Everyone is enjoying this time at sea. A lot of us aren’t ready for land just yet. I think the thing I’m going to miss the most when we near the island are the night watches.
I’ve enjoyed having two hours of dedicated time where I can just think. Just be. In other situations I suppose people could say- “but you can do that anywhere!”
Maybe I could. I could go to a café, sit alone for two hours and think. But I’ll still be distracted. Should I take a book? Maybe I should do some writing. I’m not good with not doing anything, unless I’m forced into that kind of situation.
Like night watches.
There’s something special about being able to unravel the thoughts in your mind, being able to make sense of them and investing two complete hours just being with yourself. We don’t ever have enough time to do that nowadays.
But I’m sure the compensation of everyone being able to go to bed at the same time, watch films together, and having an undisturbed sleeping pattern will soon change my mind.
There’s a feeling of complete seclusion from the world whilst we’re out sailing in the South Atlantic. Anything could have happened out there these past two weeks. And we’ve been so happy not even knowing. I had a moment of clarity as it really dawned on me that we may be the only people doing this crossing right now in the world.
I was standing on the aftdeck just after the sun had gone down. Brian was doing his push ups in the cockpit and I had been attempting to do some squats whilst holding onto the rigging. Giving up rather quickly and resuming to up the steps on my Fitbit, I paused for a moment and stared out into the ocean.
It was like my vision had never been filled up with so much blue before. The skies and the oceans took up everything within sight. I turned around and around and around, seeing this endless stream of blue constantly within my vision.
We were completely and utterly alone.
Since we left Ascension Island, we’ve spotted one cargo ship for fifteen minutes about 16 nautical miles away and two birds.
We’ve caught no fish, although I suppose we haven’t really been trying.
There has been no sightings of life. No murmurings on radio.
Nada. Nothing. Zilch.
And there’s never been a better feeling.
It’s like being able to skip a class on the last day of school and no one being able to do anything about it. It’s like quitting that job you hate, driving away in the car with a huge grin on your face because you’ve decided you’re going to do what you want to do now. It’s like packing up a bag and booking a ticket out of the concrete town you’ve lived your entire, taking that first step out of the rented apartment you couldn’t afford anyway and throwing away your phone.
That’s the comparison of relief I can give you. And they all come with that feeling of escape.
The sensation that you are untouchable.
A cutting of ties.
But I know the land is beckoning us. We have several more days of this feeling before we plunge ourselves into a world of adventure once again- still, in a way cut off from the world, in the sense that we’ll be making anchor at a tiny island first.
I don’t think any of us is prepared for big cities like Rio just yet after just having very tiny tastes of civilisation for the past three months.
I don’t think we know how to act in civilisation anymore.
So we will continue on as the mismatched group of vagabonds that we are.
And we’ll enjoy the ocean for a little while longer.
And so days pass. We carry on in our routines until things start to change. We start to spot birds and other boats on radar. The excitement is ridiculous.
“I saw three birds today!” I say to Alex.
“Man- I did last night too!” she replies, grinning.
My excitement for nearing land increases, and soon we start to see more life. Boats start to pass us by on radar and dolphins begin to swim around us.
We were so close, but the wind wasn’t on our side, dying down completely for two days. I felt incredibly frustrated but knew there was nothing I could do about it. The wind however came back with a vengeance and despite the crew being sure that we would reach land in another two days, I held out on hope that we would be there the next day.
The next day the wind was absent yet again. But we decided to make the most of it.
“How about we put out the chair, brother?” Brian says to Brady.
I glance over to them. They are sitting contentedly opposite each other, so similar and yet so different. I’ve always enjoyed watching them together. They have a close bond as brothers that I’ve never seen with anyone. They both look out for each other, make each other laugh and look to the other for advice. There is a deep love and respect there.
It makes me miss my own sister.
“Yeah sure!” Brady says, jumping up at once.
And so we commence in getting The Grub in his throne.
Pulling out a green canvas chair, we hook it up to the pole and swing it over to the starboard side. The plan is that Brady is going to jump from the bow and grab it. We’re going incredibly slow so no one is worried about losing Mr Brady.
He jumps from the bow with a shout and starts to paddle. With one movement he’s in and swinging, his backside dragging through the waters. Lisa raises him up on the winch and soon he is grinning from ear to ear.
“It looks like there is something missing!” I shout over to him, seeing both of his hands empty.
He nods at me in understanding.
Within a minute, I’m back on deck with a cold beer and a Kitkat in hand. Brady’s grin widens even more (even if that’s possible). Brian and Brady then start to instruct me how to pass it over to them using ropes and a beer bag, but their directions are conflicting and confusing.
“Do it like this!”
“No, if she does it like that, then that will happen!”
“Just get the rope by that other rope, twist and hook over!”
I shake my head and scrunch my eyes shut. “I’m not listening to either of you anymore,” I tell them both. “I’m just going to do it my way.”
Doing an old fashioned knot, I hook the delivery onto the rope and swing it over. Mr Brady catches it with flailing hands and a wild desperation in his eyes as he sees the beer swing in the air. His fingers grasp the cold metal just in time and we cheer.
“Wooo! All hail The Grub!”
Brady’s backside continues to skim in and out of the water so we hoist him a little higher and then retire back to the cockpit, leaving him there in his contentment.
“Hey, Lizbef,” Brian says with a glint in his eye. “Do you want to go up the mast?”
I stare at him for a moment.
Before I know it, I’m standing before the mast with Brian strapping a safety harness and belt around me. With the lack of wind comes ‘the rolls’. The waves bounce Delos from side to side and I swallow in trepidation as I look up.
“Ok Lizbef!” Brian says, pulling a GoPro camera around my head. “Up you go!”
