PART III. THE MIDDLE
ATLANTIC // PART III
JULY 4 // DAY 9
I strip down naked and put on my favorite outfit.
An American flag onesie that I bought in Charleston SC four years ago. I remember walking out of the store into a swamp of humidity, wondering with every step WTF I just spent $58 on. A tiny piece of material that awkwardly fit my body.
It’s a high-waist cut, making my already short torso appear shorter. It wedges up you-know-what in both the front and the back. It smashes my already small tits smaller. For some reason I have an insistent desire to wear it every 4th of July. And so I have. Today is year 4. Despite its’ offensive fit, I’m beginning to think that it was indeed, a wise purchase.
Today marks our half way point across the ocean. Dead center between departure and destination.
It also happens to be my favorite holiday. Fourth of July. I have no good reason for why this is my favorite holiday aside from it is a zero-pressure holiday. Boats. Beers. Friends. The outcome is typically fantastic. Today is bringing home the win.
I am celebrating my favorite day of the year, in my favorite outfit, in a gale, in the rain, alone. I’ve set up my self-timer to document this historic moment. The camera hangs from a sail tie in the companionway and oscillates with the swells. I take at least 37 self- timed photos before I get one with all body parts appropriately placed either inside my leotard or outside of the photograph. I smile big. It’s genuine. I am having a blast.
I prance around on deck to reef the main. Straps fall down my shoulders. Wedgie in full effect. It’s raining. The waves are… sizable. The wind is building and I don’t tether in because I am invincible in my American Flag suit. It howls 38 knots. We surf down swells at 11.3 knots. Four hours pass and this could be the first watch that I am not ready for to be over. Although I can’t wait to wake Luke up. I’m ready to party.
He is sleep talking again and I give him extra minutes because this is entertaining. He does this bizarre thing where he sleeps with his eyes moderately cracked open, it really freaks me out. He garbles in his stupor asking me, or whoever he is talking to in his dream, where he put his phone. I would tell him that he shut it off last week and put it in the silverware drawer but I’d rather watch him try and find it in his sleep with his eyes half open.
A wave strikes the starboard side violently. My body stiffens and my eyes widen under the assumption we have hit a whale. The savage wave wakes Luke up in a panic before I get the chance to.
I make us both coffee. I’m not ready to go to sleep. Not today. Luke admits to seeing me through the port hole as I was flopping around on the deck reefing the main. I am disappointed to hear this because in my mind I situated the sails with grace and coordination. With the body of Pamela Anderson. In reality I tripped and held onto the mast for dear life. I struggled to uncoil the halyard in the body of a 12 year old boy.
I play Chris Stapleton again, this album has become our soundtrack. I extract our highest quality ingredients. The kinds that scream “wealth” and “celebration”. Imitation lobster and a can of Trader Joe’s Vegetable soup. It takes all four of our hands to prep holiday lunch. I hold the pot and start the burner. Luke opens the can and dumps it in the pot. I keep the contents from spilling out over the edges and the flame from starting anything else on fire. Luke gnaws at the plastic packaging of the fake lobster and rips it open. We work hard to stay in position. Just when I think I’ve found my balance I lose my suave as a wave lifts me and I smash into the knobs on the stove.
We lavish in “fresh lobster soup” and “ice cold champagne”. We high five. We cheers. We are kids. After three bites of fake lobster soup I put the spoon back in the pot and pass it over. All I can taste it what is going to come back up later. Luke licks the pot clean. We share a Budweiser. I puff on a menthol cigarette out the companionway and am high from half a beer and a single inhale. A wave crashes into the galley dumping gallons of water directly on my head. I stand there soaking wet wondering why the ocean just did that to me. How rude. The ocean laughs at me. Luke laughs at me. It takes me a moment for me to laugh at me.
This is the most greatest 4th of July with the shittiest weather I have ever had. I struggle to rest because, well, were half way across the ocean and this is awesome.
By 1am my body is exhausted and I’m on graveyard shift. I strenuously work to stay upright. Nothing sounds appetizing. I snack here and there. I force down some bites of lasagna desperate to regain energy, to keep my mind moving and my eyes open. I feel dehydration and loath drinking water because going pee is a difficult task. I do everything I can to power through this shift, to pull my weight. I won’t wake Luke up.
Desireé behaves the best she can in the gale and I do my best to emulate. I critically seek a secure nook. I try to settle my tummy. If I read I am sick. If I go outside in the cockpit I’m wet and cold. If I lay down I will fall asleep. I sit on the galley floor shoved in between the ladder and the stove using my feet to press my back into the galley drawers. A hazardous and uncomfortable place where things fly off the shelf. I don’t know where else to go. I sit. I think. I wait. I bury my negative thoughts and think happy ones on the off chance I can fly outa here. But I wouldn’t. Because then Luke would be here alone. That would be cruel and he would be worried about my disappearance. I retreat to negative thoughts.
July 6 // day 11
Michael Jackson is cooking in the galley. He slides side to side in his socks tactfully chopping vegetables on the starboard side. He waits for the right wave and moonwalks to the port side vegetables in hand, and drops them into a pot. He slides back to port with the next wave. He is having a ball. He has no clue that I am paying attention.
