1983, 1984, 2007


The Red Sea and Suez:  April--June   

    I look at pictures online of Alexandria, Egypt. 

    The Cecil Hotel, a remnant from colonial days, is now crowned by a large Sofitel sign--not an improvement--and another British relic, the Windsor Palace, claims four stars and displays comments from guests about how helpful the staff is.  Not quite my memory of the place, when the staff helped not me, but themselves to my traveler’s checks.

    In April of 1983 I spent many long hours sitting on the balcony of a fourth floor Windsor Palace room, facing the old harbor, looking down on the noisy Corniche; and I spent more hours walking the long arc of the Corniche:  the Mediterranean, more or less blue, slopping against the low sea wall to my left as I walked east, and to my right as I slowly walked back west.  Several lanes of traffic on the landward side, mostly motor driven, but slowed by a few donkey carts laden with bundles of wood or sacks of grain.  I was killing time, waiting for offices to reopen, waiting for men to appear at their desks, waiting for pieces of paper to pass from hand to hand, waiting for those pieces of paper to be signed, stamped, and then passed to another office and another desk and another hand to be signed and stamped. 

    I did this for two weeks, during which those offices were closed for three holidays, as well as every Friday, Islam’s Sabbath.  One of those holidays was the first anniversary of Israel giving the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt.  That night from my balcony I watched fireworks illuminate the sky and reflect off black water.

    The oval of water before me was was occupied by small fishing boats.  The Pharos, the ancient lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, once stood on one of its  breakwaters.  Just to the west of a narrow neck of sand was the new port, at that time the second busiest in the Mediterranean after Marseilles.  Most of the offices where I sat and waited for the glacial movement of paper were inside that port.  The guards recognized me as I appeared punctually every work day at 10:00 a.m. Other offices, including that of the retired Egyptian naval officer who was my shipping agent, were scattered about the city, usually within walking distance.  There was no point in my appearing earlier.  No one was in before 10:00 a.m., and most were gone by 2:00 p.m.  This left a ample time to get to know the Corniche.

    Most of the offices were small and cramped and cluttered.  Up stairways; down corridors.  Fans turned listlessly from high ceilings.  Papers, folders, binders, were stacked on shelves, on floors, in corners, and occasionally even on desks, which appeared to be other remnants of British rule, left from one of the parts of the World War.  Perhaps the Second, but maybe the First.  Those desks may have known T.E. Lawrence, before he became “Of Arabia”.  Paint was dinghy, drab, institutional, cracked and peeling.  The buildings had not been bombed in the more recent wars with Israel, but they looked as though they had.

    One office was different.  It was not actually an office, but a big noisy two-story high room, with long lines of chattering men in front of grilled windows behind which dwelled unseen keepers of the Holy Grail.  The legend was that If you passed all the requisite papers all correctly signed and stamped through those grills, the container(s) with your cargo would be released to you.   My shipping agent and I had been in that room three times.  I had given him money, at least some of which he had given the men behind the grills.  But always we were turned away.  Always there were more places, more papers, more baksheesh, which means “a sharing of the wealth”.  Mine, such as it was, was certainly being shared.  But CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II, allegedly recently arrived from England in one of the hundreds of containers stacked behind the high walls of the new port, remained unreachable.

    So I paced the Corniche.  I became familiar to some of the regulars there.  One afternoon when I was taking photos of the harbor, the young son of a sidewalk food vendor held up his new puppy and indicated that he wanted me to take their photograph, which I did, even though we both knew that there was never a way to get him a copy of the picture.  No one hour development services in 1983 Egypt.  That he and the puppy were important enough to be photographed was enough.

    Alexandria is, of course, a city of great historical interest and of some charm.  Before going there, it was to me the city of Lawrence Durrell’s THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET, and of C.V. Cavafy, the Greek who wrote some of the greatest poetry of the Twentieth Century when he was not laboring at an office similar to those in which I too often waited.

    I saw some of the sights:  Greek and Roman ruins.  A statue of Mohammed Ali, not the boxer, but the pasha who in the 1800’s founded the dynasty that ruled Egypt until overthrown by Nasser in 1953.  A cafe frequented by Cavafy.  But I wasn’t a tourist and it wasn’t the right time.

    One afternoon on an unpaved sandy side-street only a block west of the Corniche, three young Egyptians came up to me and tried to began a conversation.  “Was I English?  American?”  As I kept walking, they proceeded to offer me drugs and then women.  I declined and returned to the Corniche.

    I was never certain if one old man there ever did recognize me.  He never gave an indication that he did, but the price of a bottle of Jim Beam that he carried in a paper bag kept being reduced every evening.   Glancing around, he would roll down the bag to display the bottle.  I certainly could have used a drink, but I don’t like bourbon.  Still I noticed that the customs seal appeared to be intact, and as the price dropped over the course of several nights from $25 to $5, which seemed low even for stolen goods, I wondered what the trick was.

    Several years later a former British soldier who had served in Egypt explained it to me:  a red hot needle is inserted into the bottom of a genuine bottle of spirits, which is then drained and refilled with Nile river water of the same general color.

    Egypt then was more liberal than many Muslim nations. Perhaps it still is. Women were freer and most in Alexander wore Western clothes, displaying more skin than would have been permitted elsewhere in the Middle East.  But alcohol was not available everywhere, including with meals at my hotel.  I found a Greek restaurant that offered Egyptian wine.  Only two choices:  red or white.  It was cheap and should have been. But it was something.

     Despite the presence of the Nile, the desert was not far away.  Sea mist and blowing sand often combined to form a haze over the city, which like Egyptian wine, smoothed rough edges.

    I had planned for baksheesh, but not enough, and after a week I needed more cash.  I had one of the earliest VISA debit cards against a brokerage account, but Barclay’s Bank in Alexandria would not advance cash on it.  I was told that I would have to go back to Cairo, a hundred miles away.  I decided to cash my emergency traveler’s checks instead and so discovered that someone at my hotel had carefully removed and then replaced the top nine $100 checks from the binder and taken the bottom one, whose absence I would not normally have noticed until I was far away from the city.

    There was a commonly accepted black market in Egyptian pounds--in Suez shops on the main street had signs offering black market rates for U.S. dollars--but I had to exchange my traveler’s checks for the much lower official rate.  I gave half to my agent, who promised that this was the last, that my container would be released the following day.  When it wasn’t, I lost my temper.

