It’s a funny thing sailing our home across the Pacific Ocean. Inside the boat everything looks and feels more or less the same: meals get cooked, dishes get washed, laundry is cleaned and then dirtied and cleaned again. But outside, when we gaze at the horizon, rather than coastal towns, calm anchorages, or busy marinas, we see nothing but the vast blue ocean for miles and miles and miles. And we never stop moving. We’ve been sailing nonstop for more than 800 miles since we left San Benedicto Island. And we have 1750 miles to go.
But it’s not as if we’re working very hard. We’ve become quite indolent, really. The autopilot has been doing most of the work. And the boat glides through the water with ease, making for a comfortable ride. We’ve been eating well, sleeping soundly, and reading profusely since we left Mexico. We’ve even watched a few movies and have almost finished season five of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Well, I have to be honest: Brian and Brady have been sleeping soundly. I sleep in fits. When you’re out here in the middle of the ocean, you’re pretty much guaranteed to learn something about yourself. I’ve learned that I tend to fixate on things. I routinely ask myself:
a) If we’re sailing as efficiently as we could be. When you have 2780 miles to go, every knot counts. I watch our course and boat speed regularly and think about ways to improve both.
b) If the weather forecasts are telling the whole story. I download three different forecasts and pore over them every morning-and I still wonder if we’re going to sail right into a storm.
c) If the sounds that the boat makes are normal, crossing-an-ocean creaks and grunts, or if they’re something we need to look into. I open cabinets, stick my ear to the floor, and lay awake at night listening.
But even though I worry about all of these things, there really isn’t anything to worry about. We’re making quick progress toward Hiva Oa, the weather has been benign, and the boat is holding together just fine. The biggest problem of the trip has been the fishing, or lack thereof. Just a few minutes ago we lost our sixth lure to a big fish that we couldn’t pull onto the boat. And yet, I know that Brian and Brady don’t keep themselves awake at night thinking about fish.
Sailing a boat across an ocean isn’t for everyone. We made a lot of friends in Mexico who have been happily sailing along those shores for years, and who have no desire to sail to the South Pacific. Often it’s both husband and wife who don’t want to sail beyond the Mexican coastline, but just as often it’s the wife who puts her foot down. It was easy to tell who was who. Immediately after we’d mention our plan to sail to the South Pacific, the wife would lean toward me and ask, “How are you going to handle not seeing land for all of that time?”
But it was never being out of sight of land that concerned me. I’m enjoying being a thousand miles from anywhere. It’s as if the sun rises and sets just for us, and the stars shine down on us alone. We lose track of time and days, consume only the food and materials we brought with us, and have just one goal: Hiva Oa. We don’t want for anything more than what we have. For me, being out here is quite liberating.
What concerned me more were the things that I do have control over, but that I worried I wouldn’t be any good at: steering an efficient course, avoiding storms (although, I realize this isn’t something you can always control), and keeping the boat running smoothly.
A friend of ours, Kevin, calls time at sea “Seahabilitation.” It truly is. A few days ago I noticed that every time the boat would move with a wave, I would counteract the movement by leaning in the opposite direction. As a result, my back was killing me and I couldn’t figure out why. One night I was watching our cat, Mishka, eat her dinner. When the boat would move, she moved in the same direction. If the boat rolled to the left, her body moved to the left. If it rolled to the right, she leaned right along with it. It suddenly stuck me that there’s no use in fighting against what’s happening outside. Rather, I should give in to the motion of the ocean. My back hasn’t hurt since.
We’re seven days into a 20+ day journey. Who knows what “Seahab” has in store for me over the next two thirds of the trip? With any luck, I’ll soon stop second guessing myself and simply be able fall asleep to the quiet hiss of salt water moving past the boat, or just follow a daydream where it feels like taking me.