Brain Insight

A few days ago I needed to get into my parent’s house while they were on holiday. I was driving to my house to fetch their spare keys and fretting about having forgotten their alarm code. As I opened my front door the alarm keypad began beeping. I instinctively started punching in a code. As I was pressing the keys I became aware that the pin I was entering was not the pin for my house but a totally different pin.

When I pressed the last number I realised that he pin I had just entered was the pin for my parents house. A pin that I could not remember a few seconds ago.

Mind blown.

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Danny the capturer of the world.

Many years ago I worked at company that sold widgets. These widgets were very complicated and required lots of customisation. The company had developed a pretty large piece of software to help their sales people build complex widget quotes with lots of line items.

This company also had a big off the shelf enterprise accounting system that handled their real accounts.

I had worked at the company for almost 2 years as a software developer when one day I found myself sitting in the accounts department helping Danny with something unrelated. It was then that I learnt what Danny from Accounts actually did.

Every morning Danny would print out the previous days ‘accepted’ quotes from the quoting software resulting in a small pile of paper, one for each customer, with hundreds of line items, for every day. Then, using a ruler and pen to scratch out the lines, he would manually re-enter all of the customer data and their quote information, line item by line item, into the big accounting system. This process took him most of the day, sometimes more if business was good. He occasionally made mistakes that either cost the company lots of money or pissed off the customers.

As a software developer I knew that both systems ran off MSSQL databases. I knew that all the relevent information probably already existed to do the “job” programmatically. I knew that it would probably take a day or two to write a piece of software that did Danny’s job, perfectly every time, in a few milliseconds.

Danny had been doing that job for almost 6 years.

Since that day, whenever I start working with a new company, I try my best to meet everyone and get an idea for what they do and how they do it before I put my head down and start trying to solve any problems. That habit has served me well. In a team of ba/tech/strat/arch people I’m often the only one who knows how the accounts actually work, or how the stock is really procured, or what the weird hippies on the third floor do. (They’re always copywriters.)

But I’m not trying to pretend I have special powers. My point is that you can never assume that other people will have looked at problems like you do, with your knowledge-set. Most of the time other people won’t even see something like that as a “problem”. Danny’s boss never thought to question the process that admittedly pre-dated him. They all have no idea what SQL is and neither should they need to. It’s not their job. It’s yours. (Assuming you’re in a tech field)

What really excites me is how this kind of technology-discovery can be applied to people who traditionally live without the exposure to technology that we do. We now live in world where mobile phones can do things that sometimes even I think are quite magical (think SoundHound and Shazaam). I don’t know what “Danny the capturer of the world” situations exist in an under-resourced high school in a Soweto. I don’t know what efficiencies might just be waiting to be discovered in a clinic in Khayelitsha. I am however convinced that if a large corporate focused solely on profits with a really good, international, management team and a chartered accountant CFO all couldn’t spot that Danny was unintentionally wasting his time (and their money), then I can only imagine what amazing, albeit probably simple, tech-opportunities are waiting to be discovered in the “real” world.

I may not be ready to tackle the townships just yet, and I’m by no means assuming that there aren’t already smart people doing this kind of stuff, but I do look forward to one day being able to spend a few weeks immersed in the daily grind of a township school teacher or a minimum-wage worker, and maybe finding some way to bring a little bit of technological awesomeness and efficiency to their lives.

I know you’re wondering. I did write that software and Danny did need to click a button every morning and watch as the script whizzed by in less than a second, but he didn’t lose his job, instead he was able to move on to tackling more challenging things that actually needed his accounting skills. Everyone’s a winner.

Stanley on my mind.

They say it is the journey and not the destination, and when you spend a month sailing across the South Atlantic you’d expect that saying to be particularly true… but while the month at sea was something quite incredible and I will write at length about it, I can not help but be amazed by my destination, a small town called Stanley.

Stanley is the capital of the Falklands Islands, a small group of islands off the east coast of Argentina. It’s British and there was a war in the 80s when Argentina invaded. That tension is not over. Argentina continues to rumble about new invasions and has sanctions on flights and goods leaving or entering Argentina.

When I said Stanley is the “capital” I had to use that term very very loosely. You can forget whatever image you had built up in your head of this place. It is almost certainly not what you think, but let me first mess with your head.

