Published: August 27th 2009July 28th 2009
So I landed in Margarita hoping that Jay, the captain of the boat I was going to sail the southern Caribbean with, would be there to meet me. I had been in such a rush climbing a mountain that morning, and getting my stuff together in Caracas, that I absolutely forgot to write down the vague instructions of where his boat was, nor did I take any back up hostel info that I normally would have taken. So basically if Jay was not there (and I’m not sure he got my email) I was screwed.
I arrived at 11:30pm and I got my luggage and entered the tiny airport. It quickly cleared and I was the only one standing there. No Jay, no nobody except some employees. I walked around with all 50 lbs on my back and began to worry. My back was hurting from my go-carting accident I had in Rio and what the hell was I going to do know?? Where is he? Where the hell will I go?? Shit......
So I asked the employees,
Desculpe Senor, hay internet aqui?
No, es tarde, todo cerrado.
Pero mi amigo deberia me buscar e no esta aqui....
su numero de telefone?
No… el no tiene un telefone.. que puedo hacer???
But then I Heard, Are you Vivian? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So off we went!! Jay was a well tanned, extremely polite Canadian in his late 40s (probably 50s), with small brilliant blue eyes, and a devilish looking smile that resembled the Jack Nickelson’s joker. He had an educated manner of speech, with a somewhat high pitched whinny tone. He was extremely articulate and preoccupied with every detail of courtesy, excusing himself in advance for every reach, for every everything.
However, I noticed over the next day or two that he wasn’t very nice. I mean not sincerely from within. He acted fine and pretended to be nice. He spoke about what good deeds he did for other people, but I noticed in the detail of things that he was not a genuinely nice person. He was not warm, nor helpful, nor thoughtful. He was just very polite and conversational. But one thing that stuck me as odd was as soon as we got on the boat Jay noticed a leak in the water pump and totally freaked out. Sure it sucked but it took about
5 minutes to fix, we just lost a bunch of water (that could still be replaced). But when he noticed it he began to shout and swear, and have a miny tantrum. I found such a loss of emotional control very strange, especially coming from someone older, so well educated, and very well accomplished. And the fact that he acted this way in front of someone he just met??… But it passed quickly and he apologized quickly for his outburst, and I didn’t think too much of it, just made a little mental note.
The sail boat was a beautiful 47 ft mono haul, fully equipped to the tits with safety equipment. We had everything on board including a satellite phone. This boat was ready to cross the pacific. And Jay had every intention of taking me across the Caribbean, down the coast of Ecuador, Peru, and then across to Australia. Of course I had not committed to this trip, only to one month sailing the enchanting Venezuelan islands and the Dutch Antilles, all the way to Categena in Colombia.
Very soon I realized what hard work it was to live in and to sail a boat, but I
was meticulous and hard working, and I really enjoyed the sway of the ocean, and the peace it offered (despite a little initial sea sickness).
We were anchored in a harbor off Margarita Island, and were going to stay there for 4 days gathering provisions, and completing small repairs, in preparation for the next month of sailing.
Jay introduced me to lovely couple on the next boat over from New Zealand, Isabelle and Bert, and her 2 beautiful blond kids. They were a hoot and getting ready to cross the pacific back to New Zealand. Bert, originally from Berlin, had been sailing around the world for the last 11 years and he was a really warm and charismatic character. Isabelle was originally from Paris, and she was elegant but open and beautiful with marvelously cloudy ice blue eyes and dark hair. Nobody but me spoke Spanish, so quickly I became the Spanish blondy negotiator, with a Portuguese accent of unknown origin, making all kinds of semi-legal deals with gasoline and black market money dealers in my bikini. (It was kind of like a strange movie).
