By Heidi Trautmann
It was in Yeni Erenköy, North Cyprus, about the time of the wild fennel boxing its way out of the wet soil, the time of first almond blossoms giving a smoky white touch to the hillsides, that we met two people and their boat, two American people from the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Roanoke Virginia. Ruth and Randal and their Doramac, a green motor cruiser, who have started on a journey around the world in the third quarter of their life.
North Cyprus is one of the many stages during their ocean going career and they came here in October 2011 to stay over winter as so many other migrating birds do and go away again on their planned route in spring 2012 when the first warm winds would carry them south along the Middle East coast to touch some countries there with open end.
As so often in life a good thing starts with an idea, a dream. I can tell because when my husband Kalle and I retired we thought to try a new way of life, living on a sailing boat and roam the seven seas, discover new things for us and meet people.
The reason for the kind of people like us is a moment in life when you come to a crossroads and that causes you to think: Was that all I have to expect from life? Out of this basic question often arises an incredible motivation. Before the idea of a cruising life on a boat was born, Randal joint a bike tour around the world with over 200 people for a whole year. A complete break from his life routine for over 50 years.
About these first thoughts, the final decision making, I would like to let them speak for themselves at the end of my text, first Ruth with verses written over three years, and then Randal. Honest, open words, and I could not describe it any better.
Another faithful comrade of theirs is a motor bike with which they have done exploring wherever they went and they stopped by the road to talk to people and thus made friends.
When I read about the experiences they have made in North Cyprus, a very sensitive approach to land and people, I thought that this is the right way to travel, because countries are made of people, the characteristics such as architecture, the culture of survival, are created by people. Read their diaries of their encounters and experiences, you will learn a lot more about North Cyprus, the area around Yeni Erenköy, where their boat is moored in Karpaz Gate Marina. From there they do walks across country, and stop to talk to a shepherd, look over the fence to discover a calf being born, have coffee on the porches of people living along the road. They have discovered the roots, hear about recipes and customs, the difference between hellim and halloumi, get to know flora and fauna. It is the simple things that matter.
I decided to walk to the small market in Sipahi. The weather was uncertain so I wore lots of layers, a winter hat, and regular glasses but carried a baseball cap, sunglasses, and an umbrella in my backpack. Halfway up the hill to Sipahi I took off the winter hat, jacket, and vest and switched to my baseball cap. It was warm but cloudy so I never really needed the sunglasses. Almost to the store I met a young high school student whom I’d met one day while he was herding the family sheep. We walked along gamely trying to make conversation. Luckily his English was better than my Turkish. He was on his way to visit a friend. I asked why he wasn’t in school and he told me the school day went from 8 am until 1 pm. I told him I was from America and his reaction was very positive. I let him get away before I thought to ask to take his photo.
At the store I bought some 1.5% fat milk and some 100% fat cookies and started home. Not far from the store I passed a house with a cow shed in back. I noticed about a dozen people hovering behind one of the cows, holding its tail up. Even a city kid like me knew what was about to happen. I stopped to watch having only seen animals born on TV. Some of the women waved to me and I went closer and took some photos and stood in awe as the calf was born. It scared me though because I thought it would pop right up and begin to nurse. It just kind of lay there and then it was moved out of the birth mess and cleaned by some of the neighbors. The mom just lay there pooped too. Eventually the cow got up and was cleaned up and milked and when I left the calf was being fed mile from a bucket. At least that’s what I thought I saw. While I was watching, several of the people asked if I wanted some coffee. It seemed the polite thing to say yes, so I did. After a bit the two high school girls, sisters, motioned me to follow them into the house. I tried to stop and take off my shoes but they insisted I leave them on though they took theirs off. So I left mine on glad they weren’t mucky for a change. It is in social situations like this that I realize exactly how little Turkish I’ve made myself learn. But it was ok and I smiled and they chatted to me in Turkish as I drank my thick Turkish coffee with sugar and hot milk. They had also poured me a glass of water and put out some nuts. The husband of the house came home and was surprised to see me but said hello and offered me a cigarette. I politely said no to that and sat a bit as the women tried to explain their relationship to each other and the man I’d met. After a bit I motioned that I had to go. It was a lovely experience. One day soon I will make an apple cake and bring it to them. I will also take my dictionary.
