Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
We untied the dock lines and motored out of Santa Barbara Harbor for our first day at sea in over a month.
It was a little after noon on a Thursday, a relaxed ten-knot breeze blew out of the Northwest, and the sky was crystal blue except for a few white contrails blurred from planes long gone by.
We slipped into lifejackets, slathered on sunscreen, and waved to Jason’s mom as she snapped pictures from the far end of Stearns Wharf pier.
With the bow pointed to Santa Cruz Island, we unfurled the jib and raised the main.
The sails crinkled and luffed as we drew them out, then snapped to life as I pushed the tiller starboard, catching the prevailing winds.
On starboard tack (the wind traveling over the right side of the boat), our shoulders dropped and faint grins spread across our faces.
On The Road Again
Jason and I maneuvered around the cockpit with instinctual rhythm, in a flow state that happens when you’re fully immersed, enjoying the process, and cease to over-think.
With plenty of food, water, and fuel, it felt like we could sail forever.
We ate and drank and bobbed along the sea watching dark blue waves roll toward us then fold into themselves again.
As we reached Pelican Bay around sunset, we dropped the hook and made a quick pasta dinner.
That night, we laid in the v-berth and listened to dolphins chatter outside the hull.
Their high pitch squeaks sound like the noise made when you pinch and pull the lip of a latex balloon to slowly let the air out.
Changes In Weather
The next morning after a hike on Pelican Bay trail, we sailed off anchor, a huge feat for us not to use a motor, and headed to Smugglers Cove on the Southeast side of the island.
The wind picked up as we neared San Pedro Point and swell began to toss us from side to side.
As nausea set in, I forgot about the perfect sail the day before and instead was reminded of how intense cruising life can be.
I began to wonder why I put myself in this situation when half the time cruising is hard, uncomfortable, and kinda awful.
I thought back to last winter in the Pacific Northwest and though the weather was warmer now in California, the intensity of the wind rubbed my heart raw in the same way.
We lived in Bellingham, Washington during the winter of 2016 and, according to locals, it was the worst winter they had in ten years.
Having moved from Santa Barbara, this was a major shock.
About ninety percent of the time the wind howled, grey skies hovered low overhead, and a cold misty rain damped the land and, in turn, my soul.
In other words, seasonal affective disorder most definitely affected me.
Bitterness Is A Hard Pill
One cold rainy day, while looking through the port light from our boat in the harbor, I glanced toward a park nearby and noticed kids playing on the playground, people walking, and, even more strange to me, flying kites.
I sneered, thinking how crazy they were to be outside in this dreadful weather just to enjoy the day.
But now, less than a year later, as I battled oncoming seasickness and consistent gusty wind, it dawned on me that I was doing that exact same thing.
I had willingly exposed myself to unpredictable weather in order to be outside, suffering in a way to experience the freedom of life on a sailboat. I am the people in the rain and the people are me.
I stood in the cockpit and lost my thoughts to the horizon.
Jason, sensing my discomfort, asked if cruising to Mexico was still something I wanted to do. After a moment, I nodded a decisive “yes”.
The thought of giving up wasn’t an option for me.
I had accepted these challenges as a way to further develop my abilities.
The hard work I encountered on a daily basis nudged me towards becoming a stronger, more tolerant person.
What I was feeling – nausea, discomfort, and perseverance – were growing pains.
It was then I realized we all suffer in some ways to live the life we choose.
And as we evolve, we inevitably leave some of our former selves behind.
A small risk we take to become the people we are destined to be.