Jan 12, 2010

The Joys of Yachting

The recent news out of Yemen reminds me of Eric Hansen's Motoring With Mohammed, my favorite travel memoir. Generally I avoid the genre, but Hansen can tell a good story.

In the book, Hansen recounts being shipwrecked off the Yemen coast in 1978. He gives a great description of being on a boat in a horrific storm, a storm which ultimately beached his boat.

In one passage, Hansen describes manning the engine bilge pump:

"In near darkness, I remained in this position as the flywheel of the engine began to throw a warm, steady spray of sump oil, diesel fuel, vomit, banana pulp, sea water, and dead cockroaches into my face... The boat lurched unexpectedly, and I was thrown against the cabin wall. When the boat completed the roll, I flew back against the engine and cracked my head solidly on the valve cover."

"'Fuck you!' I screamed at the engine... Captain Riley, illuminated by a weak bulb in the aft cabin, slumped over with his hands in the bilge. He looked dreadful, a ghostly shade of green. There was a moment of silence before he managed a brief response to my outburst."

"'The joys of yachting,' he muttered.

The driver of the book is that Hanson buried seven years of journals on their deserted island and returned ten years later - having been rescued by goat smugglers - to recover them. He sees a new Yemen and manages to explore qat, honey, local marriage customs, the bath houses (without the connotations) and a lot more.

One of my other favorite travel books is more of a grungy how to: Richard Curtis' Taking Off: A Guide for the Uncommon Traveler. He has technique for rolling from one place to another, enjoying the moment and doing so with little money. My sister recommended the book. She never really got over the traveling lifestyle and is living somewhere in the Phillipines.