Blogging while at sea is harder than I expected. Last year we cruised the inside passage for a month, and while I’ve never gone back and counted, I probably wrote three to four times a week. This year we sailed from Seattle to San Diego in fourteen days, and I did count. I wrote nine words: blogging while at sea is harder than I expected.
Me, going in: This is going to be great! I can’t wait to write about every ocean swell, every beautiful sunrise, every goddamned gobsmacking moment of life on the Pacific!
Me, on day two: Survive.
We had our first overnight sail on day one, and we did eleven more. It was the coldest I’ve ever been, and the highest number of consecutive days I’ve been that cold. I was wet seven of the twelve days, once due to being hit by a wave, and six due to sailing in endlessly dense fog. I never got more than three hours of sleep in a row. I was sick two of the twelve days (only two thanks to some magical non-FDA-approved seasickness pills a VERY nice couple we met on the water gave me in Coos Bay, where we stayed for two days waiting out bad weather). The swells were anywhere from four to ten feet on average, the waves about the same, but variable; and we saw 30 knots in the highest wind.
We’ve been off the water almost two weeks already, and when someone asks, “How was it?” I still don’t know how to answer.
It was beautiful. I saw magnificent moon and sunrises every day we weren’t fogged in; hundreds of porpoises, four whales, otherworldly seas, and clearer skies and brighter stars than I knew existed. We had calm days that were indescribably gorgeous, and perfect wind that made us feel like we were gliding in the most serene and gentle grandma-rocking-you-sweetly-in-the-rocker lap of the ocean you can imagine.
It was trying. When waves are going one way and swells the other, and the boat is heading through both in twenty-seven knots, it’s violent. The crashing is loud, and the ride is rough. It’s impossible to sleep because you’re being thrown out of your bunk. You tie yourself in when you need to sleep, cook, or go to the bathroom. You can’t walk from one end of the boat to the other without hanging on. When you’re seasick, you can’t keep your head up. When the wind goes from 15 to 25 knots in a matter of seconds, you have to suit up, clip in, get on the foredeck, and reef the sail quickly. When a swell picks up the entire boat, you can see for miles, and when it lowers you into a trough, you are surrounded by walls of water you can’t see over. I meditated my way through many a cold, windy night, thrashing against the wind and sea, relying only on radar and AIS to know if there were any boats in our path.
It was rewarding and “fun.” These are accurate, but, you know… grains of salt. Awesome is probably the closest, but that word is so overused now (see also, amazing), it’s lost its profundity. I’m happy we did it, and I have a sense of accomplishment that is unparalleled, even weighed against all the adventuring and mountaineering I’ve done in my life. Nothing–not reaching mountain tops or deep, difficult woods, through prevailing storms or near lightning strikes–comes close to the adrenaline rush, test of self-reliance, or sense of pride that sailing on the ocean brings.
I’m grateful. I love my husband even more now than I did the day I married him, and I now have actual proof that we have quite possibly one of the best boats on the planet. She never once put us in harm’s way. And our Hydrovane, Henriette, is the MVP. She steered us through heavy seas and high winds without a whiff of a hitch.
I’m alive. And I’ve never felt more so.
I’ve been spending the last year wondering if it’s OK that I’m changing. Have changed. That I’ve been so iterative throughout the course of my forty-nine years. V1 was fast and loose. A lot of partying and a little schooling–just enough to stay purposeful (and loan eligible). V2 was responsible. Goals, marriage, career, stability, and all the proving that I can win (also, see also, succeed). I thought that was the final launch.
So when V3 came along recently, I was broadsided, and I’ll cut right to it: No likey. V3 made me feel like a fraud. My flight tendency went into overdrive. ESC. ESC. Shut down this alpha intruder and embrace V2 (the industry standard) STAT! Industry standard is reliable. Industry standard is widely adopted. Industry standard is LOVED. let’s face it, no one hates Windows XP, amiright?
V2 worked ALL THESE YEARS to become the accepted (and lauded) version. V2 needs a small update now and again, but it’s stable. V3–the woman who uproots her life and throws everything away—job, stability, predictability, consistency, income, squirrelling away for the future—NOW (now at forty-nine, not twenty-nine), isn’t me. Specifically, isn’t the crossing-the-finish-line woman who shed the globe-trotting, wander-lusting, bohemian, restless soul in return for a husband, house, corporate job, and deep, healthy, sufficiently watered, thriving, just-enough-room-in-the-pot roots. Cuz you’re supposed to grow out of that shit. Because this is success. This. Is winning. And winning is blue, bitches. Blue. Not red or white. Those don’t count.
So, what happens when you’re working towards the life you think you’re supposed to have (and love the shit out of it when you finally get it) and then you get there, and it’s not the glittery unicorn with great dance steps and perfect teeth you thought would make you feel whole? Sure, a good, secure job with benefits, a nice house and car, and a fanfuckingtastic husband sparkle like a fucking mountain of rainbows on top of an erupting volcano. They’re spectacular. I’m grateful and lucky and try to remind myself of that every day.
But V3’s shine is subtler and more powerful. In V3, winning and success are customized (TO ME! WHAAAT?!). Demanding, sure, the way guidelines test you in a way that rules don’t, but easier to achieve because I’m not casting myself against the near-impossible almost daily, but fighting my through it anyway. This new me yearns to live life at a slower pace, in a warmer place, with the boat and the sea, and the supportive husband, and nothing but possibility. My terms. V3 isn’t stupid or reckless or booze-goggled, it’s just more content to admit that the beach and travel and simplicity are more than enough to define happiness. And V3 doesn’t have to do everything alone. And I’ll tell you, that is the Easter egg, people.
All that stuff they say about a midlife crisis is real. Only it’s not a crisis unless you make it one. What I’m hearing when I listen just right is that more than this is possible. Adventure and happiness are showing up in a path paved of simpler things, and just because I never thought I’d veer from the success = my life the way it’s looked up until now template, doesn’t mean I can’t. And that the outcome might be a better version of success than any I’ve been following by way of example.
I’m not done, but I’m accepting. I’m walking towards this light. And this is more than OK. It’s good. And for the first time, I’m shedding the lonewolfiness that I thought was a badge of honor because there is so much more to be had when my hand’s in someone else’s, and the goal isn’t a grind. V3 is good with red or white. Or none.