Adventure Contemporary

The day of the launch was April 25, a symbolic day for those who go sailing on their own, who read books with a deep history, and who took at least one English literature course in university. Even though high winds were predicted as a possibility, I still had to leave on that particular day. At first that seemed quite alright. I hadn’t sailed in a number of years, but I wasn’t worried, at least not at first. Caution hasn’t come with age for me. I am just as impulsive and foolhardy as an old man as I always was as a young man.  

Coming here was not just an idle purpose of mine. George, a friend of mine from my university years, he took the same literature course that I did, was the one that encouraged me to take this specific trip. He said that it could reward me like no other sailing trip had ever done before. He did not tell me why, but he was certainly sure that with what I might discover, I would be ‘living a long held dream’. I believed him. We had been friends for a long time.

The farther I got from the shore, the more I felt the wind pushing us (the boat and I) forward. This could become an adventure, I said to myself to calm myself down. I had never sailed in Chilean waters before, so I wasn’t familiar from experience with what I would encounter here. I rented a sailboat that was very much like the one that I had back at home. It was neither intelligent nor possible to sail this far south and back again.

The wind began to blow harder, the waves were growing higher and stronger, going from an imperfect to what may become The Perfect Storm, a movie I wished I had never seen. What had I been thinking?  It gave me a concept I did not wish to picture in my mind, or imagine that I would face in the near future.

The wind and the waves were driving me onward to what destination I did not know. I did not dare try to turn the boat around, or it would definitely turn over when the two forces would face it broadside. I hoped that both wind and waves would diminish significantly over time. I had no evidence that such would or even could happen within a reasonable time. My cell phone did not pick up signals from the Chilean Weather Network, and my knowledge of the Spanish language was not great, although I could get by in a restaurant with only a few problems.

My first night in the storm was kind of scary. I hated to think that I would sleep and then wake up briefly alive, being tossed around in the ocean. I did not fall asleep that night, but I did the next few nights, knowing that I shouldn’t be drowsy all of the time.

I wish that there were birds in the sky, to see that some other living beings were surviving too, that there might be hope for me too. I did see some sea creature in the raging sea, not exactly sure whether it was a whale (probably in my mind a ‘killer whale’) or a big shark. I didn’t want to think of it as dining on me any time soon, but I still did.  I had foolishly watched the whole Jaws series of movies, even including the horrible and generally mocked “Jaws: The Revenge – This Time It’s Personal”, something no one who goes sailing on the sea or who only wants to watch movies with a plausible plot should ever do.

Fortunately my would be predator disappeared after a short period of time. I felt that there might not be any toothy revenge striking me on this day or even the night.

The strong wind kept me going in a more or less straight line for the next several days and nights. I had run out of food on the third day, and there was no way that I could use the fishing gear that I brought with me to catch fish in the wild water that surrounded the boat.

There is an Island Up Ahead

On the fourth day I saw an island up ahead. My imagining it as some kind of ‘saviour’ for me makes me understand all the more the long term popularity of Johann David Wyss’ novel of 1812 “Swiss Family Robinson,” and the two movies that it spawned. Then, of course, there was my favourite book of all time, that I practically memorized as a child, “The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, mariner,” published by Daniel Defoe in 1719. I think that only those who studied it at university would ever remember the full title of the book, not just calling it “Robinson Crusoe” (the last name shortened and anglicized from the original barely pronounceable for English speakers German name Kreutzner, something I learned at university, as well as debating whether Dafoe’s book was based on an actual such occurrence four years earlier.

As I approached a long dock stretching from a sandy beach and what appeared to be a souvenir shop, a man burst out of the door of the shop, and strode boldly up the dock towards me and my rented sailboat. He caught the mooring line that I tossed to him and tied it to the dock.

I thanked him with a poorly pronounced ‘gracias’, so it was no surprise that he greeted me in English. “Welcome to Robinson Crusoe Island. We used to call it “Más a Tierre”, which translated into English means ‘More Earth,’ but we changed the name in 1966 to give it its present name – good for tourism. You can call me Friday.”

           Wait until I tell George about this. He would understand why I embarked on this journey on April 25, as that was when Defoe had Crusoe leave on his epic journey.

           I decided that I would definitely stay on this island until the wild winds finally settled down. I knew that I would not be likely to stay on the island for 28 years as Herr Kreutzner did, although, being in my seventies, it would be possible that I would stay on Robinson Crusoe Island for the rest of my life.

March 04, 2024 15:32

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