Monday, March 18, 2013

No zzz's at sea

I roll the name over and over on my tongue until it sounds absurd,
“Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe”
as the dark knobbly form of the island blurs in the distance.  Smoke billows from the volcanic peak of the grey, dusty remains of Monserrat off to our left. In the distance ahead, the promise of new adventures in Antigua. In between, just hours of blue ocean.
Today was supposed to be a short sail, just ‘around the corner’ from Deshaies where we’ve been ‘stranded’ for more days than planned, due to high winds and huge swells. But as sailors plans are apt to change with the wind, we discovered an hour out, that conditions were not going to allow us to safely enter the shallow channel, peppered with pesky coral heads. The waves were just too big still, so an instant decision was made, to soldier on to Antigua. A 2 hour journey just became a 9 hour journey.
After sails were set and the swell and wind settled a bit, there wasn’t much to do, and both the captain and I, after a night of little sleep, decided to take turns ‘napping’ en route.
I retired first. Headed down to our bed, and cozied into the undulating berth. But it raised and fell, there were squeaks and creaks and groans and bangs. The normal sounds of sailing. Only as I tried to free up my brain and relax into at least a semblance of sleep, my nerves and overactive imagination got the better of me. I lay there, imagining all the worst scenarios.
‘What if my captain gets knocked overboard and I come up later to a ghost boat?’
‘What was THAT noise? Not normal! Did something snap, crack?’
and on and on and on… and sleep eluded me completely. I made my way back up the galley steps looking defeated. Everything was of course fine. JW jumped at the opportunity to take his turn.
The captain in a hazy blue slumber en route...
 And there I found myself, wave watching, counting the peaks on the surrounding islands, singing aloud to my tunes, recalling names over and over in my head til they sounded silly. The wind was low, the waves moderate. No emergencies, perfect conditions for a nap.
My lack of ‘long passage’ experience will now become evident if it hasn’t before. I have just never been able to sleep while sailing. I wonder what will happen to me on a journey longer than 24 hours, when our night watches are doled out in 4 hour intervals and I lie there overthinking, anticipating when my time will be up and just how tired I’ll be and on and on…
Cruising friends say they love the long passages, weeks at a time at sea. They say you develop a routine, make meals, take turns on watches. Still can’t quite get my green little mind around it. Firstly, unless the sea is VERY smooth, you have to hold on just to walk from one area of the boat to the other. Cooking?! I suppose you get hungry enough and sick of quick snacks scoffed down while holding a railing or table edge with one hand… After all, there is a gimbled stove/oven (that swivels and compensates for the motion of the sea) on board for a reason!
But it’s the sleeping that worries me most. I’m liable to be a zombie a few days in.
I haven’t even begun to ask myself whether I’d go stir crazy out at sea for days and weeks.
My first two or three ‘dayer’ is coming up in a month or so. I’m looking forward to the new experience. Maybe before then I’ll learn a meditation technique or get used to chamomile tea or warm milk… whatever works.
We’ve arrived in Antigua! Yawn…

Monday, March 11, 2013

For Quinci

Baguette crumbs surround me. Today, Deshaies, Guadeloupe is my home. My table gently rocks with the considerable swell in the bay. I am a cruiser, sailing, living on a boat. But first, always, I am a mother.
Today, thousands of kilometres from my marine home, my son wakes on this, his twentieth birthday. He might shave, might eat something (remotely healthy?) for breakfast. He will stuff school work into his backpack and head out the door. Turn out his lights, lock his own door. He will cross town and walk the halls of a small university and greet friends. He will make calls and check all the birthday messages on his facebook. In the evening he will meet up with his girlfriend and they will head out for a romantic supper. He will celebrate like the adult that he is.
He won’t remember the black silk mane on his heavy precious head, and warm breath he brought into my life, the tiny living body that I held in my trembling arms just minutes after he was born. He won’t remember his saucer eyes, squeezed shut to the harsh new world, popping open to a tearful young girl, who had just had the mother label shoved into her clueless lap. No, he could not imagine now, a mother’s instant heartwrenching, the stomach churning, overwhelming bond that spread between us through the cold hospital room, just as we were separated physically. The love I felt. The love I feel today, so far away.
Quinci. Never was what I expected. Always was himself. The truest, surest, genuine person grew up within that adorable little frame. With a settled soul he watched me grow and learn motherhood my own way.
I wore steel-toed police boots with vintage mini skirts when he was two years old. We strolled for hours, mother with nose ring and punk short hair, baby Quinci, ‘King of Queen Street’, even then he gazed through my phases. Sat all knowing, greeting all from his stroller throne.
I have never cooked a Christmas supper – no turkey, no ham, no stuffing. No cranberries, no tradition to cling to. I took him across the world, barely a toddler, on my own adventures, seeking myself. 
But there he was, always himself. He tolerated my discoveries and floated through the instability of our lives. One year in the stifling heat of a dilapidated Ghanaian village, I presented him with his Christmas gift as he awoke, covered in mosquito bites. None of us had slept a wink. It was beyond miserable. He hugged me so tightly I thought my mother’s heart would burst. A lump beat my throat and my eyes burned knowing this was a special soul, this my boy. My faith in the human race was restored. For years. 

 And for years he lived uprooted, waiting patiently to find his own place, his own harmony, while I worked through the mess of my own life. Hours of patient melodies he plucked from his little harmonica, and then his guitars. An artist’s soul, soothed by the beauty of music and an appreciation so beyond his years.
At times I was the parent, at times it made more sense for him to be. Linked, hands clasped together we made it through lifetimes of adventures and heartaches. More heartache than any boy should have to endure.
Quinci, my pillar of strength. My sensitive, sensible one. I ache with connection, I feel that gut twisting bond, the tears welling, the throat attacked by the familiar lump… I love you from across a continent, as I did under the harsh lights of the operating room twenty years ago today.
Thank you for sharing yourself, for enriching my life, for being ‘Mompati’ my companion.
Thank you from a mother’s heart, for everything and for just being you.
And on this day my hope is that you will follow all the paths your heart takes you down. May you love, and be loved. May you enjoy this crazy life and never wait to do what you want to do.
Here I am, out on the sea with my soul mate. Following a crazy dream, an unconventional life once again.
And far away you are starting a life of a million possibilities. Never close a door that opens. Never doubt yourself. Most of all, never doubt that I will love you forever.