Stanley has an army, a cathedral, its own tv and radio stations, postage stamps, its own currency (complete with coins) and two airports. But, and this is where things get interesting, Stanley is tiny, insanely tiny. You could walk from the one side of the “city” to the other in less than an hour and during that walk you’ll meet enough locals that when you’re in the pub later someone who you’ve never met will invariably approach you and say “Hi, you must be Jonathan”. They don’t get a lot of new faces around here.

Stanley also doesn’t have any ATMs, elevators, escalators or optician. If you run out of cash after 3pm and you want to buy something from a place that doesn’t accept credit cards, well, you can’t. There are only two places that accept credit cards and they’re both “supermarkets” of the sort that also sell fishing equipment and 1 liter plastic bottles of vodka.

Being small definitely has its benefits. The idea of stealing someone’s car is hilarious to the locals. Where would you go? Muggings never happen because the chances of the victim not knowing the attacker are almost nil.

Stanley does however have a crime problem. Their prison is full. All 8 inmates and they recently had to build a new female wing to house their first female prisoner. Never fear though, the convicts are sent to the shops to buy groceries, ever so occasionally bumping into their victims along the way. This would almost be funny if it wasn’t for the issue that most of Stanley’s prisoners are pedophiles.

They take crime seriously here… the local youngsters telling us that getting caught with weed will “get you done” for 6 years and similarly driving under the influence, which is a hilarious concept as your house is almost certainly less that a 15 minute stumble away from the pub, is taken very seriously by the police force. By police force I mean the 3 cops, but only before 3am when it becomes “the cop”, and that cop has to man the phone, so really it’s more of an honor system.

Criminals are treated with such disdain that the monthly newsletter details an incident by incident run down of the previous months arrestees. The latest edition chronicles another pedophile who got caught, complete with a photograph, his full name and address. He hasn’t actually been found guilty yet.

Taking name-and-shame to a whole new level, the local paper also provides names and criminal history for all four of the previous month’s DUI and speeding arrestees. Please don’t forget, this is in a town with a population that is dwarfed by some big high schools.

Stanlians have their own accent. You wouldn’t notice it in the UK as they definitely sound British, but once you’ve met a few you realize that they all intonate in a very peculiar way that once you’re aware of becomes unmistakable. Another interesting quirk is that everyone seems very well educated and quite attractive, but you can’t help but shake the feeling that a lot of them look very very similar.

The Falkland Islands do not have any tertiary education institutions and as a result there is a very odd demographic. Most of the university age people are simply not here and it seems that most of the young professionals leave as soon as they can. I am yet to meet a 30 year old that isn’t disabled, an alcoholic or both.

What that does leave you with is old people, young people and immigrants. The young people are probably the most interesting. Most of them are either not yet in university or have just got back from university and have found that it’s easier to find employment on a remote island with a tiny population than back in the UK. Sadly that says a lot about the state of the economy in the UK.

A 25 year old in Stanley is unlike anything you’ve ever met in the UK or probably the rest of the world. Full of self confidence and lacking the routine hang ups associated with that quarter life crisis. This is a population of educated Hendrix and Led Zep fans talking about politics in a way that would make your average Che t-shirt wearing hipster stammer. They are fun to hang out with and are quick to invite your rag tag crew of dirty sailors back to theirs when the pubs close. Pub’s close at 11pm with a regiment that would make Hitler smile, but not before a 5 minute free-for-all where the locals boozily buy cases of beer over the counter at bartered prices that still seem too high. Then you’re off to theirs (usually in a taxi driven by a motherly australian woman who doesn’t even need to ask where you’re going) for some more drinks while you listen to an 18 year old tell you how they recently got into Oasis but really they grew up on Springsteen.

I can’t say anything bad about Stanley other than the food. There is one place that supposedly has good food but it looks like an old age home and has food prices that should include a night’s accommodation. Everywhere else has food that seems designed for the squaddies (soldiers who live on the base over the hill) or oil workers; deep-fried everything and almost no flavor so you end up coating your entire meal in tomato sauce and/or mayonnaise depending on how British you feel like being.

Sadly I’m flying out of here tomorrow, but rest assured that tonight will be spent in the bars, all 3 of which where everybody knows my name.

Photos to follow when I’m in a place that doesn’t charge for internet by the minute.

Content and delivery.

Recently a friend who’s in the magazine industry was complaining about how their company (who is a very large media company) continually cut the magazine budgets while  spending gob-loads of money on their “Online” and “Mobile” people. The techies have access to iPads, iPhones and brand new Macbook Pros, while just down the passage there are magazine teams, retrenched to a fraction of their previous size, running on 10 year old macs.