Everybody needed gasoline, over a thousand liters, so we took a couple of
dingys over to the dock side gasoline station. I climbed up the tires onto the tall dock with Bert and we were approached by the main dealer. He kept asking where we were from and if we had registered, but we didn’t speak Spanish until he asked how many gallons we wanted. Then I started talking, and Bert and I began to play good cop bad cop. You see gasoline is sooooo cheap in Venezuela it might as well be free. It’s like a dollar for 250 liters or something, but they sell it to foreigners at about 12 to 25 times the regular price. In the end I was able to negotiate paying 6 times the regular price (as it is the law we pay more, but way more.) Whatever… We spent the afternoon hauling in gasoline back and forth to the boat. By the end, the boys and the 3000$ dingys were swimming in gasoline - it was messy, but kind of fun.
Later that night, Jay and I took the dingy to shore to try to negotiate to buy some gas tanks. In the end, the dockhands offered to drive us somewhere to get the tanks, but it was getting dark, and their comments about how beautiful I was made me decide going back to the boat and sending Jay on the errand a better option. It most certainly would have been fine but I wasn’t taking any chances.
Anyways, strange things started happening on the boat. Jay had slowly been telling me bits and pieces about his past. He told me about his ex-wife, and how she had cheated on him with his best friend and left him and stole his kids, and forced him to quit his job to raise them, and ruined his life, and cleaned him out financially. -And he told me about his ex-girlfriend that saved his life after one of his attempts at suicide, and about her burdensome depression and how she couldn’t handle being on boat, and so on, and so on, and so on…. Jay became so agitated every time he spoke about them, and every conversation eventually led to them.
It was impossible not to notice the dozens of liters of liquor Jay had stocked on the boat, and the half dozen half-drunken bottles of rum. I began to worry…
First of all I made the decision that Jay had misrepresented the situation to me in his emails. I was under the impression he was looking for “crew” as in plural to sail the Caribbean - not for a female companion to replace his girlfriends. But he let a few things slip in the language he used to talk about US and his girlfriends, and the situation. Like the fact, that his ex was already jealous of me. I was like why? Well she knows you are here, and she knows about how sailing goes and the intimacy of a boat, etc…. etc… etc….
Intimacy on a boat??? Ya sure, but with you???? NO THANKS!!!
??? hmmm……. Ok…. What are you thinking Jay? You think I’m going to spend my vacation, my trip, my time, on being your companion?? Think again…
But he was very careful to make no advances on me, and have everything separate, everything comfortable… but we were not at sail just yet. What would happen in the middle of the ocean??
I was developing a bad feeling. But I had invested so much time, money, and effort in planning and arranging this trip. But not only that, it seemed like such an opportunity. We had a wonderful boat with everything, and the best itinerary ever to see island I would not see easily otherwise. Nonetheless, I learned a lot in my travels. Always, trust your instincts!!! Follow your instinct no matter who it upsets, what the consequences are, or what it costs.
It wasn’t until day 2 when Jay was making dinner that real alarm bells, or rather like alarm nuclear bombs went off. I asked Jay how old he was. It was only fair since he knew my age. He said in his forties (sure….). I asked if he was self-conscious about his age, and he responded by saying well that’s a very long story. How the hell is that a long story????!! Why is a grown man acting like an emotional child?
He began to get upset and start saying how it was about his ex-girlfriend, and started talking about her depression. How the hell that had anything to do with how old he was I have no idea, so I asked him. He started to get angry and started saying how he spent his whole live doing what WOMEN WANT! HE GAVE UP EVERYTHING FOR THEM!! DID EVERYTHING FOR THEM!! HE NEVER FULLFILLED HIS DREAMS, AND NOW IT WAS HIS TIME. HE WAS THROUGH WITH SATISFYING WOMEN WHO HAD RUINED HIS LIFE. TAKEN EVERYTHING FROM HIM. ETC, ETC, ETC!!!-as he spoke his entire demeanor changed. He was chopping vegetables and became enraged. Chop, chop, chop, slice, slice, as his eyes narrowed and voice tensed. (Like a goddamn horror flick!). He went on and on like I wasn’t even there, like he wasn’t there, like some sort of psycho spell. His eyes became like glass, and his face hardened, his body stiffened. It became obvious that he viewed all women as the devil, and literally it was like his whole body and his words were suggesting that they must die.
