On the Reality of Sh–
Phew! A fishing boat. I was worried there for a minute.
Onward I sailed toward Isla Parida, with 10 miles to go. Behind me, the gray wall of weather split apart and pushed further to sea as if chased by the heat of the day. Aside from the zooming fishing boat and another stationary net babysitting boat, the waters remained empty. Parida is lightly inhabited, and I could already perceive a field of safety growing near as the island upstaged the horizon.
I oscillated between enjoying myself on what had turned out to be a bright lovely day, and suffering little explosions of paranoid fear that told me not to get too comfortable just yet.
By mid-afternoon I reached Parida and navigated the rocks and channels until I found a shallow uninhabited bay, finally dropping anchor a while before sunset. I was grateful and almost giddy to have made this day’s destination.
Along the way I’d caught a bonito tuna, so once things were put away I cooked dinner for myself and Tack and settled in for a restful yet watchful evening. Some time after dark, I saw running lights from what looked like a larger than average boat for these waters heading in my general direction. A powerful spotlight came on and scoured the beach and palm trees on Isla Gamez the next island over, looking for I know not what. I could hear the sound of men and machinery over the water, then a splash as the boat dropped anchor. By now their lights had told me who they were: Panamanian Navy. The last of my anxieties flushed away and I slept soundly through the quiet starry night.
The next day, an inflatable raft lowered from the Navy boat and two men in casual clothes zoomed across to my bay to say hello. I invited them aboard for warm Pepsi and halting conversation about the goings on around here and mentioned to them my strange encounter of the day before. They perked up and began asking questions. Where was this? When did it happen? It was an airplane? What color was it? When I answered the question about the plane’s color, one of the men made a sound with a knowing look.
“Don’t tell me,” I said, “was that plane yours?” He kind of shrugged and wouldn’t say for sure, but you could tell he had his suspicions, which was further evidenced by the fact that the Navy boat stayed anchored on the beach for another night instead of zooming off to get to the bottom of my terrible scare.
Do you believe in signs? I don’t normally. I believe in the magical complexity of coincidence, the indefinable mystery of complex cause and effect. We are no more destined to be presented with certain situations than we are to hear portents foretelling our doom in the nick of time to avert those situations and foil the plan of fate. Then there are those days where you survey around you and realize that you’ve put yourself on a path where there’s only one clear way to go. You realize that your challenge is no longer in choosing, but in reading what signs are available to keep you safely on your path, no longer in control of where it leads.
Why does this matter? It doesn’t. It’s just like, my opinion, man. But I do believe that fate is in the eye of the beholder, and destiny is up for constant interpretation. It’s not a very good story if the moral was “and I didn’t belong there so I settled for a more sensible place,” but there you have it. Who looks a gift island in the teeth? I could do my last underwater repairs just as easily here as farther out. Easier probably, as you don’t have big seas surrounding the island.
The weather is better. Tonight I’m watching a tremendous light show in the direction of Montuosa. Yes the Navy is parked at the island right across the channel so my solitude isn’t complete just yet, but that’s actually of comfort to me right now. I don’t know why I tried to go anywhere else in the first place. No use skipping living in search of the perfect place to live.
Whatever the YOLO crowd says, I feel pretty good about my choice. Adventure sailors, run out and hide!
I don’t have any good pictures today, but here’s a short video of the beach where I landed.