society is extremely traditional. Social order is matriarchal. Ladies walk around topless, clothes are minimal: colorful loincloths for men and lava lava skirts for women. For flower crowns and lei islanders specially grow beautiful tropical flowers and mint. Local people are very beautiful!!! Children are super cute and great singers. All three days locals were visiting the ship and we were visiting the island. We had a very lively trade of presents (we were giving them food, cigarettes and coffee, they were giving us lava lava skirts, palm leaf bags and coconuts). Islanders gave us cordial welcome and arranged good bye gathering in the school, everything was done in a very touching manner. But the most important thing – how incredibly happy these people are, while having so little in their lives! And what a striking contrast between happy atoll Ifalik and our boat’s terrible mess! After the fabulous Ifalik and its harmony I really didn’t want to stay on Infinity any longer.
It’s hard for me now to write something truly objective after all the unpleasant stuff that has happened aboard over the last 18 days… However it’s only been just half of the journey, we still have 16 days to go until civilization… Whatever happens I’m determined to leave this absurd boat in Chuuk. Right now the atmosphere aboard is tedious. Some crew members are thinking of getting off as soon as possible (which is Chuuk). But maybe in the end they will overcome it all and stay (the reason is because most people have paid for their trip several months in advance and some people have even lent several thousands of euro/dollars to the captain for Infinity’s needs, so getting off would mean loosing this money). People tend to have a strange peculiarity (and it doesn’t just apply to Infinity, but to life in general), that I could never understand: they refuse to see problems, criticize them and make a change, instead they suffer and adapt themselves to the current situation. I simply can’t live like that.
The conditions aboard became rougher. About ten days ago captain has turned the water off in the showers. And now each one of us (like a real pirate) is allowed 1 liter of fresh water a day for personal use. I don’t like to be dirty or salty, so I have been violating this blasphemous rule in all possible ways. We have a broken watermaker aboard (this is a real handy machine that turns salty water into fresh water), which our captain didn’t consider necessary to get repaired before we set off for a month long sailing trip in high seas. When the situation became near critical, water was turned off. Surprise, so to say. It all resulted into the following: insanitary conditions aboard, skin infections and rashes, and some people don’t even bother to wash their hands properly after using our somewhat Spartan bathroom. Now this wonder machine – the watermaker – is being repaired by our most active crew members. Infinity actually likes to stop in the middle of the ocean or somewhere quite far from the shore, so that people would have nowhere to go and the ship won’t move until the jobs ordered by the captain wouldn’t be accomplished. I am never a victim of these laborious activities and I’m diligently boycotting such exploitation (lying on the foredeck with a good book in my hands), and performing just my daily “duties” according to the printed week schedule. Just think, I’m actually paying for the show! 39 euro a day… In such conditions only an idiot wouldn’t become a hedonist on strike. So once again I’m just becoming firmly convinced in the correctness of my life priorities. Well, I guess thanks to Infinity Expedition as my time here doesn’t get wasted: I’m acquiring rich life experience. Plus, we sail through some nice places sometimes.
Doesn’t it seem strange to you, that people are forced to work after they have actually paid quite a bit of money for the trip? Some crew members work with pleasure, some don’t, some simply try to skip their daily “duties” and all the extra work as well, but a fact is a fact: you pay to the captain and then you work for him, and sometimes for a whole day. But what is most disturbing is that you are not only expected to work, but labour is demanded from you in a form of an order and sometimes in a disrespectful manner. Not once I personally had to silence some people and remind them that I do not owe anything to Infinity, and do not have to do anything if I don’t feel like it. Great business plan though, ha? So you can just buy yourself a sail boat and travel around on it at other people’s expense: these people – “paying crew” – will have a work schedule according to which they will have to get up early every morning, cook three times a day, constantly clean, steer the ship, do day and night watches, perform all kinds of repairs, and what is most important pay a rather high fee (39 euro daily) for food, water, construction materials, fuel, (and who knows what else) and on top of it all they will call you “captain” with respect and fear in their eyes. What a great idea to live like that! It’s very important to also invent a big promising name for the business, Infinity Expedition, for instance (or even venture to call yourself a non profit organization)… and not to forget about the mission, which can be as simple as “saving the planet”! Everything turns out just brilliant. So what does actually the mission of our ship include? Well, first of all long morning reunions (simply talking) about how we shall save the world, but most important is to film how we gather rubbish on some beach. By the way where shall we put all this rubbish afterwards? We shall carry all of it (several tons) on the foredeck of our ship until the next port (lots of cockroaches, ants, flies, termites aboard – it all doesn’t matter, the most important thing is our mission). Then later in this port, lets say, they will refuse to take our trash for recycling, and then we would do a princely gesture and drop all these several tons of trash in front of the door of some bureaucrat. What a way to solve a problem… And yes, Infinity Expedition mission accomplished, planet saved! Everything is filmed and very soon will be uploaded on youtube. Such hypocrisy…
Joking apart, in the future I will think a thousand times before joining such “expeditions”. I recommend you do the same, my dear friends, be careful not to get into a trap. I shall soon write a more objective and detailed review of Infinity Expedition analyzing all its advantages and disadvantages. When you read this post, I shall be just fine, already far away from the ship and from its absurd.
Elato Atoll, Yap, Federated States of Micronesia