The strangest part about being part of a crew on a yacht is that it doesn't occur to you how bizarre the people you're stuck on a hundred foot floating tub in the middle of the ocean with really are. In this case, lovably bizarre. But not always so.
On a trip like ours, however, you're not just thrown into a situation but have each chosen to be there. And likely you rate it among the best experiences in your life so far, so complaints about the boat's owner/food/location/crew are not only not the bonding mechanisms they are on a job; they're nonexistent. In addition, when you're a three person crew you're always on watch alone. Conversation is sparse. Night watches can be long. And despite this metaphorical distance, you have very little physical privacy on a 43 foot sailboat. So you wake, eat, watch, read, sleep, write the occasional email, eat some more, etc. You don't have as many of the strangely comical moments you have as part of a crew, but you end up stitching together a tapestry of silent understanding instead that comes from sharing a meaningful moment with someone else far away from the rest of the world.
At one point I wrote to my brother that being at sea could be just as repetitive as a 9-5 job. Every day you're held to your schedule, and every day that schedule is the same. But after I sent that email, I felt like it wasn't an accurate representation. Even though the days are structured the same, the things we experienced each day were never the same. Even though the sea was technically the same Pacific from one day to the next, in reality it wasn't. The feeling changed each day even if the scenery didn't. The colors and sounds and light were all slightly altered.
Long before setting off on this trip, I read Bernard Moitessier's book The Long Way. Obviously it left more than a small impression on me. But one of the passages that affected me the most was his description of life at sea. He wrote: “The days go by, never monotonous. Even when they appear exactly alike they are never quite the same. That is what gives life at sea its special dimension, made up of contemplation and very simple contrasts.”
I remember reading this while still on land and wondering whether I'd feel the same way.How would our time sailing across the Pacific pass? I'd already crossed the North Pacific and the Atlantic but on bigger boats with enclosed cockpits, full sized galleys, and seemingly endless supplies of electricity and water. On Tamata we're much closer to the water, affected more personally by the weather, and make do with much, much less. And sometime, for whatever reason, that makes you feel far away from everyone who doesn't live like that. For the whole five months leading up to this part of our trip I'd had a certain anxiety about it. The Pacific crossing was always in the back of my mind, as though everything was leading up to the time when we'd be no place, really, not much more than a tiny speck on the chart, untethered, far from anything and everything. I assumed it would take a huge amount of mental preparation. I just didn't know when or how I'd prepare.
And then there we were, living a pretty uneventful life at sea, every day like the one before it. And all that anxiety about the crossing was somehow displaced. Or maybe it just receded into the background, like I had to put it aside when reality overtook expectation. I was neither scared, nor nervous, nor worried. It didn't even hit me until a few days out from the Galapagos that this was it – this was the portion of the trip that had been the most stress-inducing for so long, and each day was just another day. It sounds like such a simple concept and so obvious when I say it now, but it was pretty incredible to have that realization and to experience those simple contrasts for myself. And to feel so calm about it all.