The crew is rushing around Delos with anticipation rife in the air. The reason?
We leave today. We’re securing everything down in sight, putting things away and searching for anything that could fall, break or roll.
We’re all so excited to leave, the Land Sickness now beating in our hearts as we yearn for those open waters to stretch around us. It’s nice coming to a place like Walvis Bay where we can regenerate and indulge in some land partying, gorging ourselves on rich local food and enjoy some nice hot showers in the local yacht club.
But the time has come and we’re ready.
Lisa is playing some Austrian music and the rest of us are up on deck bringing Maggie up. There’s always a strange trepidation before we leave somewhere. We all become a little bit strange and very hyper.
And before we know it the anchor is up and we’re off, the wind whipping back our hair and the damp salt breeze already drying on our lips.
It will be a while before we see land again. Part of me doesn’t care. It feels like escaping school and being too far for the teachers to drag you back to class. The sensation of being torn off from the entire world is incredibly liberating, knowing that there is no one demanding anything from you. No deadlines, no meetings, no nothing. It’s just us and the ocean.
The watches have been put back up, and I start off tonight at midnight till 2am. We’re sailing downwind so everything seems as though it’s going to be pretty straight forward. I know how to slack and tighten up Jib sheets and am already familiar with the navigation systems.
The sea is rolling ever so gently and my body is getting used to the motion. I’m always dreading sea sickness so try and push it to the back of my mind. I’ve been lucky with it so far, and have been pretty proud to have avoided coming down with the affliction.
Realising that I hadn’t spent the time to appreciate the world drift away from us, I came up on deck and raise my eyebrows in surprise. We’ve been gone for fifteen minutes and already there’s no sight of land.
And just like that, our time in Walvis Bay was done.
I returned to the table and continued to write, wanting to stay productive. The further we went out, the stronger the wind became, and the swell grew larger. Delos was soon a jolting boat in the middle of the ocean and I had tucked myself in bed with a bag of biltong to read my book.
A strangeness had started to come over me and I frowned at the symptoms.
I was starting to feel pretty queasy…
No, no, no, no!
An hour later, I was in the toilet throwing up.
It had happened.
I was officially sea sick.
The boat continued to rock and roll and my stomach lifted and fell with each rise of our home. I remained in bed, unable to eat or stand the smell of food. It had been my turn to cook that night but I knew it was an impossibility.
“Do you want me to cook instead, Elizabeth?” Brian asked me.
But I was way too proud. “Nope, I’ll be fine, mate,” I grunted, diving into the food storage drawers and started to dig around.
He retreated to his bedroom and I was soon sitting on the floor in the kitchen, my lap full of tomatoes as I attempted to chase them across the floor.
I stood and my lungs seemed to fill with fire. Sweat poured out of me and I bowed my head, holding back a wave of nausea. Karin appeared as I attempted to cut up a butternut and pointed out that I maybe should use them last as they last the longest.
I swore at myself as I looked down at the knife. Of course they do. Why on earth would I pick that? Cursing my lack of thought, I continued cutting up the vegetable, trying to keep control of my stomach. I had taken some natural ginger sea sickness tablets but they seemed to burn and sizzle in my empty stomach.
The time came to ask for help.
“Brian?” As soon as I crept into his room I regretted it.
Brian was cuddled up in bed and wrapped in a fur blanket, content and happy in his and Karin’s love nest.
I felt awful as he got up and came into the kitchen, diligently figuring out what he could cook and sent me to bed.
I was help to no one, least of all myself.
I watched from my cot in the lounge, unable to bear the smell of food and hoped I would fall asleep soon. But Delos continued to be hit by the waves and I was rolling all over the place.
Unable to eat any of it, I waited until my night watch at midnight to attempt a few bites.
I held back throwing up through my entire watch, attempting to constantly distract myself and shove my face into the freezing air. I was so confused why I should be feeling so ill now. Why now?
It was as though some miraculous power had saved me from sea sickness up until the moment it was confirmed I could go to Brazil and just said: “You’re on your own now, love.”
It felt like a hangover from hell that hair of the dog and bacon couldn’t fix.
No moon graced the sky that night. I had always wondered why it was the sun that people gathered together to watch rise and fall and not the moon. The moon only seemed special to people when it was full or when there was an eclipse or something. I felt its loss from the sky keenly.
I always was a supporter of the underdog.
Still, stars scattered the sky as though a child had spilt flour on a blackened floor. The sea churned beneath, the foam glowing under the starlight. Luminescence the crew called it. It didn’t feel like a magical enough word for it, but it would do for now.
The watch came and went and I gladly retreated back to bed, bidding farewell to my blinking companions.
The next day I was still ill. I managed to eat some porridge and returned to bed. It was ten past twelve when Brady woke me up.
“Jesus Christ!” I shot up in shock and blinked in confusion up at him.
“Elizabeth, you’re on watch,” he said. “And you’re supposed to be cooking.”
Oh shit. He was right. I jumped out of bed and quickly pulled on some warm clothes, annoyed and embarrassed that I was late for watch. I had never been late for a watch. Ever.
I needed to get my shit together.
Alex covered me for cooking thank goodness, so lunch was saved. I did my watch and returned to bed, keen to find that black oblivion where unconsciousness would calm my rolling stomach.
But more of the crew were to fall.
