These past few days, I’ve thought back to what Gisela had told me on the bow sprit a couple weeks ago, as we were swinging up and down, splashed by the waves that mama Cramer sailed through: “this is going to be a 6 weeks amusement park ride.” It has been tremendously amusing in deed, and the past few days have brought much reflection to what it means to live on the sea.
While I was mostly worried and focused on keeping the inside of my stomach… inside, I soon realized that I will find challenge mostly in keeping balance, and overcome dizziness. Yesterday I woke up rolling side to side in my bunk, more than usual, after probably one of the most restful nights so far. As I sit up, I realize how hard we are moving… I can’t reach for my shirt.
It is there, stowed in my bunk like the rest of my stuff, but the rocking motion works against me and my brain has to troubleshoot and adapt the reach of my arm to finally grab it. I take a look at the gimbaled tables, tilting almost to the vertical back and forth. I remember giggling because it’s better than fear or tears.
Carabineers on the Puppy Line
On the other side of the saloon, Tegan has to climb out of her bunk while on my left Orly is projected down onto the ground. We stared each other down, what the freak…, got breakfast and headed to the quarter deck in our foulies. B Watch has the deck for the Morning. On the deck the wind is blowing 30 knots with gusts at 40.
The waves are the biggest I have seen and sometimes taller than the deck of the ship itself. I remember relieving Ella on lookout, and she first glanced at me for a while, livid, as if her body was just demonstrating how rough a night it was. The light had been taken out of her eyes; she just laughed about it and headed back to the helm. Later on, we struck down the Jib and Forestays’l, and hove to under the Mainstays’l. We basically let her drift, our mate explained, since there was no getting anywhere in these conditions.
Rocky also installed Puppy lines, running from the bow to the stern on each side of the ship, on which we had to safely clipped in our harness. I spent the next good part of the watch picking out Sargassum floats out of the sample buckets. A lot of Sargassum floats. Probably too many Sargassum floats. There was not much else to do than waiting for the elements to calm down. The captain was really funny about it though, she came up in the morning and said: “Oh well.. We were expecting a Beaufort 4 and now we’re dealing with Gale”.
The rest of the afternoon I spent mostly inside. And while in the heads I had my Eureka! Living in this boat is sort of living in a dimension where the rule of gravity is changed and shifts unpredictably. The décor remains unchanged, but the water from the tab comes at an angle, the tables at which you eat are swinging back and forth, but the water in your glass remains leveled, doors open and close at their own will. Bit magical, bit freaky, sometimes gives me the headache.
Today, I did not participate in the watch rotation, but I was assigned to another duty: Assistant Steward. I got to sleep in through Dawn Watch and woke up at 0530 to help the chef prepare some delicious chocolate chip scones, bacon and orange slices for folks. Working in the Galley in these conditions takes a toll on the physical but also mental health. The galley becomes an arena and any object a potential flying weapon. Dishes, pans, vegetables, knife just fly out of the counter if your eyes aren’t sharp and your hand quick to cease them.
The floor is in constant motion but my ankles soon got the hang of it and bended in awkward angles, sometimes standing on m tippy toes or rolling on my heels as if I was chopping onions of steep slope. For morning snacks, we made a cheese platter with apples and peanut butter. A little bit before lunch, I heard a big bang. Felt it too. Was just a wave crashing onto to the deck, soaking Bird and Jeff who were deploying the Neuston Net. It also meant the equivalent of buckets of water poured into the Galley hatch. Deckhands seem to quickly understand what had happened but for a short while, I thought the ship had ran into something, laid on its side and water started filling in from the hatch.
I was remembering the abandon ship drills we had just practiced Friday, grabbed my shoes and was ready to run to the emergency raft. After cleaning up with some help, we cheffed up lunch: an Orzo risotto with a salad. For the 4pm snack, we opted for some smoothies and pears (because these ought to be gone soon… ooh squishy pears). I wanted to make a cake, but Will reminded me that with the sea state, the batter would spill out of the mold in the oven...not ideal. Finally tonight, we made a lentils curry with some brown rice. It was great to spend more time in the Galley and got me to have a boost in appreciation for Will who is in there every day, no matter the weather to provide us with the best meals. Kuddos!
Wind and waves have calmed down a bit tonight, and we are sailing again. We gave up on the Silver Bank and are now headed to the lee of Turks and Caicos to find calm and resume scientific deployment. The dishes are still singing a bit in the cupboard and every so often we hit a big wave that will slam the pots in the galley. It’s good to see people getting busy again and I can’t wait for what tomorrow will bring.
PS: Today was also my grandma’s birthday! Tanti auguri Lulu! I hope all is well for you and Alain. Baci au reste de la famille. Sweet dreams and tender love to my snugglebug! Precious cargo is still standing.xx
-- Antoine Croquelois, B Watch & College of the Atlantic