Do you want to know what it's like to sail on the oceans, thousands of miles away from land... day after day... on a small boat? Festina Lente will take you there, journey with us without getting your feet wet (or becoming seasick!)
This story is also my entry into a 'short travel story' competition. If you enjoy this article, please vote for me here.
But you should read the other stories too, click here to be transported all over the world by a bunch of extremely talented writers - vote for the one you like best.
Festina Lente - Hurry Slowly
Sailing oceans is not like a plane or car ride. Nothing is certain except a vast puddle of water and a great stretch of sky. The days pass, measured not in hours but in distance. It’s dynamic, fantastic and petrifying all at the same time. There is rarely pattern or logic; you deal with what’s received, as it arrives . . . moment by moment.
We receive weatherfaxes; they’re usually in direct association with my emotions. When we are tossed and buffeted I feel beaten. In good weather I shift from thoughts of selling the boat to designing a new vegetable rack.
On watch: When all is settled I become drenched by memories that have no regard for place or circumstance; some thoughts enough to make me blush into the night. Recollections of those I have hurt make me squirm. I cradle my own hurts in time with the rocking motion. I recall good times as a kid, card games with my family by candlelight during frequent power cuts, it makes me smile. I think of things I should have done with my life; when the sailing charms me I realise there’s still time.
Off watch: Snuggled in a comfy bunk I listen to the patter of rain on deck, the ocean rushing alongside, and creaking lines. When I hear Noel ‘galley squirreling’ I anticipate the smells. Tea means it’s my time to stand watch (like Pavlov’s dog, I become instantly alert). Coffee means I can close my eyes as he’s making a mid-watch eyelid boost. Efforts of sleeping are linked with conditions; the gentle motion like a swaying train, or the vicious rolling in a malevolent and restless ocean where your insides jostle within your skin.
Orchestral music: The halyards play a rhythmic beat of hollow notes on the mast. The soft hum of the wind generator sends an alert of wind increasing; the thud, slap-slap death throes of flying-fish, either rescued by soft-hearted crew or left hidden in the dark to gasp their last breath. Noel can be soothed by the engine’s hum. I find it jarring like the dissonant chords of raw wind.
Travelling Tangs: Amid the tangy brew of percolating coffee and salty damp, is the strong olfactory confirmation that a flying fish has landed on the deck. Onions sizzling in the pan is a near daily event on board, meal creativity starts here. Sun-dried canvas evokes memories of summer holidays in our youth; the damp cockpit cushions, penetrated by salt, never quite dry. The contrasting whiff of exhaust encourages sea-sickness, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread inspires hunger.
Nigh-time: Watching for the lottery of squalls under the cover of darkness, the lightning cuts the atmosphere in two. The clouds seem to rub out the stars. My sodden hair slapping against my cheeks during downpours, while muscles bunch above the rotating deck; our harnesses are firmly in place. And finally dawn, where the horrors vanish and the air becomes so crisp, it feels as though it would shatter with words.
Togetherness: We’re a tag team, six hours on/off. We reef, eat breakfast and evening meals together. We both operate all aspects of the boat, an important skill when only two on board. On calm seas we brush up on celestial navigation, writing, and eat finer meals; in bumpy waters we eat one pot repasts. Shifting winds, unkind seas, and endless squalls are frustrating but mellowed by the kindness of my partner; the gift of an extra hours sleep.
Home: The unique colours of the Australian sky are drawing us home. As the sun slopes off behind the horizon it paints Aussie golds, woven with tinges of low pearly clouds; the sea is warmed by the reflection of yellow. We’re absent from society, but not for long.
The essence of life at sea: It’s a love hate relationship, a roller coaster. The journey becomes etched on our skin. Vibrant bruises match vivid sunsets. There are tremendous stresses on equipment, and our bodies. Daily, we learn something new; about sailing and ourselves. Sailing the oceans isn’t easy, but offers magnificent rewards with perseverance. We whinge about the effort, but secretly we are glad, if it was easy everyone would be doing it.
BTW: If I do manage to win, the prize is $100 Amazon voucher. I will be purchasing a Kindle to donate to Redwings Horse Charity prize draw at The Horse Of The Year Show in the UK in October. I'll be on their stand on the 9th and 10th October signing books and hosting the giveaway competition.
If you'd like to read more about our travels, here's our books:
A Standard Journey- 5 horses, 2 people and 1 tent - 50% donated to charity
Of Foreign Build - From Corporate Girl to Sea-Gypsy Woman
Cruisers’ AA - Cruisers' Accumulated Acumen