"When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favours—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed.”
Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged
To which point society is doomed by our own doings, where in many places the work and personal sacrifices lack reward, where resources flow in obscure directions and when needed are not there anymore. Empires have risen and fallen. In many countries, decadent models led to economies to operate and control population within narrow limits, with reduced capacity of response to unexpected situations. To which point COVID-19 is making the world to bend its knee, to which point the viral pandemic entangles economics, society and population well-being, how it all influences one another?
Situations in a way similar to what we live in, in the present, have had great impact on the configuration of the world during historical times. The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first, nor the last one to have the potential to change the shape of things.
We seem to live in a sort of Nietzsche’s Eternal return, where past events live on a recurrence spiral, coming back in different times and versions, accommodating themselves to the flow of time. Devastating events have periodically hit the chronicle of human existence since immemorial times, and after every strike we had the resources to adapt. Nowadays, with many used to live comfortable lives, pushing down but thanks to the rest, inner changes might prove more difficult.
We sail, we sail for ourselves, but also we follow our duty and we sail to bring the Europa to her homeport in a long trip from the South to North Atlantic. She is used to long journeys and ocean crossings since she left her task as trustful lightship in the Elbe River. That is what she was built for in 1911, to serve as a guide for mariners sailing the length of this great river. Once her job was considered obsolete, she also was given a chance to adjust, to change, to restyle and better fit in a modernised world. For years she was embellished and re-rigged taking the effort of many to become what she is today, a classic Ocean
Wanderer offering a variety of sail training trips all over the world including the remote, un-forbidding Antarctic lands and off the beaten track islands. Her characteristic old hull can also be found in the most famous Tall Ship Races and events elsewhere.
We take care and maintain her, we sail her and we all hope to be able to keep doing it in the future, despite the unpredictable consequences of the actual world crisis. Humanity has embarked on an unexpected journey, where different countries applying different measures are reaching different destinations all around a common goal. And so have we on board Bark Europa. An international crew sails her, writing a new page on her history where no heroes are to be found, in a world where we all lose:
jobs, income, illusions, dreams and many even their lives.
"A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exist something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable."
Ryszard Kapuscinski. ´Travels with Herodotus´
From the anchorage in Ushuaia where we spent about a week, time necessary for assessing different options, destinations and schedule changes, now we sail. While restricted mobility has been imposed in many countries, paradoxically a vast ocean lays ahead of us before reaching our doorstep. How it will all be by then? From our sailing ship, in the isolation offered by the seas, the events in a quickly ever-changing society are difficult to foresee.
"Once a journey is designed, equipped and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."
John Steinbeck “Travels with Charley”
We embarked on a journey along thousands of miles and across a wide range of latitudes and climates, not exactly by our choice, despite the seeking of adventure and for braving the seas that hide in our restless souls. This trip, framed by a time of isolation, confinement and desperate economical and medical attempts to overcome a global health crisis, has chosen us.
Even the preparation prior setting sail on this adventure had a surrealistic touch for us. We received some news about the rapidly changing situation in the world, but nobody was really prepared to face the drift of events ahead of us. As many other countries, Ushuaia and the rest of Argentina had undergone drastic changes and desperate measures in just a few days, while we sailed back from Antarctica and then rested at anchor in front of the city. From our decks a seemingly empty city lays silent in the background. Its usually busy port had become almost empty, and just cargo and a fishing ship find shelter in it, still allowed to conduct their activities to avoid a total collapse of the economy and chain of supplies.
Luckily we were still allowed to stock provisions and fill up our fuel tanks once we were ready to set out to sea. But the operation under the actual circumstances required special measures. Provisioning, a procedure to which we are all used in every port and between all of our trips, had become this time a memorable task, dealing as well as we could with the risk of infection from foreign articles brought on board from ashore. Weighing anchor once the mandatory pilot embarked, gloves and face mask on during the few hours he joined us along the Beagle Channel, we set sail for the South Atlantic. A trip that will stay in our memories for ever, that will feed our hunger for braving the seas, had already a singular beginning.
Since then we sail along, leaving behind the mythical southern Patagonia coasts, the last connection to any land we will have for many days. Countless albatrosses and other seabirds have joined us when we ride the swells and good winds South of the Falkland Islands over the productive Burdwood bank. Europa sets canvas, braces and steers, adjusting to the changeable winds in an elegant way to make her path across the ocean. A lack of fair breeze make the albatrosses sit and wait for better
conditions for their soaring flight, floating over the ocean.
Down time that they use to maintain their feathers in the adequate conditions needed for their endless journeying. We sail, we take care and maintain our vessel too and we manoeuvre her sails as they manoeuvre their wings, mastering the South Atlantic winds on a journey that will never be over in our minds.