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Topsy-Turvy “Bus Chase” at Sea

Liz Finds Highs and Lows of the Sailor’s Life


Monday, July 9, 2007

Hello again…

Liz and Mom from almost a third of the way across. Our current position is South 5 degrees, 29 minutes and West 104 degrees, 51 minutes.

We are currently halfway through Day 8 and “back in the bus.” There’s 2,100 miles to go and we’re doing 6-8 knots wing and wing under an almost full headsail, double-reefed main and a stabilizer jib. Sorry to the non-sailors for throwing around the terminology, but in honor of your inquiries, I will explain what the consequences might have been had I lost that sail on Day 5. Think of it as getting 20 miles into a 500-mile drive across a barren desert and somehow losing all the fuel in your tank. That sail is the workhorse of this mission…

Okay, here goes Day 6 and 7.

Day 6: Mom and I started the day with beaming enthusiasm. I’d gotten more sleep than any prior night so I attacked the morning with optimism and served up my egg sandwich specialty as we listened to Lesson 1 of “Learn French on CD.” I’m not sure whether the man’s nasal and exaggerated French rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’s were truly as bad as they seemed or if the deteriorating weather conditions decreased our tolerance for him. Needless to say, we did not make it through Lesson 1.

The wind had switched to more from the south and came up steadily. Soon the swells were capping, breaking, and slamming into poor well’s port side. Mother dearest howled when a big one splashed over the side and into the cockpit. By dusk I had tried anything and everything to make Swell take the seas more comfortably. I had reefed down to nothing but a storm jib, altered our course to the north, and we were still careening down the water ramps at 7-8 knots. On one hand, we were making miles (not exactly in the desired direction), but on the other we were hideously uncomfortable and relegated to lying prone or wedging ourselves in a corner.

We both turned to dark sarcasm to relieve the otherwise irritating discomfort. The conditions quickly eliminated any extraneous dinner plans and we eventually sat staring at each other trying to contain our laughter while moving our grip between the plates of canned yams with cheese sandwiches, the forks, cups, and anything else sliding back and forth and sideways in the sharp, violent heaves. In the event that we needed something out of direct reach, Mom had to try to hold everything at once while I traversed the three difficult feet for a napkin, the hot sauce, or whatever else was missing.

The mother-daughter role reversal has been a running joke since we left, as I have been quick to do everything for her when it’s rough. (I can’t stand the sight of her struggling in the awkward movement.) We both nearly fell out of our seats when I looked at her half-full dinner plate when she’d stopped eating and said seriously, “Now, you can do better than that.”

As the wind subsided in the darkness, it left us with the sloppy leftovers from the day and we stayed in the forward cabin, reading all the entertaining emails people had sent. Keeping with the night’s sarcastic theme, we chuckled through all the emails that touched on a seafarer’s glorious moments as we couldn’t help but to contrast them with those of our current state, which I might compare to trying to function inside a hijacked school bus on a getaway chase down a curvy mountain road. We laughed until we were sick at my own image of what I’d envision the crossing might be like, plus a few exaggerations just to add to heighten the hilarity-me sitting peacefully in the cockpit under the stars in a little sailor cap, sipping hot tea and strumming my guitar while softly humming “Kumbaya,” a copy of Moby Dick by my side and a freshly baked apple pie cooling on the galley stove.

Then just before we both made an attempt at body-bracing slumber, Mom tried to take back her motherly role. I had to go up on deck, check the course, and do some sail adjusting and she looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “You are NOT going out there!”

Day 7: The seas had smoothed a bit by dawn and we were granted some reprieve from the “bus chase.” We both took advantage of the break in body-bracing to bathe, make a decent meal, and generally enjoy ourselves. The sun came out and one of those moments of glory we had scoffed the night before was upon us. Absolutely perfect wind filled the sails and with less tail-sliding due to the decrease in swell, the ocean looked magnificent. Blue so intensely brilliant that it appeared fake sparkled and tossed around us. I made it through a modified version of Heather’s custom Boat Yoga routine and to truly eat my words from Day 6, I pulled out the guitar, opened the books my brother had sent to help me learn, and strummed away. I avoided eye contact with the wind vane all day and instead, set a stabilizing jib on the inner forestay to qualify for some form of boat work. Mom is getting more accustomed to “living in a washing machine” by the day. In spite of a few comments about her fantasies of being “airlifted out,” we are both very happy and thankful to be together.

Regina Carter

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