Crew Blog | Naʻalehu Anthony: Adjusting the Sails

Naalehu AnthonyBy Naʻalehu Anthony

It had been an interesting week in the Galapagos, made a few days longer by an unexpected technical delay.  Asking for extra days in port is a stressful thing, especially when those days are difficult to come by because of our weather and travel windows. So when the onboard satellite terminal malfunctioned on the evening of our intended departure a few days ago, I asked for some time to fix the issue – yes with a heavy heart, but also with a clear conscience.  This satellite terminal is probably best appreciated for what it allows us to do in terms of communication with our followers and supporters via the assets that we post on, social media, and send through to TV and print outlets, but its essential function is one of safety. If something breaks while we are in route and we need parts or supplies, or if some paperwork or logistics coordination hiccups need to be straightened out enroute to our next port, regular and consistent email is the best and fastest way to move those kinds of requests back to the office and other key contacts.

IMG_2996We found a solution through a local marine electronics store that could land us a new unit in a couple of days, and of course a couple of days was all I had before our departure window closed.  So the day before departure, three of us – fellow watch captain Russell, the Doctor, and myself – took our new satellite terminal and antenna and installed it where the previous iteration had been mounted. We got on the line to Inmarsat tech support, ironed out all the new settings and configurations, and got the new system integrated with the rest of our technical gear by mid-day. The thought of going dark for a month with no satellite interface was not something that I wanted to even imagine, so getting the system up and running again was a huge relief.

These last two paragraphs, however, are really the set up for todays story.

We were really lucky to have the equipment fail in a place like the Galapagos – although the Galapagos Islands are unique for a number of reasons, there are similarities we find in small port towns like this all over the world. In terms of our tech needs, there are really large yachts that regularly visit this port, which means there are resources available to fix problems like the one we just had. That aside, the one consistent, common factor?  Everything takes longer when you are in small port town, especially so when you do not speak the language.  It’s not a complaint, rather an observation on how it works when you are new to a place – seemingly simple tasks that we take for granted back home can take forever to accomplish. I remember it took me three days to get a piece of pipe threaded in Yap when we were preparing to go to Satawal to shoot.  Then there was that time in Bali, some of you may remember, it took us four very long days to fix our visa issue.  Our challenge this time? After the installation of the new satellite terminal, we decided to send the old terminal back to the manufacturer for repair. I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be as simple as the idea sounded.

IMG_2995I remembered seeing that familiar yellow and red DHL sign on the main road less than a mile away from the harbor, so Doc and I set out on foot with our boxes and a fresh email with the address our equipment should be sent to. The DHL sign was small and a little faded, but as it does everywhere in the world, it appeared to demark some place of business that ships items internationally. There was a small, locked wooden gate and an unfinished concrete wall blocking the short walkway to what could be the place we were looking for.  On the wall was a panel with a single button and a speaker; we pressed the button, and immediately that universal loud apartment building buzzing sound was heard, followed by the click of the gate opening.  We set out down the path towards the open door, and walked into a room that had been painted bright DHL yellow at some point, perhaps before Darwin came to the Galapagos on the Beagle.  In the midst of this faded yellow, we were relieved to find a very nice young woman who was more than happy to send our boxes several thousand miles.  At least I think she was happy, since she smiled and spoke nicely to the Doctor – while it is lucky for me the Doctor speaks English, it has been lucky for all of us he speaks Spanish too. We worked out that we had two boxes and they needed to be sent to a different corner of the planet than the one we currently occupy. The next part of the conversation went like this (through the doctor/interpreter):

Me: Can we send this to this address?

Her: Yes, you can

Me: Great. Can you tell me how much it will cost?

Her: How much does it weigh?

Me: I was hoping you could weigh it

Her: Our scale is broken. You have to take them (the boxes) up the road to the post office to weigh.

At this point I knew exactly where we were, having been in this situation a couple dozen times.  This was where a quick trip to the shipping office (supply store, grocer, customs office, etc) is actually a half-day gig.  No problem though, me and the Doc had exactly a half day left before we had to report to the next crew obligation.

IMG_3003So we three – the Doctor, and I, and a guy we found to show us the way (sounds like the beginning of a joke, or a great story, huh?) – set out on the multi-block tour with our satellite parts to the post office.  We weighed the boxes and walked back along the same cobblestone road down to the water’s edge to the DHL office. Cautiously proud of our accomplishment, we anxiously awaited the next hurdle.  After some wrangling about the address and where these items were going, the conversation continued:

Me: Can you tell me how much it is?

Her: Yes, its $386.60

(Me thinking, “she’s not even joking!”)

Me: You don’t take credit cards do you?

Her: No.

(Me thinking, “I knew it!”)

Me: You don’t have change either do you?

Her: No

Me: Well, we’ll have to come back.  I have the money but it’s at the hotel.

Her: Ok, but come back in an hour.  I have errands to run.

Me: OK, we’ll be back.

So, we left our boxes at the office and headed back across town for the hotel where the petty cash envelope was in my canoe baggage.  With a quick detour at a respectable eatery we got back in just over an hour. After a few optimistic rings of the buzzer, the door finally clicked and we were back in the DHL outpost. With a printed waybill from an inkjet printer, a roll of that yellow DHL tape, and a stack of money to the exact amount we were finished with our task of getting these precious pieces of technology ready for the long journey home. We booked it back to the hotel with 12 minutes to spare before the bus arrived to take us to dinner.

What’s the moral of this story?  There is a common nautical-themed quote often seen that says “we can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”  Just like sailing canoes – the speed of the journey is the speed of the journey, and there is not a lot that you can do to change it – the challenge is to adjust yourself to the pace.  That is one of the precious gifts of this voyage – the opportunity to transition to a cadence that is not in your control, whether on water or on land.  Slowing down, speeding up, being observant of and falling in rhythm with whatever environment surrounds you – we become appreciative of all the good energy that surrounds us.
We’ll be patiently standing by 72,



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