Oasis

A few years back I decided it would be strategically wise to relocate to Brasil, a country with great potential still.

At first I imagined packing up our all gear and shipping it down there while we would fly, but as time went on I visualized the expenses of this and the uncertainties of arriving in a vast new country and having no house to stay in. Then how could we reasonably explore all the many different places before deciding which place of all would be best suited for us?

So I was driven back round to what seemed like the logical, at least for me, conclusion; buy a boat, pack our possessions on board, and sail to Brasil, exploring the coast for enough to get an idea as to where we would be best suited.

Boat hunting can be frustrating for a boat snob like me. And with a budget of around 10 K i couldn’t expect to get something that wasn’t either too small for my purpose or in a poor state of repair. Furthermore, sail boats that have good windward performance and are fairly rugged are very rare indeed.

I looked at a “Freedom” cat ketch which was big enough, although it did not have enough storage space and it was in a terrible state of neglect, especially considering the price.

There was also a fairly large fibreglass sloop which had suffered hurricane damage and which I was offered for free, but the big holes in the hull and the rigging sadly swinging in the breeze unattached to the missing chainplates made it hard to get enthusiastic.

There were a few others too but none could be described as anything other than bland and uninspiring, not to mention the many others I barely glanced at for being various permutations of frighteningly weak and horribly inefficient.

I started looking again at the island sloops, which usually are pretty good performers and are generally quite rugged.

Furthermore being low tech and wooden (two terms that generally evoke expressions of condescension amongst the mainstream) they are generally undervalued by the majority, meaning that it is easier to find good value.

I had known for a while already that the “Angel Negro” was for sale. I hadn’t yet gone to revisit it because I already knew the boat, and despite it having a solid race record, I consider it is not all that great a sea boat because of insufficient volume in the topsides. Having possibly the most flare of all the Puerto Rican native sloops, it has bilges so slack that you can hardly define them, it’s almost like the frames make a straight run from gunwale to garboard!

While I was on the beach considering it a couple old geezers informed me that the “Oasis” was also for sale.

I was incredulous; this was my favorite of them all! I vividly remember admiring it when I was a young teenager and had already decided back then that it was the best example of all the Puerto Rican native sloops. The forms were well balanced, the bow not too extremely high, the freeboard moderate, a goodly curve in the sections of the topsides that the boat can lean on when heeled, and the fairest curves of all the sloops.

It is important to emphasize just how extremely difficult it is to build a boat without plans and having it come out well. None of these boats are built to plans, and as such most have odd lumps here and there, so it is truly only a master craftsman and one with many years of experience that can turn one out that is so devoid of flaws in the shape like the Oasis is.

I will never forget seeing it one day when I was thirteen on a reach passing just a few dozen meters to leeward of us on L’Artemis , doing hull speed. The wind was blowing seven knots, so they were close hauled on their apparent wind.

I also liked the fact that these boats are a blank slate of sorts, having no accommodations whatsoever. That way I would be able to fit all our baggage in boxes inside and get the most out of the limited interior volume. Modern boats are invariably designed with a great deal of priority placed on elbow room, at the expense of sailing performance and sea-kindliness, as well as bulk storage. Also, being built out of wood means that the modifications can be done with low cost materials and simply, without injuries to one’s health. It is true that one can do fibreglass work very quickly (at least if one is not overly concerned about the final finishing) but the process is disagreeable in the extreme, whereas working in wood, even if more laborious and time consuming, is a fairly gratifying experience.

A hollow ribbed shell

A hollow ribbed shell

A few months later, when I had managed to get the cash together, I went back to see the owner and the negotiations began. As usual with this kind of boat, the money is more of a token of esteem, rather than an actual economically rational transaction. After all, the ballast alone was worth about the selling price, and that for a ready to sail boat.

So we conversed all afternoon, mainly about how hyperbolically astounding the boat was, and of course, what I was going to do with it. This part I had to keep coy about or I would ruin the sale…

There is something to be said about cash though.

He was a hard sell and did not want to budge from his price which was a bit over what I could afford, but I had planned accordingly and brought the exact amount I was prepared to spend in cash. There is no doubt that the visual impression of seeing the money itself, rather than some nebulous thing like a check, aided me greatly in obtaining the boat on my terms.

Disturbingly, in the desperate measures taken by those in power to maintain and accentuate same powers, are increasingly putting into place restrictions on “devious and suspect” untraceable forms of payment. However, there is usually always a work around, as long as one is willing to put up with a bit less convenience.

Personally I have a deep aversion to checks, and I feel actually slighted when paid for work with a check; it forces me to spend time at a bank in order to transform the unusable piece of paper into something I can exchange with. In other words it is not too unlike when someone turns up late for an appointment; the message being clearly «your time is less important than mine» . Time that is not usually considered appropriate to charge for, although I think it certainly should be considered a part of one ‘s laboring hours, even if they are spent doing something wholly unproductive. Furthermore, the onus of risk is then placed entirely on the receiver of the check, having to gamble on it clearing, and possibly even putting more work on the ante before the money is really made good..

Now of course fiat based currencies are hardly anything to crow about either, but I’ll save the full on rant on that subject to myself, or at least for the time being.

Waiting to leave

Waiting to leave

It so happened that there was a hurricane coming in just a few days, so as soon as the boat was in my name I upped anchor and sailed with two friends to the island where we had our house, and the next day after that I got it into the hurricane hole with just a few hours to spare before the wind got angry. As it turned out, it was a pretty mild hurricane, but the boat would certainly have been lost had it stayed at the harbour of Naguabo, which is wide open to the South East, and which got such a severe pounding from the waves that several cars got very nearly washed out over the concrete boardwalk that contours around the bay.

A few months later I discovered that the boat appears several times briefly as an extra in the film “The Rum Diaries”. I was quite enjoying this film for its remarkably candid and accurate portrayal of politics and social structure in Puerto Rico when – suddenly – «Hey! That’s my boat!! » I said surprisedly as I reached for the rewind button.

Oasis best supporting role

Oasis in best supporting role

Jaguar Oasis in Naguabo Rum Diaries

Jaguar and its arch nemesis, the Oasis, in Naguabo harbour in the film “The Rum Diaries”

Oasis in San Juan harbour

Oasis and Jonny Depp in San Juan

I must say i find it quite amusing they actually paid good money so that the boat would be brought all the way to San Juan just so it could be in the background for a few seconds in that last shot.

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