28 - Boadicea

workers on a yacht photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-1] Outfitting under a deadline lay waste to the yacht.

Our new parking spot turned out to be right in front of the marina's administration building. It's a safe bet we boosted our security quotient by shopping Harvey and his bit on the side. I'm thinking management felt like returning the favour by keeping an eye on us, and dissuading those of Russian persuasion from getting a tooth into us. The manager, however, felt it prudent to convey tenant displeasure over a stainless steel abomination someone left behind the men's toilets and generator shed. It was not only an eyesore, but a roost for birds, a source of jokes and a blatant encouragement for further fly tipping. He suggested, what little steel it contained, might actually be worth our effort of removing it.

Huge surprise: we weren't Harvey's only dupes. "People are cheated and go away. It isn't good for our business." The manager explained. "I say to them, 'go to the police, write a letter.' And then, they shake their fists at me! Me, what can I do?"

Elena showed him pictures. He loved the shot of Harvey flaunting a wad of our money. Suddenly, we had a new Turkish friend. "Somebody has to kill this man!" He said. They wanted Harvey and his illicit business out, and we were key to making that happen.

Meg Aitken Elena Vaytsel photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-2] Meg and Elena suddenly had a lot of dedicated Turkish friends when they stood up for themselves. In this photo, Meg (on the left) and Elena (on the right) pose with the marina manager.

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Nadia's office had been laid waste to by something that looked an awful lot like a Voyager spacecraft. Not the one from Star Trek, but one of the NASA-JPL probes launched in 1977. "Does that look like it's supposed to?" Nadia said.

"What it is?" Elena asked.

"I think it's our windvane." No hole in the ceiling, so it didn't fall from orbit.

Mustafa, Nadia's husband, seemed just as mystified. Frankly, exhibits at the Centre Pompidou make more sense to me. "One thing is certain, this is from a boat very different from yours. A new mounting frame must be built."

Elena Vaytsel climbing the mast photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-3] Elena up the mast, at the lower set of spreaders (those wing things), pulling cable to wire a light.

"Harvey never mentioned that."

Mustafa shrugged his shoulders. "Kemal, he is our steel smith. He is building your auxiliary fuel tank. He can make a mount for this windvane, but perhaps, you might provide him some of your steel?"

"Me?!" I looked at each of them, finally at Elena.

"There is enough steel in the arch Harvey made." Nadia said. "We can even use some of that steel for the arch we are building. It is yours, after all. You have paid for it."

"More than once."

"Yes, we know. Albatross, by the way, has been successful in gathering many of the parts and supplies you ordered through Harvey."

I was knocked for six. "You have our solar panels?"

"Indeed. Kemal has them at his workshop."

Elena Vaytsel with power screwdriver photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-4] Kemal, one of Nadia's technicians works away while Elena watches.

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Jon stopped by to gush over the windvane. To me, it looked as out of place as a luggage rack on a Lamborghini. But to Jon, it was, "A thing of beauty." and, "Mark my words, you will be glad you've got it."

What could I say? He had a similar doofer jutting from the arse of his boat, so there was no point arguing. "By the way, customs seized the short wave radio. You don't have a spare by chance?"

"Well, shit. Wish I did." Jon said. "Once you're a few miles out, you'll be completely cut off."

"I know." Once land is out of sight, no weather forecasts, no communication, no contact at all with humanity.

Jon suggested, "A satellite phone, at this late stage, might be doable. You do need to get weather out there, and be able to call for help or advice."

"Satellite phones give weather forecasts?"

"No, but I can relay them to you."

"You'd do that?" My cockles warmed.

"Look, you really don't have a lot of time. You are crossing oceans for Pete's sake. I'll be here awhile. A satellite phone is your only solution, I reckon."

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Elena Vaytsel oils teak aboard Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-5] Elena oils the decorative, barn wood finish.

Everything accelerated. Time ran out faster. Expenses went exponential. Work on the yacht ramped up parabolically. The phone rang incessantly for approvals, signatures, meetings. Power tools roared into the twilight. Turkish, German, English and sometimes Russian was hollered across docks. Miles of conduit, cable, wire and hose was yanked, shoved and snaked through impossibly inaccessible spaces. Elena and I snapped at each other like a couple of wolverines in a sack. Strangely, the technicians remained cheerful, despite the stifling heat and cramped spaces.

Elena Vaytsel in Turkiye watching sailboats photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-6] Elena contemplates sailboats at anchor off a Turkish beach.

Nadia wielded her mobile like a witch's talisman. "Hey Meg, a desalination unit on its way to Izmir got accidentally misdirected. It is here instead, and yours, if you want it."

Don't think for a second that Elena and I lounged around, knocking back fruity cocktails while all this mayhem went on around us. We were right there, in the fray with everyone else, doing whatever we could; and concocting ways of doing what we couldn't.

