May 01, 2011
Quick…grab a settee cushion and throw it in the narrow hallway between the two front cabins…erghh waves of nausea rise as Spice rolls 25 degrees from side to side in steep Caribbean sea…cushion makes it to the floor without me breaking anything…success!…throw sheets on top…watch as their ends dip into the food scraps bucket at the end of the hallway where fresh egg shells have just been tossed…eww…too tired to care…lie down and realize the cushion’s too short to stretch out on and too narrow to curl up on…chuck cushion aside and curl up in the dining area trying to get a precious three hours sleep before my watch…trying not to think there’s at least six more endless days of this to come…have to admit I’m having one of my “what on earth possesses a person to go to sea?” moments.
We’re on Day One of our approximated 6-day sail to Panama from Sint Maarten. The wind is off the quarter meaning it’s pushing the boat along from behind…fast sailing…we’re moving along at around 8-9 knots…11 knots as we surf down waves…wind speeds gusting to 25 knots…choppy seas around 2.5 metres…nice sailing apart from the motion! During the day Jade and I sit outside and try to adjust to the constant rolling of the boat…reading makes us sick…we talk and laugh about recent experiences and home. I sing every song I can think of all the way down to old playschool songs (‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’ anyone?) trying to take my mind of the seasickness…desperate measures needed…Dad rolls his eyes…we recite poetry but every second line’s forgotten words are filled with “blah blah blah”…scrap that idea! We see plenty of tiny silver flying fish as they bolt away from the boat’s shadow…probably thinking Spice is a giant fish, and keep a lookout for dolphins and whales. Seabirds fly low here and there but there’s no other sign of life…a plane, maybe a Coast Guard, flies down for a closer look…then circles off into the distance.
As the days pass we get into a 3-hour on and off night watch routine. It seems excessive as we’ve seen no other boats in days but has to be done. I get used to living off crackers, stale bread and pretzel sticks. Jade and I take watches together…there’s something beautiful in the power of the wind and relentless waves…the way the stern of the boat endlessly rises to meet the bubbly crest of each dark wave…and the stars bright and abundant between patches of smoky black cloud. The surroundings somehow add meaning and depth to the music I listen to through headphones at night. Occasionally we hit a squall…we can pick them up on our radar…actually they look more menacing on the radar screen than their reality…still the wind picks up and cold rain pelts down…on the bright side the boat speeds up and adds excitement to the night! Our front cabins are now unusable due to the rough sea…it’s too easy to get thrown out of bed. At first cooking’s a bit crazy…if a hot meal results, it’s a proud achievement! Our gimbaled stove is a lifesaver, it’s mounted on an axis and swings flat no matter how violently the boat falls. Food manages to stay in the pots while things placed on the bare kitchen bench threaten to fly across the cabin. Before we set sail everything needs to be anchored down…I learnt my lesson when I found my hairbrush fallen into the toilet the other day…it now bobs up and down in a bucket of Dettol.
I’m regretting my decision not to get my wisdom tooth extracted before I left for this trip. It’s decided to infect itself at the most optimum of times…hundreds of miles from dentist or doctor. I think it’s the reason for a sudden aversion to sugary foods…it’s difficult to eat properly…getting it extracted on one of the islands will be interesting!
Day Four at sea and we’re detouring 170 miles (~a day sail) to Aruba, a Caribbean island north of Venezuela and Colombia, approximately halfway to Panama. We need to fix the wind-vane (it’s attempting to peel itself of its mount next to the transom step) and sort out my tooth before it abscesses. Dad and Jade spend the better part of last night’s watches constantly checking the wind-vane’s attempted progression to freedom…meanwhile I lie on the cockpit cushion in wet weather gear feeling drowsy and toothachey. Jade self-sacrificially did our watch herself…thanks big sis! As much as I love good sailing, I can’t wait for a good wash and terra firma :)
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