The print-media industry is no doubt floundering. Seeing demand for their products dropping by significant numbers every year (We’re talking overall sales figures of around 20% what they were 10 years ago) while ad-sales is becoming more and more brutal due to the “global economy”, but probably more realistically because they’re losing ad sales to online channels. Fewer people want to buy newspapers and magazines and they media industry is making less and less (from ad sales) off the reduced distribution numbers.

So you can imagine the kind of pressure the industry is in and how incredibly easy it would be to come to the very foolish conclusion that the correct remedy is to spend those gob-loads on “Online” or “Mobile” to the detriment of the content producers.

My father was a printer, technically an offset lithography “machine minder”. He was badly paid, worked long shifts, went to work in blue overalls and came home covered in ink. The work was tough. You needed to have an expert eye, understand some of the chemistry, have delicate hands and be able to perform running repairs on dangerous machines. We’re talking about giant room sized printers and the “minder” having the ability to hear that the third roller bearing on the transfer shaft dingle dangle needed oil in the next 30 minutes or the machine would fail. (I’m paraphrasing)

The reason my dad was badly paid even though his job required so much skill was because lithography was an old technology. The mystique had been removed from the process hundreds of years earlier and the machines looked after themselves just enough to allow an unskilled worker become fully skilled in 3 years of on the job training.

The technology was mature and there was solid competition in the market. This drove the printing prices down, which pushed the salaries down, which meant that eventually the job of “machine minder” was only slightly more attractive a career than something like panel beating.

Compounding this, in the last 30 years printing has evolved to the point where the machines are easier to use, faster and even more reliable. Instead of hiring one or two “minders” per machine you can now have a few roaming engineers for an entire factory of printers. Putting ink on paper has never been cheaper.

My father moved to the publishing world about 30 years ago and has been wearing chinos to work ever since… Though I’m pretty sure he would still prefer to deal with machines than colleagues.

The costs and skill required to deliver content will always drop. Technology takes care of that, whether it’s a slightly more reliable room sized printer, or software that makes building an iPad app easier, the world is pre-programmed to make processes more efficient.

However, We will never have Artificial Intelligence that can drive to Darling and write about an Evita Bezuidenhout show, take photographs of the flowers in the Karoo or write about swimming with dolphins on a cool Sunday morning.

100 years ago quality content made money… Nothing has changed and it is unlikely to ever change. How content is delivered should never become more important than the content itself.

You might be able to wow people with your swanky iPad application with annoying faux-turning-pages animations, but eventually, just like the printing press, the technology will mature and everyone will be building swanky iPad apps. The cost involved in building those apps will drop and the big boys will be consistently competing against small, leaner, startup content producers. It took hundreds of years to get the cost of printing so low that we could print a daily newspaper and sell it to the masses. The cost of producing an Ipad app drops constantly and, as the technology evolves, it becomes trivially easy for anyone with some good ideas and camera to create something that other people want… and god forbid, would actually pay money for.

So, if you happen to be the CEO of some big ass media giant, spare a thought for Gutenberg and then Google “ios and android development frameworks” before deciding not to buy your content producers some decent computers. You could even do it on your iPad.

Letter to my 15 year old self.

Hi, it’s me, the 30 year old Jonathan. Here’s a list of things I wish I’d known when I was 15.

  1. Stop trying to be cool.  Being “cool” requires you to act “cool” so you end up acting like other people who are also acting “cool”… Eventually everyone is acting like someone else. Just be you.
  2. You have an extraordinary amount of free time, most of which you waste watching TV.  This might be your single biggest regret. STOP IT. Do something else, write software, hitch-hike to joburg, whatever, just stop watching TV.
  3. Take risks, be unpredictable, do things spontaneously. You might get in trouble but it’ll be worth it.
  4. Don’t let yourself become a nerd, but also don’t worry about being a nerd. Nerds are cool.
  5. History is actually very cool. Don’t drop it. Accounting is lame.
  6. God, in any form, does not exist. Humans have always created gods to explain the things they could not understand. Creation, Solar Eclipses, “miracles” etc. Native Americans dancing around a fire asking god for rain is no different to Christians praying for healing etc. Read up on the Placebo Effect and then think about religion.
  7. Be a good person. You don’t need a book to tell you what is wrong and right. Don’t tease anyone for any reason.
  8. Don’t waste your time trying to get a girlfriend. Girls are awesome but you don’t need a girlfriend now.
  9. You’ll make some great friends over the years. Make an effort to be a good friend back.
  10. You can be anyone, achieve anything. Who you are is as much a journey of discovery as any other great adventure.

