Day 33

19th November 2001

The weather is still too rough to fish and we are hove-to, taking the storm one swell at a time. There is little to do but read or sleep or think.

I’m well and truly over the seasickness now, and it’s a relief to have some good sea legs. I no longer walk around like a hobbled gosling, but get around with as much ease as anybody else on a viciously bucking platform. When we are hove-to and the swells are clean like they are today you can find the rhythm of the waves, and compensate even for big swells by leaning into them or bending your knees like a human gimble. You get to know when the next swell will hit and you can make sure you have enough time to walk across the deck, or to the next hand-hold before it does. The waves are full stops, and the sentences are the spaces between them.

Every now and then a bigger, nastier wave comes along and takes you by surprise. Those waves change the scene and rhythm and cause havoc. Even though everything is lashed down, the big waves still find things to trash. Papers, bins and ashtrays fly across the bridge, instruments left on the chart table are dumped onto the tilting floor. You can hear things smashing in the galley or in the mess room below. You cringe, hoping that you left everything in your cabin secure, and your blood runs cold at the thought of your laptop lying in a thousand pieces on the floor, chips and resistors like droplets of water.

A familiar view but this isn’t my picture.

Water pelts the bridge windows, sometimes white spray, but sometimes when you hit a really big wave the water is blue and the bridge goes dim while the water pours off. The ship feels sluggish under the weight of water, and shudders and rolls trying to throw off it’s burden. And while it is happening there is nothing you can do about it but hold on tight, watch and try to avoid any object which may be flying towards you. Once the wave has passed, there usually follows one or two more big ones to brace against; more noise and chaos ensue. The objects which were dislodged from the last wave now slide around the floor, piling up in the corners of the bridge as the ship tries to throw off the next deluge of water. The water streams off, the ship lightens and perks up, and life resumes. You can move around and start to put things back together again. Those big waves are the end of a paragraph.

The funny thing is that these events become so ordinary and normal that you stop commenting on them. You may be mid-flow in a conversation when a set hits, the world is trashed around you and you hold on for your life, then it passes, and the conversation carries on from where it left off. I guess to take the analogy one step further each passing storm is a chapter; it ends and the next chapter begins with it’s own theme, frustrations, dangers and successes. Some chapters are dramatic, some are less so, but they progress the story and life goes on. At some point the voyage ends and you close the book. That either happens when the boat reaches harbour, or when the boat meets a wave which is too big to shake off. I guess that is also an analogy for life, and we are all trying to sail our boats safely to harbour.

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