Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home
Gregg A. Granger
“You’re going to a lot of places where they don’t value human life like we do.” That was the reaction Gregg A. Granger received when sharing with other friends and relatives, his plans to sail around the world with his wife, two teenage daughters, and five-year-old son.
Prior to their departure, the Grangers’ sailing experience was limited to one week aboard a charter in Florida, and a sixteen-foot Hobie Cat at their Gun Lake, Michigan, home.
The journey was about travel and culture, but more about relationships. Relationships
with their creator, with each other, with people on similar journeys, and with others in the thirty-eight countries the Grangers visited during their four and a half years abroad.
Learning to sail was the least of the obstacles they faced as they traveled head-long into places where they struggled through preconceptions and prejudices to discover
how strong and how wrong their preconceptions were.
Time abroad also afforded the Grangers a view of America from a different and not always popular perspective.
The impact of malaria, broken bones, storms and other struggles was a small price to pay for the personal and family growth they experienced; that same impact was dwarfed by the Created world and goodness the Granger family witnessed.
Gregg gives an overview of the book:
Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home
The exact contrary of what is generally believed is often the truth.
Jean de la Bruyere
Landfall is not marked by a negative element, so much as we experience a leveling of the pleasanter aspects of bluewater sailing. The air loses a degree of crispness, the tone of the water a degree of its brilliance, either of its own, or as it reflects the sky. Land emerges through the haze of a horizon in which we are no longer alone.
Today’s landfall is the island of Jamdena or Yamdena, depending on whose charts are looked at. Our preconceptions of the otherness or nothingness of Indonesia cast their own shadows on the water.
Two days after leaving Darwin, the anchor settles, and the Port City of Saumlaki becomes our home. Both words, port and city, are overstatements. Saumlaki is a large village that becomes a port of entry only while officials are here for the annual Darwin to Saumlaki Rally for Cruisers. We pretend participation.
Because Faith is the first boat to arrive, the people of Saumlaki think we’re the winners and congratulate us all around. Although we enjoy the attention, we tell them the winners are yet to arrive and that Faith is not part of the rally. We learned of it two weeks ago in Darwin and made Saumlaki our destination then.
As we work the wobbles out of our legs on the restaurant deck of Harapan Indah Hotel that doubles as our dinghy dock, we meet Dani, the hotel’s owner, who directs me to the port office.
I walk out onto the sidewalk and along the narrow street in Saumlaki’s main business district to find the officials for clearance. The sidewalk is maintained differently or not at all by the individual shopkeepers; it’s rarely level, often broken, crowded with people, and radiates the anger of the midday sun. As I enter the immigration office, a young man there, mute from the language barrier, escorts me to the side of the building, points to a canoe paddling toward Faith, and indicates I must go back. I return to find a boy in a small canoe and a man aboard Faith, speaking with Lorrie. He’s pleasant, in the pleasant manner of someone who wants something, which becomes more apparent during his cursory search, asking, “Is that for me?” or, “Do you have gift for me?” I tire of saying no, and when he points to a ball-cap and asks again, I say, “Yes.”
Some officials in Indonesia spend considerable energy in their quest for rewards, but aside from the mid-level annoyance, our experience suggests if your papers are in order and you respond to their questions honestly, or at least believably, you can refuse a bribe.
While we are in Indonesia, a story unfolds in the New York Times about the American corporation Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc. The company made US$20 million in payments to police generals, colonels, majors, captains, and entire military units.
Freeport said in a written response to The Times that it had “taken appropriate steps”… “There is no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police in this regard,” the company said. “The need for this security, the support provided for such security, and the procedures governing such support, as well as decisions regarding our relationships with the Indonesian gov¬ernment and its security institutions, are ordinary business activities.”
Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste, Jane Perlez and Raymond Bonner, December 27, 2005, New York Times.
The influence of western businessmen, who far outnumber other western visitors, might partially explain Indonesian officials’ expectation of gifts; after all, they are ordinary business activities.
Indonesia spans an area of the globe two-thirds the size of the United States; most is ocean. Comprising over 13,600 islands and over 700 languages, Indonesia, I assume, is the most difficult country in the world to govern. That they have a national government of all the disparate pieces is remarkable, and the idea of entities from financially blessed parts of the world dictating their terms of exploitation becomes less unbelievable.
In Indonesia, people must declare their religion on their identification card; atheism is not a religion. With 88% of its population of 240 million professing such, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country. This is often a matter of birth, not choice. The remaining population claim Hindu, Buddhist, Christian Catholic, and Christian Protestant as their religion. Many continue to practice animism in addition to their professed faith.
Indonesia has Bali, with a recipe to attract Australian, European, and American tourists, and that recipe is our reason for a different route. We have our whole lives for places catering to white-guys, but we’ll probably never return to Saumlaki, or Babar, or Damar, or Romang, or Makassar, or Banjarmasin, or Kumai.
We struggle to draft a concept of Indonesian culture, and realize the futility of it. The one element that spans all areas of Indonesia is the government, though the more populated areas share a common tongue: Bahasa Indonesia. Indonesia has no dominant culture, but instead attempts to unite hundreds, maybe thousands of disparate cultures – cultures with less in common than all western nations have with each other.
We find an enchanting land struggling for identity between ancient and modern cultures – ancient cultures with individual identities on each island group, or on larger islands, identities separated by terrain, and a modern culture with some elements attempting to maintain tradition, some attempting to maintain a cohesive nation, and some attempting to move the nation towards production on a global scale, all overlaid with outside influences extracting Indonesia’s profits.
Television is recent in Saumlaki, and American television is part of it. In addition to the unifying element of language, Indonesia has the struggle of this cultural leveler. We never knew what we didn’t have is an emerging theme. While transportation and communications have homogenized the United States into a cultural marshmallow, the export of American programming is expanding the marshmal¬low and dramatically changing the world.
As Americans, we live in invisible test tubes of about an arm’s length called our space. We feel uncomfortable when someone violates it. In Indonesia, and in all the non-western cultures we visit, personal space does not exist, and we learn not to miss it. Wherever possible, we use local transportation. Sitting in a van full of people different from us, who speak differently, act differently, dress differently, and smell different may not sound like a picnic, but it does offer a hint of the flavor of humanity. When we finish this journey, that will be something we miss – the closeness of people. On our return, everybody will respect our space, and the world will be lonelier on that account.
I grew up in Lansing and worked in my father’s construction business while completing my degrees in Social Science and Masters of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University. My wife and I moved to Gun Lake when our first daughter was born, 23 years ago. We...