Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sea, sun and sand

Frenchman Djillali Zaknoun and Patrycja Lukasiewicz, from Poland, have been sailing around the world in their yacht for the past four years. At a halt in Kochi, they talk about their experiences

Photos by Albin Mathew 

By Shevlin Sebastian   

At the International Marina near the Bolgatty Palace resort, Frenchman Djillali Zaknoun is placing diesel cans on a small cart on the bank and then pushing it on the gangplank to his 44-feet long yacht ‘Donazita’ (Portuguese, for a lady). His partner and friend Patrycja Lukasiewicz, who is from Poland is folding dried clothes on the deck.

The sunlight is so strong that the bare-bodied Djillali has patches of red all over. The couple is mounting preparations for their onward trip to Djibouti (2047 nautical miles) in Africa. It is a straight line on the map, across the Indian Ocean.

The duo have been on a world trip for the past four years. They started at Deauville in Northern France and went to Buenos Aires. Some of the other places they visited included, Chile, Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Palau, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and now, India.

We have stayed away from big places and visited all these small islands,” says Patrycja.
When the people see us, they feel an attraction, because, in these places, only three to four boats arrive in a year. So they are really happy when new people arrive. They give you bananas, coconuts and papayas as gifts.” 

Initially, the pair will have to go and meet the tribal chief and get his permission to stay. Patricia will never forget her stay on a tiny island Woleai in Micronesia in 2016. Somehow, the women came to know that her birthday was on November 15. So they gave her a surprise party. They made a dish called the coconut crab, as well as cassava, fried bananas and a papaya salad. “They made flower garlands for me and presented a striped sarong called the lava lava,” says Patrycja, who used to work in a publishing house. “The women sang songs in my honour. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Asked about her learning experience on the trip, Patrycja says, “People may have different traditions, clothes or behaviour, but underneath, they have the same preoccupations. Some want to get married, a few want to start a family, some are happy with their spouses, others are not. They worry about their teenage children and the future. And they have happy moments when the husband gets a good job or they are able to buy a new house, or their child has done well in school. I realised that people are the same wherever they are in the world.”

Meanwhile, Djillali has finished hauling up all the cans to the yacht, and then he puts  on a blue T-shirt and settles down for a chat sipping a coke. Asked about the plastic menace in the oceans, he says, “I am sorry to say this but the problem is most severe in Asia, off the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India. We stopped fishing, because we would only catch plastic packets on our hooks.”

Adds Patrycja, “A few days before we reached Kochi, we were sailing and there was a big group of dolphins. They usually like to race with the boat. They swim and jump in front of us. It is a beautiful sight. But in the Arabian Sea, they were swimming in a large field of plastic.” 

Djillali, who has a family business which is now run by his son, suggests a solution but it is not immediate. “Only education can change this,” he says. “So, you have to start with the children. At the same time, you have to be patient because the plastic will not go away soon.”

To break a feeling of sombreness, the couple invites me to check out their quarters. As you go down the wooden stairs, you step into a room which has a dining table with a circular sofa on the left and a kitchen on the right. Right next to it is the communication apparatus, including the wireless. Behind that, through a very narrow entrance is the guest bedroom. The bed is shaped like a triangle.

In the evenings, Djillali sits in this room and watches films on the laptop,” says Patrycja.

Beyond the kitchen is the main bedroom which again is very narrow. At one side is the washroom. “It is a bit cramped,” says Patrycja, as she leans against the kitchen sink.

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of fish on the menu. “We catch different types, like tuna, marlin, shellfish, and the mahi-mahi (common dolphin fish),” says Djillali.   “One marlin we caught was six feet long. We ate it for almost three weeks for lunch and dinner.”

Incidentally, they travel at 5 knots (less than 10 km hour) and usually depend on the sails to travel. It is only when there is no wind or they have to enter a harbour that they use the engine. On the open ocean, they keep sailing for 24 hours, because of the presence of many ships and fishing boats. So they have to be careful. “At night we take turns,” says Patrycja. “I sleep for three hours, then Djillali wakes me up and then he goes to sleep.”

But when the couple is wide awake they are having the time of their lives. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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