Sunday, September 8, 2013

Antigua, Part II. Life, Part III

North coast of Bermuda

In an attempt to pick up where I left off, I’ve resorted to sifting through diary pages to recall what seems like a century ago, considering what I’ve put myself through in the months since returning to Miami.

With 180 nautical miles left to go to Bermuda, and just a matter of days until landfall in Maine, the reality of facing a difficult stage in my life began to loom.  Yes folks, the end of my marriage. 

It was a despairing feeling to be hundreds of miles from land, trying to preoccupy my mind on a small boat with little at my disposal… a handful of books I just could not focus on, and one diary, whose 200 pages I filled in just a few days.  I was thankful to have two close friends I’ve known for years aboard too, but no amount of talking can alleviate the feeling of absolute limbo, when you know what has to be done, but you’re powerless to move forward due to current circumstances.  All you can do is wait, try to keep the latent depression from crystalizing (thank-you Bruce Cockburn) and stare at an endless horizon that only ever appears closer as darkness falls.

Somewhere south of Bermuda
As usual, it was wonderful to smell land again as we made our transit through the cliffs that mark the entrance to St George’s, Bermuda. It was the middle of the night, 3 AM to be exact, and church bells were ringing, oddly enough.  To my senses, the scent off the land was of jasmine and orange pekoe tea of all things.

Having already given the heads-up to Customs that we’d be arriving overnight, an officer was there to meet us at 3:30 to clear us in. With that out of the way, we went below and shared cheese and crackers and each drank a Heineken. Another Heineken brought us to dawn, and Dean, Anne-Louise and I took the party to the cockpit. I just about died laughing at a rooster than sounded like he was still learning to crow, which wouldn’t have been half as funny I’m sure if I hadn’t had two beer and only fitful sleep for the previous five days.

As with Antigua, it had been ten years since I’d last sailed to Bermuda.  Not much had changed, aside from the regular technological advances like anywhere else.  The internet café was no longer an internet café, the days long gone where your only option in remote areas such as this was to pay $10 US for half an hour of online access. Now, we just used the WiFi on our phones and lingered anywhere we could find a signal. And the Whitehorse Tavern was more-less as I remembered it, aside from it being starkly vacant, and having giant flat-screen televisions adorning the 83-year-old stone walls, zombifying its handful of patrons and diminishing any side-effects of their attempts of socialization.

Departing St George's
We stayed in Bermuda long enough to wait-out a passing weather system off Cape Cod.  I don’t remember anything from that leg of the trip, until my first sunrise watch since leaving Charleston.  We were 36 hours from landfall in Maine, and did I ever luck out.  Alone on deck, just as the night sky began to brighten, I began to see huge dolphin jumping, and I thought I saw a whale a few hundred feet ahead off the starboard bow.  I ran up to the bow, and the dolphins were shooting clear out of the water and at twice the boat speed, like torpedoes.  One kept throwing himself out of the water and landing on his side; I surprised myself by laughing out loud, didn't even know it was coming.  Then, I heard a deeper breath, and my jaw dropped, literally, as a small humpback whale came up, having just crossed our bow, his tail not 5 feet from the side of the boat. I was in awe.  He must have seen or heard us, right? We didn’t just almost T-bone the massive creature? I’ve been similarly close to humpbacks and killer whales in the past, to the point where you want to gag at the smell of their breath, but they’d always been swimming alongside the ship, following the same course. This really felt like a close call.
Approaching the Maine Coast, entering the fog.
As I turned around, intending to head back to the cockpit to finally adjust course for a freighter whose AIS I had picked up before the wildlife show began (bah, he could wait) I saw a sunfish, waving its dorsal fin. Right about then, the sun broke through the red clouds, and the environment completely changed. The smell of salt air turned to the smell of refrigeration and minerals, a low surface fog developed, and I watched the water temperature drop by… I can’t remember now, 25 degrees? In less than five minutes… Something as equally unbelievable as everything I’d just witnessed.  But that was the very reason; crossing the thermocline brings a predictable abundance and variety of sea life from every rung of the Atlantic’s food chain.

Re-living that moment now reminds me, quite simply, how much more there is to life than any of the anguish that has manifested itself in recent weeks.  It is all temporary, but nonetheless painful.  One of the crew I met in Antigua, who’s been through a couple of divorces in his time, said something that has stuck with me.  He said “It really is ironic, when you’re going through something as painful and difficult as divorce, especially when you once considered your partner to be your best friend, that’s exactly when you need love the most. And you can’t have it.”  Don’t I know it.

And Rob Brezsny’s advice this week to Aquarians was that it is “important to appreciate and learn from the messy stuff in your life, and to even admire its artistry”.  Yeah, OKAY, Rob.  You don’t know what I’ve just been through.  But, he’s been bang-on so many times before, I can’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt, and take his input into consideration.

For now, I’ll continue to attempt to embrace my new lifestyle, and all the unforgettably hideous moments it has already provided.  Whether it’s moments like yesterday, as I finished locking the boatyard gate, and I turned around to watch my ’69 Beetle freewheeling down the incline, directly towards Fred’s car (last time this happened, I caught up with her just before she rolled off the dock onto my boat.  True story) or having to share a shower with cockroaches, frogs, and those little worms that go crunch when inadvertently stepped upon, or any number of other moments I may never develop the courage to share here (I’m starting to discover my limits).  And although it will be particularly challenging, I’ll try to forgive myself for my mistakes and any and all behavior I engage in in the next year (Irish advice) until I’m myself again, and will endeavor to build some worthwhile bridges, as I allow others to burn.

I’ve often felt completely and utterly isolated over the years as I’ve found myself alone in various places far from home, and right now is hardly different, save for a couple of close friends.  I’ve never felt entirely comfortable here for one reason or another.  Perhaps because I’ve never allowed myself to really kick off my shoes, or maybe this never was the place for me to begin with.  I have yet to decide solidly on anything, but it gives my mind great relief to think about another adventure.  So with a haul-out booked for Annie Laurie and my Run Gene securely where I left it, I think another trip to the Bahamas might soon be in order.