    This is not usually a good idea, particularly in third world countries, but this time it may have led to the desired result.  When told that there was still one more problem and that two hundred more Egyptian pounds would solve it, I got up and without a word walked out of his office.  Momentarily amazed he watched me go, then ran out and called down as I descended a central winding stairway.  “Mr. Webb?  Mr.  Webb?”  then an imploring, “Master?”  That was the only time in my life anyone seriously called me that.  I still did not trust myself to speak and left the building and returned to my hotel.

    That afternoon the front desk rang that I had a visitor.  I went down to find my agent, who apologized repeatedly and informed me that through heroic efforts and expense, which he would deduct from his own commission, the final authorizations had been obtained and my container would be released the following morning to be trucked across country to Suez.

    I do not know that my walking out of his office was the cause, perhaps it would have happened anyway; but it is possible that he realized that I had had enough and he had gotten all he was ever going to get from me.

    Not long after dawn the next morning, he meet me at the main gate to the container facility, introduced me to two truck drivers, who spoke no more English than I did Arabic, though I did speak some.  In my enforced leisure I had learned a few common words and phrases and could count from one to ten.  Miraculously the gates opened.  A container was located and loaded on the flat bed truck.  I could only hope it was the right one.  And we headed south.

    The Nile has many mouths and its delta is an inverted wedge a hundred miles wide on the Mediterranean shore that narrows to an apex at Cairo.   Alexandria is near the western edge of that wedge. 

    I had flown over Egypt the year before, returning to California from Sudan after my grandmother’s death, and looked down on a green thread winding through the khaki desert, until it widened as we approached the Mediterranean and the first clouds in a thousand miles.

    The truck jounced through a flat landscape that seemed timeless almost all the way to Cairo, before we turned east for Suez.  Donkeys in wooden yokes walked in endless circles pumping water from wells.  Figures stooped in fields.  The road was only two lane, and although the Egyptians took a break every hour to have something to eat and drink and change places, we made progress.

    In the third hour we climbed a hill and as we started down the other side, the tops of the pyramids became visible above the layer of haze and smoke of Cairo.  They reminded me of the top of Mount Agung, floating disembodied above the clouds in Bali.  That these were manmade was impressive and the moment almost worth the frustrations of the past two weeks.

    Skirting Cairo, we joined the much better road, a highway built to carry military supplies east and off-loaded cargo west from Suez, and abruptly were in the desert.  As mile after mile of sand speed past, my spirits began to rise.  Soon.  In a few hours, CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II would be in the water and I would be aboard her.

    With a final stop for lunch, we trundled into Suez and up to the port’s entry gate at 1:00 a.m.

    One of the Egyptians and I got out.  He handed a sheaf of papers to the guard.  The guard thumbed through them, called to another man inside a sentry box, who came out and looked at the papers as well, then directed the driver to a shed a hundred yards away.  I watched as he shrugged and walked to the shed.  Ten minutes later, he emerged, returned to the truck and spoke rapidly to the driver.  Together they came over to me and pointed at the shed.

    We walked to the shed, where I found several clerks, one of whom spoke English and told me that we couldn’t enter the port until the local representative of my Alexandria shipping agent appeared with some necessary piece of paper.  They had already telephoned him and he would arrive momentarily.

    Three hours later he hadn’t and my truck drivers were threatening to   turn around and drive back to Alexandria with my container.  Through the English speaking clerk I promised to pay their overnight expenses and an extra day’s pay.      They were still considering this when the local agent finally arrived. 

    Smiles all round.  Paper produced.  Gate opened.  Container offloaded by crane.  Container opened.  Boat inside.  Carried outside by several men.  Masts.  Rudder.  Floorboards.  Everything seemed to be undamaged.  I signed papers, then watched anxiously as a sling was lowered from the crane.  The operator grinned and waved.  All

other work stopped.  Men stood and watched the novelty of a tiny white hull being lifted into the blue sky, then swung out and lowered gently into the sea.  I gave the crane operator a thumbs up and climbed down a steel ladder embedded in the concrete wharf.   As often happened, the little boat bridged the gap between me and local people.   As I rowed away, men waved and cheered.

    The first leg of the resumption of the open boat voyage was not a long one.

    I rowed a few hundred yards beside modern concrete wharfs, then turned south and tied up Med-style at the Suez Yacht Club.

    The last war had been fought ten years earlier and Israel had stopped on the east side of the canal; but in Suez it seemed more recent.  Rubble from shelled or bombed buildings had still not been removed.  I assumed this was from the 1973 war, but it might have been from the war before that.  Or the war before that.

    The yacht club was a low two room, crumbling structure, dark inside, with an armed guard outside in front, and a short rickety wood dock in back to which were tethered a handful of local boats and another handful of visitors waiting to transit the canal.

    The truck drivers were waiting for me with my luggage, including a

new Avon Redstart dinghy.  I gave them some money and they headed back to Alexandria, 

     My first task in order to make room was to rig the masts, which on the CHIDIOCK TICHBORNEs I could easily lift myself. 

    I didn’t bother to tie the tarp between them--it certainly wasn’t going to rain--but just lay down on the floorboards and stared up at the sky. 

    There was no wind and the little boat barely moved, but I was satisfied to be back on the water again for the first time since I had unsuspectingly steeped ashore six hundred miles south and almost a year earlier in Saudi Arabia.


    After minor provisioning--I had brought a hundred freeze dry meals with me--I sailed south to cross my track in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I.

    I don’t ever recall setting off on a passage with less enthusiasm.  I was heading several hundred miles in the wrong direction into a part of the world I did not like.  It was just something that had to be done.

    With strong wind behind us, the sailing south was good, but I did not really enjoy it because I knew we would soon be beating back against that same wind.

    Naturally I stuck to the Egyptian side of the Red Sea.  If I ran into trouble, I certainly wasn’t going to go ashore again in Saudi Arabia.  Egyptian officals had been tedious, but they hadn’t thrown me in jail.

    Because of refraction from the heated desert air I found the same difficulty in getting good sextant sights that I the previous year, but finally one local noon I had a postion line that put us due west of Rabigh, where I had unsuspectingly landed in June of 1982. 

