Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Maria Ines Calderón grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. She obtained a MA in Art which led her into filmmaking and a desire to see the world. With her first goal completed, she concentrated on her second.
“I met single hander David Willard in Mochima in ‘97 on board Celtic Caper during a holiday to Arapos Island. Just starting his second circumnavigation, he had sailed from Wales to Mochima to visit friends. He talked me into circumnavigating with him; my family felt it was a marvelous opportunity for me to see the world and to write a screenplay, which I had wanted to do.
“I accepted as far as Cartagena; however, while there, we met a group desiring to cross the Pacific. I loved their lifestyle so they convinced me to go. After the Panama Canal I was told that one of my screenplay projects had won a competition. I returned to Caracas for the prize money, which made my trip much more enticing as I now had the support of my government to write it while circumnavigating.
“It was exciting to discover that two people can actually accomplish this – the sailing community was so helpful. David and I got along very well and his support enabled me to learn. He bought me a computer and camera so that I could keep working while under way. Although my screenplay was not about sailing, I did record the entire trip with my camera and now have material to produce a TV series called “A Toda Vela”, which means ‘At Full Sail.’
“It took us eight years to complete the circumnavigation. I would fly home often to continue working. In 2004 I won another prize for a screenplay I wrote while sailing the Atlantic, and was again awarded money to write it. This I did while we were sailing from South Africa to Venezuela. It may be produced in 2009 within Venezuela.”
Like all sailors, Calderón has found special places and joy even during trying times.
“I loved Micronesia where the societies are still very pure. Their islands are so isolated that the modern world has basically passed them by. Not influenced by Western society, they want to keep their customs of many generations. Foreign nations have colonized them, but they have preserved their culture. The people of the Philippines are overwhelmingly friendly.
“The worst experience I had was the trip from the Philippines to Borneo, in the China Sea. During a storm we could not control our direction due to reefs on the port side and fish farms on the starboard. Beaten down for three days, we headed for a dangerous port, where we had been warned not to go – it was Sabah, a Chinese community in Borneo, which we totally enjoyed, so it ended happily.”
Calderón has good input for others considering a circumnavigation. “For the global cruising community the cheapest places to live are Thailand and Malaysia as they are safe and also inexpensive. You can live with very little and there are hundreds of expatriates there. Their sailing community is very close and supportive, as they were during the tsunami. Our experience of South Africa is that it is dangerous and the sailing services are terrible. They charge a lot and con you with no warranty and no service.”
“Upon arrival home I was showered with attention. Venezuelan people are not used to sailing adventures where you do everything yourself. They have power boats with crews, so it really impressed them that we two could be totally self-sufficient. I am not an extraordinary person therefore my trip showed to others that anyone can do a circumnavigation; you only need to have the will to do it.”
Maria Ines Calderón currently is working on scripts and an edition of her sailing series for television. She is also part of the team which is to build a museum concerning the history of film-making in Venezuela. It was a real joy to meet and get to know this talented sailor. I join All At Sea in wishing her the best in her future endeavors.
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 21 years. She holds a MA in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.