Friday, August 8, 2014

sea and sky

This is my new happy place. Standing, with my right arm wrapped lightly around the mizzen mast, my bare feet planted firmly on the coach roof, toes tenderly hugging the fiberglass. My eyes taking in the expanse of sky and sea all around me. The colors enveloping me. My skin and hair feeling the wind. My muscles feeling the confluence of forward progress and of gentle waves. Smelling the salt water and the slight tinge of diesel exhaust. Listening to the low thrumming of the engine and the swoosh of the water against the sides of the boat. 
Just standing. Just moving.

Here is how it went down: I am retired. Hubby and I just moved from living full-time on our sailboat to a shore-side life in an apartment in an east-coast city. I had the moving blues. Too much stuff to buy. Too little motion in my life. The call came while we were out at having dinner, could he crew on a sailboat from Marathon to Galveston? Unfortunately, no, he just took a job on an IT contract for a big bank. Sitting there at the bar, not entirely thinking this through, I raised my hand. "Tell him I can do it", I said. 

In a split second, I was committed. It was a boat I was familiar with, and a captain I trusted. It felt right. Thus began a most wonderful journey.

Logistics: the boat owner would buy my plane tickets both ways and pay for my food. Could I leave in two days? We had a weather window that looked good for the whole trip. Yep. I started the packing list there at the bar. Shorts and t-shirts, my SPOT device, iPhone and charger, off-shore PFD, flashlight, books to read, and passport. That's pretty much it. 

G, the captain, and I met at the Miami airport, hopped in the rental car and drove down to Marathon where the boat was in a slip at a nice live-aboard marina. We stopped to provision on the way and got all kinds of tasty, easy-to-prepare food. Food is a very important component to a sailboat delivery. If the weather is nasty, you want food that is easy to eat and comforting. Even if the weather is not nasty, you still want that same yummy food. We stocked up on fruit, trail mix, cereal, coffee, more fruit, and various meal-in-a-bag treats (veggie for me, meat for him). There is no calorie-counting while you are out at sea. It's time to indulge and make sure you can function.

We arrived at the boat in the early evening, checked out what we could with the remaining daylight and grabbed a nice meal at a quintessential Florida Keys ocean-front restaurant. Great fish, good beer and a lovely view of the water. We got back to our bunks and crashed.

Early on, we determined that we might not have enough fuel to reach Galveston, so we settled on a termination point of New Orleans. We could get her that far and the owner could find another crew to take her the rest of the way. We set out in a bee line for NoLA. 

Soon enough, the first day, the shoreline of Florida just melted away as we chugged along our way. The gulf was calm, the wind negligible, so the motoring was easy. G put up the mainsail, engaged the auto helm and we relaxed. I am at a total loss to describe the sky and the water surrounding the boat. It is one of the most beautiful offerings of nature. The horizon is out there, shimmering off in the distance, but the space around one is so vast, it's like being able to take in liters and liters of fresh air into one's lungs all at once. 

We stood our watches, we rested, we read, we ate, we told stories. We saw one other sailboat and chatted with them for awhile on the VHF. G put down the mainsail (no wind). We played with dolphins. We went through a little squall. G communed with the engine and watched the fuel gauge. I watched the full moon through the binoculars. G fished and served up the best-tasting mahimahi I've ever had. I stood by the mizzen mast.

Too soon, four and half days and 550 miles had slipped under our keel and Venice LA was in sight. A change of crews and a ride to the airport and it was all over, but my happy place will stay with me always.

the crew of Wild Fire, waving at us.