    My charts had remained with CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I in Saudia Arabia, so I was not completely certain of my earlier track, and for that matter my postion lines were always suspect in the Red Sea so I wouldn’t have been completely certain anyway.  I let CT II sail on for another hour before thinking, ‘That’s good enough.  I’ve done my duty’.

    With considerable relief, I turned the little yawl around and trimmed her hard on the wind for the beat back north.

    It was no fun.  None of the Red Sea was fun.  I had been becalmed there for a week, had a severe gale, hit a coral head at night, been imprisoned, divorced and learned of my grandmother’s death.  The southern entrance to the Red Sea is the Bab el Mandeb, which is variously tranlated as “Gate of Tears” or “Strait of Sorrows”.  For me it was well named.

    The beat was wet and hot during the day, and wet and cold during the night.  The wind and chop decreased at night, so CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II sailed higher and faster and made better progress then, though at a cost to me of lost sleep, tacking repeatedly between the shipping to the east and offlying dangers to the west.

    While the Red Sea itself is about a hundred miles wide, the final one hundred and fifty miles were up the Gulf of Suez, which is only ten to twenty miles wide and in which shipping is even more concentrated.

    Twice I anchored to get some rest. 

    The second night I did so on the Suez Peninsula side about thirty miles south of Suez. 

    The next morning I awoke to distant shouts.

    I sat up and saw that they came from three uniformed men standing around a military vehicle on the shore two hundred yards away in an otherwise empty desert.

    One of them gestured for me to come in.

    Several expletives fought for precedence in my mind.

    I stood up, aware that I was presenting a bigger target, and shrugged my shoulders.

    They continued to shout and gesture.

    I yelled, “I can’t come in.  Too shallow.”  Which probably wasn’t true.

    One of the men turned to one of the others, who began to take off his uniform, presumably to swim out to me.

    I bent down and opened the dry bag in which I kept my papers and took out my clearance to and from Suez.  I didn’t expect it would do much good, and I could have been holding up anything at that distance,   but I held it up and, shouted, “I have clearance to Suez.”  I pointed from paper to my chest to Suez several times.

    For whatever reason, this worked.  Perhaps my words carried and were understood, or at least were recognzied as being English and caused some confusion.

    The man stopped taking off his clothes, and after a minute or two when no one moved, I pulled up the anchor and sailed away.

    It was a tired sailor who tied up to the Suez Yacht Club a second time:  the Red Sea finally and forever behind him.  I was afraid that I would find angry officials wating for me, but I never heard anything more about that morning’s incident.  Instead I was summoned by The Prince of the Red Sea.

    I knew he was the Prince of the Red Sea because his business card said so.

    The card and summons were conveyed by the heir to the thrown, a pudgy teenager, who appeared at the Yacht Club not long after I did.  Presumably someone keeps watch for yachts arriving from the south, and the Prince, who has been reduced to acting as an agent for vessels transiting the Suez Canal, wanted to get to a potential customer before his rivals, Ibraham and Moses.

    The Prince has a name, but I preferred to call him ‘Prince’.  It has a certain flair, as in:  “Prince,” I said.

    The Young Prince persuaded me onto the back of a 125cc Suzuki.   More then once during the five minute ride, I contemplated the irony of surviving so much at sea only to die in Suez traffic.

    The Royal Palace was a crowded tenement near the center of town. 

    The Prince greeted me effusively, offered a cup of tea and his services.  Apparently the Prince had not fully believed reports from his minions of the size of my ship, and CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE would have looked bigger through binoculars.  “Six meters.” and “18 feet” were repeated several times before comprehension dawned and expectations fell.  Still times were hard and business is business.  For a modest fee of about $50 U.S. The Prince would deign to ease my transit through the Suez Canal.  I agreed and was Suzukied back to the yacht club.

    I thought it would be easy.  I don’t know why.  For thus far nothing in the Middle East had been easy, except perhaps in Aden, where they didn’t have much but didn’t cause me any grief.

    Obviously I could not sail or row CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II the one hundred miles to the Mediterranean; but with her minimal weight and wetted surface, she would be easy for another yacht to tow, and there were several in Suez willing to do so.  It all seemed settled.

    Unlike Panama, there are no locks on the Suez Canal, just straight cuts running to and from the Great Bitter Lake.   The canal is a one-lane highway.  Ships move in convoys, which pass one another on the lake or at another designated bypass.  To reduce erosion of the banks, they move at only eight knots.  Yachts are timed to avoid the convoys.  Each yacht must carry a pilot.  He serves no real purpose.  It is hard to get lost chug-chug-chugging between sand dunes, but he must be aboard anyway.   Yachts anchor overnight on the Great Bitter lake, where the pilot is put ashore, and a new one picked up the next morning. 

    The Prince of the Red Sea appeared just before noon with bad news. 

    “Your boat cannot be towed by another yacht,” said the Prince.

    “Why not?”

    “All towing in the canal must be done by Canal Authority tugs.”

    “A full size tug to pull this?”  Incredulity.  Disbelief.

    “Only official tugs can tow.”

    “That sounds expensive.”

    “Yes.  It would be.”

    “How much?”  Skepticism.

    “It would cost approximately $100 U.S. per hour.”

    Knowing that CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II could not safely be towed at more than six knots, I did a quick calculation.  “That would mean I will have to pay $1700 or $1800.”

    “Yes.  But it does not matter.”


    “They don’t have a tug small enough to tow you.”


    “Let me try to see if I’ve got this right.  I can’t be towed by a yacht because all towing must be done by Canal authority tugs, but even if I  were willing to pay for one, they don’t have a tug small enough to tow me.”

    Pleased with my quick comprehension, the Prince smiled.  “Exactly.”

    More silence.

    “So where does that leave me?”

    “I can arrange for your little boat to be carried as deck cargo.”

    “I don’t want to do that.  She should go through on her own bottom.”

    “Or,” the Prince continued and I realized we were getting to the crux of the problem, “I have a cousin who is the local Suzuki dealer and can get you a good deal on an outboard.”  Satisfied smile.

    “I don’t want an outboard.”

    “But you would have it permanently.  Not have to wait for the wind.  He will give a very good price.”


    “Even if I had an outboard, I would still have to carry a pilot?”


