This blog is written by Elisabeth (deckhand) some days ago, when the Tres Hombres was sailing from Barbados towards Colombia.
“Ships and sailors rot in port.” After nearly three weeks on anchor in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, I know the truth of that old saw completely. The endless whine of the jetskis by day is replaced by the thumping bass and screaming DJs of the party boats that circle the bay all night, and with our dinghy engine in for repairs, we are all stuck on the boat all day and all night, and are thoroughly sick of each other. Tensions rise. We become careless of one another, and more injuries seem to happen than at sea. We do the maintenance tasks necessary for the boat, not out of a sense of delight at keeping her in good shape, but in a desperate attempt to stave off boredom. The Round-the-Island race was a perfect excuse to shake out our sails again, get the rough ropes under our fingers once more, but having to tack back into the same anchorage only a few hours later almost broke my heart. This, again? I check email compulsively, though I neither want to nor care.
But now, now we are sailing once more, the wind at our backs. Flying to Colombia downwind at 8 knots, I can feel the cares and troubles of land slipping away behind me. The ship is alive again, and we are full of purpose. As soon as we weighed anchor, I could feel too the weight in my mind lifting free. The things I worried about on land seem far away and inconsequential in the bleaching light of the full moon. I forget the internet, and instead reacquaint myself with the stars, murmuring their beautiful names to myself as I find each one in the sky; Sirius, Rigel, Capella, Aldebaran. All the water of the sea washes away whatever it was I worried about on land–what was it anyway? I can no longer remember. I watch the light change the color of the water instead, and the clouds rolling across the endless sky, the scintillations of flights of flying fish, and I swallow each sunrise whole. The moon turns the tops of the clouds silver, and the waves break in hissing foam.
I am back to feeling the way the boat responds to my steering, slithering her way between the swells, back to watching the flag for any wind shift, back to work feeling like it means something again. We have somewhere to go, some things to carry there. In port we are merely a theme-park attraction for tourists to take selfies with, a floating quaint hotel. But at sea we are sailing cargo, doing the work of it, the dailiness of this grand goal, not just talking about it.
Of course, I don’t mean to discount the immense amount of work that goes into even allowing us to sail, the work that our captain, mates, and the Fairtransport office do without us hands and trainees ever seeing. Without that work, I could never have the feeling of freedom I have now, the wind scouring clean my mind as my hands grow dirtier with tar and sweat. For that work, they deserve much thanks, for giving us a purpose and a goal. Without that purpose, without something to keep our hearts beating and our muscles pulling, to keep our brains sparking and our creativity alive, we are left to do nothing but rot.