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04.01.2012 ACROSS ISLANDS AND OCEANS

 

 

 

 

 

ACROSS ISLANDS AND OCEANS

  A JOURNEY ALONE AROUND THE WORLD  
BY SAIL AND BY FOOT

BY JAMES BALDWIN

 

AtomSailing02kb55.jpg (55938 bytes)

(click images to enlarge)

 CONTENTS                                                   

 Introduction                                                                  

1.      First Steps to a Voyage  

2.       Nonstop to Panama

3.       Link to the Pacific              

4.      West Sets the Sun  

5.               A Savage on Hiva Oa  

6.              Bora Bora  

7.            These Friendly Isles 

8.            Tikopia Unspoilt  

9.      Adventure Country  

10.   On the Kokoda Trail  

					11. In the Shadow of Sumburipa
					12. Highlander

13.      A Mountain Too High

14.  Surviving New Guinea

15.    The Sheltering Atoll

16.    Solitary Sailor

17.   To the Peaks of Reunion  

18.   Trek Into Zululand

19.    Cape of Storms

20.     Emperors and Astronomers on St. Helena

21.     Martinique Revisited

22.    The Blue Highway

Table of Passages

 

Introduction

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. 

 -from Wanderer by  Sterling Hayden

 

The voyage I want to tell you about took two years to complete, and though I’ve described bits and pieces of it before in short articles, some 25 years passed before I got around to telling the story in more detail. It took place between 1984 and ‘86 when I was in my mid-twenties, as close to broke as I dared to be, and hungry for the adventure that a long voyage provides. 

The premise is not so unusual: a young man, on a quest for adventure, knowledge, romance, his fortune – and finding little of it at home –strikes out to see the world. It has taken me those many years and thousands more miles under the keel to give me a more balanced perspective on that life-changing voyage alone around the world.  

The world of cruising in yachts has changed dramatically since then. Today's sailors are typically older and retired, their ventures well-financed with boats bigger and more expensive. For better and worse, new labor-saving and safety equipment at more affordable prices has reduced the physical and technical challenges of voyaging, and reduced along with it the rewards gained from hard physical work, self-sufficiency, and the thrill of risks inherent in a true adventure. And the growing popularity of world cruising has made the search for unspoilt islands more challenging than ever.   

I write this narrative now, in part, to provide a glimpse at an alternative style of travel to which the modern land traveler or sailor may not have been exposed. And to remind them that for the most part they can still voyage now as I did then, filling their lives with discovery and living close to nature on their own terms. Compared to a simple boat, a backpack and my boots, the thought of fussing around with airlines, taxis, buses, hotels, restaurants, and all the other trappings of tourist travel leaves me as uninspired as a purposeless voyage.

The point of my journey was not to be first or fastest in any category, but to venture beyond my old world and self. When I began, I didn’t realize that along the way my growing commitment to walk across each island and climb their highest peaks was to be as big a part of the adventure as the sailing. Like a richly lived life, as a voyage unfolds it evolves and carries you where it will.  

Twenty-five years after that voyage I find my life has changed. The sharp edge of my hunger to explore has been sated somewhat by the banquet of decades of roving under sail. I awoke recently to discover I’m fast becoming an old sailor, and what better task for an old salt than to share his stories before they’re forgotten. 

While reading my saltwater-stained journal and tattered log book and flipping through the faded photo albums, it seems almost as if it were someone else’s life depicted there.  

Was I really so rash that I set out across oceans possessing only a few hundred dollars on a boat with sails so old you could push your finger through them?  

Surely, I hadn’t been so dimwitted to walk into that dark cave in New Guinea and tumble into its deep black pit.  

Was it foolish and selfish to seek the love of an island girl when I might have known I would soon sail away from her forever?  

While there turns out to be no perfect plan, no perfect life, I learned some things on this imperfect voyage that shaped my life in the best ways possible. Beginning with a worldview as small as my boat left me with no room for passengers. Alone on the oceans I learned how to live in isolation. Hiking across the islands with near-empty pockets and well-worn boots, dependent on the generosity of the islanders, taught me how to live in society. What richer reward for a journey of two years?  

There is room, now, to bring others aboard for my journey. 

May you also avoid a “routine traverse”. 

James Baldwin
Brunswick, Georgia
May 2009

 

Continue to Chapter One

 

   

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