We have been at sea for 7 full days. We are 800 NM from San Diego, but if you straighten out our crooked path, it seems like we have traveled twice that much. We have been blessed with plenty of wind. We have been fully reefed since we left San Diego, and we have adjusted our coarse away from the rhumb line to keep the boat upright.
In this full week we had only one afternoon that was sunny and dry enough to open the windows and hang things up to dry them out. Sleep comes during few-hour intervals between shifts, but it is fractured by sudden lurches and loud crashes from the seas. The whole time there is a terrible racket of wind howling, water rushing, ship creaking, sails snapping, the ship’s inclinometer swinging wildly, and 10,000 things shifting in the cabinets. It is impossible to stand or sit normally without holding on, and I now have bruises atop the bruises from leaning or falling uncomfortably. All aspects of life are difficult.
On top of the physical discomfort is the underlying fear that we both suffer but dare not talk about. It’s pitch dark out, blowing spray off the tops of waves that we would be too big to surf, and together we are completely alone from the world. What if this?, or that?, … Daily life offers no preparations or lessons for dealing with such emotions.
But I have to say that I feel like I’m in my element here. It is hard to get the rewarding feeling generated by working together to overcome adversity. We are mastering the control of this ship in conditions that most sailors try to avoid. As problems with gear failure or changing conditions have occurred, we have responded with quick, safe, and effective action. Today we needed to gibe the boat in 25 knots of wind and large seas, which means that we turn the boat and move the sails from one side to the other. The textbook teaches us to simply pull in the sheets (the ropes that control the sails), turn the boat and let the sheets out on the other side. But this doesn’t take into account the fact that the boat becomes unstable during this maneuver and wants to turn broadside to the waves, which would soak us. Nor does it address the fact that we carry drums of diesel fuel strapped on deck that must be moved to keep the boat balanced. Max and I formulated a plan and we talked though the sequence and possibilities. Twenty minutes later, we were making 6 knots on the new heading and starting breakfast.
We cook our meals using the most stable platform on the boat — the gimballed stove. We have a 3-burner propane stove that swings from a pivot so it stays upright (to gravity) even while the boat may be tilted over 20 degrees! There are two places on the boat where we can set down a bowl of food: on the stove where can’t tip over and in the sink where it doesn’t make a mess if it tips over. Otherwise, we eat all our meals from a bowl that we’re holding with one hand an stabbing or scooping food from it with a fork or spoon using the other hand. This leaves only our elbows to try to hang on as the boat pitches and rolls. We have gotten good at both wedging ourselves in for meals and eating quickly. We drink water from bottles before and after the meal once the bowl is safely back into the sink.