Before setting out on this adventure almost a year and half ago, the most common question I heard was, “What’s the longest you’ll go without seeing land?” After my reply of about 3,000 miles, just under three weeks, most non-seafaring folks would stare back, glassy eyed, in horror.
“Three weeks. No land. Trapped on a boat. With your husband and three kids. No way.”
But what does that really look like? Feel like? My best guess is that most people don’t care too much about day 3, or 7, or even 12. Morbid curiosity seems to linger in the dark corners of extremes. What is Day 18 or 19 like? Have you turned to feral cats, unbathed, blackened scurvy teeth, chapped crispy skin, hugging yourself with dilated pupils, rocking back and forth in hopes that a tiny crest of terra firma will magically appear on the horizon?
Truly my biggest horror today, was dicing our last, slightly slimy, yellow onion. I mean can you imagine the mutinous conditions we would face without onions on say, day 13? Talk about torture…geez. All kidding aside, this has been a great, albeit long, passage. The boys have been really amazing throughout, but especially so after almost three weeks confined to only a few hundred square feet of space. Just like any other routine for land-based families, after a few days, we settled into a pretty standard routine.
Days stay busy for me with coffee drinking, meal prep & dishes (repeat X 3), homeschool instruction (repeat X 3), laundry, cleaning – you know the drill. Luckily there is no commute, no after school activities to coordinate, no PTO meetings to avoid, no socks, pants, or bras. The kids usually spend the morning doing schoolwork; after lunch they read, play games, watch a movie. Ahab takes the bulk of the watch-standing, intermixed with napping and honing his micromanagement skills. He runs all things mechanical and utility oriented (see previous article on Power Consumption), making sure water is made, batteries charged, sails trimmed, and fuel conserved (except whoopsies – and it took every ounce of restraint in my body not to say “I told you so” – but we ran the port engine dry this evening, even after I asked 4 hours earlier if he thought we needed to check the fuel level with our makeshift dipstick – just sayin’).
So on this penultimate day at sea, we began to get that close to land tingling burst of energy. After a better than Cracker Barrel breakfast of homemade buttermilk biscuits & gravy, served with scrambled eggs, the boys settled into laser-focus schoolwork. Ahab drifted into a postprandial food coma, while I scraped crusted cheesy egg pans and licked the country sausage gravy spoon. As the afternoon transcended to early evening, the midday blaze abated and Ahab began to get fired up.
“What’s the refrigeration space situation?” he harped. It was well established that as we crept closer to land, certain sacrifices would have to made in order to make room for the bubbly. I had been cooking feverishly, recycling leftovers, and consolidating partially opened blocks of cheese for the past few days. Things were looking good to convert the outside dorm-sized fridge into a beverage and cheese only icy habitat. After years of training in college playing Jenga, and then online training with Tetris, I have a sixth-degree black belt in organizing small spaces with odd size shapes. The fridge was cleared out, defunked with Clorox, and perfectly repacked. In 8-10 hours we would have 24 assorted beers, 12 sodas, two Perriers, a Chard, a Pinot, a Veuve, and last but not least an LPR all precisely chilled, ready for toasting at anchorage.
“Did you defrost the fridge?” harangued his majesty. The dorm-style fridge has one of those little freezer shelves at the top, that tend to snow cone themselves. There was some frost, but it wasn’t too much, and certainly, in my opinion, did not warrant a defrosting procedure.
“No Buttercup, I didn’t defrost it. It seemed fine to me, and has been keeping food cold, no problem.” I really did not want to take everything back out and go through the global warming process. “I can check it in the morning, and if the drinks don’t seem to be getting cold enough, we can address it then.” Reasonable, rational.
Ahab had started to twitch, just slightly – most people wouldn’t even notice it, but I could sense this would be a slow burning ember in his polyester couch. At this point, I have no idea what time it is (can’t figure it out, Galapagos local time minus 3.5 hours to Marquesas, plus daylight savings – forget it), all I know is it about 2 hours before sunset, I’m trying to load a monster Shepherd’s Pie in the oven, it’s hotter than Hades, I’m melting and in desperate need of a shower.
“How long do you think it will take to chills the drinks? Did you turn the temperature down the fridge? Is it cold enough?” His interrogation was relentless, boarding on maniacal. Maybe I should crush up Xanax in his water bottle.
“Dearest love, I can see you are quite troubled, but fret not. The fridge is working fine. Bottom line: I am not going to defrost the efffing fridge right now. I’m in the middle of making dinner.”
With a serial killer’s chuckle he responded, “THE most important thing to me right now is making sure we have ice cold alcoholic beverages when we arrive tomorrow.” I have no reply, just a look, perhaps a lifted brow. He recants, “Okay, well the second most important thing, after arriving safely and getting the anchor down, is to have a fridge full of freezing drinks. Nothing else matters. Sacrifice dinner, schoolwork, dishes, whatever it takes. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal.” Yep, I’m definitely going to spike his dinner. He’s gone off the deep end.
Needless today, after packing in the steamy Shephard’s Pie and one more round of dishes, I found my still sweaty self sitting in on the deck in front of the stupid fridge with towels and plastic spatula in hand. The shaved ice peeling off the freezer tray was refreshing – silver lining. Ahab was visibly relieved and noticeably nicer, once he realized the defrosted fridge had been restocked, and temperature turned way down.
So not quite the horror story one might imagine – to be out of sight of land for three weeks. That said, we are crossing our fingers that the little dorm fridge gets the job done by tomorrow evening, as we drift into French Polynesia with cold drinks at the ready.