    “No pilot will be willing to get on my boat.”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Of course you do.  Look at it.  Would you step aboard?  Would you sit there in the sun all day with no toilet except a bucket?  Have them send someone down here and look.”  Confidently,  “ If they can get a pilot to agree to go, I’ll buy an outboard.”

    And there matters remained for two days during which no one came from the Canal Authority and, like the bottle of Jim Beam in Alexandria, the price of a five horsepower Suzuki outboard steadily decreased. 

    On the second evening I was sitting on CHIDIOCK reading when a voice called from the dock.  Sticking my head from under the tarp/tent, I saw an unknown Egyptian who said that he had heard I was having a problem.

    He was an engineer who worked for the Canal Authority, as well as being a member of the yacht club.  When I told him the situation, he said that this was not handled in his department, but he would see what he could do.  I don’t know that I ever got his name.  His action was altruistic.  I don’t know what he did or to whom he spoke, and I never saw him again to express my gratitude, but the next morning a disappointed Prince came by and said that I had permission to have CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II towed through the canal by a yacht.

    Roger, an Englishman who was single-handing a 32’ boat and was scheduled to start his transit the following day was glad to have someone to share the helm.

    We tied CHIDIOCK alongside Roger’s blue hulled ketch until we were clear of the harbor and then moved her astern.

    The pilot made himself a nest of cushions and fell asleep, while Roger and I took turns steering.

    At the Suez end, the canal is cut twenty or thirty feet below the level of the surrounding desert.  At times from the town you see superstructures of ships moving eerily through sand.

    Every few miles we passed checkpoints with docks, a few buildings, military positions.  All on the west side.  And war debris:  ruined buildings; abandoned vehicles; unidentifiable twisted metal.

    The docks were mostly new and in good condition so a ship could tie up alongside without delaying an entire convoy if it encountered problems during transit.

    It was a long, boring day; but at last the thin ribbon of water widened as we reached The Great Bitter Lake, where we anchored and a launch picked up the pilot.

    The lake is closer to Suez than Port Said, so our second day was longer. 

    The new pilot arrived at dawn.  He was displeased that we were towing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II and called shore on his handheld VHF before permitting us to get underway.  I looked around and pictured myself trapped, forever sailing the little yawl endless back and forth on the aptly named Great Bitter lake.  Finally the pilot turned off his set and said we could go.

    A cool wind strong enough to create a two foot high chop blew from the Med, still sixty miles distant, as we powered across the lake.  Some spray came over the bow and I imagined how happy a pilot would have been on CHIDIOCK.

    More docks.  More military positions.  More checkpoints to which the pilot communicated on his radio.   But as they had while trucking CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II to Suez, my spirits rose with each mile.  I had entered the Red Sea more than a year earlier, and now, today, in a few hours, I would finally be free.  To me all of the Middle East was an Arabian prison. 

    We had already been given our clearance papers in Suez.  Roger and another British boat transiting with us were going to Israel, but because of diplomatic absurdities were compelled to declare their destination as “the high seas.”  I wanted to get away from that part of the world as quickly as possible and had cleared for Malta.  We were permitted a single night in Port Said. 

    As the afternoon progressed, the banks of the canal decreased in height until we were level with the sand and buildings became more numerous.  At 4:00 p.m. we entered busy Port Said harbor, which isn’t as big as Alexandria but seemed so from the water.  The pilot directed to us the yacht club located on the east shore.   Two yachts that accompanied us north were already tied up, as were two waiting to head south. 

    This yacht club was in better repair than the one in Suez; but other than an armed guard, to keep us in and others out, was deserted.  The showers worked, but hopes of a meal evaporated.  I retired to CHIDIOCK.   The silhouette of Port Said was exotic against the lowering sun, but I was content never to step ashore.  Ships and warehouses blocked the view north toward the Mediterranean, but I knew it was there.

The Mediterranean:  June--September

    Water dripped from the oars as I rowed out into the harbor.  The sun was still below the eastern horizon, but I had already been awake an hour and there was enough light so that the small ferries connecting Port Fouad on the east bank with Port Said on the west could see me.  The closest bridge across the canal is thirty miles to the south.  Usually I wait for wind:  but I wanted to be gone.

    I rowed smoothly at a moderate pace.  The pre-dawn air was cool.  After a half an hour, the sun and a slight wind came up.  It was enough to enable me to secure the oars and raise sail.   CHIDIOCK’s bow wave began to gurgle.  She seemed as eager as I.

    A ship was entering port as we headed out.  Some men came to the rail to stare down at us. 

    Just beyond the end of the breakwaters, the superstructure of a wreck broke the surface of the water.  I wondered how that had happened so close to safety.  As always in the Middle East she might have been a war victim.

    The wind increased, but I kept tacking north until Egypt disappeared from view.

    I gazed around at a satisfyingly empty horizon, then let the little yawl’s bow fall off to the west.

    The Mediterranean Sea is for power boats and always has been, even when the power came from men at oars.  I had oars, but was reluctant to row two thousand miles, so I sailed. Slowly. 

    The cliché about the Med is that there is either too much wind or too little.  In summer usually there is too little.

    Of course there are local variations.  I read that the Greek Islands routinely have strong northerlies, and I was almost overwhelmed by another local variation in the Strait of Gibraltar.  But mostly I found flat seas and light wind and too many ships.  European waters are not good for solo sailing.  In other seas, even in the approaches to ports as busy as New York City and Cape Town, you can avoid shipping channels relatively easily.  But in Europe there are too many ports and too many ships, big and small, moving on unpredictable routes, and many, many fishing boats.

    I almost never had the Med to myself.  I expect that most ships never saw me.  During the day, a good many did and came over for a closer look.  Not always at convenient times.  More than once I had to wrap a towel around my waist while sitting on the head bucket.

    At night I slept lightly and was fatalistic.

    My only distant sight of land was a hazy glimpse of sand along the Libyan coast toward which I was forced by headwinds.  I tacked away immediately.

    The nine hundred miles to Malta took more than two weeks.

    To the British Navy Malta was:  “Hells, smells, and bells.”

    At the strategic center of the Mediterranean, Malta still looks like the monochrome fortress it has always been, all sand colored rock and stone, withstanding two great sieges:  that of 1565 when the Knights of Saint John withstood the Ottoman Empire and that of 1940 when Germany tried to bomb it into submission.  The ‘hells’ the forts; the ‘bells’ the churches; the ‘smells’ self-explanatory and to my nose much diminished.      Unmentioned is an incongruous forest of television antennas sprouting from every roof.

