During the early days in Brazil, mom was a meek and caring Greek-school teacher and dad was a determined Spanish industrialist. While they were making “ends meet”, as any good parent would, my sister and I were practically raised by our late grandma Agathi, a globetrotter from Romania.
Much of all the principles and ethics I adopted in life, emanated from that old and soft spoken lady, who had so much wisdom, superstitions and true stories to share, including surviving in concentration camps during World War II.
“Eat bread of a country, speak language of country.” Those were her kind farewell words to me, rather emotional, after having shared a little cottage with her for over 2 years in my late teens. So off I was, in the pursuit of my elating dreams of becoming a professional skydiver in the USA.
It has always been truthful, that nothing of great value ever comes with little effort. The first years in the States weren’t particularly the most comfortable but that is the price one must pay to get where they want to in life. Comfort doesn’t necessarily only comes from the physical realm. Leading a lifestyle that has no anxiety or worry, in the absence of material comfort, is perhaps more meaningful than living in the Playboy Mansion itself.
Petr and I packing in sunny California. Circa 2000.
My young life took place in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, I was a qualified tandem instructor, cameraman and parachute rigger in my early twenties. Dreaming is very important, but even more so is to make dreams a reality. At such young age, it was obvious to me that whatever one desires to accomplish in life, it is no big deal as long as one is willing to put in the “elbow grease” with passion. Passion is everything.
The following years I’ve ventured into diverse experiences of life, instead of experiences of travelling. I was a carpenter, roofer, painter, I dug ditches for sprinkler systems, did contracting work for the US Army, aircraft mechanic and even traded futures in the Chicago Stock Exchange.
Though it was the surreal skydiving life that took me from coast to coast around the States, and getting involved with the different social aspects of the regions I was in. Each project performed and wonderful people met, would always lead to the next chapter in life. I was claimed to be among the most professional instructors of that era and had amazing opportunities, like taking the famous news anchor Ann Curry for a tandem jump on live national television.
Carol’s 10,000th jump. Photo Lazslo Andacs.
Cover of Skydiving Magazine July 2005
Aren’t we here to talk about sailing? It all started with a silly conversation with my long-time friend Bram Clements around the bon fire in lovely Zephyrhills. Although I found the idea of sailing ridiculous and boring at the time, it was a few months later that I found myself dragging my girlfriend at the time to the Basic Keelboat lessons at Jacksonville Beach, FL.
The sailing bug had bitten me hard! I ate and slept sailing books and little did I know that sails were airfoils just like high-performance parachutes. Countless days were(and still are) spent roaming the marinas in my off time. Renting small 20 footers, became a routine but eventually it dawned on me that I could actually move my Spartan quarters from a rusty old van into a leaky boat, which would then take me anywhere I wished around the globe.
By the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Life in the States was somewhat becoming heavily burdened and less motivated. I was stagnant in my growth as a man, which I wasn’t aware then, but still knew that I had to do something about it or be just like everyone else around me.
By then, I had just learned how to sail and dreamed of reaching distant lands by sea, rid of responsibilities while everyone around me were engulfed in mowing their lawns, taking care of their kids and paying their mortgages. I felt trapped in the “American Dream” but fate decided for me, Immigration revoked my petition for a greencard through work, which had been lingering for many years. The sign from above was clear: move on!
But where to go next? I was blind in my own comfort zone, and prospects of a prominent life elsewhere seemed non-existent. All I needed was a place to work, to save up while build a yacht into which I could create my own little world. The opportunity came through my friend Kevin Purdy, who had worked two seasons down in a little country called New Zealand and to which I had heard in other sailing books. After a few emails, he got me a job as an instructor in Taupo, starting early summer.
Within 3 months, I was flying aboard Air New Zealand to Auckland with my parachutes, boatbuilding books, tools and the rags I somewhat call clothes.
Tandem jump over Taupo
Being in NZ was liberating. Fate lead me to find a rusty bucket named Ramana, an unfinished and abandoned yacht on a swing mooring at the yacht club in Te Atatu. She was just about everything I wanted from a yacht. Far from perfect, but was as close as it would get if I wanted to go sailing in 5 years instead of 10, if building one from scratch. It was blind love, and I was soon falling asleep after a hard day’s work whilst grinding her rusty-leaking bilges.
This was the point of life where I felt my heart beat hard, the sweat drip and the tears roll with all the effort of going “against the tide”. It was an impossible task for one men to achieve, and the lack of faith from close friends and lovers, imposes questions terrible dilemmas in your mind. Lack of passion, weeds out dreamers from doers, so in October 2010, Ramana was shining her new waterlines at Tauranga Bridge Marina.
This is where the dream and call of the sea started. More about Ramana here.