In the early days, mom was a meek-school teacher and dad a determined industrialist. Whilst making 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 in my life emanated from that soft-spoken lady. A wealth of wisdom, superstitions, and remarkable stories from forced labour during the Nazi occupation of Romania in the 1940s.
“Eat bread of country, speak language of country” was her kind words for an emotional farewell after having shared the little cottage for three years. In the pursuit of my elating dreams of youth, I was bound on a one-way ticket to the USA.
Those first years elapsed in a blink. Astonishing how in those days one could ascend from nothing to something. At twenty, I was a qualified tandem-parachute instructor, a cameraman and senior parachute rigger. Dreams are important but the priority must be to realize them with your labour and imagination. Without struggle, there is no gratefulness, only thankfulness.
The years to follow were not entirely revolved around skydiving. Traveling was starting to become mainstream in those days, but the choice for unprecedented encounters for me was venturing through professional experiences. Apprenticeships in carpentry, civil construction, aircraft mechanics, installing sprinkler systems, contracting work for the US Army and even professionally traded futures in the CME.
The surrealism of the nomadic skydiving life showed me the diverse aspects of global society. Participation in one project would lead to another one, always by a connection made in the moment. Analyzing it decades later, I had a professionally sterile approach to work, likely what differed from the rest and lead me to amazing projects like doing a tandem jump live on NBC Morning Show.
Sailing creeps in
The ocean was never part of my life, the peace and struggle from the mountains were always more attractive to me. But an innocent conversation with long-time friend Bram Clements changed that perspective. He was avidly enthusiastic about his new found passion: sailing. It seemed pathetically boring at the time but one must delve into the unknown, so my girlfriend at the time Kaz agreed to have a go at the Basic Keelboat lessons in St Augustine, FL.
The bug bit hard! The possibilities for specific liberties and self-reliance observed that weekend were an abstract thought, until then. Sailing books were devoured with keen-technical fascination about shifting the aerodynamics of parachutes to the hydrodynamics of keels and rudders. Roaming around marinas observing intricacies of yacht designs became a hobby. In early stages, renting day sailers was the routine, with some fond memories of Pt.Pleasant in NJ. Eventually I got the message: move the spartan quarters of the van/tent life into a leaky boat. A move that could take me anywhere in the world.
At the crossroads with these new insights, the American-way of life had become stagnant to for development, flat lined into a plateau. “Learn thy self” resonated that all I wanted was to sail rid of any mundane responsibilities, in contrast to mowing lawns, producing babies and slaving away at a job that only enrich bankers, corrupt politicians and their cronies.
This liberation was manifested through my long-time friend Kevin Purdy, who had worked two seasons in far-distant New Zealand, which is quoted extensively in sailing books. He kindly arranged a working position as an instructor in Taupo to start the following summer.
The unnecessary possessions were sold or given away in 2007. So without having ever set foot in NZ, I was on a one-way flight, loaded with boat-building books, tools and the rags that disguised my nudity to that mysteriously-far land.
New Zealand was excellent and fate lead me to a rusty yacht named Ramana, an unfinished project laying at a swing mooring by the Te Atatu Yacht Club. No such thing as a perfect yacht but I was set in having a long-keeled steel yacht and she fitted the budget, including designing and building a complete interior.
Passion I define as nothing else matters. Whilst not working at my skydiving job, I was giving Ramana all my attention, living a very frugal life. Lived in my car and showered at the local gym, not indifferent to all my twenties. Sweat dripped and tears rolled with all the efforts needed to go “against the tide”. A considerably impossible task for one men, instilling dilemmas and doubts from close friends and lovers comments. But passion, it is what weeds out dreamers from doers. Despite all tribulations, three years later, Ramana was shining her new waterlines floating in the Tauranga Harbour.