In the early days, mom was a meek-school teacher and dad was a determined industrialist. While they made “ends meet”, as any good parents would, my sister and I were practically raised by our late grandma Agathi, a globetrotter from Romania.
Most principles and ethics I adopted in life, emanated from that soft-spoken old lady, who had so much wisdom, superstitions and true stories to share, including surviving in concentration camps during World War II.
“Eat bread of country, speak language of country.” This was her kind farewell, words rather emotional, after having shared a little cottage for the previous two years in my late teens. In the pursuit of my elating dreams of youth, on a one-way ticket I was bound to the USA.
Those first years, elapsed in the blink of an eye. As early as twenty-years old, I was already qualified as a tandem-parachute instructor, a cameraman and parachute rigger. It is important to dream, but more so is to make them happen with the labour of your own imagination and physical effort. Passion has no mercy on laziness.
The years to follow, were not entirely revolved around skydiving. Unlike today where the masses go travelling, in those days it was my choice to venture through professional experiences. Became apprentice of many skills like carpentry, civil construction, aircraft mechanic, digging ditches for sprinkler systems, contracting work for the US Army and even professionally traded Futures in the Chicago Stock Exchange.
In the end, it was the surrealism of skydiving, that “carried me” all through life. It engaged me with the most diverse aspects of global society and to each project participated in, the surrounding people would always lead to the next chapter. It wasn’t uncommon to hear then, that I was one of the few instructors to be striving for professionalism, which as a result lead to many opportunities, like taking the famous news-anchor Ann Curry for a tandem jump live on national television.
Sailing creeps in
As obscure as it may sound, the ocean had never been part of my life. For a mountain man, the beaches are a true-living nightmare. It all had it start with an innocent conversation, with my old-friend Bram Clements, who then was just an enthusiast of the sea. The idea seemed pathetic and boring at the time, though one shouldn’t be “nihilated” to the encounters with existence. It wasn’t long after, my girlfriend at the time and I had signed up to the Basic Keelboat lessons in St Augustine, FL.
The sailing bug bit me hard! The possibilities observed during that weekend were endless. Afterwards, I ate and slept sailing books. The fascination also came from the similarities of sails and rudders to the airfoils of our high-performance parachutes. Countless days were(and still are) spent roaming the marinas observing all intricacies of yacht designs. At that early stage, renting twenty footers became a routine, particularly a Cal 22 in New Jersey. Eventually, the message clicked, it would be possible to move the spartan quarters of an rusty-old van life into a leaky boat, one that perhaps could take me anywhere in the world.
It was the crossroads. The American-way of life, had become stagnant, for lack of better adjective. It felt that my growth as a man had “flat lined”. “Learn thy self” couldn’t have been more appropriate at that moment. All I wanted was to sail, rid of mundane responsibilities unlike all around me mowing their lawns, producing babies and slaving away at job they detested to make banks richer by paying their mortgages.
Liberation was manifested through my long-time friend Kevin Purdy, who had worked two seasons in this curious-little country called New Zealand, of which I had heard of many times in the sailing books. He kindly arranged a position of Instructor in Taupo, which would start the following summer.
In less than 3 months, all I had of unnecessary was sold or given away and in September 2007, I was boarding another one-way flight, with my parachutes, boat-building books, tools and the rags that disguise my nudity.
New Zealand was truly liberating and fate lead me to a rusty yacht named Ramana, an unfinished project, at a swing mooring at the Te Atatu Yacht Club. She was far from perfect, but within the budget and ticked most what I wanted from a yacht then, including designing and building a complete interior.
I was blinded with love. Jumped hard all day then worked hard on Ramana in every waking spare time. Lived in my car and showered at the local gym, technically of what I’ve done my entire adult life. The heart beated hard, sweat dripped and the tears rolled with all the efforts needed to go “against the tide”. It was an impossible task for one men to achieve, and the lack of faith from close friends and lovers, imposes terrible dilemmas in one’s mind. Passion is the fundamental decision maker, it weeds out dreamers from doers. As a result, three years later, Ramana was shining her new waterlines at Tauranga Bridge Marina, which has become my homestead, until today.