Location: Big Waves
I think Seth said it perfectly yesterday. It’s only day 5 of passage, and we are fully back in the rhythm. And it feels great. Though many of our days out here are the same schedule, I’ll try to shed some light on some of the various aspects of passage life that are a little unusual. My day started this morning at 12:00 am, or 0000 in boat terms. Watch team 1 headed up on deck for our three-hour watch with the stars, Vela, and ourselves. We haven’t seen any other vessels since we left. Other signs of life are very scarce out here aside from fleets of flying fish which, unfortunately, for them and us, tend to lose one of their numbers aboard Vela’s deck occasionally (and maybe in a pillowcase…? Not sure what that’s about). So we simply enjoy the company of our little ocean family and our watery home, Vela. As we move farther south, the temperature is decreasing, and the height of the waves is increasing. We’ve been bundling up for night watches, sometimes needing our Foulies even when it is not raining to keep off the ocean spray. The occasional large wave gives Vela’s deck and us an extra saltwater rinses each time. On this particular night, the forward cabins down below were as hot as ever, so we wanted to maintain as much airflow as we could. During one of our hourly boat checks, I decided to leave the hatches open for the sake of my sleeping crewmates. Later that night, I got a bit cold and went down below to retrieve a jacket…you can probably see where this is going… Anyway, I was hunched over going about my business digging out a layer from my floor level cubby when, BLAMMO!!, someone threw a full pitcher of water on my head!! “What the *expletive* was that!?” -me. Actually, I knew exactly what it was despite my question… We had caught a large wave over our bow, which washed over the whole length of Vela’s deck and dumped cold saltwater into our hatch (which I decided to leave open) directly onto the back of my unsuspecting head. At least I had no trouble staying awake for the rest of watch. In that particular moment, I was pretty (apologies, I just cannot resist the pun…) salty (HA!) about being doused with ocean water at 1:30 in the morning. But as the day went on, I really couldn’t help laughing at myself… I’m guessing the ocean was laughing too. And I hope you can all get a kick out of this middle-of-the-night story.
While the rest of the day followed our regular schedule, the growing swells and higher wind speeds added a number of more subtle changes to our lives. One of which is meal time. There may be some stereotypes about sailor’s dinner table manners that I am unaware of, but I would argue they are unwarranted. Picture one of those electric bucking bull rides except replace the bull with a tiny steep staircase/ladder thing that you only have one hand to hold onto while ascending. The other hand is on your precious, precious bowl of cereal and milk with peanut butter, to which you have an irrational appreciation that you never would expect to feel towards a bowl of breakfast cereal (though some of us feel we need a steeper challenge first thing in the morning by occupying our would-be stabilization hand with a hot cup of coffee or tea…arguably even more coveted than the bowl of food…these individuals are left to use their faces, elbows, and shins to stabilize themselves as they carry their liquid gold up the companionway (official boat term, but way more boring)). After ascending the bucking bronco staircase of bruised shins and spilled soul juice (coffee/tea), you poke your head out on deck. Immediately, before you even step off the bucking bronco staircase of yadda yadda yadda, 20+ knots of wind slaps you in the face, plasters your hair over your eyes, and snatches at your precious cereal and milk, attempting to fling them across the deck. You are forced to smash your face into your bowl barely inches away from your corn flakes and shovel them into your mouth with feral speed lest they be scattered all over Vela by the time you find a comfortable spot. In the 26 seconds, it takes you to consume your bowl of several servings of corn flakes, you realize, “wow, I’ve never been this close to a cornflake in my life.” This is where your appreciation for breakfast cereal deepens to a new level. The realization also dawns on you why every single box of cereal that has ever existed says, “Enlarged to show detail” on it. Nobody understands why that needs to be included…but now you do. There really is so much detail in each flake. 😉
The last instance of adversity brought by growing swell and wind to everyday life occurs at the end of the day. After classes, naps, cooking, battling the wind for your food, and cleaning the warzone (only to have it completely decimated by lettuce or crispy onions or whatever else during the following meal), sometimes the only time you can find to use the head (bathroom) happens to coincide with the time that the swells decide to be the largest. I simply can’t tell you how fascinated I was with how stationary the bathrooms were in the Seychelles…they didn’t move at all! Let me give you some background knowledge about the heads…they are located in the bow of the vessel, which means they experience the most motion (other than the forward cabin) on the entire boat caused by crashing into swells. We are sailing upwind and into the waves. All of this culminates into the extremely unique experience of using the bathroom while on passage aboard Vela. I use the word unique intentionally as it’s not all negative like you might expect. First of all, you get to finally, for the first time in your life, apply the skills you learned in 9th grade math class (which I seriously doubted for many years). With stability being a key focus, geometry becomes your best friend as you make as many triangles with your limbs as you can with as many points of contact as humanly possible. Attempting to find the fine balance between complete relaxation and full-body stability all while trying to maintain contact with the toilet seat below you is one of the more mentally and physically challenging experiences I’ve personally had aboard Vela. It really brings your physiological awareness and control to a new level. Here and there, you might experience a slightly larger wave than the others, which, by my guess, emulates the G-force experienced by an air force pilot when they hit mach two or three. These instances can cause slight delays in the process as you might brace for the vessel to crash into the next wave. There are instances when the gravity you experience aids in the process, and you begin to appreciate the motion in a new light. Overall it does provide you with a new experience which you couldn’t have anywhere else in the world. After all, this voyage is all about personal growth and broadening our perspectives.
To everyone who enjoys keeping up with the voyage, I hope this isn’t too much more than you bargained for. We like to keep it real out here on Vela. I hope you’re all well. Until next time.
1st: Henry, Robbie, and Finley
2nd: Sam and Val cleaning the deck
3rd: On the helm