A spot location! A small bit of excitement comes over me as I find time to check my personal email during an otherwise mundane yet stressful work day. I enter their coordinates. Yes Google Maps, I do want this location, and no I am not searching for pizza nearby even your algorithm can’t conceive this. I scroll out, and out, and out. The map scales from 2000 ft, to 1 mi, to 2mi, and on and on. 500 mi scale, nearing the capacity of the mapping system and I can finally begin to have a relative sense of where this small, overly equipped vessel and its fairly large, overly prepared crew presses on across the southern Pacific. Their brief update provides a surprisingly deep insight into their daily routine causing my mind to escape and drift off into my memories aboard Saltbreaker.
It has now been two months since I found myself lounging on the bow of Saltbreaker absorbing the last couple minutes of sunlight just before darkness sets in. Alex disrupts my concentration as he pops out of the cabin for an opportunity to get a rare glimpse of the green “flash” sometimes scene immediately after sunset. We intensely stare at the horizon for a few minutes but no luck this evening; we will have to settle for the almost perfect sunset over the calm Pacific waters. We were well into the second leg of our travels down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, this evening we will round the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and find anchorage in Bahia Ballena in the morning. After the sun disappears over the horizon the darkness sets in quickly. Only a week into our trip and I already feel a sense of anticipation when night falls. The sights over the water change dramatically as the stars grow brighter and the water begins to shimmer. An overwhelming sense of calm comes over me as I lie back against the stowed dingy and I begin to feel a sense of freedom that is almost inexplicable. For now there are no obligations, no deadlines, and no expectations. I begin to lightly laugh to myself thinking of our arrival aboard Saltbreaker.
Derek and I arrived in Tamarindo and embarked on a short yet successful journey searching for the crew of Saltbreaker. After an ill communication at our rendezvous point, our instincts drew us towards an unassuming snack shop up the dirt road in search for two tall “Argentinos” (their Spanish must be better and they must be tanner than we thought). A short distance up the road and a few crow calls later we meet the Kleemans. Their presence is so familiar it almost feels as if we are meeting for dinner back home instead of this coastal surfing town in Central America. We grab a quick bite and a few long overdue beers before setting off on what we presumed would be a short and easy dingy ride. Alex comes out of the bathroom in a swim suit, I ask “should I change?”. “Eh, it depends” he replies so overly nonchalant that I am convinced I don’t. We fight an almost hysterical battle with the breakers and are soaked to the bone and wading in nearly a foot of water inside the dingy. Alex and Nick express their little worn enthusiasm and begin pointing out observations that should have all but come the norm for them. Nick, “We’re kicking up a little efflorescence”; the water sparkles as if small fireworks are igniting from under the dingy. Alex, “You can see the Southern Cross”; he points towards the horizon over the lightless beach we just departed from. The storied constellation shines brightly as we both quietly begin to sing “when you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand why now you came this way…” I find myself in utter awe and my completely soaked clothing now feels appropriate and almost essential for the setting. Approaching Saltbreaker we can now hear the music playing aboard.
It’s late and we have been traveling for just under eighteen hours yet I find myself far from exhaustion. After a clumsy climb aboard we crack open a few cold beers and begin to pass what will be the first of many bottles of rum. We stay up late into the evening, far later than we will for the next two weeks, and discuss the happenings of life back in Chicago.
I break from my thoughts as dinner preparations begin. I climb back towards the cockpit and discussions of how incredible tonight’s featured film will be are already underway. A short time later a gourmet pasta dinner is served and we begin to watch the soon to be classic, Machete. I can’t wait for my midnight watch.
Back in the office, the phone rings almost continuously as I find myself once again surfing through the photos of my experiences aboard Saltbreaker. I find a single photo of the boat itself. I stare, and stare, and stare. I begin to feel remarkably close to this ship and its crew despite their isolated location in the center of the vast southern Pacific. I can almost feel I’m still with them.