For the first time in my travels I felt fear generated by another person. I was actually feeling afraid of him, and not just a little, but like the kind of fear you feel when your father got the belt out when you were a child (that is if your father ever did). At that moment I decided, that is it- deal is off!! I’m afraid, I’m leaving!!
But it was quite so simple if he really was crazy…. And I didn’t exactly want to test my theory either…
Of course I had considered leaving before this, but I was having all kind of devil’s advocate thoughts, and it’s interesting because I think that’s how people end up getting killed. I remember being on deck (before this happened, before much had happened, except a bad feeling that I was starting to have) and thinking, what should I do? I had some doubts but I don’t like to quit, and we had just met, I was considering, should I give Jay the benefit of the doubt, just a guy fallen on hard times, and maybe we could have a good time and work it out? But he was a grown man!! If he didn’t have it together it was because he wasn’t stable… He wasn’t emotionally stable and that was dangerous. It came down to the fact that I didn’t have a good feeling and I remember so many travelers tell me- always trust your instincts. Just trust your instincts and you will be safe. (or safer). And I thought I need to trust my instincts… no matter what the truth may be.
And it wasn’t until after that I saw Jay’s secret indiscriminant hatred for women that was the deciding factor- I AM LEAVING!! AND ASAP.
I began to think about how to leave. I mean if Jay was crazy or unstable or perhaps a serial killer (not really a stretch, trust me- he completely fit the profile), I couldn’t really say, Jay I want to leave cause I think you’re crazy (all though I am a direct person and the thought did occur to me, but I needed to be cautious, this was after all MY life). He hadn’t registered me on the boat and so there was no official record of me being there. Nobody really knew where I was. He could easily kill me and set sail, dump the body, and who would be the wiser? You may consider this paranoia but I’ve met and trusted a lot of people, and never once did I think in all the houses of people I slept that I had just met that one day, could this person kill me? I always felt safe, I could always feel the good energy from my friends from the moment I met them, but this guy…. He left me with thoughts of being murdered… I even wondered if he was planning to kill me. But more realistically I figured we would probably sail out and he would start drinking more and more, and getting very upset until some bad encounter or “accident” happened. Either ways I was not about to risk it!!
Anyways, I spent the whole night thinking and came up with a plan that required the use of the internet. I told Jay I needed to tell my family I was ok before I set sail. My plan was to use the opportunity to alert my friend in Caracas that I needed help and for her sister who lived on the mainland to expect me somehow, some way tomorrow, and to alert my brother that something was up and to be on alert. I also needed to use the fact that I used the internet as the basis for the lie I would invent and act out. All I needed was the phone number to my friend and her sister, as I would not be able to receive a response. I would have to call them once I reached land and hope everything worked out.
Everything was almost screwed but luckily, it all worked out in my favor. As something was on my side my whole trip, probably the good wishes of my lovely friends and family because the guy who had the boat with the internet was not answering his radio, but on a last chance call he answered and we decided to go over. Also, on the way we decided to stop by our New Zealand friends’ boat to say hi. And lucky we did because Isabella said, I think you lost something here. And as luck would have it, it was the only copy of my Venezuelan friends’ phone numbers!! I didn’t even know I had lost it. But without it I would be helpless on the island. (Well not totally- but it would be harder).
Anyways, I got the numbers and we went over to the other boat to use the internet. I nervously wrote out the short messages as Jay talked to the boat owner behind my back. I didn’t want to write too much in case he looked over my shoulder. So I was quick and to the point.
On the way back to the boat I told Jay I was very upset. I made up the story that my father had sent me an email that the deal he had made to sell my car in order to finance my trip had fallen through, and so I was really screwed for money… I might even have to go home….. I spent the afternoon “thinking about it”, and told Jay I would have to leave the next day when he went to sail because I needed to be financially responsible. I said, the great expense I had exhausted in getting to Venezuela in such a hurry was unbudgeted for and that I was depending on the sale of my car. I told him I was really sorry but that it would be irresponsible for me to give him my last dollar and get stuck somewhere in Colombia. I would have to go to shore to my friends, where I could stay for free and work this out.
