Sometimes we would sail in one direction and then have to change course due to the wind. Sometimes just the smell of the salty ocean breeze and wind in my hair would bring that fantastic excitement I felt as a child on a roller coaster ride, and sometimes it would do the opposite and deposit a ton of lead filled with fear in the bottom of my belly. Sometimes the sounds of the creaking hull, the slap of the water and the thud of the rough landing would shutter the entire boat, the sails would dip into the water on the starboard side and I was sure we would pitch pole, or worse, just snap in half.
Sometimes when all would be calm and we’d have to motor along the glassy sea, the ocean smells would mix with the exhaust from the engine and the evening’s dinner, and we would all pick wearily at our plates unsure if what was before us and in our mouths would stay. Sometimes on those days of rolling gentle seas I would ponder the meaning of life, the vastness of the ocean world around me with no land in sight, and contemplate on getting lost in this life at sea. And sometimes when the seas would punish us for what, we didn’t know, I would ponder the meaning of death and its impending arrival. Sometimes I would grasp the helm, I would grasp my harness and I would grasp at my mouth at the sight of the wave approaching. Sometimes I would taste the wave in my mouth, the darkness of the night sky, the anger of the tempest surrounding us. Sometimes in the midst of all this wetness my mouth would go dry and my hands would lock on to the nearest nonmoving object, fearing the wrong move would send me overboard.
Sometimes we caught fish, fresh tuna, half eaten by a shark as it was reeled onto the deck of the boat. Sometimes even though the fish was dead, it’s muscle still twitched as we scaled and skinned our dinner, we would be too eager to wait for the resolve of death, and we would snatch the cubed pieces of fleshy meat and pop them into our mouths only to find that it was still firm – still fighting for life even from death. Sometimes we were so eager to have a meal that wasn’t potatoes or noodles that we didn’t care that the fish wasn’t the perfect tender sushi meal we’d ever had. Sometimes that contrast of processed foods to the freshest morsel of meat trumped the need to wait.
Sometimes the fish caught us. Sometime flying fish would smack us upside the head when we were least expecting it – those that were lucky would bounce off of us and land back in the ocean, others weren’t as lucky. Sometimes we would see gigantic island sized turtles, they must have seen over a hundred years of ocean life; they would turn their gaze for a moment, acknowledge our presence and dive back under the deep blue sea. Sometimes the dolphins would come out to play in our wake, sometimes they would flip and splash and stay with us for awhile and other times they would just pop by to say hi and carry on their way in search of something or someone more entertaining. Sometimes we would see hammerhead shark or the fin of a larger more ominous shark. And sometimes we saw whale. Sometimes our breath would catch in our throats, and we would swallow down the feeling of awe at the site of such a graceful beast so close.
Sometimes we saw land, but rarely, in the 15 days at sea. Sometimes we didn’t even see each other for a day or two aboard our 62-foot catamaran. Sometimes we all got a long, enjoyed each other’s company, but that was mainly in the first few gentle days at sea. Sometimes we would eat dinner together, bake and not eat a birthday cake made for Frances because we measured the ingredients incorrectly. Sometimes who ever was in charge of the meal would fail miserably, and we would all suffer the smells and hungry tummies on a wasted ration.
Sometimes we had to go black, because sometimes pirates roamed this part of the ocean. Sometimes I would be alone on deck during my shift and I would see a dim light on the horizon as we bobbed up on a wave and then it would disappear. Sometimes I would see a blip on the radar and wonder if it were a pirates boat approaching. Sometimes I wondered what the point of going dark was: requiring all lights to be off after dark, barely any use of flashlights, and going completely off radar was pointless if you asked me since we were a giant moving target for all the world to see. That week the moon was full and bright in the sky, the seas were glassy, and our boat was an oversized bright white albatross sailing through the dark watery world. Sometimes we would have discussions about what to do if pirates boarded – the ladies (there were two of us) would hide under the control panel, the guys would not fight, they would set off the EPIRB alerting authorities, and we would comply with the pirates. Sometimes we set out rope and lines behind the boat to deter an unwelcome visit by becoming enwrapped in their motor.
Sometimes I would forget what clean smelled like. Sometimes we would jump in to the ocean and our version of clean would be salty skin mixed with sunscreen and a freshly laundered t-shirt air dried in the ocean breeze.
Sometimes we’d smoke cigarettes – because there was nothing else to do. The tobacco texture lining our mouths and then chased away by a chocolaty South African Pinotage.
Sometimes late at night, when the winds inevitably picked up I would try to sleep to the sound of the beat of the waves on the hull. And sometimes I would hear yelling above, the rush of feet, another yell, and the sound of our boat leaving the earth to fly in the sky above the waves, too fast, way too fast, and we’d come crashing down upon another wave. Sometimes I could no longer hear anything but my heart. Sometimes I think my penitent audible conversations with the god I no longer believed in were actually heard in the ethers, because we would survive yet another excruciatingly treacherous night.
Sometimes, when Jesse would come down from his shift, I would jump out of my bed, smack my head on the low ceiling, and while wincing demand to know if he was ok? What happened? And are we going to die? And sometimes (actually every time), he would smile with the loudest grin and say “THAT-WAS-AMAZING!!!!” Sometimes I would shake my head and be thankful that one of us was finding this so incredible since the other was scared she’d never see tomorrow.
Sometimes, when I had to take the 4am shift I wouldn’t know where the night sky ended and the ocean began – the stars would dance around me in every direction. Sometimes I would remind myself that to feel this alone was a gift. Sometimes, the stars would begin to fade and the eastern horizon that we were pointed in would begin to replace the stars and the blackness of their backdrop with a deep blue, and then slowly with subtle shades of pastel peach, into a brighter iridescent pink, and transform lines and shades of undiscovered colors into a fiery oily rainbow of oranges – the world would become an oversized canvas painted with the most magnificent shades of morning I had ever encountered. Sometimes it was all I could do to not cry out, shed tears, and laugh at the beauty. Sometimes those moments seeped into my mouth tasting of salty water on the brim of a hot coffee mug. Sometimes the ocean would lovingly apologize for the night before, reaching out and tickling my feet as they hung just above her oil painted body.
And sometimes I would make it to land with both the satisfaction of survival and the sadness of what was being left behind. Sometimes, as a mother living in suburbia, where my biggest adventure at times can be taking my toddler to the grocery store, I find myself fantasizing of those days – and quickly avert my gaze from looking too closely at the fierceness in my soul that longs to make a life out of that experience. And sometimes I gently remind myself, that my ship hasn’t sailed completely away – I will taste the saltiness of adventure soon enough.