    Earlier in the year back in California I had sold the house my grandmother had left me and flown to England where I bought the 36’ RESURGAM.  I still admired Drascombe Luggers, but needed something a bit larger for a permanent home.

    I remained in Malta only long enough to have the little yawl hauled at a boat yard before flying to England to commission RESURGAM and sail her to Vilamoura, Portugal.


    In August I played another round of musical boats, returned to Malta, launched CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, and set off for Vilamoura in her.

    The western Mediterranean was even more crowded that the eastern, particularly in the strait between Sicily and Africa and on the approaches to Gibraltar.

    Again the wind was fluky and the sailing slow, boring and uneventful until I reached the exit.   After the events of the preceding year, I could live with boring.

    Finally one evening Gibraltar appeared ahead, and the following morning I sailed past the rock and town in light wind.  I could easily have gone in, but didn’t.  Both CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II and I were in good shape and I wanted to get to Vilamoura.

    About noon half-way through the strait and a half-mile off sheer Spanish hills, a wind that I later learned is called a “levanter” because it blows east from The Levant came up as suddenly and unexpectedly as any wind I have known.

    In the open ocean there is almost always warning.  During the day clouds and squall lines can be seen approaching.  At sunset I examine the sky and while I have sometimes had false positives and thought we might have trouble during the night and slept lightly on guard against weather that did not develop, I never recall a false negative, of thinking that everything was all right and then experiencing serious weather before dawn.

    But not near the land, and particularly not near big bodies of water like the Great lakes and the Med, where pressure moves quickly from land to water and back again.  And especially not in a place like the Strait of Gibraltar, where water and wind are funneled through an eight mile gap between the mountains of Spain and the mountains of Morocco in a great, dramatically appropriate western end to the classical world.

    In CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II I was caught with full sail up when the wind increased from less than ten knots to over forty in seconds.

    Full sail was only one hundred and thirty square feet, divided into three sails, thirty square feet each in furling jib and mizzen and seventy in the loose-footed main.

    At the instant the wind increased I had the tiller in my left hand.  Simultaneously I felt the wind against my skin and the power of the little yawl accelerating through the water.

    The wind, which had been coming from the sheer land to starboard, now blew from almost dead astern, just slightly on the port quarter.  I threw my weight to that side of the boat, changed hands on the tiller, and eased the mainsheet.  I would have lowered the main, but I could not let go of the tiller long enough to reach the halyard.  The distance was only six feet.  It wouldn’t have taken more than seconds.  Perhaps only two or three.  But I knew the boat would capsize before I could do it.

    CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II was an extraordinarily well built and good sailing little boat.  She displaced less than nine hundred pounds and had a centerboard, which was at that moment part way down, but she was never intended to get up on a plane.  I don’t know that technically she did.  I do know that as it had thousands of miles earlier in a fifty-knot storm near Tahiti, her boat speed indicator pegged at the maximum ten-knot reading as we raced along the Spanish coast.

    The wind came up so suddenly that for a while there were no waves.  But after half an hour or so they began to build.  They were not high, only two or three feet, but they were steep and close together, and  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II began to roll as she surfed down them, her bow wave reaching high above her fourteen inch freeboard.

    I steered small, trying to keep the little yawl in the groove, hoping for a lull that would enable me to let go of the tiller long enough to drop the main.  But a lull never came.  Instead the levanter increased to over fifty knots as the strait narrowed and our course converged on the fast approaching point of land jutting out at Tarifa.

    I did not think I could jibe with the main up without capsizing.  I wasn’t going to try until I had to.  Even if I was thrown clear, there was no place to get ashore, only waves smashing against rock.

    People ran down to the point as I approached.  Waving their arms and yelling for me to steer away.  As usual when people yell, they didn’t understand the situation.

    I was sailing by the lee, my eyes moving from the leech of the main to the rocky headland before us and back again, feeling the main collapse, steering up until it filled, which pointed our bow more toward the land and caused more shouts, which barely reached me through the wind, then off again.

    In the last few seconds, the people ashore fell silent.  None of us knew if I was going to make it.  Vaguely I saw them above me, standing gape mouthed, as CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II and I blasted past with two or three yards to spare.  Then they broke into yells again, presumably of congratulations.  I was too busy looking for isolated rocks to glance back.

    While the land immediately receded to the northwest and within a few seconds I was safe from running aground, I could not let go of the tiller long enough to lower the main until we reached the shelter of Trafalgar Point some twenty miles further on.  We covered that distance in ninety minutes.

    Two days later we reached Vilamoura.

The Atlantic:  October

The Island That Would Not Be Passed

     Thinking about it afterwards I succumb to the pathetic fallacy and say that the island waited, for that is the way it seems; that the island was waiting, wreathed in clouds and absolute assurance that she would draw me to her.

    To me in Portugal the island was nothing more than an inverted teardrop, marked on the chart of the North Atlantic Ocean, Southern Part, as rising almost 8,000 feet above sea level some seven hundred miles to the southwest and a guidebook photograph of stone steps leading up to a Spanish church before a backdrop of green mountains.  An outpost, the island was the last speck of land off Africa.  Beyond it lay nothing but open ocean to the Caribbean.  I knew that there was a harbor on the east coast of the island at a place called Santa Cruz.  But that was all.  I did not need to know more because I had no intention of going there.

    Thinking about it afterwards I realize how my life has turned at places I never intended to visit:  New Zealand, Vanuatu, Saudi Arabia.  Soon it would again--this time at La Palma in the Canary Islands.

    In making an Atlantic crossing from Europe to the Caribbean, sailors balance the hurricane season, which ends at the beginning of November, with the advent of winter gales.  The accepted rule is to sail down to the Canaries and then wait until January for the trade winds to establish themselves fully. But it was my intention to cross the Atlantic twice that season, sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II to Antigua and then flying back and sailing RESURGAM across.  So I left Portugal in October in CHIDIOCK, despite an unfavorable forecast and early in a season during a year when the world’s weather was abnormal almost everywhere.

