Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bridging the Gap with the Nutty Professor, Leonardo

Leonardo and I at the helm on day 5 once he figured that I was a worth while human being.
Carti, a costal island oasis hidden behind a reef near our departure point from the yacht.

Sunrise on day 5 at 0545am looking at the island of Porvenir

The 46 foot sloop with me and the KLR aboard. Luckily for Grant and I the seas were calm and therefore very little salty water was splashed over the machines saving them from dreaded corrosion.

Kuna indians inhabit the islands along the coast. One evening while anchoring in a shallow bay a few fellows motored out to the yacht and offered us crab and rock lobster for sale if we wanted, dinner was being fixed in the cabin so we all opted to refuse the offer and save the lives of our crustacean friends.

The first night aboard the Yacht Zao was a pleasant evening where I chose to sleep on deck under a star filled sky for the last time in Colombian territory. While laying under the stars I happened to notice two identical constellations in a triangular pattern. I could not determine if I was looking at Libra or Gemini but nonetheless it was an impressive sight. We were anchored in the bay of Sapzurro which had crystal clear water with a visibility more than 15 meters. At 0600am Leonardo awoke to catch a Launcher back to Capurganga where a woman had found his cellular phone card which he lost the night before while we were getting our passports stamped. Alas, he returned at 1030am and we got under way sailing northwesterly along the Isthmus of Panama. Paola, his daugher, who rode down with us to Turbo was aboard to help Leonardo with the sail and also to visit, I guess it may have been many weeks since they last visited.

Grant suggested that I pop an anti-nausiea tablet so I took his advice, but only after 30 minutes of bobbing and listing. Although the sea was calm, the ocean rollers were present and caused the Yacht to raise and fall every 4 seconds. This motion had me focusing on the horizon and trying to ignore everything else for the first 48 hours and prompted me to sleep up on deck for the next 4 nights.

Leonardo´s Yacht was a 46 foot Sloop (Catch) 15 beam HYC (Heritage Yacht Club). The boat was previously owned by Ted Turner (owner of CNN). As the first sailing day progressed it became apparent that the dream of sailing a Yacht had turned into quite a boring occupation as well as passage. The scenery and shore line was beautiful but the diesel fumes and constant groan from the engine took away from the vision of what being a sailor on the open ocean is really like. The lack of wind and the schedule to get to Carti warrented 5 days of engine sailing. Thus, the sail through the San Blas islands was bland and I probably would opt for am overland flight now that I've sailed once.

As for the company on board, I was happy to have Grant to talk to every once and a while. Grant was also very good at stimulating conversation between the crew as his knowledge in the field of electrical engineering had much to do with physics. Grant also likes to discuss his phylosophical point of view which is always interesting and good food for thought.

Remember that Leonardo was a distinguished physicist who worked on CERN´s particle accelerator. Although he was apparently a brilliant man with 25 years experience he definately lacked any business sense and generally treated our sailing experience as a means to drum up 1600 bucks and pretty much stared out on the horizon or talked in Italian with his daughter. When Grant did prompt a conversation, Leonardo tended to treat the conversation as an intellectual battle field and aruge the opposing point of view every time. This made for thought provoking conversation but really it was all just a show of ego.

As for the life aboard the boat, the living quaters were a bit messy to say the least. During a heavy rain storm the windows and hatches began to leak. The leaks were convieniently located over the foam cushons of the seating and sleeping areas. This water leakage explained the moldy tinge to the air in the cabin.

