NIGHT 5 // b e c a l m e d
I’ve taken the days, and I’ve taken the nights, put them in a blender and hold down the “whip” button. I don’t remember their individual flavors but together they taste of monotony in 4 hour increments, with the occasional leftover chunk that requires chewing – or should I say, work.
The ocean is a very odd place.
There is a simplistic pattern in sailing the ocean. It brings you right down to basic survival needs. Safety. Rest. Water. Food. That’s it. There is not much thinking beyond these four needs. Every 4 hours we go through the motion.
We are a third of the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Tonight is blacker than a cave with no exit. No moon. No stars. Completely becalmed. It wasn’t long ago I imagined a situation like this – how nice it must be, to sit in a rocking chair in the vastness of an ocean, far from your living room. To go nowhere. To ponder life afloat the deep salt sea. To rest atop a mile of water that somehow sticks to the earth. I thought this could very well be some kind of moving experience in which I would learn something important about myself, about life, about the sea, maybe find some answers in the silence to questions I didn’t even know I had – I don’t know. Here I am, the human in this so-called-beautiful-situation I imagined feeling far from peaceful and meditative. I am frustrated. Fiercely frustrated.
The sails flap like curtains hanging in the back yard. Air rolls through the canvas one end to the next snapping the main sail taut. It goes silent while the air rolls off the edges and the canvas becomes a loose t-shirt hung upon an anxious body. A swell lifts the starboard side and snakes underneath the hull until we rock back to port to compensate. All contents board shift with any spare space. Our first gale passed nearly 24 hours ago, but the swells…mmm… they are still here.
Roll. Snap. Silence. Rock. Shift. Repeat.
The hangers in the closet. The dishes in the cupboard. The cups in their shelves. The Binoculars hanging from the lamp. The sour milk in the ice box. The fruit in the basket. The water in the tanks. The insides of my tummy. The weight of my body. The brain in my head.
Swing. Smash. Silence. Slosh. Shift. Repeat.
You know you are becalmed when you start taking selfies.
This medley of swells and no wind has me pressing for mercy. I’ve come up with only one solution and unfortunately I don’t have the resources to move forward. Bubble wrap. If I would have known what it was really like to be becalmed – I would have brought an adequate supply of bubble wrap to eliminate all the spare space for things to shift around. Then we could carry on in peace packaged tightly together with plastic bubbles.
It’s exhausting to listen to all of these noises on repeat. Out of desperation I have begun to misplace things. I move around one loud thing to silence another loud thing. All of our things are playing musical chairs. Soon, I don’t know where I’ve put anything. Where’s the lighter? Asks Luke. Well I could have jammed it upright in the tapping dish cupboard, could have forced it in between the clinking hot sauces, I could put it in my sandwich and tried to eat it for lunch. Good luck Luke, I don’t know where it is.
Eventually my mind shuts it out, and my body shuts down. I accept we are going no where. I tire myself of seeking stability. I envelope my thoughts around the becalmed sea until I am holding a ball of yarn. I let the swells rock me in my chair. The noises become white. Our movement becomes equalized. Frustration fades. I power down. Rip the plug from the wall. Stop caring. Fall fast asleep. Dream of the wind, and if I’m lucky another gale.
NIGHT 6 // p h o s p h o r e s c e n c e
Luke wakes me at an unknown time. “Jess. Jess…Jess. Quickly.” Off-put by being woken, I receive his voice as something urgent, but not categorized emergency. I can tell he wants me to move faster but I don’t understand why. Rain falls softly, and arctic as it meets the skin. I crawl out the companionway and crouch in the cockpit holding my knees tight, protecting myself from the swelling shivers rising from my bare feet. “What?” I ask.
A remarkable streak of neon blue coils Desirée. I shift around my crouched torso on my tippy toes and follow the glow as it waltzes about. I am mystified. The light dives down and dims with depth. It ascends towards the surface and sets off fireworks. Aurora Borealis of the sea. Fantasia on the big screen. Mind blowing magic tricks. Drunken neon lights. Kids playing with sparklers. Contrails of phosphorescence. Humble mammals soaring through plankton. Dolphins and algae on fire. I could go on… and on. Three minutes is all we get. Jaws dropped. This is the greatest performance we have ever seen. I let out a slow “Wooowww,”. Luke says “Wow.” I say it again, even slower this time. And he echoes it back. We fixate on the surface until the curtains close. I thank him for waking me, crawl back into the bunk and drift asleep.
When I wake I am unsure if this was reality. It was the kind of magic you only read about in books. In fact I have read it in a book and thought to myself how lucky one must be to be an eye- witness. To be the audience. The kind of spectacular you don’t dare to take your eyes off of to reach for your camera. The kind of closeness with nature only documented in National Geographic. The kind of awesome that makes you feel all the decisions you’ve made up to that point – have been the right ones. Dolphins stirring up trails of phosphoresce in the pitch black, illuminating the sea on a becalmed night never even crossed my mind as a possibility. I love surprises.
DAY 7 // j u s t b l u e
We survived ice berg alley. Sailed passed the Labrador current. Have stayed relatively close to an ideal course. There is still nothing around. Just blue.
Our watches become less diligent. Watching less, doing more. Luke has read every book on the shelf. I am still on my first, partly because I get so lost in it I don’t want it to end. I stare westwards, backwards, analyzing the swells more often than looking ahead. I write essays and letters instead of looking at the GPS. I review the clouds. I study Luke. I listen to Desiree. There is nothing to see outside our own little world. Nothing to interrupt our path. Just blue. For a moment I understand the legendary Moitessier who created his own world at sea, and was never able to return to the one he left.
We’ve been on the same tack for 4 days. Haven’t seen a ship for 5 days. Haven’t spoken to anyone for 7 days. I’ve found my energy again, my appetite, and every once and a while my motivation. Torrential rain has us surrendered inside the cabin. Penny helms and I remain impressed. Everything is soggy. Everything.
I’m baking at 5am which sounds ambitious but I am wide awake feeling very peppy. Chris Stapleton on the stereo. I wrap asparagus in prosciutto and Pillsbury crescents and stare at the oven while they bake, breathing in its heavenly scent. I look out the ports every once and while and check the AIS. Nothing. Just blue.
Luke is fast asleep. Twitching. Having a spa day. Naked atop the bedding, he lies next to the propane heater that assists in drying out the cabin and fogging up the ports. Wet gear hangs from every hook. Moisture seeps down the bulkhead. Condensation collects in the cracks. What are you dreaming about ? I ask Luke while he is sleeping. He doesn’t respond. So I answer for him. “You, of course”. That’s nice – I think to myself.
By 7am I have cleaned, dried out, baked, written, reefed, read downloaded the weather, emailed, plotted, un-reefed, and somehow have some energy to do some push-ups and dips. I’m not sure what triggers the good days. What triggers the bad days. I will sway in this mornings splendor for as long as it lasts.
There is only one problem today. I smell cheese. I think it’s time to take our first salt bath. Yes. It’s time to bathe. How cold could it really be? It’s just blue.