(China Camp was fun. The trip to nowhere a week before…less so. Apologies to nervous friends and family. I just tend to think the most fun things to write about are the things that weren’t all that fun when they happened.)
My head is swimming through the swells in front of me and all I can think is, “At least we didn’t get those jalapeño burgers.”
That had been Nick’s half-joking lunch suggestion. Big, greasy, cheesy, jalapeño burgers, maybe with a tall beer to wash them down; the meal that had been Alex’s unraveling on our last sail. I had commented that it would be a funny idea up until the point when we barfed. He seemed to think even then it still would be.
Scrambling for my bottled water, I burp and taste bitter-sweetness. Delicious.
An hour and a half ago I awoke in the quarter berth to Nick’s hand on my foot. My watch shift was starting. I crawled woozy out of my bunk and put on layer after layer until I maxed out at six on top, and four on my legs. Out of clothes to put on, I headed up to the cockpit. Nick explained that he’d figured out the windvane and the boat would likely just steer itself. He passed quickly belowdecks and I tethered in behind the wheel. 2:45AM. Three hours to go.
Now my tether is tugging obnoxiously at my chest, stretched to the max and trying to pull my back towards the wheel. I’m sitting on the high side of the cockpit. My right arm is wrapped around a lifeline and tucked in my coat pocket. It is freezing out here. The boat dances arrhythmically. I’m looking out for the horizon—anything to remove the boat’s spastic movement from my vision. I can barely make out the difference between the water and sky. Another burp. Oh well, game over I guess.
I lose it over the side. Once, then again. Breathing heavy and wiping snot and vomit onto…where, exactly? My pants? Yes, that’ll do. My eyes sink in and I focus on the horizon, intense. Willing myself healthy.
When I initially settled in behind the wheel, I had the idea that I’d enjoy the solitude for about a half hour, then when I got tired I’d listen to an episode of This American Life. When that ended I’d sit out the rest of my watch, and it’d be over before I knew it. About 20 minutes in the show, with my headphones around my neck pumping out Ira’s Glass’s voice at full blast, I could tell tonight was going to suck. I suffered through the show, and when it ended, I didn’t make it five minutes before slipping up to my current position, too sick and tired to unlatch myself from the tether.
I reach down for the water and take a sip, hoping to remove some of this awful taste from my mouth. As a pleasant surprise, it tastes rancid instead. It’s Glacial Springs bottled water, and they must have put some ingredient in there to add a taste to it, (some branding thing) because the chemical sweetness of it perfectly compliments the sugary tang of my bile. I spit. I contemplate getting up to get some different water. The sink is five feet away. Forget it.
I take another swig, resign myself to staring off into the distance for the rest of my shift, and pull my foul-smelling hood off my head. I catch an occasional view of the boat out of the corner of my eyes and I almost smile, the color slowly returning to the deck as the daylight sneaks over the foggy horizon.
And then I burp again.