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Pirates of the Caribbean


“Have you had any scary moment’s out sailing?” I asked Roy at the bar at Lagoonies.
“Every day,” came the reply “But it’s only really a problem if you’re worried about dying.”

If I was looking for reassurance I was getting something else: the realisation that it wasn’t death that should be feared but that of ‘not living’ while you have the chance.

Most of the people here are established sailors and here I am, in at the deep end with a loose plan to take Glee out of the lagoon for a sail and not sink. It’s all too easy to forget about that and sit back in the sun and let life drift by with a book and beer. I feel content but I’m getting lazy. No, not so much lazy, more losing my thirst for adventure.

Adventure lives in uncertainty but so does fear. There is no fear in comfort but comfort can be a slow painless death.

There’s things I need to do to get moving and they have a monetary cost to get done. So much needs doing that it’s hard to draw the line between what’s just ‘good enough’. There is never ever nothing to do on a boat. As the jobs are checked off, more are added. As time goes by, I’m getting more familiar with Glee and can recognise that I don’t need much equipment for sailing within sight of land. I’ll be setting off soon with minimum requirements. Engine to go, anchor to stop, Sails to …  well … sail. What could possibly go wrong?

Today, I have a diver scraping the sea-life off the boat and cleaning the propeller so I can actually move through the water. I can hear the pleasant meditative scuba bubbles cascade around the hull as I’m writing. I won’t mention that as he might charge me for them- business has been slow for him lately.

Meanwhile, I’ve met someone who wants some prep for her skipper’s course that starts next week. I’ve agreed to help in order to add some motivation for myself to get Glee out and about. Mostly, I started to wake in the morning with a feeling of obligation and resistance, although the days have turned out to be rather enjoyable, give me a rewarding sense of contribution and expands my knowledge on sailing. With just a few days to go before the course starts, I’ve come to welcome the structure and will probably miss it when it stops.

Apparently, customs and immigration is a big deal in the boating world these days. This didn’t use to be the case, even in very recent times. I’m yet to register as the new owner with the small ship’s register. Without a piece of paper with my name on it, it will be difficult going anywhere. I’m confined to St Martin until I concede to the rules of the state. I resent this obligation. And, as usual, there is a fee involved; another form of extortion however minor.

Since being here, I’ve not had to show my ID or prove my paper existence to anyone. Only within the borders of St Martin do I have a sense of freedom. So the reality is that the only freedom we experience exists only in which level of imprisonment we choose. A permit or certificate merely releases us to the next level.

Theoretically, I can sail around the island without checking out at the harbour office but I will still be vulnerable to checks from the coast guard. €300 is a good collar for the Gendarmes – Modern piracy: better than working for a living eh?

Each time we bow to the state as an individual we lose a little bit of power and freedom as a collective. These individual acts gradually reinforce our bonds to a global faceless authority. So do I become a hypocrite to gain access to the sea or do I stick to my principles and risk the consequences? Do I give the bullies my dinner money or do I get beaten up after school? same thing.

Chances are I’ll just pay up for the pleasure of being listed on some database in exchange for an easy life today, as we all do, and then leave it to my children to sort out the Orwellian legacy to which this seemingly harmless act inevitably leads.

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