I creep through the darkness, swaying with the motion of the boat as I attempt to head silently to the snack cupboard. It’s 3am, everyone is asleep and I.am.hungry.
I open the cupboard and rub my hands in glee. I pull out an oat snack bar to hear a rustling to my left.
“What are you doing?”
I turn to see Alex squinting in the light, her eyes widening in revelation when she sees me hunched over the snack cupboard, boxes of chocolate pulled out.
“You’ve been caught red handed!”
My mouth works. “Oh, hello, darling…” I push back the boxes of chocolate and hold up my oat snack bar. “It’s a healthy one though!”
“Mmmm. And what else have you had?”
“Well, I had an apple-”
“I did, honest!”
She laughs and heads off to the toilet. I mention something about the wind dying but she’s still half asleep and doesn’t really understands what I’m saying. Heading back above deck, I inspect the wind gauge. The wind has been unpredictable and very capricious of late. For the first half of the week we experienced around 20 knots of wind, standard. Now it had dribbled away from 2knots to 5.
I frowned, needing to change our direction 10 degrees portside so the sails can pick up the wind that keeps switching from 150 degrees portside to 150 degrees starboardside. We’re zigzagging our way now to St Helena, but at least we’re still headed in the right direction.
Radar appears clear, the stars are out and it’s a cosy kind of night, the air warming every day. When we first set out, I had to wear three pairs of socks, two jumpers, three pairs of leggings, hoody, scarf, hat and rain jacket to keep warm. Now it’s a rule of going barefoot, leggings and a hoody.
The waters trickle around me, the inconsistent flapping of the sails coming about as the wind picks up, dies and picks up again, still undecided which direction it wants to blow from.
The past couple of days have been blissful aboard Delos- I’m actually at the point where I don’t really want to see land. It’s been so nice just having this time, I suppose I’m scared in case the magic stops. But on Delos, that sort of thing never happens. It simply becomes more magical, and I know St Helena is going to be an amazing place for us to explore.
I’ve been incredibly happy during this passage. It feels as though I’ve left my demons far away, the South Atlantic Ocean cleansing my spirit like a turbo washing machine. I suppose there must be something with waking up in such an energising and cleansing environment such as the ocean. I can’t imagine being away from it now. To be away from this sensation of freedom.
Yesterday was a relaxed affair. It was my cooking day, so I wanted to redeem myself from being unable to cook the previous week due to my sea sickness. Starting off by making porridge for myself, Alex and Brian, for lunch at 12, I simply reheated the leftovers from Mr Brady’s Mexican dinner of burritos, slicing up some fresh tomatoes, avocado and cheese to add. It was an easy lunch.
Everyone gets hungry about 3pm, so I decided to prepare for the onslaught of:
“Mmm, I’m starving!”
I decided to bake a cake. I haven’t baked a cake in a long time, but managed a raisin cake that I was surprised turned out pretty delicious- especially with Nutella. Dinner came and I cooked mash potato with mushrooms and bacon fried in a garlic sauce with caramelised onions and tomatoes in a balsamic sweet sauce. It was positively received and I felt pretty good when Alex said that it had been her favourite meal that I had cooked.
As everyone is off doing their own thing, Brian and I make a nest in the lounge and get comfortable to watch an episode of Black Sails. Brian makes us both popcorn whilst I’m cuddled under a blanket, and as we start to watch the episode, I feel like I’m in heaven.
Retreating to bed when the episode is over, I manage to get 90 minutes of sleep before my watch at midnight. I take over from Mr Brady.
“Hello, mate,” he says, smiling as I come on deck. “Nothing really eventful- there’s a boat on radar to your starboardside, so keep an eye on that, but apart from that, nothing special to report.”
I yawn and nod. “Ok, pet, you get off to bed now.”
The lights from the other boat come and go, heading East back towards where we’ve come from. Part of me is disappointed, hoping for a nightly companion on the way to St Helena.
I put my feet up, check radar, our course and amuse myself with reading a book about pirate history. In it I learn about Blackbeard, John Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Bartholomew Roberts, Captain Kidd and a whole lot more. I learn about individual pirate codes on each ship, I read about the war between France, England and Spain. I read about different types of ships, sloops, schooners, snows, galleons, galleys and some others I can’t remember. I learn about responsibilities that were held on each ship- the Captain, the Quartermaster, the Mate, the Boatswaine, the Surgeon, the Navigator and of course- the Cook. I read on about the Golden Hind, Queen Anne’s Revenge and the Fancy. I then read-
And my watch is done.
I raise my eyebrows in surprise when Brian comes up to take over. Between reading my book and pausing every fifteen minutes to check surroundings, radar and that we’re still on course, the night has flown by.
I trot off into bed after giving Brian a hug goodnight and fall asleep immediately.
I wake up the next morning to the sounds of shuffling in the kitchen. A curtain separates my bed from the galley and salon but it doesn’t do anything to stop the sound from people pottering about from my ears. As I hear people attempt their best (or not at all) to be as quiet as a mouse whilst making tea, I roll over in bed, unable to go back to sleep as my mind fixates on writing a new book.
It’s been a while since I’ve started a new storyline- I usually write books when I want to escape somewhere else. It’s been pretty difficult to want to be anywhere else than Delos at the moment, but I’ve gotten my writing mojo back by editing the sequel of The Contract of Maddox Black.
But this time, I’m utterly inspired by sailing and what I’ve learned about the pirate era. Storylines twist around in my head as I try and go back to sleep but fail. I listen to music to attempt to stop the frantic workings of my brain but it doesn’t work.
The main character- what’s her name? Where is she from? What does she do? Who are the bad guys? What is the motive? Where is she going? What time period is it? What do you know about the customs of that century? Maybe this could happen, and then this! Oh yes! And then this person could say this and she could end up here-
My writer’s brain refuses to switch off, so I have no choice but to get up and prepare to write.
