June 5-6, Golfo de Penas Crossing

(famous for really bad weather)
A night in hell! We sailed through the night and most of the day until we reached the caleta in the afternoon. It was definitely an experience but I can’t say it was a pleasant one. Let me start from the beginning…
That night Ian cooked a lovely leak/potato soup with some croutons and we had a light dinner (probably a good idea, considering what lay ahead of us). Since we had prepared the boat for the sail beforehand we only had to pull up the anchor and leave. We donned on our sailing gear plus a couple of extra layers in preparation for the cold night ahead of us. Who knew we would not really need it…
All three of us helped with the anchor because it was not only stuck deep in the mud but also tangled in thick kelp, making it very heavy to pull up. Mario started energetically, then I replaced him but not for too long because it got too hard almost immediately. Mario took over, while I held the torch over the anchor, monitoring the progress. I also got the knife, as we would soon have to cut through the tons of kelp. We got the anchor up to a point where it couldn’t continue. Mario hung down from the tip of the boat, cutting through the kelp, a rather heroic effort considering the strong wind blowing you about. In the process his hat fell into the water but luckily he realized it on time and I pulled it up with a hook. The kelp was cut through, the anchor was turned into the right position, I pulled it up and we sailed away.
The wind blew strong behind us, and I sat outside enjoying the starry sky. Although it is among my favourites, that night I enjoyed the stars in the water more than anything. I am not sure how they come to life but they look like sparks. At first I thought it was some underwater creature but then I realized it was probably produced by the impact of the metal boat with the water. It is so beautiful though, so magic, so unreal. It is like one of those fantasy movies that you see on TV but happening in real life, right before your eyes. The feeling is amazing, exhilarating, and so much stronger because it is real, right there in front of you! I think I will stick to the enchanted underwater life explanation.
We left the caleta and headed for the open ocean I sat there, feeling the wind in my face, enjoying the darkness when Ian said it would be a good time for me to get some rest. Can’t dispute the captain’s word. I went in, took my waterproof gear off and lay in one of the back cabins. Mario and Ian stayed awake. I had trouble falling asleep though because my feet were cold. I was somewhere between sleep and consciousness when the misery began.
I felt a hot wave rushing through my body and then my gut rising to my throat. The boat was rocking like crazy, the front crashing onto the waves. I lay in the dark, fighting the urge to vomit. I swallowed, and swallowed, and swallowed as fast as I could until the crisis past. My feet were still cold and I couldn’t sleep. For the rest of the night I was in a state somewhere between sleep and semi-consciousness. Throughout the night I kept fighting the vomit crisis. And it just got worse and worse until I was groaning from pain by sunrise. It must have been some time in the middle of the night when I woke up and heard Mario’s voice in the living room, fresh and perky and I relaxed I bit. I thought ‘Oh, nice, at least one of us is feeling fine and helping Ian.’ I couldn’t be further from the truth. I felt so bad that I just lay there, unable to help Ian who hadn’t got any sleep and was taking us across the bloody ocean in the middle of a storm. I was useless and so disappointed with myself. ‘The one real challenge that tests what we are made of and I fail miserably.’ I thought.
Soon after I’d gone to bed (or at least it felt that way) Ian came in to check on me.
– How are you feeling? – he asked, peeking through the door, his shadow outlined in the dark. For a split moment I wondered whether to be brave or tell the truth.
– Not so good. I am just lying here trying not to throw up – I responded. Truth somehow prevailed.
– The see is rough. Worse than we expected – he answered.
I lay there, and lay there in the dark listening to the struggles of the boat. Every now and again I would hear a massive ‘Thump!’ resulting from the front of the boat hitting the waves. Some of them were really strong and I wondered whether the boat would make it. I remember trying to figure out whether we had a life raft on board and where it was. I went through various spots when I remembered and visualized the plastic box on deck. ‘Phew! We have a raft. It is ok.’ I thought. The truth is that I felt completely safe on the boat. I only thought of the raft because of that thumping, thinking we would need it in case of the oat actually sinking. Only later Ian explained what a useless thing the raft actually is and that he only carries one because of regulations. Apparently remaining on the boat until the very last minute is the best thing to do. He told us the story of some people who resorted to the raft in a storm and ditched the yacht. Later, when the rescue team went looking for them, they found the yacht, completely intact, just floating on the surface. But they never found the people in their raft…A lesson learned. Ian also told us about the yearly checks that have to be performed on those rafts in order for you to be able to get some papers permitting you to sail. Each costs $500 and all they do is take it out of the boat, inflate it, and put it back, declaring that it works. Have you tested it in a storm, or any emergency situation for that matter!? Americans having realized the uselessness of it all do not require a raft on board. For once they are reasonable. Back to our stormy night…
I lay in bed hoping to somehow gather the courage, and mainly the strength to actually get up, get dressed and sit in the cockpit. I was so upset to be missing the beautiful scenery outside. ‘The one night we sail the open ocean, and I am lying inside feeling horribly seasick’ I criticized myself. I thought about missing this great experience and I wondered what I was going to write in my blog. Later Mario spun a different light on the experience.