Dinner is served. A crafty stew made up of everything that was going bad. I admire his creativity in the kitchen and have never turned his experiments away, even when it involves horse, liver, cassoulet and bovril. He sits in the companionway gimbaled. Feet hooked around the ladder, torso swinging in circles clockwise and then counterclockwise tasting his experiment. When he is finished he puts his face as deep into the pot and licks it clean as if it were his last meal. When he comes up for air a rainbow of stew arcs across his forehead. He picks up a liter of water and guzzles it from full to empty in one go. Down he goes for a nap and is twitching within minutes. It must be my shift.
You can’t help but find yourself acutely observing the other human in which you share a confined space. I’ve never once felt it too small, in fact I’ve only ever wished the opposite. Come closer – I think. We have reached the comfort level of having full on eye contact conversations when one or the other is defecating and think nothing of it. Lack of privacy doesn’t cross my mind. I suppose we are lucky in that way, completely comfortable with ourselves. With each other. Being comfortable with yourself is a requirement when sailing with your mate. For if you weren’t before – you will become and this is one of sailings great gifts to relationships.
What I have noticed bluntly is my attitude and how often it erratically swings. I’m defining the bulk of emotional female stereotypes and understand now more than ever where these stereotypes stem from. I am either gazing at my celebrity crush, seeing fireworks, lost in his sweet nothings and finding myself fiercely proud to be his. Or – I am fuming inside from some sort of miscommunication, a conversation that went sour, wanting to sucker punch him in the face and go bat-shit crazy. How I act and react to Luke has everything to do with my state exhaustion and/or attitude. If I am well rested, relaxed, fed, dry and warm, it is recognized by sparkling fireworks and devouring admiration. If I am tired, wet, cold, hungry, hangry, or irritable, it is recognized by the urge to sucker punch or karate kick. Poor Luke, never knows what he’s going to get. I am a mess.
He doesn’t mind when I’m grumpy. I’m convinced that either he doesn’t notice or I hide it well. When I don’t think he is paying me any mind, I react by thinking to myself “Hello there, I’m grumpy and it’s your job to fix it. Chop chop.” Instead I say nothing and he happily carries on while my grump remains unnoticed. Childishly – this makes me more grumpy. Envious of his negligence to my struggles I up the drama so he might notice, I do this in the form of more silence. Silence is my round about way of communicating that I need attention, a kiss, a hug, a candy, a compliment, a nap, a pat on the back, anything (and it’s up to you to figure it out) What is wrong with me? I highly suggest that no one uses this tactic because it fails every time. Every. Time. I sit beside myself laughing. The girl he fell in love with at the Annapolis boat show, was not a grumpy bitch. I save me from myself and dig out Bob Bitchin’s favorite bumper sticker “ATTITUDE – the difference between ordeal and adventure” and post it on my forehead.
July 5 // Day 10
It’s overcast. I’m feeling sluggish. The air is viscous with dew and I am hanging everything out to dry purely so that the cabin has more space to breath. I have to talk myself through every task before I am able to make myself do it. Give myself a motivational speech to change my underwear. Read “Dove” to get us back on course. Listen to Tony Robbins to change the propane tank.
I notice a theme as the days pass – W a i t i n g.
Seven letters summarize every hour. Waiting for things to dry. Waiting for the cloud to move. Waiting for the wind to pick up. Waiting for the wind to die down. Waiting for the wind to shift. Waiting for the swell to change. Waiting for the sun to rise. Waiting for the rain to stop. Waiting for the temperatures to rise. Wait for the dolphins to come back. Waiting for something good to happen. Waiting for something bad to happen. Waiting for the batteries to charge. Waiting to have a conversation. Waiting for the next meal. Waiting to sleep. Waiting to get to the other side. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
It bothers me – the waiting. It’s disables me from enjoy the present even when I am convinced there is nothing to enjoy. Waiting is taking up all of my time, paralyzing the benefits I could very well be harvesting if my time were spent doing anything other than waiting.
“Tell us Jessie, what did you do for 17 days?”
Hell of an answer, Jess. With this recognition I unwind. I know what the challenge is now and I work diligently to win. To manipulate time spent waiting. To delight in the art of patience. Patience with my time, patience with our boat, patience with the ocean, patience with our relationship, patience with myself.
I am compelled by the desperate race to get to the other side. How wildly we want to make land fall. How there is a constant desire to go faster in a vehicle in which, we are fully aware is one of the slowest ways to travel the globe. But for what? Why do we want to get there so bad? When we make it, being back here in the middle of the ocean, waiting, is all we are going to dream. How is it possible to want so badly for something to be over and for it to never ever end all at once? I don’t get it.
I couldn’t tell you my expectations for being 1000 miles away from land in either direction. In a small boat. With my celebrity crush. At any given moment I can feel invincible in my favorite costume. Legendary. And within hours feel weak. Powerless. A chicken in a slaughter house. An eternal sense of accomplishment and a constant state of physical discomfort.