Wednesday, June 12, 2013

André Schwartz - Singlehander

I thought I would post another note on single-handers, since our neighbour here in Fiji is an interesting chap. This post is dedicated to two of our favorite single-handers - John Spicher and Randall Reeves

André is from Hungary but claims Canada as his base, most recently in and about Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Since 2000, he has been on an extended voyage, sailing his Benetau Oceanis 390 (39 foot) boat from Vancouver to Alaska and then down the coast of the Americas all the way to Cape Horn. From there he sailed across the Pacific to the Galapagos islands and then on via French Polynesia to Fiji.

André arrived here in January, completely blind in one eye and with only 20/100 vision in the second, due to cataracts. It is amazing that he managed to work his way through Fiji's reefs in this state, as by his own account he could not even make out the somewhat substantial tower that marks the reef off our bay. American doctors brought in by local missionaries operated on his eyes earlier this year and his vision is now good. However, his propeller fell off during the passage and he has been working on replacing this and on re-aligning his engine before he moves on from here.

André was not shy about telling us his story and clearly enjoyed having an attentive audience (at least in me - Rani nodded off after an hour or two). A man wearing many hats, he is certified in 14 trades including (ironically) optician, as well as Zen master, martial arts instructor, and counsellor. He is proud to be an iconoclast and clearly sees himself as different from the crowd. He told us that most people are sheep ambling blindly and comfortably towards death. André realized he was different from an early age, recalling an argument with a friend when he was 11. It was raining and he told his friend that it was not raining in the spaces in between the drops. His friend insisted that it was raining and was very upset by the idea that it could be both raining and not raining. I was tempted to suggest that looking at things using probabilities might also be useful, but did not want to get into an impossible to conclude debate.

He is also an authour with one book out and another in the works. His tomes are philosophical and address human and societal failings. The second book has "lots of sex because that is what sells". André seems to be a libertarian, regarding society as something to be used only as necessary - not something to be a part of, and he told us he could survive just fine on his own. We pointed out his recent cataract operation as something he could not easily perform himself and how one would have to mine and smelt ore to make the scalpel, etc. To this he replied that he would have been healthy without the doctors, just blind. He did agree though that society has some uses, but that most of us depend far too much on others - we should try to do everything ourselves.

As a sailor, André likes to sail on his own, unlike some single-handers who take on crew for longer passages. His autopilot and wind vane are not working, so he hand steers. At night on passage he sleeps for 15 minutes at a time and wakes up for 5 minutes to check for ships and reset the course if needed. This waking up happens automatically, when on passage, without a need for an alarm. He uses a car radar detector to warn of nearby shipping and stays fit by doing isometric and martial arts exercises.

More on André's book, "Oceanborne Madness???", can be found here  

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