Saturday, May 21, 2011

Robinson Crusoe Island

Yes, there is a real island named "Robinson Crusoe" and google can even show you where it is. 

Garen's beard shows the passage of days since we have all lost track of the date. And does it matter? Not really. Not when you are on a boat. You have a few concrete variables determining your fate and none of them include the Gregorian calendar. Wind, weather and the waves they produce rule supreme out here. As Clive, our skipper, would say, "We'll get there when we get there." 

The sight of land, and for me, the possibility of stable ground under my underwhelming "sea legs" brought up a loud, internal WHOOPIE! roar that I quelled inside to keep up my cool exterior. Hardly. We are all excited to spot land. The first glimpse since leaving Chile roughly a week earlier. 

We jump into the dingy that Jeff carefully places alongside of Sea Dragon in small groups, heading to  the island named after the true story of the great Scotsman Alexander Selkirk. He inspired the book Robinson Crusoe. And the book inspired the locals to name their homeland after it. There is some debate as to which of the close islands in the Juan Fernandez Chain was the actual sight of Selkirk's marooning. But more on that later. 

First, let's get to land. I wonder what immigration has to say about this guy?!

Clive Cosby, our skipper, watches as we head for shore. Clive, it turns out, knows our ship very well. He raced one identical to it in the Global Challenge Race a few years back. The Global Challenge sends its sailors around the world AGAINST the wind. The trip lasts about ten months...if all of the stars align for you.

The island gets deliveries of goods from the Chilean Armada (or Navy but Armada is such a cool word) every few months. We watched the locals count bags of dog food, boxes of oranges, and all the rest of the goodies that will exist until they are gone. 

The goods came ashore wrapped on wooden pelts with plastic film. Lots and lots of plastic film. Some of which blew idly about while the islanders inspected their shipment. I threw a clump into the back of a local pickup with us as Garen, Dale (our first mate), Jeff (our first mate jr.) and I drove to a local house for fresh fish purchasing, and a tour of his home. 

His home was picked up, split apart and sat back down by the tsunami that came in after last years' earth shattering quake in Chile. Most of the waterfront is being rebuilt as I take this picture. Their tourist industry here was wiped out by the wave from which they had no warning. Hotels, schools, homes and shops used to dot the shore where now there are concrete foundations poured and local men stacking back the cement bricks to start again. 

I think about Japan and wonder what the news is from the Fukushima Daiichi Nucleur Power Plant that may still be melting down. Being cut off from outside news is a luxary and a burden. I send them good thoughts, hoping that they have stopped the destruction. 

This picture is to say that the disposal of plastic water bottles, and styrofoam is a world-wide problem. Does the ease in which we use up these products end up in their thoughtless distribution?

Robinson Crusoe island is a beautiful place. But beautiful, "exotic" islands are not exempt from the consumption of "disposable" products. 

Would someone coming to the city of Santa Monica, CA where I live include a picture of a local flowering bush below the plastic detritus littering the sand on our beach after a solid rainy day? We have A LOT more people. But we share the common problem. 

How to integrate the modern material of plastic into our lives, stores, and communities without degrading our environment?

I should have written more notes about the inside of this man's house. I've forgotten his name! Unfortunately, I wasn't doing a lot of writing, or typing at the time. Such activities were more easily pursued by my sturdier sea-legged crew. However, I did have a camera. All the work you see in the following pictures was burned into the wooden walls by hand and then painted over. 

Alexander Selkirk. The story, as I understand it, is that he was on a HMS ship from England that he found less than sea-worthy. He didn't like the cruel, intolerant nature of its captain and argued about the captain's incompetence to his face. Selkirk then asked to be let off on the island. 

The captain complied. They sailed away without him as Alexander Selkirk waved his arms at the last minute, shouting to come back, that he had changed his mind. The story goes that they heard him, and did not turn back. 

Lucky for him that they didn't. The ship sank. And Alexander spent 4 years and some days roaming the hills, hobbling goats so that he could catch them easier, building a shelter, and loosing his ability to speak. When the next ship arrived that rescued him, he looked like a wild man in a loin cloth, beard hair hiding much of his face, and mute....for awhile anyway. 

The Spanish claimed the Juan Fernandez Island chain of which Robinson Crusoe is a part. Their rusted shut cannons still cover many waterfronts dotting the coastline of Chile and its surrounding islands. Whether or not Selkirk inhabited this one or the next island that we would sail past that is named for him is not as important as the story of this man that blankets the entire region. 

After a few hours weaving up and down the streets, and feeling solid ground sway beneath my feet I prepared to re-board the Sea Dragon. 

How had these men managed to sail away from their homelands for years at a time with no guarantee that they would return home? 
Many didn't. 
And Alexander, what went through his mind as he watched his captain pull away? 

The Sea Dragon was safely anchored in front of me. 
And I had a motorized dinghy waiting to take me there.