Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Animal State; or, Have We Reached Transcendence Yet?

Four icebergs this morning, but the water temperature has screamed up to 10° this afternoon. Alisa and I both appeared in the cockpit in bare feet, and the freezer suits, those full body insulated floatation suits that we have been wearing on watch, haven't been brought out for a couple days now. We are hopeful that we may soon leave the bergs behind.

We find ourselves close - less than 700 miles! - to Tristan da Cunha, the most isolated inhabited island on all the terraqueous globe. We've had lots of northerly winds since leaving South Georgia, and so are still far south of Tristan, and assumed we would pass it by rather than fight to make the northing to get there.

But, deus ex machina, the forecast this afternoon is completely different from the forecast we got this morning, and shows lots of southerly wind over the coming days. If this new forecast sticks, it just might be possible to reach Tristan. The anchorage doesn't look very inspiring, but hey, how often do you find yourself sailing by the most isolated inhabited island in the world? We'll see what happens.

We're now a week into the passage, and as settled into life at sea as we are going to get.

Early on in a passage, when all of us except Elias are fighting seasickness to some extent, it feels like we're being forced to take on a new mode of living, that we have to become slightly different beasts from our shore side selves. Which I guess is literally true.

Alisa refers to it as "the animal state". When things are rough, especially early on in a passage, many of the niceties go by the wayside. Meals become rude and crude affairs, put together by a heroic cook who loses her ability to partake through the act of creating.

Or meals are abandoned completely and replaced by occasional repasts of saltine crackers washed down with juice. Our cabin in the back of the boat becomes the gear locker, strewn with everyone's manky raingear and boots and freezer suits. A slick of salt residue makes surfaces in the boat sticky. Our pillows become forever slightly damp, and anyone not actively engaged in some job critical to boat or crew is racked out in their bunk. (Except for Elias, who is always glad for the chance to be up and about.)

But then you get past that stage. The sea goes from being a wild three-dimensional landscape, with Galactic forever taking the elevator ride between crests and troughs, to a reasonably two-dimensional place that we are placidly sailing across. The sun comes out, and the crew recover themselves enough to gather in the cockpit and take note of the world around us.

Having two cooped-up kids on board keeps us from too much navel-gazing about transcendence and the ineffable peace of the sea. But it is there - that thing that made Joseph Conrad talk about true peace beginning at any spot a thousand miles from land. I glimpse it especially in the mornings, when I am alone at sunrise, listening to the endless splashing of our bow wave and contemplating the world from the decks of our little ship.

And then Elias comes up in his harness and rain gear and goes up to the bow to help me watch for ice, and that particular feeling of peace does not at all go away for the fact that I am now sharing it with him.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

1 comment:

  1. We know exactly what you mean about that 'animal state' with life stripped to its most basic essentials. Glad to hear that you are now so well into the voyage. Good luck for the chance to make Tristan. Cheers - Jon & Barb