Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
It was one in the morning and we were just south of Point Arena in California when the storm hit.
The evening was pretty uneventful until the wind shifted from behind and began hitting us directly on the nose.
The waves grew a few feet and the ocean turned into confused seas, waves sloshing around like the inside of a washing machine.
I climbed down into the cabin to wake Jason.
Gently nudging him, I gave him a brief report on the weather.
“The wind shifted and it’s pretty nasty out there. The northerly winds have turned southerly. It’s cold and it’s gonna be a wet one.”
My three-hour shift had just ended, so he slid into his foul weather gear as I peeled out of mine.
I felt a little guilty he had to deal with this mess but I was more relieved to finally lie down and get some sleep.
No Sleep Till…
As soon as I tucked myself into the quarter birth (the narrow bed below the companionway stairs), the bow of the boat plunged violently down like a roller coaster, then we shot up becoming airborne.
It was the sound of our boat slamming hard, belly flopping on the water.
“F*ck!” Jason yelled.
I immediately jerked out of bed, pissed that he would raise my fear to the level of the F-word.
“You’re not allowed to say that!” I screamed.
As the captain, he was supposed to remain calm.
Plus, we had agreed: Unless the boat was sinking, the F-word was off limits.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Jason said. “But I’m going to need you alert and possibly in the cockpit.”
I groaned, partly out of fear and partly because this was my only chance to sleep.
But obviously, sleep wasn’t going to happen at this point.
My nerves were already shot.
“At least put on your foul weather gear while you lie down just in case,” he said. “And have your boots and life vest nearby and ready.”
I nodded and whimpered a little.
I pulled on my waterproof overalls then hung my jacket on the hook near my head and sat my boots at the edge of the bed.
The boat lurched forward then jerked back like a dog being yanked on a leash.
My heart began to race.
I hid my face under a wool blanket and curled into the fetal position, praying to every god I could think of to distract from the thought of our boat breaking apart.
Dip, yank, boom!
Each move made my stomach drop and every cell in my body felt clenched as if holding on for dear life.
I tried to remain calm but fear took over but a thought flashed through my mind: Jason would only tell me to put on foul weather gear if it was a real emergency.
What The Actual F Is Happening?
My only focus became the location of our life raft and if we would be able to deploy it without falling overboard.
My body started shaking, the fear inside me needing to get out.
Then, the strangest thing happened.
I started to laugh.
My emotions were as confused as the sea and comic relief was the only thing saving me from freaking the F-out.
Dip, yank, boom!
My thoughts traveled once again: Is this was it means to laugh in the face of death?
Three hours passed in what seemed like thirty very long minutes and as fast as the storm came, it went.
The waves slowly dissipated and my heart finally settled back to a normal beat.
By this time it was five in the morning and I was exhausted, hadn’t slept a wink.
At the end of his shift, Jason bent down to stroke my forehead.
“Ok, Love. It’s your turn.”
I opened my eyes, unmoved from the fetal position, and stared back at him like he was a space alien.