My first day back on “Ramble”, the old 36ft wooden yawl. Ava, Brad and John – aka ‘the crew’ – came to greet me by the ferry docks, though somewhat sleepy and hungover. It was a quiet chilly morning on a lonely island, Minorca, Spain. I was trying to muster up some energy, to be the enthusiastic, optimistic person I strive to be… only on this day, under these clouds, it wouldn’t come. I had left good friends and great loves in Barcelona, and felt as though this was the beginning of the inevitable fall off the edge of the earth. I would laugh but my heart would shrug, I’d smile but without a shine.
Still, I had the space and time to follow these feelings, and it was therapeutic to allow myself the sadness. I was surrounded by beautiful, melancholic sights too. Huge waves crashing against high cliff-faces, lone trees molded by the fierce wind, somber sunsets over restless seas. This was the beginning and the end, new worlds and uncharted adventures… though my heart was lonely, the excitement bubbled just below the surface.
Once we were under way, things lit up. Crawling into my front berth after my night watch, smiling contentedly as I listened to the ocean blow against our little boat. One leg out, or an arm braced against my lee-board to mellow the constant motion, my grin only grew with every wave.
There were rough nights. Evenings where, periodically, a wall of water would wash over you, freezing your knuckles still gripping the wheel. Where the swells were so great we would surf down them at 9knots and getting your gear (foulie overalls, foulie jacket, harness, radio, lifejacket, gloves, beany, gumboots, soaked socks) off downstairs was a slippery balancing act.
And there were calm days. Mornings where the sun rose late or not at all, the water we were gliding through turned into a silky stillness and fog crept up and all around. A lone branch floating in the glassy sea, probably from an African tree, and birds circling our mast. Where I would will the wind to blow, yelling up to a silent sky “come on Mother, I am TRYING to help you out here, give me some bloody breeze!” and turn the motor on muttering.
We sailed on from Minorca, through a near-gale to Majorca… waited for a weather window… then across and down and across and down and across and down, tacking and tack-tack-tacking our way to Gibraltar (though sometimes we were closer to Algeria)… provisioned, laughed at the oh-so-englishness of it all, then set-out across the channel to Morocco. A few days later and we were bound for the Canary Islands. Finally we were out of the Mediterranean, on our way and in the wide open ocean. There was no turning back now.