August 16th, 2014: Setting Sail
I was to meet Xavier and his two kids Tati, 16, and Kevin, 11, at their boat, the Maria Cristina, at 11:30 on Saturday morning. My stomach was full of fluttering butterflies as I took the five minute walk from our house in P-Town down to the Marina. Xavier and Tati were already preparing for the sail by checking various parts of the boat, changing filters and tightening bolts and such. My nerves were calmed a little.
Before long, it was time to head out on our voyage, and by 1 o'clock we set sail on our way to Maine. Xavier gave me a patch to put behind my ear so I wouldn't get seasick. Apparently you must do it beforehand otherwise it won't work. I was fine with that because I wouldn't have expected to feel that way until we were beyond sight of land anyway and I didn't need to take any chances.
Bye bye P-Town
For the first 4 hours or so, P-Town was still in sight and I felt somewhat calm, yet still a little apprehensive. I knew the inevitable was coming...that sooner or later there would be no land in sight. Just me, Xavier, the two kids and the Atlantic Ocean, and I was especially afraid of the dark!
We spent a lot of this time with Xav teaching me boat essentials and safety precautions...just in case! The plan was for him to go to sleep right after dinner, around 8, and sleep as long as I'd let him so that he could take the critical, late-night helm.
I learned how to make an mayday call, on channel 16, in case something were to happen to him during the voyage, a terrifying thought! I learned how to read both the radar and the GPS system. The radar lets you see if there are any boats out there in the darkness. Gulp! I was instructed to wake Xavi if any blip on the screen came within 2 miles of us, something that thankfully never happened. The GPS was easy enough to read. It showed 3 lines, a red one, a green one and a dotted one, which was our desired path. I'm still not exactly sure what the other two lines were for, but I think the red one actually showed which way the boat was pointing at any given time...it was very erratic. Anyway, with the GPS, if I saw the boat veering off course, all I had to do was press one of four buttons, 1 or 10 degrees to the left or right. Simple!
About the same time we lost sight of land, it was time for dinner. Xav and Tati cooked up a nice meal of chili, rice and spinach, which we enjoyed on the deck. Though the feelings of dread and fear still bore themselves into my psyche, I could still appreciate the unique beauty and sights being out there afforded me, and I was taking it all in.
After dinner, it was time for Xavier to get some sleep. He left me alone, on watch, with the two kids. The three of us chatted and laughed and kept our eyes on the radar and the GPS as the night sky grew darker. One hour passed, then two...all along I had in my head was Madonna's "time goes by, so slowly," as indeed it did. Eventually we were in complete darkness, huddled together for warmth and trying to keep each other awake. We wanted to let Xav sleep until at least 2-2:30, which seemed like forever away.
Kevin was the first to go, falling fast asleep at around 11 p.m. Poor trooper wanted to stay up with us all the way, but he couldn't. Then it was Tati and I, and let me tell you, she was good! Having sailed on the Maria Cristina many times before and being the kind of responsible kid she is, Tati was very diligent about staying awake and monitoring the situation. As for me, well I tried to keep up with her, which I did a pretty good job of, but I felt a lot better with her there.
Finally, the hour came to wake Xavier up...and get some sleep. By now, though I was kind of used to the rolling of the boat in the dark sea, sleep didn't come easy. I was still hoping to miss the rest of the night by getting some shut eye myself. Xavier came up to deck and I went down below. Sleep was restless as my body rolled back and forth with the waves. Eventually I learned to roll with it and get some shut eye. The next thing I knew, we were approaching the Maine coast at around 9 a.m. through some early morning fog. The sail was almost over. Maine was near. I was officially excited!
To be continued...