Suddenly Brian is winding the winch and my body is being lifted up in the air.
“Keep a hold of the mast!” Brady yells up at me.
I cling onto whatever I can desperately, the motion of the boat swinging me hard from side to side. My hands grasp onto the rigging as I attempt to find some sense of grace. But I fail, my arms and legs flailing around as I shriek and wail.
“Briiiian!” I screech.
But Brian is oblivious of my panic and continues to winch. “Nearly at the top, Lizbef!”
My legs wrap around the mast as I cling on for dear life.
“Don’t let go!” Karin calls up to me.
So I don’t. I refuse to. The motion of the boat becomes stronger and my chins, knees and legs become battered as I’m smacked into the mast and rigging. Eventually I’m pulled up to the spreader and my hands reach out for it.
“Grab, Lizbef, grab!” Karin shouts.
So I do and I pull myself up, my lungs collapsing as I breathe in a holy sigh of relief.
“You all right, Liz?”
Am I all right?
I’m blinking in the sunlight as an endless blue stretches out as far as I can see. It is endless, unfathomable depths echoing shadows around Delos, the swell rising in patterns across the waters to the back of beyond. I am overwhelmed, the wind blowing through my hair and the light blinding my eyes. My knuckles hurt from how tightly I am holding on.
“This is amazing!” I shout, adrenaline pouring through my blood mercilessly.
I look down and suddenly the GoPro slips from my head. My blood goes cold as it cartwheels through the air, ready to drop to the floor.
My hand snakes out and grasps it suddenly, my fingers clenching it like a vice.
“Whoa!” Lisa yelps, seeing it all. “That was close!”
My heart beating, I fix it more securely on my head and try to find a more comfortable position to calm my thudding heart.
I stay up there for a while as Delos bobs and sways in and out of the water. In all honesty, despite the joy and euphoria I am feeling, I am scared of going back down. So I sit there contentedly, the clouds rising and stretching across the skies, sharing the space with the sun as she hides and reveals herself wantonly.
I always say how I am amazed at this life of mine. But I feel as though there are no words that can properly convey my emotions or sensations on Delos. It has been a journey of many firsts and at times the joy of it all can be overpowering.
I am not used to this consistency of happiness.
Soon it was time for me to be lowered, and I felt more confident in coming down. As soon as my feet touch the floor, I looked up to a grinning Brian.
“How was it, Lizbef?”
I smile in return. “I don’t have any words,” I answer, pulling off the harness with shaking hands. “It was beyond what I imagined.”
Lisa and Alex are keen to go up next and they take it in turns, going a little higher than I. I watch them with a mixture of emotions. I am so proud of my girl crew. I am so proud of what we have achieved and their passion for life.
I can’t imagine leaving them all of a sudden, but I push the thought of reality far away.
For now, we are in the middle of the South Atlantic, God knows where. Land is a concept right now. It’s just us and we could be the last six people on earth.
It sure feels like it sometimes.
After the girls had been to the top and back down again, we relaxed, ate, took turn with our watches and relaxed, looking forward to the rumour on the forecast that there would be wind that night.
It came sure enough, blowing hard and pushing Delos forwards with a strength that we hadn’t felt in a long time. An excitement was creeping through my veins at the thought of getting to Brazil the next day. It definitely felt the case as I sat back in the lounge hearing the bubbles and water rush by.
What an incredible day.
I woke the next morning and checked our log from the night. Everyone had written down how they expected for us to arrive at the marina by sunset! I grinned, made myself some porridge and crawled up to the cockpit.
But there was a new concern.
What if we didn’t make it by sunset? What if the wind died?
Saturday came and there was the fear that we would come into the marina too late at night.
“We may just have to go slow, like 3 knots so we get there in the morning instead,” Brady and Alex were musing.
“No!” I protested immediately, sitting down without even greeting anyone. “She can do it! She’ll make it!”
Brady shrugged. “We’ll see. She’ll have to do 8.5knots for that to happen.”
“We should just go for it,” I argued. There was a silence as people thought over the different possibilities. No one wanted to go in at night in because of visibility. There was a chance we would have to heave to halfway there for the night or even carry on sailing aimlessly throughout the night to make it in for the morning.
“We’re eighty miles away,” Brady said.
“We can make it,” I nodded, patting Delos. “I believe in her. She’ll do it. She’s going to smash it!”
We decided to go for it. Putting the mainsail up on starboard side, we did everything we could to get her on a good course with the strongest wind, keeping her steady and true.
Hours passed and I must have checked our mileage every ten minutes. When it came to my watch, she only had thirty miles left.
I was confident. We were going to make it after all.
Soon, distant islands started to emerge out of the mist ahead. The feeling was intense as we clambered on deck, holding each other and hugging as that single destination came forwards.
Tears started to run as we could finally see trees, small houses and…
People started to sail past us on small boats, windsurfing, kayaking and even paddle boarding. We were instantly dazed with the sign of life. Houses of all different sizes and shapes whizzed by, nestled behind trees, beaches stretched out with tiny docks, waiting for little boats like ours to stop by.
We all embraced, unable to believe it.
We had done it.
We had crossed the South Atlantic Ocean.
I think I was stunned for a long time as I sat down near the backstep, staring out at the way we had just come. I had never thought my life would end up this way. Never could have imagined I could have possibly by on here with these people.
I had just accomplished the biggest feat of my life.
I had crossed an ocean.
After all of this time. After all of this hoping, longing, wishing, dreaming-
And we had done it together.
Just what adventures did Brazil have in store for the Delos Crew?
Read more from Elizabeth here! www.earlewrites.com
For more sailing adventures check out svdelos.com