Sunday, 18 January 2015

On our last leg(s)

Mid-morning on the first day of our fourth week at sea, and the hatch in the aft cabin is pushed wide open, as is the galley port and the cockpit "windscreen". We won't get wet today. The surface of the ocean is ruffled with small polite frills, nothing broken or torn. The boat is sliding across long slow swells, being blown towards the south coast of Antigua by a very light southeasterly. There's nothing rough or confrontational about this breeze. It will rock Alex to sleep in an instant.

Last night we motored for several hours. We haven't done that since our first night out of Lanzarote. But we're on the home straight now, with no worries about fuel. Unless something untoward happens, at this time tomorrow we should have cleared into Antigua mind goes blank. What do we do when we make landfall? We wash the boat, that's what. Sluice off the salt. Gather up the dirty laundry. Let's not go any further. You were thinking Caribbean punch? Or a splash in turquoise water? I am too, and that will come in good time. We look after Enki first, and then ourselves. That's the way it is with boats. They reward you for your devotion, generally.

When the sun reappeared after our week of being smothered by dust, followed by a week of squalls, high wind and rain, it was enough just to sit and soak up its bright warmth. The wind dropped, the sea subsided. We hadn't realised how exhausted we were. For the past three days we've been floating along in this idyll, and now, with the crossing almost over, we are allowing ourselves to think about what comes next. This is where the planning gets a bit fuzzy.

What we HAVE decided is that we are not going up the east coast of the US to have a look at Chesapeake and maybe Maine. This was tempting. Is tempting. But time is short. Or it seems short. Perhaps it won't turn out that way, but you have to make a call. We will turn south from Antigua and continue on in the direction of the Panama Canal. Whether we have the energy to transit the canal and then cross the Pacific this year is something we're not sure about. Since you get to do this only once (or we do - the indefatigable Galactic has just completed its third Pacific crossing) we want to do it in the best possible frame of mind and body.

Back to now. In my last post, I waffled on about not being zen enough to do long ocean passages. Perhaps I was just tired and missing my books. The concentration required to sail in those winds and seas is intense. There were several days when Alex and I stopped talking except to communicate the bare essentials. "Pull it on, " he might say to me, and I'd reply, "Pull what on? I can't see which colour rope you're holding." He'd counter tersely: "Look at the the front of the boat and not behind you." I'd resist the urge to say I can't swivel my body at the waist 180 degrees. You get the drift. Believe it or not, we manage quite well, but it's not just chafed lines you have to worry about on a long passage in a small (well, comparatively) boat. Chafed emotions need attention too. You bind them with silence to keep them from unravelling. It seems to work in the short-term.

When conditions allow, more discursive styles of conversation can resume. And do.

There will be other times at sea when the primary communication mode will be orders given and orders taken (I exaggerate, but not by much). When you take a marriage offshore, you make yourself vulnerable to the most profound, and yet subtle of shifts. You become skipper and crew. It's something to be managed. Something to keep in context. Something to accept as you accept not ever leaving the cockpit at night if you are on watch alone (even to sit on the perfect star-gazing seat on the stern of the boat) and forgoing brewing loose-leafed tea in a tea pot (it always ends in grief - use a teabag). There's lots to look forward to when we fall over the finish line tomorrow. The question is, how soon will it be before we stand up and say, "Let's do that again".

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