    The wind headed us on the fourth day, ending what had been pleasant though cool sailing.  Just after taking a noon sight of a sullen sun lurking behind thin clouds, I changed from sheet-to-tiller self-steering used on a reach to simply tying down the tiller for going to windward.  Within a few hours the wind had increased to over twenty knots.  The mainsail was reefed.  I was perched on the windward seat.  Heavy water was breaking over the bow.  Alternately pumping and trying to wipe spray from my eyeglasses, I watched great thunderheads tower above us.

    At sunset we were heading directly for a dark purple line-squall.  anxiously I scanned the horizon, seeking a way to avoid it. But even as I watched, it grew and advanced upon us.  I lowered the mainsail and sat wrapped in the tarp as cold rain plucked inquisitively at my foul-weather gear.   After an hour, still in the rain, I turned on the flashlight and fumbled through the food bag until I found a can of ravioli, which I ate cold and diluted by rain and salt spray before lying down and trying to sleep.

    Under jib and mizzen CHIDIOCK was heeled 15º to port, and it felt as though every wave would capsize her.  I did not expect that under those conditions she would capsize; it just felt that way.  I lay down and pulled the tarp over my head and tried to tuck it in at the side and over my feet.  I knew that I would not sleep, but there was nothing else to do.

    I screamed at the sky.

    That first gale lasted two days and three longer nights.  During the second night the wind increased to over fifty knots and I had no choice but to heave to for five hours, during which we were driven backwards at three knots, or three times faster than our velocity-made-good of one knot earlier in the day.

    I accepted that storm.  I had set sail knowing of the low near Madeira.  I had expected it to move, but obviously it had not.  So I had gambled and lost and had to take the consequences.  On the third morning the wind gradually weakened, the black waves began to average less than ten feet, and the sky partially cleared.  By afternoon, puffy, regularly spaced, low, white clouds and a northeast breeze made me wonder if we were already on the edge of the trades  If so, the gale had been a fair price.

    After the poor sailing in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, I let my mind recall fine fast days in the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Sea.  I was looking forward to this last ocean passage, to giving CHIDIOCK her head and letting her dash off in a series of one hundred mile days.  Perhaps we could challenge our best runs ever.  After three times making more than one hundred and forty miles in twenty-four hours, this would be our last chance to try to break one hundred and fifty, for good sailing could not be expected from the Caribbean back to San Diego.  All this from a few puffy white clouds.  How adaptable is man, which is to say how easily does he deceive himself.

    By nature an optimist, by experience a pessimist.  Experience won again.  At sunset we were sailing directly for a dark purple line squall.  I did not scream at the sky because of that.  I screamed because the wind had returned to the southwest, again directly heading us.  I informed the sky that if we had to have another gale, at least I was entitled to a reaching gale.  The sky ignored me.  Except for a few hours, CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II would never know reaching conditions again.

    Ahead of us, beyond that wind, now two hundred miles closer, Atlantic waves smashed into the black volcanic rocks of La Palma Island.

    A kind of madness comes to a sailor in a small boat in a gale, if by madness one means the acceptance as normal of conditions that are far from acceptable.  That night I slept for twenty minutes when I first lay down at 7:00 p.m., and then lay wet and shivering beneath the tarp almost until dawn before sleep came to me again.

    As CHIDIOCK slammed and slithered through a pitch-black night, the pitiful barriers between my body and the sea were breached.  Hull, tarp, foul-weather gear, clothes, were useless in this second gale, which struck before I had dried out from the first.  The dividing line that night between myself ad the ocean became very thin.

    The struggle was unceasing.  Lying down, my cold wet shirt plastered against my back beneath wet foul-weather gear, my cold wet Levis plastered against my legs, my cold wet feet inside wet plastic bags, I snaked an arm from the tarp and pumped the bilge every few minutes.  I tried to count the strokes but lost track at more than two hundred when CHIDIOCK lurched.  There must have been thousands of strokes every hour, hour after hour.  I reached for the mainsheet.  This was what made me think of madness.  Teetering always on the verge of burying the lee gunwale and swamping, at intervals CHIDIOCK started actually to go over, and I did not even bother to sit up but just reached out blindly and played the mainsheet as one would racing a dinghy around the buoys in a harbor.  A sailor does not live on or even in a boat as small as CHIDIOCK; he wears her.  Truly I was at one with my ship.

    Conditions were such that I kew that were I living ashore I would not go day-sailing even on a larger boat.  Deliberately I turned my mind away, as one might from a battlefield, and tried to think of something more pleasant.  But while my mind wandered, my arm continued to play the mainsheet.

    Within a few hours the wind decreased to less than twenty knots and we had more reasonable sailing.  At dawn the 12,172 feet high volcanic peak of Tenerife Island appeared twenty miles or so to the south. 

    That night I slept well.  We were becalmed.

    For three days we drifted off Tenerife and celebrated two anniversaries:  November 11, my forty-second birthday; and November 12, the fifth anniversary of the beginning of this voyage.

    For my birthday, CHIDIOCK presented me with a broken shroud.  On a larger boat this would have been serious, but on the yawl I was able to lower the mast and jury-rig a line to replace the wire, which had snapped at a swage.

    Fluky afternoon breezes enabled us to make  a few miles each day.  On the afternoon of the twelfth, the shadow that was La Palma Island appeared on the horizon southwest of us. I considered if I should put in for provisions.  This was our fourteenth day at sea, and we had covered only seven hundred miles.  CHIDIOCK had been provisioned in Portugal for two months, but we still had two thousand seven hundred miles to go.  If we ever found the trades, we would have no problem.  But if we continued to make only fifty miles a day, I would soon have to start rationing supplies, which, unrationed, hardly provided a luxurious diet.

    I glanced at my face in the mirror.  A bit gaunt.  I pinched my arm, like a housewife testing a chicken in a store.  A bit stringy.  But I supposed that losing a few more pounds would not kill me.

    A return of wind, from the southwest naturally, was following by the obligatory sunset line squall.  The north end of La Palma Island lay roughly five miles south of us when the black clouds came together with a sound of thunder, which might as well have been the slamming shut of a door to the open ocean forever.