How it all began:
It was during the year 2002
that Randal Johnson had this thought,
to take his wife and little else
and live their life upon a yacht.
They’d sail the seas and see the world
and never stay long in one spot.
So to his wife he said, “We ought
to buy a sailing boat.”
His wife said, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure.
We have no skills, we have no yacht.”
Said Randal, “Not to worry dear.
There’s nothing to fear from sailing but fear.
We’ll buy some books, we’ll read a lot,
we’ll learn to sail from here to there.
We’ll sail around this whole huge sphere.
We’ll buy a sailing boat.”
And so their tale has just begun.
They’ll sail the seas and have great fun.
They’ll learn to sail, they’ll conquer fears.
The sea will be their home for years.
They’ll learn to sail a sailing boat and happily learn to live afloat.
And create a sailing yarn aboard their boat Avista-Mignon.
(written for Randal’s birthday 2002 by Ruth)
The dream has changed, as dreams may do,
that started in 2002.
What will it be before we’re through?
Of dreams it’s good to have a few,
then life’s not old but always new.
The Circle Tour is now the plan.
In truth that’s how it all began;
then tacked away to sail the seas,
to take a year, go where we please.
But dreams if they are to come true
must be a dream that we can do.
So first we’ll cruise the Circle Tour
and maybe later tour some more.
But I know within my heart
it’s not the course we choose to chart
will be the most important part.
But with you till the very end
is how my time I want to spend
my love, my captain, my best friend.
(Valentine’s Day 2003)
Then DoraMac became the name
the only change, the dream’s the same.
So to Miami we did go and toured the whole big boating show.
Though not the best we got some rest and got some sun and had some fun.
We’ll read and plan and learn much more throughout the year 2004.
(Valentine’s Day 2004)
We’ve changed the name to DoraMac
and now our dream has doubled back,
to see the world, but not with sail
which might have caused the dream to fail.
A web search found the “Diesel Duck.”
By it’s design was Randal struck..
Two boat shows didn’t change his mind
a better boat he couldn’t find.
Plus reading done throughout the year
had come to make the choice quite clear.
On David Katz’s “Duck” he learned
to know the “Duck” from bow to stern.
from San Francisco to Seattle
though 2 days were a seasick battle.
But Randal loved the “Duck” and knew
that Ruth, his wife, would love it too.
So in November they did fly
to Seahorse Marine in Zhuhai.
Bill Kimley builds the "Ducks" in China.
George Buehler is the “Duck’s” designer.
To Buehler’s plan we’d add our own;
to make hull # 5 our home.
So Randal and Bill had a chat.
They talked of this, they spoke of that.
They shook hands and both agreed this Diesel Duck would meet our need.
Our trip was great! We loved it all!!
We even got to climb the Wall.
It’s why we want the boat at all
to make this giant world seem small.
And to our friends who ask us why and shake their heads and say, “Oh my!”
Our answer is we have to try to live our dream before we die.
And when we’re old we can remember
that very first trip in November.
(written Valentine’s Day 2005)
“The years thunder by, the dreams of youth lie caked
in dust on the shelves of patience, before you know it,
the tomb is sealed” -Sterling Hayden
This is still one of my favorite quotes. The years thunder by indeed and what do we have to show for them. I was 58 years old September 21st, it seems it was only yesterday Momma was calling me for dinner, now Mom and Dad are both gone, my oldest brother is gone and I’ve stopped looking at the obituaries because too many friends were showing up there.
