Learning to harness the wind, read charts and hear dolphins chattering in the phosphorescent wake of a sail boat had long been an ambition of mine. "The Fantasy" was a handsome 50� ketch whose owner was advertising for crew. With 4 others, I was taken on for an experience that I will treasure.

Casting off from Los Angeles, over the following 10 months we sailed down the west coast of California, Mexico, Central America, through the Panama Canal and on to Colombia, Jamaica and lastly Florida, exploring coastlines along the way.

I had put together a pretty comprehensive first aid kit, but was still unprepared for some of the medical problems we encountered. A group of Mexican divers gave us 2 bucketsful of freshly caught abalone and lobster, grateful for our help when one of them suffered a painful episode of the �bends�.

EL Salvador was tense, with a heavy presence of stone faced soldiers and police frequently checking papers and bundling hapless young men into the backs of vehicles, terrified women looking on. We did not stay there long.

A Cuna Indian woman on the San Blas Islands off Panama presented with an enormous breast abscess. I was able to lance it for her, which relieved her pain. Her father and brother took us to the tribal burial grounds as a way of showing their appreciation.

On the open waters of the Carribbean we were boarded by a rag-tag group of 6 men, initially very frightening, as reports of drug smugglers commandeering private sail boats were common. They turned out to be coast guard from Cartagena, on the look out for smugglers plying these waters. They escorted us into Port and invited us to a local fiesta the next day.

In Port Antonio, Jamaica we were shown by locals how to curry goat, drank white lightning rum and were shown the coffee plantations after a 2 day trek into the Blue Mountains.

The stuff of travel and adventure, but what an education.

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