    Quickly the wind rose above forty knots.  For CHIDIOCK these were conditions in which to heave to, but I wanted desperately to get past the island.  I tried to stagger on under jib and mizzen.  Initially I held the tiller in my right hand and played the jib sheet with my left to keep from capsizing.  But soon I could not hold the thirty-square-foot sail with my left hand and had to switch to my right.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II toppled from crest to trough, her gunwale scooped up the ocean, solid water covered the bow.  Above the sound of crashing water came a high-pitched whine from the rigging.

    The strain on hull and rig and sailor was immense. I knew that we should not be sailing, that despite all the commotion, we really weren’t getting anywhere.  CHIDIOCK did not have the weight to carry forward motion through such waves.  We were simply leaping up and down in one spot, making at most a knot and not even in the desired direction.  At least, or so I told myself, we were not losing miles.

    Yet we were not to be permitted even that solace.  After an hour the wind increased to the point where I could not control the jib sheet with both hands while trying to steer with my knee.  We had no choice but to heave to.  I reached for the jib-furling line and pulled on it with one hand while slackening the jib sheet with the other.  The sail flogged dreadfully, shaking the rig, the hull, me, trying to tear us apart.  The furling line came taut.  The sail still flogged.  CHIDIOCK was out of control.

    Thinking that either the furling line had snarled on the drum or that the head swivel had jammed, I tried to ease the line.  The full sail flogged harder and pushed the boat backwards into a wave that broke over us.  CHIDIOCK shook herself free from most of the water, but the cockpit remained partially full.  I tried the furling line again.  Again it came taut with the sail only partially furled.

    With water in the cockpit acting as ballast, the little yawl settled somewhat.  ‘Settled’ is an ominous word.  From the tiller I grabbed a couple of shockcords normally used for self-steering and waded forward.  My weight on the bow reduced our inches of freeboard dangerously, but when I captured and tied the flogging sail, the mizzen took control and relative order was restored.

    By the time I had pumped out the cockpit, the squall had passed and a few stars were peering shyly through the clouds.  I found the flashlight and tried to figure out what was wrong with the jib.  In reduced wind, I experimentally unfurled and furled the sail until I realized that when I had replaced the furling line after jury-rigging the shroud earlier, I had put enough wraps on the drum to furl the sail completely in normal wind, but the tension on the sail in whatever wind we had just been through had caused the sail to wrap so much tighter that half of it remained exposed.

    This was a fortunate discovery, for it prevented me from resuming sailing until I had crawled forward and put additional wraps on the drum.  Before I finished, another squall hit, and we remained hove to.

    There is an immense difference between trying to beat against a gale and being hove to.  For several hours I actually slept fairly well in at least fifty knots of wind.  Only occasionally did a wave leap aboard.  Only occasionally did I have to pump.  CHIDIOCK rode the waves like the proverbial cork.

    The problem was that we were going too quickly in the wrong direction, as I knew from the  Red Sea when I made more than two hundred miles stern first while hove to for three days.  At 1:00 a.m. I saw from the compass that the wind had shifted to the northwest.  By playing with the mizzen sheet and the centerboard, I was able to direct our drift to the south.  During the hours we had already been hove to we must have been pushed safely away from La Palma, I reasoned.  The island is about twenty miles long, running north/south.  Thinking that if we could not get past the north end of the island, perhaps this gale would push us past the south, I went back to sleep.

    The sky was clear of all but a few distant clouds.  The sun was bright, the waves slight.  I had set the jib and resumed sailing before dawn. Now CHIDIOCK sat under full sail.  The white buildings of Santa Cruz dotted the shore a few miles west of us.  I watched cars climb a road clinging to a steep, rocky shore.  I watched Iberia Airlines 727s land and take off from a runway carved from cliffs.  I gazed up at green peaks, rising behind the town, just as they had in the almost forgotten guidebook photograph.  I did all this at some length that Sunday morning.  We were becalmed.


    Across smooth water, CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II raced for the last rock off the south end of La Palma.  Ahead of us the open Atlantic sparkled in sunlight.  The wind had returned just after noon.

    Sitting on the starboard cockpit seat, I was content.  CHIDIOCK was still hard on the wind, the tiller tied down, the jury-rigged shroud to weather, but she was dancing along at five knots.  This was the first good sailing of the passage.  I expected to put La Palma behind us before sunset.

    When that last rock was still three miles away, another door slammed, though this time without a drumroll of thunder.  From a clear sky, the wind increased to gale force.  Even close to shore the sea became choppy.  CHIDIOCK’s speed dropped; her bow fell off until she was pointing due south toward the island of Hierro, thirty miles away.

    For a while I let the little yawl head that way, hoping that we would work clear of what might be only locally strong wind funneling around high land.  Yet the further south we sailed, the stronger the wind blew.  I glanced back north.  The sea was covered with white-caps to the horizon.      On our present heading we might pass east of Hierro sometime during the night, but if we turned, we would have a reach back to the north end of La Palma.  CHIDIOCK would make at least six knots reaching in this wind.  I untied the tiller, and we came about.

    That afternoon was splendid--a last hurrah, although I did not know it then.  CHIDIOCK remained well balanced under jib and mizzen.  Out of pleasure rather than necessity, I kept the helm in the warm sunshine.  The low waves pushed us rather than stopped us.  CHIDIOCK seemed to enjoy the romp.

    The rock at the south end of La Palma quickly disappeared.  The white buildings of Santa Cruz passed abeam yet again.  A rock at the north end of the island came into view.  I expected to have a late dinner, for I had decided to continue steering until we were past the island, but I did not expect it to be as late as it was.

    The wind disappeared with the setting sun.  Twilight found me playing cat’s-paws, trying to crawl the last mile to a flashing navigation beacon.  This time the door closed silently.  Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. we made two hundred yards, and I gave the wind an ultimatum:  either let us pass that light by 8:00 or I will go into Santa Cruz to reprovision, perhaps re-rig, rest, and wait for the weather to improve.

    At 8:00 p.m. the light insolently flashed half a mile to the west.  A glassy sea reflected stars.  CHIDIOCK drifted quietly.  No breath of wind troubled the flame of the stove as I heated water for a cup of tea.  I slowly turned the bow toward oft-passed Santa Cruz.