The end. Don’t stress kid. You’ll be fine.

ps. Invest all your money in Google and Apple, but only after they fire Steve Jobs the first time

Grocery shopping went like a dream.

Have you ever had a real life experience that was so utterly bizarre that you thought it might have been one of those annoying dreams… like the one where you’re stuck in a warehouse full of tinned goods and just can’t find the exit… Just me then?

So today I go to Claremont Pick and Pay to do some grocery shopping.

  • The first level of parking is full… I drove around twice.
  • The second parking level is full. It’s not marked very well so I almost found myself stuck in a queue to exit.
  • The third parking level, which I didn’t know even existed, was full too… Everywhere there were people desperate for a parking spot.
  • Eventually I find myself on the forth level waiting for a guy who turned out to be just dropping off his gym bag in his boot.
  • Without exaggerating, by this stage I had spent about 15 minutes looking for parking and decided to just park my car near an entrance and wait for someone to leave.
  • I waited about 3 minutes until a bay opened. I parked and headed to the nearby entrance.
  • The lift didn’t indicate which level the shops were on so I took a gamble and pressed “G”.
  • When the doors opened and I walked out, around a corner and realised I had done something stupid because I was basically inside a Virgin Active.
  • At this point I’m like “Ok, I give up, I’ll just leave now and try this whole shopping thing another day”.
  • So I head back to the lifts… Once inside I’m faced with buttons G through 9. I parked on P4. There are no P’s.
  • I press 4 hoping that maybe that’ll be it.
  • The elevator door opens into a swish office suite lobby.
  • I feel like I’m in the twilight zone.
  • Unsure of whether to go up or down I just randomly start pressing buttons.
  • Over and over again the doors open and I’m faced with office suites… Now I’m wondering if perhaps, on that ground floor I’d re-entered into the wrong lift.
  • A girl gets in and I ask her which floor is the “top level of parking”. She confidently tells me it’s 6, which is where she’s going, and so I confidently follow her…
  • We exit the lift, turn right, she swipes a tag to open the door and I’m starting to get nervous… Relax, she assures me that there are stairs I can use to get onto the right level.
  • We walk out onto a parking platform, she points out the stairs in the distance and starts walking away.
  • About 3 seconds later I realise I am in the completely wrong fucking place. This is an entirely different parking garage in an entirely different side of the building.
  • I turn back to note the locked, rfid tag protected, door separating me from freedom.
  • The girl has disappeared and suddenly I need to pee.
  • I walk over to the door and luckily a few seconds later it opens… I act cool. Me, no, I’m not lost… I slip through as the dude who totally realised I was lost walks to his car.
  • I head back to the lifts. I ask another random woman where the parking is. She has a clue and asks me whether I mean the corporate parking or the public parking.
  • My angel informs me that the level I am looking for is 2… I had already tried 3… so close.
  • As we head down, the lift doors open on the fourth floor. Three people walk in. Making a total of 5. The doors won’t close and the Overload sign starts blinking.
  • The most rotund of the guests exits making a comment about this lift being faulty… “Own it” I think to myself.
  • Eventually the door on level 2 opens and I recognise the decor…. this was indeed where my car was… I turn right and exit into the familiar parking garage resolved to just go the fuck home.
  • As I walk to my car I notice large writing on the wall. “<- Gym Lifts     Shopping/Trolley Lifts  ->”
  • “I’ve come so far, why quit now?” I think to myself as I start walking randomly in the direction of the arrow to find the other set of lifts, which turn out to be about 200m around the corner.
  • Eventually inside PnP I start shopping. This is about 40 minutes after arriving at the parking garage.
  • I overhear a dude saying “Babes, Where are you?”.  “Where you left me” she replies… Typical guy says “Where?”… The girl, obviously losing her patience says “Jesus! In the next aisle!”…. a second passes before a random man replies “Jesus would never forsake you”. Everyone giggles except an old granny who for some reason is staring at me.
  • I can’t find the sugar and ask a shelf packer. He motions that he’s deaf and doesn’t understand me. I, don’t ask how, happen to know the sign language sign for “sugar” and instinctively, before I can stop myself, sign it… The guy’s face lights up like he’s met an old friend and he takes me to the sugar. I sign the “thank you” sign and he signs the whole “it’s a pleasure” thing. At this point I’m basically waiting for the part in the dream where Natalie Portman needs my help to rescue the world.
  • I pay and make my way to my car, carefully making sure that I pay for my parking ticket on the way because I just know how that would end… I would be the guy at the boom without a ticket and 5 cars behind me hooting and making comments about my mother.
  • I get to my car. The parking lot is still madness and a very attractive gym bunny girl is parked waiting for an opening. She smiles at me like I’m about to rescue her world.
  • I can’t find my keys… then I feel them (through my pants) in my back pocket… but for some reason every time I put my hand into my pocket, it is empty. I’m like SERIOUSLY starting to doubt my sanity at this point.
  • So I can feel my keys but can’t get them out, so, through my pants, I molest my ass in an attempt to, through the fabric, locate my car key so that I can at least unlock the car (remotely) and start unpacking the trolley, biding myself some time to solve the “keys *inside* my pants” conundrum.
  • Attractive gym bunny girl is staring at me while I appear to be having a stroke and pleasuring myself at the same time.
  • The car unlocks and I start to unpack the trolley the whole time wondering how I am going to get the keys out from *inside* my pants without attractive gym bunny girl phoning the cops.
  • I close the boot and run the trolley over to the trolley place. Still wondering how the fuck my keys are playing hide and seek with me.
  • Trying my best to hide behind a pillar I reach into my back pocket again… I again reach the logical conclusion that I reached earlier. I MUST have more than one pocket, but I just cant find the opening to it.
  • Eventually, after what seems like an hour of public indecency, I manage to get my hand into the TINY, *other*, pocket that contains my keys and triumphantly pull them out, trying hard to stop myself from making a point of showing them to attractive gym bunny so as to explain my recent retardation.
  • I get into the car, pull out and drive around the rabbit warren than is the various levels of parking lots, cul de sacs, private parking zones etc, to find the exit.
  • I end up in one of those narrow spirally ramps, heading downwards towards a boom, there are four cars in front of me, two behind me,  There is no “forgot my ticket” slipway and the car at the boom seems to be having a ticket problem. Minutes go by while I practice my breathing techniques.
  • Eventually I get out of the mall… I feel triumphant, like a hero, returning home after an epic battle in a foreign land.

