A New Low

We have just arrived in Puerto Rico from George Town after a seven-day passage. It was our longest uninterrupted stretch at sea. We supposedly had excellent weather conditions for a passage east and south, conditions that would not be repeated all season, so we decided to skip the out-islands of the southern Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, and the Dominican Republic and go straight to Puerto Rico. We also skipped the Mona Passage, the Thorny Path, and days of bashing east into trade winds—the only reason we could do this is because a big ole’ cold front cleared out the trade winds for a couple of days. We left George Town on Thursday afternoon, fervently hoping for a calm, uneventful passage.

It turns out that it wasn’t just a quick sail over flat water. The “light and variable breeze” created confused waves three-to-six feet high, and about six seconds apart. Every time a wave hit the bottom of the bridge-deck, the floor of the main cabin between the hulls, water would be forced volcanically up the scuppers in the cockpit, splashing whoever happened to be standing near them. The entire crew, including me, felt a little queasy. Even mom, who holds the second-least-seasick title, could barely fix up Ramen Noodles and Thrive instant meals. Rachel stubbornly refuses to take seasickness medication, on the grounds that it tastes bad, and makes her barf. Hence, she is often seasick for the first few days of a passage.

For most of our grand voyage, the cabin looked like the interior of an opium den, with kids lying on piles of cushions and blankets like giant lethargic slugs, moaning piteously, and moving only to imbibe water and to obey the call of nature. After the first day, I got over whatever queasiness I had, and made the most of what was sure to be a long and tedious journey. That meant that I played video games. Lots and lots of video games. When I wasn’t crashing sophisticated aircraft, I spent my time reading, composing this blog post, and fetching stuff from down-stairs and helping mom with chores. That’s the only down side of not getting seasick: you get to be the gopher. I can’t really complain. Most people don’t require much on a long trip—they get pillows, blankets, and books, crash on the couch, and sleep on-and-off all day.

Mom and Dad took turns taking night watches, and slept as much as they could during the day. On most nights, I would let Mom take a nap while I took the first two hours of the night watch, from eight to ten. If it was calm, we would watch a movie together before I went to bed. If not, then I would head to bed in my cabin, where I would be tossed around like a salad. Sleeping in heavy seas is somewhat difficult; it feels like somebody is messing with the gravity controls.

One night, after Mom and I finished watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we decided to go out on deck at midnight to have a look around. The seas had finally calmed down, and the wind had all but disappeared. The moon had just set, and, except for the occasional swell, the sea was flat calm. We looked down into the water. There, clearly visible to a depth of twenty feet, were thousands and thousands of bio-luminescent creatures. The depths were alive with glowing, flashing, blue-green stars. Our wake looked like the credits of Star Trek.

Looking up, we saw the Southern Cross, a constellation made up of four stars that are not observable from higher latitudes. Also visible in the northern sky was the Big and Little Dipper, and the North Star. We stood and stared, acutely conscious that with each passing moment, our trusty vessel carried us further south than we had ever been. We had literally reached a new low.