The day I made the decision to leave my business for a year, pay $31,000 for a supported bicycle ride around the world was November 11, 1995. I remember it very well. I anguished over spending that much money, possibly losing my business, and the ramifications of being out of the business loop for one year. I remember my thought processes. I finally decided this: One day if I’m lucky enough to be 80 years old, I will look back on my life. Which will I cherish the most, the money or the memories of that bicycle trip? Well I guess you know what my answer was.
Now Ruth and I embark on an adventure that may not have an end. Affairs have been put in order, the house is rented and I have a business manager to pay our bills and represent our interest here in Roanoke. Our boat is almost ready and we leave Roanoke on a one way ticket on November 1st. We stop over on the west coast for a few days but when we arrive at the boat yard in China on November 11th, we are there finalizing the outfitting of the boat until we depart on it, our new home.
Do I have reservations? Absolutely not: We have been planning this adventure now for over 4 ½ years. I checked my Amazon account the other day and I have purchased 97 books from them during that period. Most of which were books on boating. That is not counting the many books I have bought and read from other sources. I have in my mind lived through almost every scenario possible. I just finished writing a storm tactics manual for the boat that has over 2500 words, boy was that exciting. We are quite often asked about pirates and I have to admit I am still working on that scenario, but my overall feeling is there is a pretty slim chance of a piracy attack.
All of you on this list are either friends or family and if you would like to plan to come visit us, you are welcome. The boat will actually sleep nine people. There are two separate cabins, (bedrooms). The boat has two bathrooms, (heads). The settee, (couch) in the salon, (living room) turns into a queen size bed and one can sleep on the settee in the pilot house. Two more can sleep in the cockpit, (outside settee and my favorite).
These are our very tentative plans. Leave Hong Kong hopefully after Christmas near the first of the year, make a run to Subic Bay in the Philippines and probably stay there for a month or two. The Philippines have 7,100 islands, and two thirds of those are considered safe, then on to Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. This may very well take up most of a year. The best time to go across the Indian Ocean and up through the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean is December through March.
It may be March, 2008 before we end up in the Med but once there we will spend approximately two years hopping from one country to the next. We intend to circumnavigate the Black Sea and visit the countries that border it, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, and Georgia.
All plans are tentative of course and will be dictated only by weather, seasonal climate conditions, news from other cruisers, and cruising guides; in that order. I emphasize news from other cruisers because they are the best source of information and I have yet to meet one who was not available to talk, especially about where they have been or what they have heard from other cruisers about places. I recently read a story about a man who started a west about world circumnavigation from the US west coast 10 years ago and is still hanging out in the islands of the Pacific Ocean.
This adventure already has been an extensive learning process. We have acquired an agent to help in documenting the boat in the United States. The application asked for the hailing port which also has to show on the stern of the boat. I wanted to use Hong Kong thinking it might get a little better reception in some countries we visit but the agent said it would have to be a US territory or possession. We have decided on “Bedford, VA”. That is where I was raised but mostly because Momma, “Dora Mac” spent her entire life there. I can almost guarantee that Dora Mac the boat, at 51’ in length, 15’ width, 6’ draft, and 34 ton displacement will never see Bedford, VA though.
So, this is the beginning of our journey together in a confined space that tends to move from one great place to another. In the process we will deal with the customs of different cultures, bureaucracies, diverse ways of existence, over zealous venders, and maybe a pirate or two but mostly truly wonderful people who only want the same things out of life as we do; a comfortable living and the best for our children.
The picture below was recently taken after the boat was launched on October 9th. The mast and rigging, sails, biminis for the flybridge and cockpit have to be installed but she is coming along nicely.
Until the next time which will be from afloat ———-
"I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." Diane Ackerman
Here is their website: www.mydoramac.com . When you enter, you will find the archived files by date, so start with the bottom file that takes you to the beginning. There is also Randal’s Bike Tour which is extremely interesting, also with files by date.
It is again proof to me that when you go through your day with open mind and heart you will discover new worlds. Don’t be shy to talk to people, very often a completely new universe opens to you.