    It was the middle of the following morning  before I reached the

breakwater, behind which I found a small, rather dirty harbor filled with a few small freighters, about twenty yachts, all sensibly waiting for a break in the weather, and some fishing boats.  The freighters were tied to a wharf at the north end of the harbor, near the center of the town.  The yachts were anchored off a high cliff to which they had run stern lines.  On the top of that cliff, reached by stone steps, sat the Club Nautico.  The fishing boats were on moorings near the south end of the harbor, beneath a several hundred foot high cliff.  A forlorn arc of black sand ran between this cliff and the lower one at the Club Nautico.  The beach seemed to be composed of cinders rather than sand.

    Having lowered the sails, I kept CHIDIOCK stationary with the oars and considered where to put her.  Clouds began pouring over the mountains, blotting out the sun.  Gusts of wind scurried about the harbor.  I let them push us closer to the yachts.  A woman rowed out from one of them.  Men standing near the fishing boats yelled something and gestured toward a vacant mooring.  As she came within hailing distance, the woman said,”Webb Chiles, I presume.”  I cannot pretend not to be pleased at this  recognition.   Her name was Annie.  She asked where I had come from.  I asked what the weather had been like in the harbor and in what depth the yachts were anchored.  As we drifted I saw that there was no room for me among the other yachts.  Of course there was space for the hull, but not enough for CHIDIOCK to move about as much as she likes, even with a stern line ashore.

    I rowed toward the mooring indicated by the men.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II was much smaller than the fishing boats; presumably what held them would hold her.  I could always move later.

    I took the mooring, tying fore and aft to it as the nearby fishing boats were tied.  I waved my thanks to the men, who smiled and waved back.  A sheet of hard rain drove Annie back to her boat, the men ashore into a shack, and me hurriedly to erect CHIDIOCK’s harbor tarp/tent.  That we were deep in the shadow of the cliff did not seem significant. 

    In Portugal I had met a beautiful English woman, whom I telephoned and asked to come out and spend a few days with me.  The forecast was for continued unsettled weather, so I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.  She agreed, but her travel agent in London had only a vague idea of the Canary Islands and put her on a flight to Lanzarote, the island closest to Africa and furthest from La Palma.  I got on one of the 727s I had watched from the sea and flew to Lanzarote.

    The Iberia jet banked slowly on the approach.  During the short flight from Tenerife on that lovely sunny morning, I was pleased to see a sparkling ocean touched by a light easterly wind.  Perfect sailing conditions.  I went over the list of things I had to do before setting off across the Atlantic.  Mostly it was just re-provisioning and re-packing everything in plastic bags.

    It was Thursday, November 24, 1983.  I had been away from La Palma for a week, longer than expected because a storm had shut down the airport at Tenerife, through which I had to fly to and from Lanzarote.  In high spirits, with no sense of foreboding, I paid the taxi driver and walked through the Club Nautico to the patio overlooking the almost deserted harbor.  Most of the yachts had already taken advantage of the fine weather and left for the Caribbean.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II was not there either.

    For a moment I thought I was not looking in the right place, that the little yawl must be behind one of the fishing boats.  I walked to the end of the wall.  She was not on any of the moorings.  My eyes swept the beach.  I could not see her anywhere.

    I called down to the crew of a catamaran who were preparing to weigh anchor.  They called back something that I could not understand and pointed toward a launching ramp near the fishing boats.  I followed their arms and saw CHIDIOCK’s white hull sitting there without masts.

    In time I learned that the storm which had closed the airport on Tenerife had brought hurricane force winds to La Palma.  The gusts were strongest beneath the cliff.  In one of them CHIDIOCK capsized.  Fishermen managed to get her ashore.  The authorities had taken everything removable, including the masts, to the marine headquarter for safe keeping, but before they had done so someone had broken into the only locker.

    I found my dinghy and rowed across the harbor to the ramp.  As always CHIDIOCK THE INDESTRUCTIBLE had survived.  Other than the deliberately smashed locker latch, the only damage was two broken belaying pins.

    I was sympathetically received at the marine headquarters and shown the salvaged equipment and stores.  A good many things had been lost when the boat turned over:  provisions, charts, a compass, anchors, clothing.  Other necessities, including my sextant, which had been in the locker, were missing.

    These losses completed the process begun by a capsize in the Pacific in 1978.  I did not own anything--not a single article of clothing, not a book, not a cassette, not a chart, not a radio or a sextant or a camera, not a teaspoon--that I had owned when I left San Diego on November 12, 1978.  It is just as well that possessions do not matter, for they do not survive a voyage in an open boat.

    I thanked the men and crossed the street to the Club Nautico, where I stood for only a few moments, looking out at the sea on which CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I and II and I had sailed twenty-five thousand miles.  There was not the slightest sign we had ever been there.  Putting the boat and the voyage back together again would not have been difficult.  it would take nothing more than some time and some money, and I had both.  But I knew that I would not do it.  Someone later said how disheartening that moment must have been.  It was not.  Almost a decade earlier, having to turn away from Cape Horn because of rigging damage was disheartening.   A year earlier, losing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I to Saudi officialdom and being divorced from Suzanne was disheartening.  Almost a decade later, losing Jill and RESURGAM within a few hours, was disheartening.  There are more circles in my life than those I have carved on the world’s oceans with boats.  I glanced at my watch.  I had been back on the island barely an hour.  I turned and walked away.


    Three months and an ocean later, I found myself considering that decision aboard RESURGAM in English Harbor, Antigua.  I wanted to be certain that I had not been precipitous.  Despite occasional slight twinges--it would have been pleasant to have had both boats together there, living aboard RESURGAM, gunkholing in CHIDIOCK--I never had any serious regrets.

    Although there was some public interest, I made the voyage to please myself, and I stopped for the same reason.  I had started the voyage to sail to the edge of human experience, to explore the unknown, to try to do what some people considered to be impossible.  After five years and twenty-five thousand miles, that edge of experience had been charted, that unknown had become known, that impossible proved possible.  I had nothing more to learn from it; and I was no long willing to subordinate everything in my life to it. 

    It was evening.  I made myself a vodka and tonic, sans ice, and sat in the cockpit, watching pelicans hunt through the twilight.  For a moment I wondered what the open boat voyage meant.  I did not know.  As the dying replicant said in the movie BLADE RUNNER, “I have seen things that you cannot even imagine. But all these memories will be lost in time as tears are lost in rain.”  Perhaps it meant nothing and life is merely an unknown voyage from mystery to mystery.  But I am glad I made it.