I've been around enough celebrities to know they live in a different world. It's smaller than ours and they all seem to know each other. When we got to Melbourne, Zobie disappeared. He was a friend of David Coulthard, one of the Formula One drivers.
When he returned, it was with a film crew. They were including him in a documentary on the Grand Prix.
It was a big weekend in Melbourne. Cirque du Soleil was also performing. Zobie knew someone there, too. We got free tickets to the celebrity tent and spent the night drinking champagne.
That was unusual--the drinking, I mean. Zobie was very straight. He said he never drank when he was in the NBA. He just wasn't into it. He told me he'd get into trouble with his coaches because he'd want to go home and sleep in his own bed, rather than in the team hotel before a home game. He'd say, "Coach, you know I don't go out and party. I just want to be in my own bed."
When we were ashore, he wanted to live as much as party. He always wanted to kick a soccer ball around, ride a bike or try some tricks on one of his skateboards. We stopped for Easter just north of Sydney, a place called Pittwater. I was able to talk him onto a surfboard, but not into standing up. He caught some waves lying down on my longboard.
The other side of life in the NBA was that he could afford to travel like this. We were in a beachside cafe one day, and saw a big rug with a French abstract design hanging on the wall. Zobie fell in love with it and wanted to buy it.
I went to the counter and asked if it was for sale. It was, for $2,000.
So he went around the corner, pulled $2,000 out of an ATM and paid for it. The rug went into the lounge of the catamaran. The boat had cost him $600,000. I spent a couple of weeks preparing it for the trip. On one of those days, I bought a small dive compressor, to provide air for scuba diving. Then we went to a dive shop and bought two complete scuba outfits. By the end of the afternoon, there was another $5,000 on his gold card.
We talked about money sometimes. I said if I had lots of money, I'd buy blue-chip stocks. "What if you stuck it in the bank and lived off the interest?" he replied. I guess that's what he was doing
He was definitely into chatting about everything--a big thinker, and a very clever man, very practical with mechanical things.
Zobie had an emotional side, but I never saw any aggression. I believe he suffered from manic-depression. There were times when he was really low--you could see it in his face. He would say he was grumpy. He wasn't trying to hide it. He was quite open with everything. Those moods never lasted more than two days.
I don't know what went on in the basketball scene. I don't think he wanted to take any medication. He never said or admitted he was manic-depressive--it's my observation--but he used to get really down and really high.
He was a very sensitive bloke; wasn't afraid to show emotion, although I never saw him cry. But then again, when you have a really strong connection with someone, and you want to show them how strong that connection is through sharing an emotion, he'd be crying with laughter sometimes when we talked.
We talked about his brother and his stepfather, so I knew of his brother's existence, but it was only general, friendly conversation. There was no animosity or sense that anything was wrong.
There were seven of us on the boat when we left Fremantle in February 2000: five guys--Zobie, myself and Bruce, a deckhand, another guy who swam to shore after the first night and hitchhiked back to Perth, a fifth who got off two days later, and two women, Megan and Emily, whom Zobie had invited along.
Emily came along as his girlfriend, but it was pretty casual. In the Southern Ocean at night, we used to steer by automatic pilot, but there would always be somebody up on the deck keeping watch for four or five hours at a time. Zobie took his turn doing that, and Megan kept him company one night.
He'd say, "Hey, dolphins have sex for fun. Why hide the fact that we enjoy it?"
Some of our discussions were about life and death, almost literally. One of our sail plans, when we were still in Fremantle, was to go through Southeast Asia, where piracy on the open seas is a real problem.
I felt if we were going that way, we may need some weapons. Some people do carry them. I wasn't sure. Zobie was totally against it. His feeling was, if we were boarded by pirates, we'd give 'em what they wanted--give them the boat if we had to, as long as they spared our lives.
Instead, our trip took us through the Roaring Forties, and then up the east coast of Australia. I fell sick in Brisbane, and decided to head home to recover.
That was in late May, early June last year. Zobie took it badly.
"Hey, man," he said. "Am I ever going to see you again?"
Of course, he didn't.
We had a pretty deep respect for each other. When I first heard what had happened to him, I felt really sad.
There's someone who you live in the same small place with, and share a lot of time with ... naturally, it's a really sad thing.
Earlier this year, I broke a bone in my neck while surfing in Indonesia where I was working. There was no insurance and it cost me a fortune to get back here.
You have time to think while you're recovering from something like that, and what I think is, it could have been worse. I might have been on the boat with Zobie in July near Tahiti.