730 Days

I left Audentes tucked snugly into a boatyard in New Zealand on November 15, 2006. Exactly two years to the day, I finally returned to Whangarei to check in on my neglected vessel. The journey was brought about by a fortuitous business trip to Australia that allowed me a day-long layover in New Zealand. After a 12-hour flight, I touched down in New Zealand and rented a car. Contrary to the way I remember the trip from the boat to the airport, the drive is actually a 3-hour haul. Jetlagged and weary from the long flight, I fought to remain focus and to concentrate on the road – an especially important task since my unfamiliarity with driving on the left hand side of the road meant that all my instincts prodded me to veer into oncoming traffic. Although beautiful, the winding roads and numerous switchbacks kept me white-knuckled as I navigated the unfamiliar terrain. Finally, I pulled into the boatyard and nervously scanned the forest of masts for a glimpse of my boat. Heart racing and fearful of what I might find, my eyes settled on the familiar mast steps that I immediately recognized.

As I should have expected, Audentes was exactly where I left her. Similarly, as expected, she was filthy. A thick layer of dirt had settled on the hull. After obtaining a ladder, I climbed aboard and surveyed the topsides. Again, everything was dirty, but otherwise unchanged. Unlocking the hatch, the cabin was musty and cluttered, but not nearly the disaster that I had anticipated. In my frequent nightmares, I pictured some vicious animal (perhaps a javelina) running roughshod around my cabin, wreaking havoc and defecating with little regard for my belongings. All in all, I was pleased that nothing was missing or damaged. Of course, the teak was badly faded from the sun and I expect that some hidden items such as wires had suffered corrosion. The engine was never my most reliable companion and I doubt that the time apart has done much to improve the relationship. However, considering that the boat had been neglected for two years, I was pleased to find everything much as I left it.


After the initial wave of relief, I began cleaning. Since I was only staying for a day, I wasn’t able to thoroughly clean the boat or even clean it to the point that I would have liked, but I did manage to make it at least livable for a night. I aired out my sleeping bag, drained the bilge, and dusted around the chart table. It was tempting to try to tackle the cockpit and to get the boat to the comfortable condition that I am accustomed to, but the realization that I would soon be leaving and that the work would be wasted led me to instead focus on going through my stuff to bring back a few items to the US. While space was limited, I managed to pack away some books, movies, a calculator, sunglasses, my surfboard, and my foul weather gear. Sorting through closets and drawers felt like Christmas morning, as I remembered all of the personal items on the boat.

Even during a short visit, it was easy to shift back into my former lifestyle. Projects that seemed so daunting from the U.S. suddenly appeared manageable. I started lists and found myself planning how long various projects would take and how much each piece of equipment would cost. Even being back close to the water, surrounded by other boats and a stunning landscape brought fond memories of my years aboard Audentes flooding back. Yet, after only a day of being back on the boat, it was time to drive south to the airport to catch my flight to Sydney.

Despite the short duration of the visit, it was sad to leave the boat. The difference between my life aboard Audentes and my current lifestyle was made even more apparent when I arrived in Sydney. A day after sleeping in a dirty, cluttered boat, I found myself relaxing in my posh hotel room in the Shangri-La overlooking the Sydney Opera House. The contrast was jarring. I began to feel like a polygamist, leading two completely separate lives. In one life that is centered in the South Pacific, I am an isolated sailor living on a shoestring budget and constantly battling to maintain an aging boat as I drift from one tropical island to another. In my second, completely different life that is based in Los Angeles, I’m a corporate striver trying to peddle POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. In one scenario, I’m a loner battling the elements in an exotic land; in the other, I’m engaged to a lovely woman from Nebraska. The more I considered my divergent lives, the more I wondered at how I could bring the two seemingly opposite existences together.

Fortunately, I didn’t have too much time to dwell on the dichotomy that is my life as I was busy in Australia launching POM Wonderful in the land down under. Aside from meetings with importers, retailers, and demo reps, I was able to visit a number of the stores selling the product to get feedback and to see first-hand how the juice was moving. It was also a nice way to see Sydney and I was immediately enamored with the beautiful city. Certainly, it is a sailor’s paradise with plenty of wind and countless lovely coves. It seems as if the entire city is on the water and each night we dined at a different stunning harbor.

My last day in Sydney, I signed up to climb over the Harbor Bridge. After forking over $200AUD, passing a breathalyzer, and clearing a metal detector, I was outfitted with climbing gear and harnessed in. The climb itself was a nice way to see Sydney and our guide gave an entertaining and informative tour of the city from above. At certain points, we could peer through the grating straight down to the harbor below. While most of the climb was sunny and warm, a dark cloud did pass over and for about 15 minutes we endured hard rain and winds in excess of 25 mph. Reaching the summit, we were regaled with stories of various Aussies who chose the top of the bridge as the appropriate place to propose. In one story, the gentleman fumbled his ring and watched in agony as the expensive rock tumbled into the abyss. In another anecdote, a woman rejected the proposal and the poor man was subjected to several hours of being roped right next to the vile woman with no chance of escape.

Returning to the US, I had little time at home in LA before I was again on the road. This time, I headed east to Nebraska where I spent Thanksgiving with my fiancée and her family. In addition, we were fortunate enough to have my brother Brian join us in the Midwest. Brian provides a good account of the weekend on his website, which can be reached at the following link: http://www.thecookblog.com/thanksgiving-in-nebraska . There is little that I can add to my snarky, 1920’s-hat-wearing brother’s description, so I simply say that, as usual, I had a wonderful time with Megan and her family.

And so, the past couple of months have been a whirlwind of travel. Instead of slow, plodding progress with a tropical breeze at my back, my recent mode of transportation tends toward the frantic hustling among the throngs and masses. I have spent more time huddled in mobbed airports than I would care to recount. I’ve endured numerous layovers in Denver, Phoenix, and Auckland. I’ve been coughed on, elbowed, bumped into, and generally jostled at all altitudes. I’ve dropped an astonishing amount of money on cabs, rental cars, and parking garages. I’m tired, weary, and there is no end in sight. Yet, I am happy. I like my job. I’m in love with my fiancée. I can tolerate LA. Although things aren’t perfect, all in all, they are pretty good.

2 Replies to “730 Days”

  1. Good to see that life on land hasn’t [completely] softened you up. As for me, I’ll take the Sydney Shangri-La over the moldy quarter berth every day of the week.

  2. Perhaps it is the journey, not the destination, that is most important. We enjoy reading about your observations along the way…

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