May 14th, 2015, Thursday 2:00 p.m.
Change. It is often argued that change in life is a good thing: painful but good. When companies merge, the change brings lay-offs, but ultimately, the merged company has streamlined, gained assets and productivity, hopefully. The crazy thing about living on a boat is that everything is subject to change daily/hourly. Docked in a port or anchored, work is typically being accomplished somewhere on the boat, beds are torn up, tools are pulled out, and the 240 square feet of living space inside is made ever tighter. On a regular day, when someone pulls out a tool, computer or item, even if it’s put away into it’s assigned place, it could be relocated the next time you go to look for it.
When sailing on the open ocean, the weather dictates the changes. The norm might last 2 hours or 25 days depending on the wind, the current, and the direction of the swell. During our sail from Puerta Vallarta to the Galapagos, change was the norm…probably due to the time of year we embarked and/or possibly due to the changes in weather dictated by El Nino. The longest norm we enjoyed lasted about 24 hours. We tacked often from starboard to port where everything balancing well on one tack then balances differently on the other tack. Port light windows are open and closed along with the hatches to ensure the ocean doesn’t come splashing in. Inside it’s sweltering, so sometimes we risk opening up the hatches or port lights, only to close them shortly thereafter because now rain is threatening.
The sea colors are enormously changeable too. On a cloudy day, the sea looks steely grey with flecks of silver with large rippling swells. It looks impenetrable, holding tightly to its secrets. On a sunny day, the sea looks blue: not a light blue, but a deep blue. If the seas are doldrum calm, it is clear, almost like a mirror, and you can see deeply into the water, the rays of light penetrating the leagues. It feels like the mysteries below are close, attainable.
These changes are indicative of life aboard, inside and out. Sometimes hot inside, the crew sits outside to enjoy the breeze. When it rains, the cockpit becomes very wet and inhospitable. Most stay below. If things are not stowed properly in their place, they fall down, whether its books, cups, food, sail wrenches, water bottles or computers.
Mostly, the constant change in sea motion is what confounds and exhausts the mind. Serious studying is very difficult because much of the mind is dedicated to concentrating on staying upright, especially when over 10° healed over. The crew moves side to side, forward and back, constantly. Nothing is still. I find reading and some thought possible, but serious contemplation and learning new concepts, nearly impossible. The ability to accomplish much beyond the most mundane or most necessary (cooking, changing sails, washing dishes, taking showers) is dramatically minimized.
Change is the constant in life. Everyday we spend at sea reminds me of this. Headed to the Galapagos, which exhibits this idea to the utmost, the birthplace of the idea of evolution, change from one species into another distinct species, makes for an incredible learning opportunity. To quote writer Jeff Greenwald from his article “A Natural Selection” in AAA’s Jan/Feb 2015 Westways magazine issue: “Nearly 2 centuries after the 24 year old Charles Darwin stepped onto the Galapagos Islands, they’re still a global laboratory for the study of adaptation. In fact, everything about our planet, even its position in space is in constant flux, moving toward an unknown destiny.” We humans are the same. We change, evolve, grow and learn new ideas and ways to live, make a living, survive.
I don’t know what all of this change around me is teaching exactly: to be open to new possibilities, patience, resilience, to be adaptive to my environment, ‘to be prepared’ like a Girl Scout. I chose this new lifestyle knowing the changes in my life would be great. Now I simply have to adapt to the vastness of change and accept the inconstant as my constant without being disgruntled. Richard Henry Dana wrote in his book Two Years Before the Mast that you can’t get mad at the sea when it causes you to spill your lunch. You have to laugh at what the ocean throws at you, otherwise you’d maintain an angry state of mind. If you laugh, the uncomfortable makes for a much better story in the end.
Leslie Dennis Rigney