At first Jay was not happy but said he understood. Later he began to work on me. He mentioned that I owed him a substantial amount of money but that he would be willing to reduce it if I just came with him to the first set of islands, and then I could leave. Why was he making such a case? I know he had made a great effort to come meet me, sailing back to a previous island to pick me up and he waited for me there for almost a week, and so he said he didn’t want it to be for nothing. He said he was just so looking forward to showing me how to sail, and he felt we really hit it off and would have a lot of fun. Then he showed me pictures of how beautiful the islands were. (What a seller!!) He was extremely tactful in his presentation, and even though I was attracted by the islands, the sailing, I picked up on a subtle tone of desperation he was trying to hide. It could have only been his loneliness, his need for comfort. I am not sure. But I didn’t want to be his nurse or psychologist, anymore than his victim.
Another strange thing I omitted to say is that he also talked about his good friend, this young girl he had pictures up of everywhere. Apparently she had met him in Margarita a few weeks before and they had sailed to Los Roques (the same route we were going to do) and then she flew home. He kept talking about how wonderful she had been. And maybe this was sensationalism on my part but I couldn’t help but wonder if she was still alive….
Anyways, I tactfully declined his offer saying I wouldn’t be able to accept his generosity. I wouldn’t feel right about it, and that was that.
I was in trouble though cause I didn’t have enough local currency to get to my destination the next day (nor did I know the name of the destination) - but that didn’t matter cause I was safer with my backpack on land than in the water with a potential psycho. I talked Jay into going to land to look for a black market currency dealer. I found one in the grocery store and haggled a good exchange rate for 100 US dollars, which was plenty to get me around.
So now my ducks were in a row, but I had to suffer one more night on the boat…. It was not possible to leave immediately nor did I have a proper excuse that would allow me to move my 4000 dollars worth of gear off the boat. Plus the island was notoriously dangerous at night. So back to the boat we went.
It wasn’t really until that night that I really saw Jay had a few screws loose. He said it was my turn to make dinner, and I said ok fine even though I was exhausted. So then I asked him, how about I make dinner and you do the dishes? He immediately became furious- he got up from reading his book, stormed into the kitchen area asking me to leave, and began shouting in an angry tone, you know what, forget it! I’m not negotiating with you at this stage of the game!! I’m going to make dinner and you can just sit and have your granola! Then he started muttering in an angry tone, Women, always trying to tell me what to do, etc. etc.
I became really afraid but kept my cool and played the abused spouse roll. In a soft, calm, and soothing voice I said, Jay please don’t get upset. I’m sorry. It was just a suggestion, please sit down, relax…. I will make dinner… I was really looking forward to it. I will make dinner and take care of everything, just sit down, relax.. don’t worry about anything… I didn’t mean to upset you, just please… its ok, relax…
He thought about it and said ok, and sat down and began to read his book again. He calmed down and we had dinner on deck and then he started to talk about his ex-wife “the bitch” and how she stole his children and slept with his best friend, etc. I softly changed the subject to happy sailing cause he was beginning to get very upset.
Later that night we watched a movie (because he wanted to). I was getting more and more nervous, with every glass of rum he drank. (I refused to drink). He started acting weirder and weirder, but luckily he was not upset anymore. He was just laughing hysterically at everything and kept nudging me like, hahaha, that’s funny isn’t it? Ya….. psycho… whatever….
Anyways, long story short I was finally able to get a spot to sleep in the main cabin close to the exit, and I slept with my kobitan (the weapon my sensei had given me) in my right hand all night just in case. I knew it was unlikely Jay would try anything, as he had no reason to kill me, I had been so agreeable and nice. But I didn’t know if he was psycho or just unstable, and so better to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
When I woke in the morning I realized that I was alive, and was so happy, because I knew if he wanted to try anything that he would have done so during the night, so I was safe. Eventually, Jay dropped me at the pier and we parted ways.
So this part was interesting because even though I didn’t know where I was going and I was walking up the dock with 50 lbs worth of gear (yes I’ll be getting rid of plenty ASAP), I felt exhausted but relieved to be off the boat, to be alive and well.
