Just as I was finalizing the complicated routing of Flying Fish from Singapore to the Suez Canal, a war of words punctuated by rockets and drones once again inflame the Middle East. The shipping lane where the Gulf of Aden meets the Red Sea passes a mere .88 nautical miles from the shoreline of Yemen. Suddenly, I really miss Polynesia.
I have returned to Flying Fish after a six-week sabbatical in Key West where I was wrapped in the love of family, friends, church, and community. I even managed a rendezvous with my wife in Paris on the flight home. I also found time to visit the family I love in Havana. I share this personal information because it adds relevance and a point of reference to my decision to continue sailing–often alone–around the world. This short sabbatical at home reminds me that I need to make my decisions very carefully now.
Flying Fish has logged some 15,000 miles–halfway around the world–since leaving Key West two years ago. There have been visits to paradise along the way (Huahine!) and a few moments of drama (nearly losing a toe to an errant hatch board) but no leg of the journey so far has presented the challenges that lie ahead.
I set sail tomorrow into the Straits of Malacca, a narrow, 550-mile stretch of water between Singapore, the Malay Peninsula, and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. This is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 100,000 vessels pass through the Strait each year, carrying one-quarter of the world’s traded goods. Flying Fish will be one small blip on a very busy radar screen.
Ahead lies Malaysia with its historic megalopolis of Kuala Lumpur and the scenic wonderland of Langkawi. At the northern end of the Straits, Thailand beckons with the crystalline water and sugar sand beaches of Phuket. Then it is time to turn Flying Fish westerly and follow the path of Venus into the Indian Ocean.
The journey going forward will take me past Sri Lanka, India, and to the Maldive Islands some 1,500 miles away in the center of the Indian Ocean. The Maldives are made up of a thousand individual islands and some, like those on the Baa Atoll, have bioluminescent beaches that glow at night.
I plan to linger in that glow of bioluminescence because it will be at this point that I will have to choose to sail Flying Fish to either the north or the south of the continent of Africa. Either way I go, this will be a sailing passage that will require my undivided attention.
Cape Agulhas at latitude 34.8311° S is the geographic southern tip of Africa and the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It is one of the roughest bodies of water on earth. North through the Suez Canal is the more logical route except for its history of piracy and the fact that the United States and Iran are threatening mutual mass destruction. Conflict in the Middle East goes back 1,400 years to the death of Mohammad in 632 A.D. The Red Sea Passage transits the heart of one of the most contentious places on earth.
I never anticipated that this sailing voyage around the world was going to be all coconut palms and hula dancers. I have always accepted the risk because the rewards are so great. I can imagine no fate worse than ending my life on earth fat and bored and sitting in a chair in front of a TV with a gin and tonic in my hand…
I know a surgeon who volunteers vast amounts of his time, talent, and treasure working with Doctors Without Borders repairing gunshot wounds in war zones around the world. He sent me a note this week, signing off with the well-known quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:
“The secret of realizing the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships out into uncharted seas!”
And so I go.
NOTE: On passages when I have no cell or WiFi signal, I activate a satellite tracking link that shows my daily position, current weather, and includes a few personal thoughts from the daily log of Flying Fish. I will not be able to respond to messages via satellite but I love the idea that you are sailing along with me. If you would like to follow the daily progress of Flying Fish into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean via satellite you can click this link: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish
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To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish
Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2020