Feeling like flotsam, I go sailing, make biofuel, and have unexpected blissful moments.
I have a friend who was a veterinarian in his native country of Belgium, specializing in animal acupuncture. He moved to North Carolina long ago and makes his living now as a translator; he's "gone native," at least in the sense that he does not yearn for European haute cuisine because he in fact loves Krispy Kreme donuts and fried fish with tartar sauce.
I used to think he was slumming but now I realize he considers his metamorphosis to be an elegantly subversive act.
I met him in the last millennium, but we lost touch until recently. He's been very busy in the mean time - he's become an expert tanguero, bought a few houses, learned how to make biodiesel fuel for his Volkswagon, he takes yoga classes three times a week, he even got married and divorced!
One of his greatest loves is a 23' catamaran sailboat; he invited me to go sailing with him on Wednesday. I found a donkey-sitter and off we went, to an undisclosed location on the Pamlico sound where he has a 'house' a block from the water.
The house, it turned out after he bought it for $20,000, had been sitting in a puddle of water for about 50 years and is almost entirely rotted out, except for the staircase and attic, which are very nice. This came to light, as it were, when he was inspecting the foundation to see if the house could be jacked up and put on stilts. Too late, I'd say.
Here's a picture of the room where I slept (in his daughter's tent, with moaning mosquitoes scratching to get in, very comfortable on her Sponge Bob Squarepants pillow).
My friend has been running his Volkswagon exclusively on home-made biofuel for many months now, and I've been very eager to watch him make the fuel. Here's his staging area.
We had stopped on the way, at an undisclosed restaurant specializing in local (i.e. fried) cuisine, to pick up four huge jars of used oil.
He pours the oil through a filter into his big drum, which he got for free from the very oil company he is depriving of profit.
This is the "magic ingredient," Diesel Secret Energy, which he bought on Craig's List. He also adds a little bit of kerosene and a little bit of "real" gasoline. Then he stirs it and it's ready for a final filtering.
Here's a close-up of the $30 pump which sends the filtered oil through another filter which extracts water. So then this project was completed.
Here's his boat, moored.
At one point he asked me to steer so he could take a nap.
After we'd been sailing a while, he said, "let's go to Bath, it's ten miles away, it'll only take a couple hours." We had just $6 but figured we could split a sandwich there.
As we headed towards Bath, the wind was strong; even though it was against us we were going as much as 11.6 miles an hour, as he repeatedly and gleefully showed me on his yellow GPS device. The GPS gizmo even showed us our path down the sound, tacks and all.
However, once we were within hailing distance of Bath, the wind died. His customary ebullience dimmed very slightly and he suggested we turn back.
I was so mellowed out, and also dazed by the sun, I had no opinion and anything was fine with me.
Along the way we saw this crane being pulled by a tugboat.
Since we were going nowhere fast, my friend suggested I jump overboard and enjoy the water. This was perhaps the most peaceful moment of 2008.
This one was equally good.
I took this picture of him from underneath the boat. He was holding the jib out, hopefully, as if this would cause it to fill with wind. Soon afterwards he asked me to come on up and we paddled for a while. Talk about a futile activity!
However, we saw wonderful things we would have missed if we'd been going more than .002 miles per hour. The sun set. The birds called. It was perfectly quiet all around.
After this picture was taken, it was too dark for any more. We saw the moon come up and the frogs were deafening. We were, eventually, within sight of the landing lights on the dock, but the wind, perversely, picked up against us; my friend had to tack, tack, tack when we were only yards from shore.
It was completely black. Suddenly I heard him cooing soft, adoring words in French. His dog Gina, who had been waiting patiently all day for him to return, had heard our approach. She had leapt into the water and swum silently out to us. He hauled her into the boat. "She is my shadow," he explained happily.
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