1009.3 hPa / 27.7% / 71% humidity
I am often asked when I started sailing. Many women come to sailing
because of their husbands, something I have witnessed very often in
sailing stages. The ladies gather together upon arrival – they must smell
and recognize the fear they emit – and start discussing the method they’ve
employed not to be seasick. One took a pill. The other has a patch behind
the ear. Still another is chewing on ginger; she has a bag of it and
offers it all round. I roll my eyes and think, “ça commence bien!” I am
not one of those wives, even if I did start sailing once I met my husband.
I had been curious about sailing for a long time and had looked into it
several times but never took the plunge. When I did do my first stages, I
opted to do them without Pierrick. Learning on my beat was important. I
have never been seasick, really. And in those stages, when it started to
rain and the women looked unwell while their husbands seemed deflated by
failing at transmitting their burgeoning passion to their spouses, I was
the annoying student requesting the teacher to practice yet another tack,
yet another jib, much to everybody else’s discouragement.
Before, when thinking about being in the middle of the Atlantic, I thought
I might be freaked out by not seeing land around me. Worse, by knowing how
very far from land I was. I imagine many people feel this way, especially
those who do not sail, so I thought I might try to explain how I perceive
this space that surrounds me.
I look out to the horizon and see nothing but blue water, sky and clouds.
There is nothing to see. Of course, I look at the state of the water and
the formation and direction of clouds, but there is nothing to see at the
horizon. Just a blue expanse. And so, I stop seeing it. It is no longer
miles and miles of water but simply the backdrop to the little world we
are living in, 5 humans and a cat on a boat. Variables to survive in our
little world, such as the good functioning of the boat and its equipment,
the speed of the wind and the boat, food, and the good health and
relations of the crew, take precedence. Like all the buildings you might
pass on your way to work and do not see for having seen them so often, so
is the vastness around us. It becomes abstract.
Also, I had already sailed distances when at some point land can no longer
be seen. From Marseille to Corsica. From the South of France to Minorca.
When you’ve experienced landless-ness, it no longer really matters if you
are 70 nautical miles from a port or 700, the sensation is the same. The
only difference with crossing the Atlantic is how time stretches out.
Sailors often state that they are always busy. They set off with dreams of
reading an oeuvre or drawing or writing or meditating, and usually there’s
little time to do any of that. Especially for the captain. First, because
night shifts wear you down. When your sleep is so disrupted during the
night, the day is lethargic and naps are frequent. Then, something always
breaks down. A lot of time is spent fixing things. Finally, making food.
When everything is made from scratch, it can take 2 hours to make a meal
that’s gobbled down in 15 minutes. Meals may be eaten quickly but they
span out because we talk and laugh and finish it up with a coffee and
doing the dishes. The rest of the time is free time. And yet there is so
little of it. Someone might think, “Well you can look at the beauty of the
sky. At the sunrises and sunsets!” True, the sky can turn into something
spectacular, but, strangely, out in the Atlantic, vistas are short lived.
One moment you look up and the sky is a beautiful splash of colour. Look
away for a second and it is gone. When the sky is particularly beautiful
we have taken to calling the others to come see, just like if we had
sighted dolphins, since the experience is so fleeting.
We have not yet seen any dolphins. But we have seen birds. There are
three. One sleek and small black bird and 2 white and gray ones with a
long tail. What are they doing out here, so far from land? Have they
traveled out on takers? I have also seen many flying fish. They usually
shoot out of the water in groups of 10 to 20. They skid along the ocean’s
surface several meters – a remarkable distance – before plunging back in.
Last night one flew onto the trampoline and died their, dried up.
A very stressful situation happened last night: the desalinator wouldn’t
start. We usually turn it on at nighttime for an hour or 2 along with the
motors when we recharge the batteries. We had used it that day, but
suddenly at night nothing happened when we tried to turn it on. No light.
No power. We left it at that for the night and Pierrick had a closer look
in the morning. We were hoping it was only a fuse, but no. We removed all
the stuff we store above the desalinator (second time this week!) and he
started testing the current in the control panel. All was good. We were
silently panicking. Nine more days at sea without the possibility of
making more fresh water was a very dire prospect. He reviewed the user
manual but couldn’t see what the problem might be. He called the help line
with our satellite phone. The call eventually cut off. Finally he looked
at the motor. One small cable was disconnected. He fixed it, we put
everything back in its place, and then had a celebratory meal. I took out
a jar of paté. Hugo brought out his pipe. A lick of cognac was shared
between the men. After that, Pierrick took a very long and well deserved
Among many other books, I am currently reading “The Waves” by Virginia
Woolfe. I had forgotten how beautiful her writing is.