That is my story. Every ounce of it is true. I would not believe it either.

Defining moments

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about defining moments. Those splinters of time that shape who we are and act as decision making references for the rest of our lives. I find it odd/sad that some of the people I talk to don’t have defining moments or perhaps they do but just aren’t aware of them.

Here are mine:

Fishing
I was probably about 8 years old. We were on holiday at the Brede River. Like most boys that age, I really wanted to catch a fish. We had tried unsuccessfully from the jetty but firmly believed that the real fishing was out on the boat, after sunset. The dads had made promises that always seemed to dissolve into comfortable couches and post-braai bliss… and it was our last night there. I decided that I was going to go and catch a fish off the jetty, and, in the absence of bait, I decided that bread, mooshed up onto the hook, would have to do. The parents were understandably sceptical, but I was adamant and marched down to the jetty in the dark and cast my line into the water. A few hours went by and I had caught nothing and eventually started falling asleep and decided it was best to go back inside.

I remember walking back into the house thinking how awesome it would have been to be carrying a huge fish! At that very moment, thinking about how great it would have been to catch a huge fish, it dawned on me that no one ever catches a huge fish unless they put their line in the water. You have to be in it to win it.

Bravery
I haven’t witnessed much bravery in my life. I’ve never seen someone run into a burning building to rescue a puppy or lift a car to free a trapped driver. Sometimes however bravery takes the form of personal courage. Courage to stand up and do the right thing, even if doing so may make you look like a loser in the process. I was 15 and my little clan of nerd friends had a favourite whipping boy called Andrew. Andrew was often the butt of our jokes. One particular day, in the absence of Andrew, the jokes got progressively meaner. Then someone piped up and said “Come on guys, that’s not cool… lets stop”.

I realise that that might seem trivial when compared to rescuing puppies from burning buildings, but if you’ve been a teenage boy you probably know that sticking up for the “loser” isn’t the cool thing to do. In that moment I realised how brave my friend was, and more importantly, how I wanted to be like him.