– Write about it from the perspective of someone lying on the inside. How did it feel lying in the cabin? What were you thoughts? – he suggested. I liked it. I saw I could work with it.
Later that same night Ian came to check up on me again. He brought a bucket with him, placing it on the floor by the door in case I needed it. Later it turned out that he did it as a precautionary measure after Mario had thrown up. All that night I heard things banging, crashing, or falling inside the cabin and every time I wondered what broke.
Very soon after I went to bed I felt I needed to use the bathroom but I couldn’t bring myself to get up and walk all the way to the other side of the cabin where the bathroom was. I held it, and I held it, and I held it until the morning when it got unbearable and painful to hold. I really needed to pee, there was no holding back. I am surprised I didn’t pee in bed after a very realistic peeing dream. Anyhow, it was early morning the sun was shining high up in the sky, and I gathered the courage to go to the bathroom. I got up, eyes shut trying to block the rocking surroundings, quickly opened the door of the bedroom, l slipped out, and quickly walked across the cabin, supporting myself on the furniture. I pushed the bathroom door and it wouldn’t open. I thought Mario was in there (Ian was sitting behind the computer at his desk).
– Are you in there? – I asked looking at Ian.
– No, you just have to push harder – Ian said. I pushed hard and moved the fallen buckets blocking it from the inside.
I did what I had to do, sitting, doubled with pain, holding my head, trying to block the nausea. I got up, leaning back on the door, while pulling my trousers back up. I then went out, and quickly walked back to the bedroom, crashing on the bed as soon as I reached it.
– You are white – Ian had said, seeing my face on my way back.
I lay spread across the bed for a while, trying to recover my breathing, while swallowing as fast as I could in an attempt to suppress my rising guts. I was panting. Once I had recovered a bit, I dragged myself further up and lay my head on the pillow. By then my feet were worm and I was able to sleep. I was exhausted and the vomit crisis got worse. I was groaning from pain.
Our friend Bob says there are two stages of seasickness. The first one is: you are afraid you are going to die. The second one is: you are afraid you are not going to die. Seasickness is a horrible thing. I was so relieved when later that night, while seated at the dinner table Bob (a navy captain) said that he knows only 1 in 20 people who do not get seasick. ‘And they are the most horrible people you will meet!’ he said contemptuously. ‘They somehow think they are better than everybody else because they don’t get seasick.’ Bob added. Ian added ‘The best people are not those who don’t get seasick at all, but those who overcome it. It takes some guts.’. I was so happy we had both their support.
I slept more or less tight for the remaining of the day, only waking up when we dropped anchor. I heard the maneuvers of the engine, and the boat wasn’t rocking anymore so I thought I would attempt a getting up. I got up, and went out on deck to see Ian maneuvering into the caleta, tying up ropes to the three fishermen boats that were already there. I felt so bad.
I was still feeling the aftermath of the previous night but mostly I was disappointed with myself for having disappointed Ian. ‘Some crew you are!’ I thought to myself. Mario was on deck helping Ian tie up the ropes. He saw me come out and proudly stated ‘I threw up three times!’ in true Mario fashion. Even then I didn’t realize he had also been seasick all night. I thought he had remained awake, helping Ian despite the vomiting. Only later, when we exchanged stories he confessed he had also got very, very seasick to the point of throwing up. He had stayed in the cabin, trying to sleep on one of the couches. The first time he had thrown up, it had come very unexpectedly and he hadn’t had the time to even run to the bathroom that was only a couple of meters away from him. What had he done? I had taken my rubber boots off before I went to bed and left them on the floor near the couch. Seeing them lying on the floor, Mario had grabbed one of them and generously relieved his guts into it.
– And now, what are you going to do with that boot? – Ian had asked him smilingly.
– Put it in the bathroom…? – Mario has suggested meekly. It obviously couldn’t be thrown back on the floor.
I saw the boot neatly tucked into a bucket when I had gone to pee, and wondered what it did there but was too busy being seasick to think about it. As I was preparing to go out on deck I looked for it, and I nearly put it on my foot before I realized it was too heavy, full of vomit. Damn! Mario had thrown up two more times sitting outside in the cockpit that night. Despite the seasickness he had managed to see a bit more of the open ocean than I had. He described it beautifully. The boat had gone up and down, carried by the waves, completely engulfed in darkness. The color I will never be able to describe but I loved hearing about from Mario. He said it had been exceptionally beautiful. Ian confirmed. Well, maybe some other time…
That night even Ian had felt seasick. He had sat in front of the computer, worrying in the middle of the night, and he had felt a bit seasick. Imagine that! Ian who hadn’t felt seasick for years. ‘It was almost too much!’ he had said referring to the weather of that night. No, need to tell me!
We tied up the lines, and as soon as we stopped the boat got swarmed with curious fishermen.
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