Sailing Zulumbus to Alaska
Caribbean to the Pacific via the Northwest Passage
Fate is a fickle fellow. So he seems to most of us who know so little or deny so much about ours and our collective fates. I believe there is some universal plan; it just isn't totally or remotely ours.
I first met Austrians Bernhardt and Roland as they were anchoring Zulumbus near Mystique in Nassau's east end. When I called out to their boat about a decent place to anchor, they moved westward of mine and dropped theirs. When I called out to their boat, little did I know how we both fit into a much greater design.
Moments later about 100 yards away the dockmaster at Harbor Marina, using a megaphone, blasted out a request for Zulumbus to move to another location. They were apparently too close to his marina (100 yards +/-). Zulumbus complied and then her two crew members later dinghied by Mystique to say hello. I welcomed them aboard and then listened as their stories unfold. Their story entertained me, but our collective tale would challenge some of our collective wisdom, experience, strength and character. like what many sailors do naturally and spontaneously, we spent the next 5 days helping each other.
When I first met Bernhardt and he told me his destination. I responded with "Aren't you sailing in the wrong direction? Isn't Panama south of the Bahamas?"
"I'm sailing to Alaska by way of the Northwest Passage." came his response.
After my jaw-dropping double-take and exaggerated hard-swallowing gulp, I was quick on the uptake. So I immediately asked to interview him, showed him my blog and he readily agreed a time for the next evening.
With a bottle of Riesling and a few solar lamps in Mystique's inner salon for a couple of evening hours, I interviewed Austrian Bernhardt and his nephew Roland at Nassau Harbour Marina. As it turned out, my interview lasted closer to three days as they prepared for their 2-day leg to West Palm Beach. Like old friends, we spent time those three days hanging out together in Nassau and helping each other with various endeavors. I helped him with manuals, information and suggestions while he helped me retrieve an anchor and a windlass.
My questions focused mostly on him and his plans to sail Zumbulus to Alaska by way of the Northwest Passage. But over the next few days, numerous follow-up questions kept popping into my head.... so what you are about to read is a compilation of my time with Bernhardt.
H- My burning question is why sail to Alaska?
B- I sailed to Antarctica last year. Nothing better than sailing, when you are alone you are your own hero. A boat is all about freedom.
H- Any inspiration or hero?
B- The movie Berserk was the biggest influence on me for sailing to the poles.
H- Have you considered "what ifs"?
B- I'm very careful. I treat my boat like a baby so I'm taking care of her. My biggest challenge is sleeping. How do I sleep when the water is full of ice?
H- Will you be solo?
B- My son, Manuel, will be joining me in Nova Scotia. He was with me for my sail to Antartica
H- why did you name your boat Zumbulous? What does it mean?
B- We conducted an internet search and no one had the name. Sounds like Columbus and cumulous clouds
H- Why this boat?
B- Low budget - $60,000 euros
H- Your sloop's design?
B- Reinke plan, made of aluminum, solid, not reinforced hull. Will have it checked out in the states.
H- spare parts?
B- nope, takes up too much room, just one 14-year old mainsail and two jibs.
H- Will you keep a logbook?
B- no, just use a Canon camera. I use a Go-Pro to check on the keel and rudder daily. Ever since I lost a boat 600 near the Azores
H- what happened?
B- rudder jammed- couldn't fix it. Called friends who were sailing three days ahead of me and they radioed a tanker that saved me. I had to abandon ship but re weather and waves switch too difficult to scuttle so left it afloat.
H- What's your weather window?
B- July to October the ice breaks up.
Once in West Palm Beach, he would haul his 36-foot sloop out of the water for two days and stock up on food supplies and purchase a rifle - possible polar bear attack.
Bernhardt and I might have met under different circumstances. But it is difficult to imagine how. Certainly in all probability if Bernhardt had listened to my advice and ignored the dockmaster, our vessels would likely have met in the dark of a rainy Thursday night when my boat would have drifted into his. But that did not happen.
Instead he moved his boat at the bellowing bequest of the aforementioned dockmaster, and later as I have written, stopped by Mystique to chat after he had moved his boat to a more easterly and safer location. If he had not been the cordial and considerate salt he is, he might not have dinghied over to Mystique to say hello and greet a fellow sailor. And all the next three days would have unfolded so differently.
Who would know that that very night, the harbor police would visit my boat as the first one they encountered in the anchorage. They might have visited his instead as it would have been closer to Bahamas Customs. Of course, no one will ever know because it did not play out that way. But fate would bring the police to me for the third time and send my boat dragging its anchor later that very night close to two tour boats and a gas dock. Did fate save Bernhardt's boat from a police inspection and a collision with Mystique? Did the dockmaster save us both? Did the whole set of events bring us closer together so we could bond? So I could write a more detailed account of his upcoming arctic adventure? So he and Roland could help me retrieve my anchor?
I hope he is as fortunate dodging ice flows, icebergs and storms in Canada this summer as he sails over 4,000 miles.
If the dock-master had not yelled at Bernhardt to anchor his 36-foot sloop, he would not have anchored his Zulumbus easterly. If he had stayed anchored where I had suggested, Mystique would surely have dragged into them near midnight when the weather changed. Instead Mystique and I ended up 300 yards closer to the Nassau bridge and the gas dock. I was planning on filling my fuel tanks, just not that way.
People show up in your life for reasons yet unknown, but when I have been awake and alert enough to realize I have shown up for them as well. I think the fates will be with him. Thank the universe, our boats did not encounter each other before we humans met.