Three Butterflies In A Bottle

Yesterday, the sky turned white all around us and raindrops the size of frogs started falling down. We couldn’t see anything in any direction. No blue sky. No honey-colored sun. No highway to heaven.

That’s unusual because normally you can see that the magician in the sky is hiding the sun behind his hat. And you think to yourself if I could only sprout wings and fly my boat more east or back north I’d be on that sunnyside.

But it didn’t matter where the sun was hiding, because none of us wanted to be dry. We opened our arms and put our heads up towards the frogs. Sunglasses on. For protection. Our bodies, sponges. Salt sliding off in clumps.

Salt is sticky. It sticks and nothing ever gets dry. It gets damp-dry. It holds onto water like a lover fearful of losing love. There’s a desperation. A grasping. A longing. A longing that occurs long before they have yet to even lose. And little did they know, that it’s that longing that causes them to lose.

When the storm subsided the sky was pale and it gave birth to a pale rainbow. So faint. So dull. So watered-down. As if the squall stole all the colors from everything, traded them in for more white, then tossed them back into the sky all washed-out.

After the rainbow, we ate spaghetti and a fresh loaf of Josh’s bread. We watched the sunset. It was pale too. Pale pink and pale blue.

There was no dance contest. But we folded the bimini back and laid down and watched the stars. And laughed. We didn’t see the comet, but the laughter was enough. It decorated our souls in sequins.

We talked about sad things too. About the way so many people we know have gotten lost in a world of drugs or altered by taking something just once. How they reach this high that is never obtainable again, though they try and try. And a depression can set in after someone rockets into a manufactured bliss, because the next day they have to go back to their office job or sit down and do their taxes or some other boring thing.

Sava had a great metaphor. He said, “When people live an urban lifestyle, completely disconnected from nature and then they go eat indigenous medicines, it’s like them going into outer space without a spacesuit. They’re not prepared and they won’t be able to survive up there. Not for long.”

Josh and I love his metaphors. Sava is Russian and I’ve always thought that people whose second language is English are far better at speaking it. They are more poetic and more creative with its use. I wish I was from another country. I wish that my tongue did not know this language first. Perhaps it would flirt more with its arrangement of words.

Other than his lyrical use of language, Sava makes a lot of jokes. Most are jabs at me. They’re not so funny anymore. Last night I wanted to cry, but I’m stronger than that now. Because, beneath my ribcage now rests a lioness. And she won’t let another being bring her to tears. Only something really beautiful or heartbreaking can take her there.

He and I are still butting heads sometimes. This can happen in small spaces. None of us can escape. Our lives are on top of each other. Imagine a 15-foot x 7-foot interior space with a small galley (kitchen), three “couches,” a table, and a little bathroom. That’s us. That’s our life at sea. Like three butterflies in a bottle.

The flow is getting better, but sometimes I secretly measure the nautical miles to Christmas Island. I think about sacrificing all our east-ing just to end the journey sooner and complete the rest of the voyage without any ounce of drama. As minuscule as it is. Then other times I can’t imagine going any further without the three of us.

It’s one thing to sail a ship safely to another shore on my own. It’s whole other thing to be a skipper that can rally a crew behind the common goal of keeping the boat in shipshape, sharing responsibilities, and following safety protocol. Any unwillingness or anything in opposition to that can be jolting for me.

Sometimes I’m a parrot repeating the same things again and again and again. “Did you check the bilge?” Or “Polly want a cracker?”

Last night Sava was making fun of me for having rationed our shower water. I’m like dude, we don’t have a watermaker. It’s for our own good.

Before leaving I spoke to a lot of other captains about how they would ration showers and went with the one method that seemed most feasible.

You get a “sun shower” or “camping shower” for each person onboard. Fill it with hose water at the dock, then thats a persons shower water for the duration of the trip. I could only find two of these showers and I labeled one for each of the guys. Each shower holds 5 gallons. This should equal 4-5 showers. I filled a one gallon jug for my own showering.

Ironically, one of their sun-showers busted somewhere along the way. It was Josh’s and he hates salt water more than anybody I know. It’s funny to me because everything he loves to do involves the ocean.

Anyway, now we have what’s left of that one sun-shower labeled “Sava” and the gallon jug that I filled. I’m going to try to collect some of this rain today too.

I’ve been on boats before where the captain won’t allow you to shower at all! Rationing something that is limited and is a basic need, such as water, is imperative. And I don’t want to be made fun of for it.

The point of my rambling is this. I am still working on being a better skipper. Keeping some edges soft and stiffening others. If the crew is acting off balance it has everything to do with my leadership and nothing to do with the crew.

I put on my fowlies just now. They are a size extra small and I bought them 12 years ago, just before my first sailing trip. They are dirty now and there have been times when they didn’t fit, but I wanted them too. So I would squeeze into them and let my body spill out of the seams.

I ran into a friend from college the day that I bought them. I showed them to him. He said, “Why did you buy them?” I said, “Because I’m delivering a sailboat from Virginia Beach to New York.” And he said, “Why on earth would you do that?”

I could think of a million reasons why. Because I love the ocean. Because I love unobstructed views of the sunset and sunrise and stars. Because I love adventure. Because I love harnessing the power of the wind and I also like the way it rips through my hair. Because I love going places where no planes go. Because actively working towards my survival, makes me feel more alive. Because I love a good story and am willing to do anything for the genesis of a new one. Because I like being immersed in the ineffable.

We were able to harvest some rain off the mainsail. While I was out there, some of the seawater splashed onto me and my legs grew into a tail. It was curly like that of a seahorse. I was wondering what would happen to my head or my torso if either of them got splashed. Maybe the sea would turn me into a new creature. Like a Pufferfish Seastar Seahorse. I would want my head to be the puffer part.

Anyways, as soon as I crawled back inside and dried, my legs came back, but I miss my tail. I was going to wrap it around the lifelines and dangle my head into the water and tease the sharks.

We haven’t seen the sun at all today. I miss it too. And I have low energy without it. What if one day the sun is no longer there? Earth would start flying into space. And humans would float in the air. I wonder how long it would take for us to freeze? Would waves turn into mountains of ice? Could I skate down them? Or would the water start floating upwards, then freeze, so it would look more like massive frozen stalactites? And would sister moon keep her same distance to earth without the sun? Of would we fly closer to her? I want to dance the mambo with the moon.

I just asked the guys if they could go back in time where would they go? Josh said medieval times. We decided Josh would be a Kings knight. Jousting for the royal court. And Sava would breed, train, and sell horses. And I would be an Oracle. We made up a whole story that linked us all together in the medieval world.

4 Replies to “Three Butterflies In A Bottle”

  1. I hope the sun comes out to dry y’all out. Last night on the tracker it looked like you were 900 miles into this journey. Take care of each other and smooth sailing.
    Xoxo,
    Mom

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  2. Olivia, I came to your blog so I could vicariously re-live my flying and blue water sailing voyages/adventures during my younger days. So many of the things you write about are very similar to experiences I had during my 30+ years of sailing around the pacific. Reading your posts puts me in the frame of mind I have when reading Saint-Expuery. Beautiful. And thank you. My history is that of a free lance professional pilot and avid amateur sailor. I specialized in delivering small private airplanes (i.e. really little one’s like 4 seat Cessna’s) all ’round the world. I flew or sailed to 69 countries way back in the day before GPS navigation. I’ve crossed every ocean in the world, solo, using compass, clock and sextant. Now I’m sitting back, retired, and looking forward to your next post.

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  3. Good idea enforcing water rationing!! We ran out of water at 2 degrees south, on our way to Samoa. Dehydration sucks. A lot.

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