It’s true that nothing actually happened on the boat. I mean I couldn’t lodge a complaint for observing somebody crazy, and one could argue that I had an overactive imagination. But here were the facts, and I know what I saw. I’ve been travelling for almost 6 months and have met hundreds and hundreds of people, and not once did I feel afraid of anyone. No one gave made me think of murder or kidnapping, or god knows what. It was obvious that Jay was upset inside, emotionally unstable, and had a short temper. He demonstrated this. He also told me he had attempted suicide within the last couple years, so this demonstrated he was at or near a breaking point, or rather he had already reached his breaking point. So here was a well-educated, highly intelligent, middle-aged, Caucasian male, who seemed nice on the surface and everybody (among the boaters) seemed to like, who felt deeply hurt by women, demonstrated an undifferentiating hostility towards women, and who maybe felt like he had nothing to lose. Can we say serial killer? He had motive and opportunity. It was a perfect set up for danger.
But even if Jay was nothing more than a hurt and lonely man who would never hurt a fly, at the very least I didn’t want to spend my vacation walking on egg shells and consoling a lost, unstable man, and I wasn’t about to wait and find out just how dangerous he was. I had thought that these were the kind of decisions that maybe made victims of young girls. I thought about serial killers like Paul Bernardo, and how people always said things like, oh he was so nice, we never knew, we never suspected - and I always thought, how is that possible? I mean if I met a serial killer or psycho I think I would feel some sort of vibe?? But maybe I understand a little now. Of course I don’t know if Jay was a killer or if he ever will be, but let’s imagine he was or is. I felt only slightly uncomfortable observing the first warning signs. And even though I logically could have imagined the worst, I didn’t at first. I wanted to give Jay the benefit of the doubt, and I didn’t want to quit my commitment to sailing that I was looking forward to. Initially, I thought we don’t know each other that well. Give it time. Maybe he’s been though a lot but we can see how it goes. He could play on my kindness. But when I stepped back mentally for a second and scanned myself, I said to myself, you know what, I feel a little afraid and uncomfortable, that’s what my instinct tells me, and I know from experience that the best way to survive while travelling is to always trust your instinct. If it feels bad, even a little, just leave, just go. There is always tomorrow and next time to have fun and look for adventure. And so I left.
And so there I was standing on the dock, where was I going? I saw a cop and asked him how to make a phone call and luckily he let me use his phone, and I called my friend and was relieved to arrange everything. Her sister would pick me up from the ferry terminal on the other side, and I would just have to call later to tell the time. The cop then called me a taxi. Alberto the driver was really nice. He was a nurse and part time taxi driver. He asked if I had tried the unique empanadas on the island and I had told him no, I didn’t do much of anything on the island. He was cute enough to offer to take me out for a bite, but I had a boat to catch- and even though he seemed nice I was apprehensive to trust him, especially being so raw from my experience.
When we arrived at the terminal I left my massive luggage in the trunk and he came with me to buy my ticket. As I was waiting in the long line we found out that the next ferry was full and that I would have to wait until 1pm to catch the next one, and so he offered to go outside to talk to a friend to see what he could do. He quickly left and I became really nervous about my backpack, because as much as I trusted people I never really trusted anyone completely. I even went out to look for him but couldn’t find him but his car was there, which was a good sign. I had no choice but to go back, buy my ticket, and hope for the best, but at least I had every important thing on my person, my money, my passport, all my electronics, everything except my luggage.
In just 5 minutes, eager, good natured Alberto came back!! Since I had so much time to kill he was nice enough to take me a call center to call my friend again. He then bought me a coffee and empanada. We then went grocery shopping and then he waited with me for my ferry. In the end I told him about my terrifying experience because I needed to talk to someone. He was nice and told me to take care of myself. We exchanged contact info and a hug and said goodbye as my ferry came.
What a wondrous world….. wow….
I didn’t know what to expect on the other side, and the ferry ride was long, but what I found was beyond my wildest dreams!!