“I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full. Arthur Ashe –

Collaborated Dyptich with Naomi Rebouf (top) acrylic on canvas- overall size  30 x 60 x 7 cm (12” x 24” x 3” )

Collaborated diptych with Naomi Rebouf (top) acrylic on canvas overall size 30 x 60 x 7 cm (12” x 24” x 3” )-

The story continues….


I have often wondered what  life would have been like if my parents or any family member actually cared enough to push me in a direction instead of just letting me drift and then condemning  the action.  When there was a dilemma I always wished there would be someone who would say “do this”, “try this” or better still “let me help you”, but alas that never came to pass and so I just went with the flow.

That flow led me to accept my sister’s invitation to come back to Ecuador for the holidays. Capitán had not interfered in my life for nearly two years now, busy with his new trophy wife and the potential of more children.  However, fate had other immediate plans and a rush translation project kept me working though the holidays.  It would not be until after my birthday in late January when I boarded a plane for Guayaquil and a 2-week holiday.

It was the rainy season and the invasion of “grillos” a cockroach/cricket hybrid, invaded the city by the millions. Most people had left or were in the process of leaving for the beach and clearer weather; my sister and her family were no exception.

Salinas was not the Miami Beach it is today, back then it was a quite beach town with a few high-rises, many good restaurants and open beach bars serving ceviche and good Pilsner beer. I was siting in one of those bars when I saw her sail into the bay.  My heart skipped a beat and a great longing rose in my soul.  She was a 65-foot ketch, painted white with a single blue stripe and cut the water like knife; I could feel her spirit from the shore.

It was love at first sight and I began to ask around.  Her owner was a retired ex-patriot Russian and the yacht had achieved a bit of fame, as she was the first ferro-concrete sailing vessel to be built in Ecuador and was in Salinas doing trial runs.  Rumor had it she was preparing for a maiden voyage across the Pacific and looking for crew.

Bedazzled, I could not help but stare longingly at the yacht as it sat at anchor and when I could stare no more, I had a friend motor me out and requested permission to come aboard.  Alexander Bell was the Russian Capitan’s name, whether that was real or not was unimportant.  A man in 60’s, this was his life’s dream; we sat and talked for two hours. I finally asked him if I could join the crew. He asked if I knew how to sail, I lied and said yes and I added, “I can cook under any conditions.”  “Then join us at 8am tomorrow”, he said, “and we will see.”

Now I know this may be hard to understand, how as a young girl, hardly ever having put a foot on a moving vessel let alone a sailboat that size, how I could succeed, but I knew what to do and when to do it.  The ship and I bonded that day, she told me everything I needed to know and when it should be done, voices in my head, feelings in my being, visions in my eyes. It was all very magical.

At day’s end we caught a grouper and I cooked, for desert I was given the job.  There would only be 3 of us plus the Captain: John a British engineer, myself and Charlen a coastal Indian marine carpenter who would take his turn at watch and finish some of the final touches on the woodwork as the voyage went along. We would sail for Panama in 2 days as a knockdown cruise.

Without a second thought, I packed my bags, moved on-board and the adventure began.

We sailed the evening of the second day and for the first time in my life I was truly terrified. On engine power only we motored thought the navigation channel to open ocean. There were only the channel lights and compass readings to guide, I had to rely on every available sense and trust Alex’s voice adjusting the course to compensate for antiquated maps.  My heart left my body several times as we slid along side what seemed to be a dark monster of a cargo container vessels before entering the open ocean.

It was only then the sound of other ships, foghorns, lights and moving ghost in the dark disappeared and the silence of the night overwhelmed. I sat at the wheel feeling I had conquered the world, reveling in this exhilarating feeling of slicing almost soundlessly though the swells at a steady 6 knots.  We followed the coast up to Panama for the next 7 days; went though the amazing Panama Canal and anchored at the Balboa Yacht Club on the Caribbean side.

The Yacht club itself was nothing more than a huge wooden building with a covered deck/bar restaurant/seating area, with a view to the entrance of the Canal.  A well-known landmark to boaters and cruising yachts from around the world.  A place where you could find line-handlers to help get your boat though the canal, mechanics, food, drink, showers and served as a port of entry to the country of Panama for many years.

We would anchor here for 3 months. Alex Bell returned to the US to obtain a new refrigeration unit as the one installed in Ecuador ceased to work.  John would be left in charge while he was gone and the new Briggs and Stratton engine would be given a complete overhaul, including the generator and a few other mechanics that acted up during the trip up the coast.  I flew back to the US, quit my job, quit my apartment lease and packed a travel bag of minimal items of clothing and necessities. The remaining clothes and nick-knacks went into two boxes and stored at my Sicilian grandmother’s attic in Galveston.

Three days after my arrival back in Houston I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Panama City and my grand adventure began.


  1. Enjoying this again! “I could feel her spirit from the shore.” I love your writing, C. You’ve had an amazing life. Thank you so much for journeying along my side of the water.


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