Elena, pie-eyed, took sandpaper, brushes and whatever horrible chemical was shoved into her hands and followed orders. Starting with, oiling the decorative, teak veneer; waterproofing the backsides of floor panels; climbing into the rigging; pulling wire up the mast and running new ropes. Even hauling around oxyacetylene tanks for welders, all of it was stuff she never thought possible -- or even permissible. "Gospodee Meg! I would be run from the town. Such trouble and scorn I would receive. This is unthinkable for a Russian girl. Shameful, not pretty. To climb on ropes, people would shout at me, I am a future mother! Lifting heavy things, pulling like a horse! Certainly, such things would never be allowed in Russia."

Meg Aitken with a desalination unit photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-7] Meg poses with an expression of smug incredulity by a desalination unit that magically became available just when they needed it.

What she must have thought of me -- covered in engine grease; stripping manifolds and cylinder heads; swearing like a longshoreman; arc-welding, flat on my back with my t-shirt and hair in flames. Elena tells me, she thought I was an extraterrestrial because I never let anyone tell me what I could, or couldn't do. "Blin -- which means, pancake -- Meg! People do not do that."

"Fuck it! You do what you have to, or what's the point of doing anything at all?"

Technician pulling wire aboard a yacht photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-8] What seemed like miles of conduit, cable, wire and hose was yanked, shoved and snaked through impossibly inaccessible spaces.

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I spent hours figuring out what charts -- maps in sailing jargon -- we needed to cross several seas, a couple of oceans and -- with luck -- a continental divide. Long lines threaded through the Panama Canal: a crap-shoot, given Elena's passport. Denied entry, our fallback was a u-turn out of the Caribbean, a hard right around South America, and then, round Cape Horn into the South Pacific. It is safe to say, we needed one hell of a lot of charts!

The boat came with the charts one might need to reach a smattering of Greek and Turkish beaches, resorts, and bays. The only place in Turkiye to get charts was Istanbul, and those only covered the Mediterranean Sea. "Easily solved," was Jon's take. "Pull in to Gibraltar for the charts, fresh provisions, a little rest, and to fuel up before the Atlantic crossing."

"But they're British. Elena can't get in."

"True enough, but it's like a big service station for boats. They aren't as uptight about immigration because the illegals go for Spain."

"Illegals, like Lenna, you mean?"

"No, not Lenna. She is--" Jon appeared to be at a loss for words.

"White!?" I trumpeted my Canadian haughtiness.

"Crew!" Jon countered.

Technicians at work on Elena and Meg's yacht photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-9] Meg looks on (orange shirt) as technicians install the radar arch.

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We added two new sails to our inventory. A Yankee jib -- a knife-like, super-tough headsail for heavy weather and rough seas. That one, I was counting on never using. And a spinnaker -- a monstrous drag-chute of light nylon. I dreamed of sunny days in Caribbean blue, a gentle breeze pulling us quietly along behind our billowing spinnaker; Enya playing on the sound system; the two of us toasting to merciful Neptune with icy blender cocktails.

Albatross worried about more than the weather out there. Upstairs in his sail loft, he slid aside a heavy wall panel. Behind it was a collection of world-war-two, German guns. He lovingly showed off the weapons, extolled their virtues, encouraged me to hold them. Those antiques weren't for sale, but a bunch of modern pieces behind another panel were. He suggested we add a capable full-auto and a couple of semi-automatic handguns to our equipment stores. "Nothing says, 'don't mess with me,' quite like a machine gun."

Meg Aitken purchases boat parts photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-10] Ahmed and Meg go over a mind boggling list of spare parts and supplies.

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Nadia introduced me to her cousin, Ahmed, a marine parts business owner near Netsel marina.

"Cousin?" I looked at Nadia. There was zero family resemblance.

"Ah, Meg. We are all family here." She flashed her trademark, impish grin. "Ahmed will put your spares kit together."

He crawled around taking stock of what equipment we had, engine specifications, types of systems onboard. When he presented a list for my approval it was far from trivial! Virtually a replacement yacht in pieces. It would sink us -- physically and financially.

I opted for absolute essentials. Balancing the risk of failure, component criticality, and my ability to come up with a workaround. Nonetheless, when the spares kit showed up, it filled an entire cabin floor-to-ceiling and settled the boat a couple of inches into the water.

Provisions laying waste to the yacht photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-11] Just some of the provisions going on board while the yacht underwent repurposing.

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Somehow, the yacht came back together. A time-lapse film would look like a backwards explosion. A zillion parts, big and small, swirling faster and faster around a boat-shaped vortex, until Crunch! And there would sit, an ocean-crosser sailboat.

