Captain Fatty Sails the South China Sea

All summer, Weekend Edition traveling commentator Captain Fatty Goodlander is sending in stories from his travels abroad. This week, his essay comes from the South China Sea off Johor Bahru, a city in Malaysia.

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LIANA HANSEN, host:

Our summer adventurer Captain Fatty Goodlander sent word this week. Captain Fatty is the editor-at-large of Cruising World magazine. He and his wife, Carolyn, are sailing in the South China Sea off Johor Bahru, a city in Malaysia. Here's his essay from aboard the Wild Card.

Captain FATTY GOODLANDER (Editor-at-Large, Cruising World magazine): I'd like to take you on a little cruise aboard Wild Card, our modest 38-foot sloop. It's quick and easy to get Wild Card under full sail, and I've had plenty of practice over the course of the last five decades and nearly 100,000 miles of ocean sail. Then it's just a matter of amusing ourselves as Wild Card transports my wife, Carolyn, and I, and every single thing we own, to our next destination. And that destination, in this case, is a small island off Malaysia. It takes us about three days to get there from the Philippines. And as the anchor chain pays out, three Muslim fishermen suddenly and unexpectedly approach.

Captain GOODLANDER: Hello, how are you?

Unidentified Fisherman #1: How are you?

Captain GOODLANDER: Very good, very good.

Unidentified Fisherman #1: You want to drinking coconuts?

Ms. CAROLYN GOODLANDER: You want some drinking coconuts?

Captain GOODLANDER: Drinking coconuts? Yeah, you can bring us a couple of drinking coconuts.

Now, we could think that they are pirates or that they are thieves or, even worse, that they are terrorists. But we don't sail around the world to avoid the people in it, but rather to embrace them. So when they return with the coconuts, we invite them aboard. One of them mentions that he's an orphan. Three times he remarks on how much he misses his father who died eight years ago. Carolyn begins to take some pictures as I bring out my guitar. The orphan suddenly hugs me fiercely for the camera. "Like my father," he says, as he holds me tightly.

Unidentified Fisherman #2: Because my father is dead already.

Captain GOODLANDER: I am a bit taken aback. Obviously, the guy has some father issues he's dealing with. But it's also equally obvious that he really needs a father to hug. And so I allow myself to be that father by hugging him back, like the son I never had. It's a strange moment, an American hugging a Malaysian, a Muslim hugging a Christian. Both total strangers. Both somehow more happy and more fulfilled because of such a random chance encounter.

That's the biggest coconut I've ever seen. The biggest coconut in Malaysia. The coconut's bigger than Wild Card. How can we eat that coconut? There's no way.

Eventually, we're left alone with the coconuts. Coconuts are pretty well packaged. In fact, their packaging is almost impenetrable. They're also delicious. And there you have it, the cruising lifestyle in all of its twisted and strange glory. Truly weird things happen as you sail around the world. You don't even have to get off the boat sometimes. For National Public Radio, I'm Captain Fatty Goodlander reminding you to mind the rudder or meet the rock.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You can track Captain Fatty's progress on the Wild Card and hear more of his essays at our Web site, npr.org.

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Captain Fatty Lives the High Life on the High Seas

This summer, Weekend Edition Sunday follows Captain Fatty Goodlander as he sails through Southeast Asia and talks about his life at sea and his philosophy of freedom and discovery.

Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card. i

Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card in the turquoise waters off Vava'u, Tonga. Jim Sublett hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Sublett
Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card.

Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card in the turquoise waters off Vava'u, Tonga.

Jim Sublett
Captain Fatty and Carolyn on the Wild Card, anchored in Vava'u, Tonga. i

The couple on their 38-foot cutter, anchored in Vava'u. Jim Sublett hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Sublett
Captain Fatty and Carolyn on the Wild Card, anchored in Vava'u, Tonga.

The couple on their 38-foot cutter, anchored in Vava'u.

Jim Sublett

Find Captain Fatty

To locate Wild Card's current position, enter Fatty's ham call sign of W2FAT.

Captain Fatty Goodlander is an original sea gypsy. The 56-year-old sailor has lived aboard boats for 48 years sailing the world's seas and circumnavigating the globe.

Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, have sailed more than 100,000 miles on their 38-foot cutter, Wild Card, raised a family and scraped together a modest living from their floating home.

This summer, Goodlander, who is editor-at-large of Cruising World magazine, will send regular dispatches from his boat to Weekend Edition Sunday as he explores Southeast Asia.

"Sailing to me isn't just about boats and it isn't about the destination," Goodlander says. "It's about freedom, it's about passion, it's about lust, it's about life."

Wild Card operates around the clock, often sailing for a month at a time out of the sight of land. On some days, the boat travels only 50 miles, a pace that Goodlander takes in stride. He and his wife work together to captain the boat, taking turns keeping watch when the other is working or sleeping. The couple is constantly aware of their surroundings, he says.

"If you're careful and considerate of that environment, you can sail around the world numerous times," Goodlander says. "I feel like I'm a lot safer than if I lived in Chicago or Boston."

Goodlander, a journalist for 30 years, admits that living full-time aboard a small boat isn't the most lucrative job in the world, but he finds joy in touching others through his articles in Cruising World and through books he's written. The sailing life is something Goodlander says he'll never get out of his system.

"Freedom is my drug," he says. "Freedom is my God, and I mainline this drug. I want to be the man most capable of doing things on a whim."

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