Your happiness is your responsibility
I think I was about 19 years old. I had recently broke up with my girlfriend, it was New Years Eve and all my friends were out of town. I got so bored and depressed that I decided to just drive around. I wasn’t suicidal or even close to tears… but in that uber-pathetic moment I decided that I was the only one responsible for my happiness. Simple.

Web Based Accounting Software
After many years working as a developer in a bunch of different industries I found myself working on a web based accounting package for a British company. It was painful work and the boss had overcommitted and we were working stupid hours with pizza as “overtime”. One evening, while working late, I decided that this wasn’t for me. I’d only been there for 3 months, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had been putting my heart and soul (and life) into other people’s businesses all over the world for the previous 5 years and I was finally done. I resigned in the morning. I was never going to let a job take priority over my life again.

For about a year I floated around doing odd freelance dev jobs, I even got a job as a barman so I could meet cool people… I made a lot of friends, I managed a band, I lived in a digs with some cool people and some psychopaths. It was fun.

I can be a Butcher
About mid way through my year “off” I decided that I could do anything. Nothing was above me, and similarly, nothing was beneath me. Not that I consider butchers to be at the bottom of some food chain, it was just that being a butcher was probably the furthest thing from what I had done up until then. I never did become a butcher, but I’m pretty sure I could be flippen awesome at it if I wanted to.

A loaf of bread or a pie
At about the same time as the “I can be a butcher” moment I found myself rather broke. There was a shoprite up the road from where we were staying. I walked there, hungry, with only a few rand in my wallet. I had to decide whether to buy a loaf of bread or a pie. I bought the pie.

Many people would consider that reckless. It was reckless I guess, but, I wanted a pie. I had faith that tomorrow would somehow bring more money or feed me. I’m still here so I guess I was right.

I don’t want to make light of it, but I also know what it’s like to live off almost nothing. I know that I was incredibly happy during that time, my life didn’t suddenly fall apart the minute I cancelled my medical aid and couldn’t afford to buy one of the “nice” toothbrushes. That realisation has helped me be a little more willing to take bigger risks in life. In it to win it.

Water
I really like hiking. Especially on Table Mountain. I’m not nearly as fit as I should be, as my waistline is testament to, but I do occasionally just go for walk. It was during one of these spontaneous walks that I ended up about 6km away from my car without any water in the middle of a ridiculously hot summer’s day. (This was on the contour path near Platteklip with my car parked at Kirstenbosch). I came across this tiny little trickle of water, seeping down a rock. I was so hot I ended up basically licking the mossy rock to try and get some moisture out of it. I spent a good 30 minutes getting water in tiny little doses. (I just want to make sure it’s clear here, I was never in any real danger… I was just hot and tired… worst case scenario was some sunburn.) I was incredibly grateful for the water and in the heat I got all philosophical about water and nature’s provision. I started off again towards the car. About 300m down the path I came to a river. Not exactly the Holy Ganges, but enough water that I could actually fill my water bottle will real water, not sandy moisture. What did I learn from this? It’s tough to explain. Perhaps the simplest way to put it is to just say that sometimes in life you need to be make sure you’re not being an idiot by walking a little further down the road.

Death at Sea
Almost 2 years ago I went on a little sailing trip. Myself and another guy sailed a tiny little yacht from Hout Bay to Knysna, and then back to Mossell Bay. (It’s a long story). The reason we couldn’t go in at Knysna was because a huge storm had kicked up and the Heads were closed. The boat didn’t have a functioning radio, life raft or EPIRB. The flares were old and our engine was dead. At sunset, when we realised the storm wasn’t going to die down, we decided to sail to Mossel Bay where the harbour was protected by a breakwater. The swells were picking up and at some points our tiny boat was pretty much dwarfed by the water around us. We were sailing a yacht designed and built for the Vaal Dam in some of the strongest wind and biggest swells I have ever seen. We were being pushed around like a matchbox in a pool full of cannon balling fat kids. The boat’s keel was creaking as if it wanted to snap off (something that would result in almost instant sinking) and then suddenly, in the pitch black, howling night, we hit something. HARD. The entire boat stopped dead for a second. I still don’t know what it was but I do know that I have never felt closer to dying in my life. I imagined myself floating in the middle of the sea, with my tiny life jacket trying to get dodgy flares to work even though the chances of someone seeing them were pretty much zero. The keel didn’t break and after 5 days at sea we eventually got to Mossel Bay in the early hours of the morning.

What did I learn? I don’t know… But I want to do it again. It was fucking awesome.