Bernadette shipped a bushel-sized apple-box crammed tight with computer disks; DVDs; books; hiking gear -- including my hand-held GPS; a sextant and star charts; some photos; an extra laptop computer; even a plush-toy for good luck. It showed up in the cockpit one day. A particularly heart wrenching reminder of my past life. By then, that past felt as though it wasn't mine, and was fading like a vivid dream upon waking.

Meg Aitken with navigational chart of the Caribbean photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-12] Meg ponders a large scale planning chart of the Caribbean.

The only thing holding us back -- the last vital bit of kit -- was delivery of the satellite communicator. Tracking showed it cleared customs and would be delivered in the next couple of days. It was cutting it close on Elena's Turkish tourist visa. Jon thought it was too close, and that someone, knew exactly when Elena's visa expired and was holding up the package on purpose. We certainly had our share of Russian gentlemen strolling by, checking on our progress, letting us know they had an eye on us -- or as Elena put it, "A tooth on us." One of the Russians, a lout with a huge gut, made sure we knew that outside Netsel marina we, "Would die like dogs, before clearing the bay."

Elena Vaytsel looks at laptop with a worried expression on her face photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-13] Elena gazes at a voyage planning and chart ordering website.

A van, loaded to the axles with our provisions, made its way along the sea wall. It was all-hands-on-deck, stowing a couple of tonnes of food and supplies below. I envisioned an orderly checking off of lists and a place for everything. What ensued was pandemonium. Nadia, her husband, her tradesmen, her wholesalers, Sinem, Elena and I, were tripping over each other. Yet, like that aforementioned, backwards explosion, it all came together in one big crunch.

Eight months of provisions on a fourteen-metre sailboat was unthinkable. But, don't forget, landing was not an option. We couldn't even count on the Panama canal. We were looking at total self-sufficiency on the high seas. The entire front of the boat, forward of the mast, was packed tight -- floor to ceiling in two cabins. The back cabins, including the one Elena claimed, were stuffed with soft items like clothing, extra sails, life jackets and bedding. It left just enough room to burrow in and lie down.

"OK you guys, it's time to see if this boat still floats!" Sinem slammed an empty soda can down on the counter.

Elena and I looked at each other. Nadia grinned mischievously. The men were gone. The boat was done. The satellite gear was arriving in the morning. By crikey! We were actually, bloody, leaving tomorrow.

Elena Vaytsel with her sailing instructor photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-14] Sinem dubs Elena a sailor.

"Come on, it's called a shakedown sail." Sinem crushed her soda can. "Nadia, come too. See if everything works."

Nadia grinned. "Sure, let's go sailing!"

The wind wasn't exactly ripping the snot from our nostrils, but we had a cracking great shakedown. We worked like animals. Tried out all the sails, chucked Natalie wood overboard and lost it for good. Made water. Made ice. Made pizza. Made a huge mess when things shook down, all, over, the, place.

With the available wind, we pushed envelopes as far as they went. Obviously, it wasn't all that far, given the nice, protected bay we sailed in. And then, with a winch handle as her sceptre, Sinem solemnly dubbed Elena, "A sailor, with all its rights and privileges alluded to herein." As per custom, we sprayed her with beer and threw her overboard.

Two women float on their backs in the water photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-15] Nadia and Sinem take to the water following Elena's coronation (refer to the previous image) as a sailor.

We all ended up in the water, a pack of unruly kids. The more we laughed, shrieked, jousted and let go of our sensibilities, the more I knew how hard leaving was going to be. I might not have been the only one, but in the water, nobody sees your tears.

Night fell. We slipped back into Netsel marina, knowing it was for the last time. We also knew that spirits needed raising.

"To Natalie wood!" Sinem called out. We raised our own glasses of spirits to hers and clinked. Maybe more like clanked, or cracked. OK, we may have been a wee bit exuberant; having raised a lot of spirits by then. Our waiter definitely worried about the glassware.

Nadia lifted her glass. "To your fine boat. To--" Hesitation. Finally, she uttered the utilitarian name and number it had been provided by the charter operator. Her arm wilted. "What are you calling it?"

Elena and I looked at each other. I was in love with lampotchka -- Russian, for light bulb. She wasn't, and drilled into me with a steely gaze. Meekly, I suggested, "Changing the name is bad luck, anyway. Right?"

No one spoke, then Elena raised her glass. "Our sailboat must battle the sea with us. She must be a warrior. She must be one with us and Meg. She must be strong to carry us home." Tears filled her eyes. "To me, our yacht, she must be, Boadicea!"

Meg Aitken, Elena Vaytsel and their friends in Marmaris, Turkiye photo elenameg.com

[Image 28-16] Nadia, Meg, Elena and Sinem sit across from each other (this is two photos) at an outdoor restaurant, celebrating their friendship.

[[ updated Apr 24, 17:52 GMT ]]