“I have 3 things I want to accomplish before the sun goes down,” I tell Mike as I drop the mooring in Provincetown Harbor, just heading out for a 20-hour sail up to Maine.
“What’s that?” he asks, but he cuts me off by pointing a finger to starboard. “Look – there’s a whale!” I get a mediocre picture, follow the whale for awhile, and then stare at the horizon to make sure he won’t make another appearance.
I continue the conversation I started before we got “whale distracted.” I tell Mike my incredibly lofty goals for the day: “I want to do an inch on my knitting. I want to get a good start on my new book. And I want to do the seven-minute scientific workout, twice.”
“I would imagine that’s all doable,” Mike said. “You do have the next 20 hours.”
“19 and a half,” I corrected him, “the whale took up a good half hour.”
But in reality, even with 19 and a half hours, getting anything done on the boat other than eating, drinking, peeing, sleeping, is not easy. Maybe it’s the rocking. Maybe it’s the birds, the clouds, the soft crests of the sea. Maybe because it is so very easy to sit and look out at the ocean and completely space out.
The winds are behind us, from the South, they are strong, pushing us along at 7 knots, and the seas are “rolling”. There is a constant rock, back and forth, back and forth, the kind that makes most of my friends nauseas. Forget the exercise, the reading, the knitting. Instead, I look out at the sea, hands under my chin. I let my mind wander, because that is what I really need to do.
We eat dinner in silence, listening to the wind, the waves, the flapping of the jib, marveling at the magnificent sunset when there is no land that can be seen in any direction.
I brace for my shift, alone on the deck of the boat, three hours- 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
“Are you OK?” Mike asks. He knows this is hard for me despite the fact that this is my third year at it, but he needs to sleep.
“I’m fine.” I tell him stoically. “See you in three hours. I’ll wake you up if I need you.”
I take my seat, in the corner near the companionway (easy to yell, “Mike get the hell up here!”,) sheltered from the wind. Though it is a beautiful August evening, I’m wearing a sports bra, a long sleeve jersey, Down vest, windbreaker and a sweatshirt. And my legs are still cold. I wrap a soft, warm blanket around my waist and it falls to my ankles. I am “watch” ready.
This year, it is breathtakingly clear- the stars and the milky way light up a magnificent night sky. There are falling stars in every direction, and one blazes down so near I fear it will hit the boat. I am riding the florescent crests of the waves. It is stunningly beautiful. I love being alone, in the middle of the night, at sea.
And sometime in the middle of this voyage, the magic happens. We leave one world–one filled with energy, tension, and in my case a deep sadness for all I was leaving behind- and we enter a new one.
And this new world is magnificent. It is simple, it is easy. It is one where we are ensconced in the beauty and healing power of nature, 24/7. And nature heals; it just does.
This is a world where lobstermen rule and their traps dot every square inch (at least it seems so) of wherever you might be headed. It’s a world where dolphins accompany you but elude your attempts to get them on camera.
It’s a world of stunning sunsets, seals that bathe in the sunshine, fog that rolls in from nowhere blanketing out, well, everything.
It’s a world where evergreen trees sprout up from tide-stained stones on a rocky shore line.
A world of seaweed curtains, where the absolute stillness of the ocean is sometimes so palpable you can hear seals barking miles away.
A world where cell phone service and internet are completely unreliable. A world of endless cocktail hours and laughter. A world where you find a sign in the public bathroom that says, “Please No Dogs in the Shower.”
A world of seagulls, and boat motors, and the tide washing up the shore, and the smells of low tide, lemons (for the vodka) and sweet flowers on tiny, unnamed islands.
A world that is calm and quiet, forgiving, happy. And to be lucky enough to spend time here, on a sailboat, in Maine, ensconced in nature, is a real privilege. I am glad I didn’t give it up, not for anything.
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