Sunday 12 Feb
A voyage in to the unknown (chapt 2)
Monika, the 19 year old German girl, was so exhausted that whilst we were looking for food, she stumbled on the steps of a restaurant smashing her face into a stone statue and snapping her front teeth in two. Richaard, having lived alone for years, was unaccustomed to having to take care of anyone but himself, and on unsure ground made himself scarce. His primary concern was the practicalities of getting us legally stamped into the country. It was left to Rob and I to enquire about dentists and lend a helping hand to Monika and Heindrick. In the end Monika was seen the very next morning with brand new teeth fixed as good as new. She probably got better dental treatment than she would have got in the UK, but it was traumatic and everyone's spirits were down.
The following morning Rob and I were due to leave for the Galapagos, so we helped clean the boat with Richaard and Heindrick. Monika went to bed and that evening things turned sour. Heindrick asked whether it would be OK for them to stay a couple of days and help on the boat. Richaard made a point of saying to them both that Heindrick was welcome to stay but Monika wasn't. He felt she hadn't pulled her weight. Now maybe he'd had enough and didn't want the hassle anymore but he could have handled it more delicately. Heindrick lost it calling the old man a coward and a bully. That evening they slept on deck. Rob narrowly persuaded them that they had nothing to prove and finding lodgings at midnight wasn't a good idea, they should wait until the following morning. We were caught in the middle, the atmosphere was terrible and it was a sad end to the trip.
Captain Richaard Otter is probably one of the most interesting and frustrating men I've ever met. Full of conspiracy theories (with the state of the world he expected to have to 'take to the hills in Arkansas with lots of guns' in the next few years). He was often a pain in the neck, and during the trip we had to but up with his childlike temper tantrums and mood swings, but at the same time lovable and god he'd had an interesting life. He'd joined the military at 16, served in the Vietnam war before working as a deep sea commercial diver on Deep Star, a submarine that went to depths of 2000 metres. The guy had even worked with Jacques Cousteau, he had books signed by the crew of Deep Star, and sure enough Cousteau's name was there.
In some ways he was just like a kid, he talked to Helga, the dog, like a human and on the afternoon before we docked he made us watch his favorite video to celebrate - a Disney type film about an unlikely friendship between a dog and a dolphin. He'd had an extreme life and only knew how to respond to things in an extreme way. In some of our more sombre conversations on the boat he always said the military had 'fucked up his life and every relationship.' All his old buddies were dead, hazards of the job. He had been married with 4 kids but no longer spoke to them. His youngest daughter had recently been in touch by email, she was getting married and he wasn't sure whether he should go. He'd come to Ecuador to sell the boat, at 70 he said he wanted to settle down and have more of the kind of life other people had.
Later that evening, as we drank beer, and Richaard told us all about the healing powers of his collection of gem stones, he had a moment of realisation and said, 'Óh you know me I'm just a grumpy old man.' It seemed odd that for a man who thought of himself as so connected to the earth he was unable to connect to a 19 year old girl who'd been through a traumatic time.
The man did talk a lot of shit, but he also had a lot of interesting things to say and taught me a lot . He was a great believer that there were two types of people in the world. Those that 'do'and those that pay others to 'do.' There was nothing on that boat he didn't know how to fix. He taught us all how everything worked, how to navigate and plot our route, even how to siphen diesel (which is disgusting). When you're at sea there's no garage round the corner and you need to know how to get yourself out of trouble. He hated the 'Yachties' as he called them who owned multi-million pound catamarans and didn't know how to work their radios. I'm not saying I have any great desire to be an engineer but I think if I'm going to own a home or a car I should at least make the effort to learn the basics of how things work.
I hope Richaard finds whatever it is he's looking for in Bahia Caraquez, he's certainly someone we won't forget in a hurry. Of course when we finally came to say goodbye, there were none of the usual formal pleasantries. He strolled off down the road with Helga, without once looking back.