▪ ▪ ▪ I am inclined to step out of my narrator's boots, likely to the chagrin of my Captain. I feel as though my range of emotions over the past couple days have been rather different than my shipmates', so I will refrain, for the moment, from labeling them as ours. They are mine.
We left Isla Mujeres yesterday morning with topped-off fuel tanks and high hopes. We expected a norther' to blow through at any moment and looked forward to sailing downwind for a change. The storm came through a little sooner than forecast -- about 03:30 PM -- and we found ourselves ahead of some 25-30 kts wind.
I should say first we have already dealt with some pretty rough weather on this trip. Barreling into waves built up by 25 kts gusts has tended to put me in a panic of the sort the Captain sentences me below decks for. Listening to a wall of water more powerful than any amount of reading could have prepared me for slam into the side of the boat has set my heart racing, my mind reeling, and my knuckles white as my hands clench around whatever they can get a hold of.
Watching a wall of water some 20 ft high roll behind and then under the boat was -- is -- quite a different experience. I know for certain the Captain spent the better part of last night weathering the storm in a state of severe worry. Neither he nor this boat have been tested in such weather, and I understand the anxiety caused by resting your life in the stability of a 30-year-old vessel. A vessel that has so far seen her fair share of problems over the past ten days.
Still, nestled in my foul weather gear under the dodger, I had every confidence in our old girl. The autopilot performed beautifully despite the constant rocking motion brought on by the waves rolling under us, and while I can't claim I wasn't a little nervous -- there is something about 20 ft of surging water that sets one's nerves on edge -- I was also a little excited.
The spectacle was all the more fantastic during the day. Each time the wind seemed to die down just enough our ride would be that much smoother, the boat went skidding across the top of a wave ... think extreme surfing. Foam surging up around the port side corner of the stern shifted from the cobalt of deep blue water to a brilliant turquoise ... waves breaking over themselves glinted a glassy green in the day's summeresque sunlight. The sea is terrifying -- as the Captain says, humbling -- but it is also so, so beautiful.
That is really what I want to convey here. A little over a year ago I stood impatiently on Sol Searcher's bow, clutching the forestay and gazing over Aransas Bay, attempting to understand how sailing could be anything but boring. Over the course of the year I have grown steadily more excited about this "adventure" across the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing prepared me for what I've experienced. I have been scared, I have been thrown around by rough seas and taken on my fair share of bruises, I have cursed up a storm preparing coffee in the mornings, I have grudgingly tried to prevent the catbox from getting out of hand ... I have been blown away by the sheer vastness of the ocean, and I cannot get over how clear, how blue, how beautiful it is.
Not that I wouldn't mind a hot shower, a double tall hazelnut mocha, some chocolate chip cookies and maybe even a little satellite television. But neither do I mind the salt in my hair, the perpetual smell of men who need a bath (don't we all, though), the involuntary rolling about in my bunk when I drift to sleep, or the chill I endure when sprayed by a rogue wave in the cockpit. I am still set very near panic when the headsail sheet sproings tight with an angry gust of wind ... I am so tense my neck and shoulders hurt ... but I think, folks, I might also be falling in love.