Lisa too became sick, and her night watches were an impossibility for her to do. Alex had to hold her from the back of her trousers as our Austrian hung over the side, vomiting out her guts.
It was even more important for us to pull together.
For the first two days, we all slept like the dead. The only time we got up was for our watches or to eat. I realised that I went an entire 24 hours of not talking to Lisa, which is a near impossibility in living in such close quarters. But we were both sick and both condemned to lie in our beds.
Soon the time came for dinner and started to prepare. I pulled out everything for a bolognaise and swayed to and fro with the boat. Suddenly a wave hit and I skidded across the galley, hitting my lower back hard against the kitchen side and narrowly missing Brian.
Tears threatened to spill as I howled in pain and frustration. I felt incredibly hot, sick and exhausted and staggered back to the chopping station where Brian instructed I take off my socks.
“Before you kill someone,” he added.
Thinking he had gone up on deck, I turned around and buried my head in my arms, allowing myself a quick moment of self pity. Wiping away the tears, I stood up to see he hadn’t gone anywhere.
“You ok, Elizabeth?”
“Yes,” I mumbled, embarrassed. “I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I get a bit emotional when I’m unwell.”
“You don’t look well, Elizabeth,” he said.
“What are you doing?!”
I looked up to see Alex had come into the lounge. “Cooking,” I mumbled, the onion still in my hand.
“Mate, get out of the kitchen.”
I bowed my head again, trying my best not to cry and then put down the knife.
“Go on, get!”
“England down!” Brian chirped in as I mumbled my thanks to Alex and crawled back into my bunk.
Alex laughed and continued where I left off. “I don’t want vomit in my food, brah.”
“Thank you, Alex.” I wrapped myself in covers and couldn’t help but shed a few tears of gratefulness and relief, hiding my face in the shadows.
Lisa and I were handed a small bowl of plain spaghetti each, of which I don’t think either of us managed to finish. I fell back to sleep, setting my alarm for my 2am-4am shift.
I roll over, not wanting to investigate, warm and cosy in my sheets. I have no idea where it’s coming from and hope desperately that it annoys someone else enough to get out of bed and fix it.
But it doesn’t.
Another roll of a wave…
With a growl, I throw off the covers and explore, getting down to my hands and knees to see that it’s the drawer where we keep the vegetables that keeps sliding open and slamming shut. Snapping the lock in place, I dive back into bed for another hour of sleep before my watch.
CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!
I’m awoken again and swear inwardly. It’s the dishes in the sink clanging together that are making the noise. Sighing, I get out of bed, wobble over to the sink, dry them and pop them away.
I lie back on my covers and breathe in deeply. Peace at last.
When you take away the rest of the contents of Delos incessantly clanging and banging together and the crashing of the waves against your home, it can be a very peaceful place at sea.
I got up for my watch and robotically pulled on my jumper, three pairs of leggings (swearing when a pair ripped), stuck on my hoody, hat, scarf and coat.
I was ready for another night watch.
My stomach was hurting and I wasn’t sure whether it was because of the sea sickness or because of how little I had eaten. I risked eating an oat snack bar in any case, my eyes searching the skies again for my moon.
Content with my starlight companions until the white sphere returned, I held back throwing up once again by distracting myself and keeping focused on searching the horizon and checking radar. I was relieved when Brian came to take over and I quickly filled in my Captain’s Log with our location, the pressure, sea temp and our speed.
Sleep was a welcome release as I jumped into bed and pulled the curtain shut.
On the third day of being ill, Karin gave me some sea sickness tablets. I have no idea whether it was time that made me better or whether it was those beautiful little capsules of nausea destroying goodness- either way, I felt a lot better.
I set my alarm to cook lunch but Brian got there first, insisting he knew exactly what he was going to cook. I felt incredibly guilty so was determined to help in other ways I could to make up for it. During my 3pm-6pm watch, I covered an extra hour whilst he was cooking dinner until 7pm. Lisa still was unable to do her shifts, so I offered to come back on at 9pm for an hour to help pick up the slack. I crept back into bed at 10pm, getting up again at 4am till 6am.
The shift went perfectly, the sickness had abated and I had my appetite back, (my old size 10 jeans were disappointed to hear.) I sat there with my feet up, checking everything regularly with a book in hand. I was content and finally able to enjoy the passage.
So today is the fourth day.
There has been so much growing on this journey for me and a lot of happiness.
I feel a very special kind of peace settling in my belly. We’re going to St Helena! We’re going to such a special and historical place. This journey has just begun and I’m seeing everything in a new light- myself included.
I’ve learned a lot in the past 3 months being on Delos being with these people. There’s a real love there, a real effort of pitching in together, working hard and looking out for each other.
Today has been peaceful and everyone seems to be a lot more lively- even Lisa is up and about and I’m glad she feels better. I treated myself with a quick wash today, having not showered now for five days.
The wind has been strong, pushing us at an average 20-25 knots. But the wind is to die down around tomorrow night, dropping to around 15 knots and will continue to drop, so motoring may be a future option. It should take us another 4/5 days to get there by those estimates. The waves dip and rise around us, endless large blue the swells banging all of our belongings into a discordant orchestra.
My watch is due in half an hour, Karin is cooking in the kitchen, Brian is asleep on the sofa and Alex and Brady are on deck playing the ukulele whilst keeping watch.
And me? I’m sitting here contently below deck, thankful, excited and at peace.
What an adventure that will be!