Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sailing Part 2: Living Aboard

Immanent Threats to be Wary of

In a boat, I've learned, absolutely everything must serve more than one purpose, and not knowing  what those purposes are, I'm now convinced, may as well be a direct threat to your life. For instance, there is a wooden step in the V berth (below deck at the front of the ship) attached to the surrounding storage areas which allows you a place to sit while rifling hopelessly for what you need inside them as well as providing a boost to open or close the hatch in the ceiling. This, I had surmised, must be the complete list of uses for such a small structure and near died in the process of learning I was wrong. At our anchorage in the wilds of whatever state this is we are so far removed from civilization that there is no unnatural light whatever to compete with the stars. This I first noticed through the three inch opening of the hatch above me and, instantly dazzled by their brilliance, I called Alaina to come look and jumped up onto the obliging step to stretch my head out for a better view of the sky. As it turns out, that "step" is also a miniature storage unit all its own, meaning the top of it is a sliding removable lid which, as it is designed to do, abruptly fled from beneath me sending me slamming down against the edge of the hatch which knocked the heavy lid on my head and furthered the violence of my already being hung by the throat from our roof. Alaina fell almost into the head (sailing lingo for impossible-to-keep-clean ship toilets) overcome by laughter and I tried to join her but was relatively limited on oxygen even when I wriggled free of the what we now refer to as "the guillotine hatch" and now conduct myself with even more exaggerated care about the ship- which is difficult enough when it's not moving but near impossible when it's pitching in someone's wake.


But the boat can be equally dangerous to those who know their way about it as well as their own body. Recently Jan (wife of Kevin, owners of our boat's twin sister who're headed the same direction and have therefore joined us t form our own mini floatilla the last week or so) hailed us with an offering that might as well have been the Holy Grail: a baggy of long, raw carrots, the only fresh produce we'd seen in weeks. She waved us down as we passed her and Kevin on the Pearl of Eastport but we weren't close enough and the precious gift didn't make it aboard with her toss. My darling siblings took it as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate "man overboard procedure" and our neighboring sailors immediately made for enthusiastic spectators. Luckily no one thus far HAS fallen overboard because Alaina's arms resulted to be too short for rescuing and she missed the bag when Pat expertly guided us back past it. Simultaneously he started laughing, our audience started "Aw!"ing and I started grieving the loss of our only opportunity to swallow something that neither had any trace of starch nor required being mixed with our typhoid water to be eaten. Then- midway through a mocking imitation of my sister's failure- her husband accidentally smashed his jaw into a metal cleat and dove through the companionway into the cabin below sputtering that someone had to steer. How he managed to bite his tongue in such a way that it split down the middle like a snake we shall never know. What we DO know is that Alaina doesn't have much of a stomach for gore and I don't have much of a faculty for emergencies. Patrick filled the sink with mouth blood, Alaina turned pale as she slumped over the tiller on the edge of fainting, and I abruptly forgot what the object floating under me was called -along with every other piece of knowledge that might possibly have been useful in helping to navigate it unassisted. Kevin and Jan watched us bewildered as we sailed straight on in a state of chaos whose source they couldn't possibly identify from that distance. Pat, like a true captain, dried his tongue off, stuck it back together and resumed control of the tiller. We, on the other hand, once the shock had passed, were useless crewmen because he could only communicate instructions with an unrehearsed and, therefore, unreliable system of "MMMM!"s and gestures which were so pathetically hilarious it took us triple as long as it should have to understand through our own laughter- which was only intensified by the ironic discovery that our pantry was down to absolutely nothing but bread and peanut butter. It had been 6 hours since Patrick's last meal. We tried to argue him out of eating it anyway. He regretted it.

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