April 28, 2011

South Pacific Day 19, Lost Rudder Day Two...

I probably should hold off calling this day two until the sun is up at least (and Day 19 doesn't really start until sunset). I'm on my second watch, the sunrise watch. But all I see now are the stars overhead, a slice of moon and the shadowy grey line of the horizon.
I can feel and hear that the seas have smoothed out a bit. I can tell they have changed from steely frothing peaks to long silver rows. It's still disconcerting to surf down nose into them and then feel the boat round into the trough, and then the autopilot's rasping effort as it tries to get us back on course.
I can't quite get my head around the physics (or is it fluid dynamics?) of the effort required for our one small rudder in one corner of our 40' x 23' boat to steer us in these conditions. But I know from the way my mechanical engineer husband wanders around the boat--tweaking our course, balancing our dagger boards, altering our speed--that my intuitive fear matches his educated one.

I am afraid.
It's no longer the deep smothering anxiety I felt last night-then simply looking at the towering seas made me cringe. It's now the fear that comes with accepting how vulnerable we currently are. We need the weather to stay calm, we need the forces on that rudder to stay low. We need a bit of good luck.
Fear--it seemed last night when I tried to numb it, hide from it, hate it away--has been my constant nemesis the past few years. I think it started with my cancer diagnosis, or maybe when I became a mother... But since we have been cruising I've grown to despise the moments when it overwhelms me. But, goes the argument I have time and again with myself, if I stop doing things I love simply because they sometimes make me vulnerable and afraid, my world will become very small.

Maia recently started to learn surf. Which she loved. Until she stayed out too long, became too tired and took a surf board in her face after being pummeled by a wave. After that she wanted to quit surfing. Yes she loved the sensation of surfing, yes she had fun when she was up, but she was so afraid to feel that much fear again.

I told her we'd always understand her deciding to stop activities that weren't right for her, or weren't fun to her, but quitting something out of fear was a bad precedent. Fear is a good emotion, I told her, it lets us know we need to be more cautious and pay more attention. But quitting something she enjoyed because the sensation of fear was so uncomfortable wasn't a choice.

But last night I told Evan I wanted to quit sailing. That I'm tired of just getting comfortable and developing confidence only to have something break. But really, the problem solving around breakdowns isn't the issue. In fact strategizing solutions is invigorating (in hind sight, from the safety of port...). But like Maia, it's the sensation of fear I can't stand.

But then, last night, as I did everything I could to avoid feeling anxious, I realized I have good reason to be afraid. Making Nuka Hiva on one rudder (which is likely under-strength to begin with) is going to take care and luck. We need to have a strong squall strategy (sails furled, hand steering, drifting with the squall to avoid strain), we need to choose our course thoughtfully, we need to balance time out and the risk of adverse weather, with our need to keep our speed low and rudder forces down.

Perhaps fear, I reasoned last night, isn't meant to be fed chocolate and a glass of wine while I hide in my bed and read... Maybe it is meant to be met head on and embraced.

The first boats we left La Cruz with will make landfall this am, as we had planned to do... But with our diversion to Nuka Hiva (bigger town, safer anchorage, more interesting location to wait for a rudder...) and slower speed our landfall won't happen until tomorrow morning. Between now and then I'll have lots of time to check out my new theories on fear, and see if being grateful for it really does help.

I do know that the world is wide and beautiful (and terrible and risky) and I want to see it. But first, Nuka Hiva...

Position as of 16:30 UTC
S 8 43
W 138 25
110 miles to Nuka Hiva
Motoring at 4 knots (surfing at 8...)
yesterday's run 148

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boatbaby said...

But it will make a good article one day. And so you press on.
I know you all will be fine, and we can't wait to hear about your landfall in paradise :)

The Ceol Mors said...

Hang in there! We are all praying to any and all deities that might be listening the weather holds, things calm down a bit and you arrive safely and canlook back and be proud of how you all handeled thisso beautifully.