In my life I have shared many close living spaces and have had to cope with many people that I really did'nt enjoy the company of, but, it was my duty to accept the situation and overcome my own personal feelings. This sailing voyage, however, tested my endurance in the field of tolerance. Leonardo and his daughter had to have been be the most openly oblivious people with respect to respecting others that I've met in a long time. On the 2nd and 3rd day of sailing I was appauled at the unhygenic behavior of these people. In one instance I yelled out in a plea for Paola to please stop chewing on Leonardo´s fingernails. They both stopped for a second to stare at my most rude interruption. In the moment of pause they let the single strand of saliva elastically break surface tension only to reply ¨what.....I am only cleaning under his nails....not chewing the finger nails¨! This was too much and I had to look away for the better part of 30 minutes 3 times a day for this grooming activity to occur. By the 4th and 5th day of sailing the ¨finger nail cleaning" became more normal to me but the personal grooming continued further. Next, Paola (LOUD TALKER) progressed to popping zits, and peeling sunburned patches of skin off of Leonardo´s sun burned scalp. This was gross enough, but, it got better than that. The next action almost made me hurl when I witnessed Paola pop a flake of Homo Sapien jerky into her mouth directly from a now pinkish sliver on Leonardo´s little bald head. To top it all off she followed the grooming session with chewing her own fingernails and cuticals all the way back to the origin of the nails Keratin. When it was all over this meant it was time to eat and Paola disappeared to the cabin below to cook over a propane burner.

For the first two days I tried to limit my food intake as there was limited water on board and I knew that hand washing and sanitization was impossible. Infact, rain water which was scooped off the greasy and rust speckled deck was used for boiling spagetti and potatoes and Leonardo boasted the fact that he encouraged his daughter to eat candy off the sidewalk when she was a child to boost her immune system. None of his stories about his immunity was very impressive at this point and I just wanted to get off the boat ASAP.

Aside from the unhygenic and unsanitary conditions the cigarette smoking and melow dramatic extreme talking volume began to become irritating. I could'nt understand what they were talking about but the drama was sometimes interesing to watch. The show went through cycles of europhic happiness, yelling, hand waiving...knock over the coffee cups and plates of food....to extreme sadness and crying sessions. Man....had I never had the opportunity meet other Italian´s I would have had only these two brats to judge the Italian culture and most undoubtedly would never have the urge to visit Italy for fear of being batted in the face, as an innocent bystander to a conversation.

You might ask why the heck I sat around and witnessed all this.....well the answer is that most of the time, although the diesel motor was running their voices easily out competed the diesel decibels and then add to the fact that the boat was only 46 feet long with the cock pit located two thirds of the way up the yacht...(the only refuge form the drizzle) there was no escape!

Alas, on the 5th day Leonardo began to come around and began being somewhat hospitable to me as the guest. He began telling me about all the ¨piece of shit ¨ other guests that have sailed with him in the past and how stupid he believed everyone was. He began telling me how he despised the western world and how he loved the people of South America and Colombia. Obvious to me but not obvious to either of genitically related self proclaiming geniuses, I determined that Leonardo was just plain burned out! Neither of them were particularily bright when it came to anything outside of their narrow scope of extreme specialization. I could only hypothesise that the poor soul was burnt out and I can only describe him as a pure "cluster f**k¨. I can appreciate only that he made significant contributions to society of a magnitude that I will never understand. Possibly this is the root of his hatrid toward people. It seems that he cannot communicate to who he feels are the dummest people on the planet, thus this makes the man, the genius himself feel inadequate and stupid in his own right.

In the end we pulled into the Port of Carti and off loaded the bikes into a launcher with 3 men waiting in the boat. Leonardo was all smiles and I saw that he genuinely was happy and sincerely hoping to meet with Grant and I again in the future. I hugged good ole Leonardo and looked past his faults and realised that he was just a good fellow with a few bad habits. He is just as ignorant in some respects as the rest of the world is, however, Leonardo is arguably much more intellegent in some areas which I cannot even begin to comprehend. Looking back on the voyage Leonardo gives a good product which I can only describe as unforgetable and thought provoking. As the man, I did not dislike him, however, I do hope that he finds something else to do soon and I hope that he persue´s his idea to be a yacht captin for a private yacht in Miami. I will never forget the voyage with the Nutty Professor, Particle Accelerator Specialist, Movie maker, Photographer, Fixwing Pilot, turned Sailor and soon to be new father. I wish him well and thank him for an unforgetable memory that will definately gain value as time goes on.

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