I attempt to sit down several times to write, but something distracts me each time. By the time I’ve managed to get 500 words done, it’s time for my 12-3pm watch above deck. I content myself with drawing a new cover for our log book for a while, munching contentedly on the quinoa and vegetable lunch Alex whips up for us all.
I’ve always been a carnivore back home in the midlands. It is very unusual for me to eat a savoury meal without meat, and if there is no meat, then there had better be cheese.
But here on Delos I’ve managed to sample a huge array of vegetarian and delicious meals that have surprised me.
I still love bacon though.
The weather today is warm, although slightly overcast. I had predicted yesterday that it was going to rain today. It does and I can’t help but feel smug at my foretelling. The swells are still large today, the wind unreliable as it continues to change direction and speed. I adjust our direction into zigzags, trying our best to catch the wind as it swings from portside to starboardside.
A while later, Alex comes on deck in her bikini and shorts.
“You want to go for a jump in the ocean?” she asks.
I laugh. “Yeah, ok then,” I say, thinking she is joking.
“Ok then, awesome.”
“Haha, I mean, whaa?” I stare at her unchanging smiling face as she takes in my disbelief. “Are you serious?” I glance out into the deep blue rolling ocean, the waves lifting Delos up and down, rolling her left to right. And then I look down. We are several thousand meters from the bottom of the ocean. We have no idea what is below us, how many or how deadly.
The sea churns as if in challenge.
I swallow and look back at Alex. “We’ll get bit by sharks!”
She shrugs. “There’s only one way to find out.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Yeah, and you’ll only find out once.”
But it’s too late. Brady is tying a rope to the back of Delos, Brian is in his swimming trunks and Lisa is in her bikini. I retreat quickly to the back and change into mine.
I know that despite the idea of jumping off the back of the boat terrifying me- I know I’m going to do it. I know I can’t say no to that experience. I can’t say no to having that on my story.
As I approach the stern of Delos, Brian, Alex and Lisa are already in the water, their bodies cutting through the waves as they cling onto the rope tightly. I laugh at the sight of them, the grins on their faces and their wide eyes.
They look so alive, so free and awake all of a sudden.
“Come on then mate!” Brady cajoles. “Jump in!”
I sway on the back step and yelp, trying to keep my balance. I stare at the endless blue around me, the rising waves and the foam being churned behind Delos. The stern is rising and falling a couple of meters in and out of the ocean as she rides the waves.
I am afraid.
But the adrenaline wins out.
The water covers my head in a rush around my ears. There is nothing but blue. Nothing but blue. Nothing but-
I wrench my head to the surface as I speed past Brian and Lisa, my arms stretching out to grab the rope.
A fear rises in me of not grabbing it at all and being lost behind, but my hands grasp it last second. Jubilation like I’ve never felt before bursts inside my core. I whoop, laugh and can’t help but shriek as I realise there are much bigger monsters below there in the deep than I could ever imagine.
Right beneath my flailing feet.
I panic for a moment and shriek, thinking that it would be typical for it to happen to me- of course it would happen to me.
The panic subsides and I take a breath.
I turn and see Alex cutting through the waves like a dolphin as she twists and ducks under the water as each wave rises. Lisa is laughing and Brian is teasing me about the creatures form below. I start to laugh then, uncontrollably.
Oh my God, I am doing this. I am doing this!
We hold on like that for a while, the ocean stretching around us in an endless hug. There is nothing about but us, the ocean and Delos.
Oh, and maybe the monsters of the deep below our toes.
I can’t explain the liberation that sensation gave me. What it did to my soul. My heart. I felt as though something smashed inside me into a million pieces. The girl who thought she would have remain in the concrete world living from pay check to pay check was gone. The acceptance of the every day world living was destroyed. The low expectations of what life could give, torn from me.
This was it. This was life. This was living.
This was my story.
This is my story.
The realisation of that made me, grin, laugh- and inevitably swallow a mouthful of seawater and splutter.
Maybe it was time to get out…
To get back onto the boat we had to wait for a wave to lift us up back onto the backstep of Delos. She rose high in the air to smash back down against the water, foam churning beneath her. I swallowed, hoping my skull wouldn’t find its way beneath.
I stared at it, wondering how on earth I was ever going to get back on board.
“Come on, Lizbef!” Brian shouted. “There’s plenty of sharks about! Come on- move!”
“Oh, shut up, Brian!”
I clung onto the back, waiting for the wave, waiting for it to lift me up to cling onto the backstep, kick out with my legs and haul myself up just to fall back into the water. I tried and tried and tried, my arms shaking with the effort.
Finally, Brian held out his hand, and I grasped onto it like a lifeline for him to haul me up, my swimming bottoms falling halfway down my backside. I clung onto him desperately, hugging him in a seasalt embrace of gratitude.
The evening was to get even better. During the sunset, the Delos Crew stepped outside to dance and sing to celebrate. Suddenly it started to rain but we continued regardless, turning around to see double rainbow stretching across the sky.
We whooped and cheered and swore at the sight.
How is this possible? How are we experiencing so much wonder every day?
It was surreal as Brady and I jumped up and down, singing and playing the ukulele. It was joyous, overpowering, immense, victorious and liberating all at once. My heart was going to burst. My smile was going to break my face in two. My body was going to float up into the air at any moment.
I was so alive.
And as we retreated back within the safe belly of Delos, cuddled up with one another and content in each other’s company, lazy and sleepy smiles were on our faces.
“What an amazing day,” sighed Alex happily.
I grinned in return, the chorus of my crews’ agreement filling my ears.
“What an amazing life.”
Read more from Elizabeth at www.earlewrites.com