Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Confessions of a Less Than Average Sailor

At the helm.
I’m going to be honest here.  At the moment, life at sea isn’t quite as romantic as I thought it would be.  Let me clarify.  Life at sea, during a long passage, is much different than visiting one wild, exotic island after another - like we were doing prior to the Pacific passage.   For all you novice armchair sailors, the Pacific crossing is the longest passage of all ocean passages.  It can be as fast as 16 days and as long as 35 (depending on the type and speed of the boat).  One item that I have gleaned from this experience is that it will be my ONLY experience doing the crossing.
I wasn’t born with salt water running through my veins, or the adventurous spirit ready to uncover the undiscoverable.  Rather, I find life… uh umm… “normal-everyday-people-life” quite satisfying.   In fact, more than ever, I miss running a good errand or getting Lily ready for school.  I probably miss itmore because I am surrounded by miles and miles of ocean with no plans to escape… only because I can’t. 

Like all memories, I know that this one will be filed away as it fades from my memory and becomes an experience that toughened me up, made me ask myself deep questions and will probably become it’s own kind of folklore in my head.  The stuff of legends.  But for now, I just miss air-conditioning and the international food section at my local supermarket. 

Ask me in a week when I am swimming with whales and I will equate this experience to having a baby.  After giving birth, most mothers forget about the pain they endured during labor once they are holding a little bundle with rose-colored lips in their arms.  Babies are masters mind benders.  Once that little babe has arrived you finally realize that it was worth the nine months of doubling in size, endlessly looking for benches to sit on and surveying a building for the closest bathroom.  Instead, after giving birth, you just talk about the miracle of it all. 

I am positive that once I see my first coconut tree or try on a cute little grass skirt, this time at sea will all have been worth it.  I am sure that I will look back at this experience with fondness.  However, right now, my ankles are swollen and need to be placed above my head.  I’m craving pickles and begging for that knot in my back to get rubbed out as I look for pillows to surround and cradle my heavy belly.  (This is just a metaphor, mom).

This isn’t to say that I didn’t grab onto this adventure of crossing the Pacific Ocean with both hands.  I picked up both ends of the stick with zeal and the sense of adventure tingling in the tips of my fingers.  I was flat out given the option to take Lily home during the crossing and then meet Martin in paradise at the end of the passage.  My stubbornness won out without me even considering the monotony of everyday life on a boat.  Yep.  There was no way that Martin was going to be able to talk about this experience without including my name in the adventure.  I was not going to miss out on the ending credits. Surely, I was tough enough to get through this.  Looking back, it all boils down to ignorance, and boy was it bliss!  Like that newborn baby; it will have been worth it in the end.  For now though, where’s that bench?

Life at sea consists of our days being broken up into 3-hour increments in whose watch is when at the helm.  After my watch, I know that Martin will be up at the flybridge from 12-3pm.  After him, Meredith takes her turn at the helm from 3-6pm.  Then Sue and lastly, David.  By then it’s 9pm, and waaay past my bedtime.  I’m off the hook for night watches because Lily is an early riser these days and I have to be alert for this little one.  In fact, most nights I go to bed at 7pm because it’s dark, reading makes me nauseous, and a movie never seems quite as entertaining as I always hoped it would be.  The kicker is that by 4:30am, I have slept 9.5 hours and I just can’t sleep anymore.  So, I get up and muddle around the dark room trying to stay quiet for Martin (who will have just gotten off his 12-3am shift an hour before and needs his sleep).  So mainly, I write, read as much as I can before I get nauseous, I plan out my future i.e., cooking classes, finishing my masters, maybe try running, etc… Lastly, I practice boiling a good egg.  No lie.  I’ve gotten quite good at hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, cottled and the old stand by, scrambled.  You name it; I probably mastered it by day nine.  I mean, what other time in the world would I have had the time to just focus on the different ways to cook an egg?  None!

Some days I dread having to do my watch.  Going up top and just sitting there, watching out for ships or lending a hand in changing a sail.  I have a terrible habit of looking at my watch far too many times to count.  It gets really bad when I start timing how far it takes AMARA to go one nautical mile and then figure out from there how many hours it will take us to get to Rangiroa.  Other days, I relish my time alone.  I’m allowed to just listen to my music and think.  Think for hours if I wanted to, which I’ve found that mostly I don’t.  My "people-person-persona" gets the better of me and I think about all the lunches and dinners I am going to throw the minute we get home after this adventure has come to an end.

Then there is the matter of Lily.  Lily joins me for most of my watches.  I hook up her earphones and she joins me in listening to the songs that followed me into adulthood.  I am hoping that she is starting to gain an appreciation for Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Johnny Cash, Dar Williams and ok, I’ll say it… even a little Carrie Underwood now and then.  At this point, Wilson Phillips' well-known song, “Hold On” has become my personal mantra on my iTunes.  I can “break from the chains and hold on for one more day.”   This song has shot up the charts and made a comeback in my personal, life soundtrack.

Sure, when this adventure ends, I admit that I can’t wait for the conversations that I am going to have and all the limitless hours that I am going to spend on the phone talking to my 3 sisters throughout the day.  I miss them.  I miss that life.  But I wouldn’t have missed this experience in the world either.  So torn, but not really.  Maturity holds me steady knowing it will all be there when I get back - so just enjoy the monotony for the next seven days.  Once we arrive in Ragiroa, all it will take is one good scuba dive with whales or a swim with manta rays and I’ll forget about this entire Pacific crossing whoa-ing and wallowing.   I know that I can mind-muscle through this when I remind myself what’s at the end of it all.  So, for now, I’ll take the advice from the offspring of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas and, “…just hold on for one more day.”  Things will most definitely go my way.

Only 188 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds to paradise.  …but who’s counting?