Day 15 Sunday, 20th March, 2016
Whenever I tell anyone that I live on a yacht, their amazed, wide eyed replies are always the same, “Wow, that’s awesome!”. I usually smile and reply, “it can be”! In truth it is awesome, or at least for much of the time it is; the part that’s not, (for me) is the stuff my nightmares are made of. I’ve overcome my fear of water, about as much as it’s possible for me to do so. I’m still not comfortable with it, but at least I can now tolerate it without having meltdowns every time the boat heels. I’m fortunate in as much as I don’t suffer from seasickness, that is unless the conditions are really bad, I do however suffer from giddy spells caused by motion.
This current passage crossing the Pacific, the largest ocean in the world is a learning experience like no other. The first leg of our trip, a 4-5 week passage from Panama to the Marquises Islands, this will be the longest time I will ever have been at sea. We’re just over half way there, with another 1700 miles to go, probably another 10 – 14 days depending upon wind and weather conditions. We’ve managed a fairly consistent 6 – 7 knots for the last 8 days, the sails are reefed in as we’ve had from 18 – 25 knots of wind. We could be flying along at over 9 knots, but Bob decided to reduce the amount of sail to decrease the strains on Daisy.
I’m still struggling to come to terms with the conditions on board, as Daisy dips and tips rolling over swell after swell. Enormous waves approach us from every angle, building in height alongside and behind, towering over us, threatening, as we slip into the waves deep trough before being swept up and rolled over the top of it and into yet another trough. I feel so small, insignificant in the whole scheme of things, like a flea on an elephant ass! I’m not even close to being completely comfortable, the constant rolling from side to side is throughly exhausting, most of the time I feel like i’m inside a tumble dryer. I’m constantly told that I’ll get used to it, I wonder how long that will take! There’s absolutely no let up, not for a second, no stillness, no comfortable place to sit and relax. Whatever you’re doing, whether you’re in bed, struggling to move about the boat, or sitting, you’re continually bracing against the movement, its an ongoing, permanent, living thing. It feels as though I’m using every muscle in my body just to sit down. The simplest task on board is outrageously difficult, with Daisy rolling from toe rail to toe rail and every 30 seconds she tips about 45-90 degrees as the waves pick her up and drop her.
Despite all my efforts to stow tidily and safely (I’m a bit of a clutter Queen), cupboards accidentally left slightly ajar unexpectedly fly open, everything crashes to the floor and rolls around under my feet. As I try to prepare meals while struggling to maintain my balance, everything slides off the counter tops, I can’t catch it all fast enough, things fall over… Cooking meals (my main responsibility) has become my nemesis, approached with much trepidation, I find myself dreading every mealtime. The stove/cooker is on a gimble so at least there’s no danger of boiling water spilling, having said that, getting things in and out of the oven is like dicing with death as it swings back and forth with the constant motion. This morning while I was making coffee, Daisy heeled so violently the coffee went all over me and everything else, I was cussing like a truck driver, or perhaps I should say “Salty sea dog”.
I went through a total shutdown a couple of days ago; I spent 24 hours in my cabin, just rolling around in my bed feeling sorry for myself (pathetic). I was so giddy from all the motion, my back ached, I had a blinding headache, I couldn’t eat, and I wasn’t drinking enough, which is definitely not good. I did however manage hours and hours of sleep, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t slept that much since I was in the cradle! It took me a full day to get my sad little act back in gear, A pep talk from Edi really helped and brought me back to my senses. One of our new gadgets on board is an “inReach” iridium satellite device that enables us to send and receive text in real time. The text must be kept within 160 characters, but we are able to chat real time to anyone with email. This totally brilliant little device, has probably been my life saver this trip. Being able to chat to my children has absolutely saved my sanity, although I’m not sure what its done for them!
I find myself longing for female companionship, I’m stuck here on board with Bob and Louis (who I’ve nicknamed, Blackbeard & Captain A-Hab) two diehard sailors who talk nothing but tactical sailing jargon, and are constantly working on one thing or another onboard while they bicker like a couple of old women. I miss Jorn, a previous crew member, he was fun to talk to and would at least play Yahtzee with me. I’m not actually bored, I’m reading my eighth book in the last 2 weeks; reading and writing is about all I can do under these conditions. I’ve made some jewelry and done some sketching and sewing too, but that was before we hit the trade winds where conditions prevent anything that requires the smallest semblance of stillness.
I have so much respect for the ocean, but at the same time fear its tremendous power, I never take it for granted. I can’t begin to describe what it feels like to look out over a rolling sea with huge waves with foaming white crests, and see nothing but sea and sky, knowing that the closest land is thousands of miles and weeks of travel away, its a scary, humbling feeling. I find myself dreaming of walking Hedley, my beautiful Greyhound, in the woods back in Atlanta. One of my favorite pastimes is walking my adorable boy through magical forests of tall trees and gently sparkling rivers, especially this time of year when the air is so crisp and clear, the buds on the trees are just bursting forth and the sky is a deep brilliant blue, the sun streams through the tree tops sprinkling dappled patterns of light on the path beneath us. The air smells sweetly of pine and floral scents and the chorus of bird song reverberates above us through the tree tops. I walk along with a silly grin plastered across my face, I’m filled with a feeling of peace and happiness. But, I’m a long way from the woods and my darling Hedley now, and that fills me with sadness and longing.
I’m assured that where we’re headed is magical, both Edi and Bob have told me this journey is well worth all the discomfort; to see and experience what we’re heading towards is not something to be taken for granted and something most people will never have the opportunity to experience. I do feel blessed to have been given this opportunity. To be able to explore places most people can’t even dream of, many of the Islands we’re going are only accessible by private boat. Bob compares our journey to climbing Everest, achieving something few people ever can, an experience and achievement that’s both incredible and invaluable. A memory to be treasured.
For me, the most irreplaceably, mind blowing experience one can have onboard a vessel at sea, is to encounter the wildlife, particularly the dolphins. Dolphins really are the most majestical, intelligent, fun loving creatures. You suddenly become aware of them racing alongside, they appear like magic from out of nowhere, flaunting their speed, grace and agility, we simple humans can only envy, watch and gasp in awe. They swim circles around us at incredible speed, leaping out of the water showing off their amazing agility. Usually they are only with us for 15 – 20 minutes before they get bored, disappearing again from sight as fast as they appeared. I never cease to be enthralled by them, and find myself anxiously awaiting their next visit with all the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.
There is so much beauty to be appreciated with this life style, but its not without the continual shadow of the beast; the Ocean!