Last night after science we celebrated my birthday with an awesome Pad Thai dinner made by chef Stella and Barbara and I was surprised with a vegan cake with sprinkles and candles to the tune of the birthday song being sung by the crew. It was more than I could ever ask for on a special birthday at sea. I received a beautiful card with a hand drawn sailor chick at sea with a friendly manta ray near by coming up out of a wave to greet her. The card was made with love by our very talented eXXpedition resident artist, Stella Marina, which was signed by the crew and I will treasure this gift and the memory forever.

The crew also celebrated a day of science with no plastic! Our manta trawl micro-plastics sample yesterday collected no plastics visible in our on board microscope. The morning dolphins, being at sea, dinner, cake, card, and the gift of a day without ocean plastic was one very special birthday indeed.

Today, we are making good time still, which is exciting for me because I am super stoked for the trip up the river to Bartica, Guyana. I am not particularly excited about the potential mosquitos, but we have net for that and the sights and smells of the jungle will be a super rad change of scenery including different flora and fauna and potentially different things found within our sample collections and observation data.

Big swells coming through make everyday tasks like making coffee without burning yourself, brushing your teeth without bruising yourself in several different places, or even walking without bumping into any number of obstacles along the way, very difficult, exhausting, frustrating, and the bruising is just unavoidable.

Being on deck when swells come through is exciting and being at the helm even more so. It is like riding up and down mountains of water, like surfing without having to paddle out, sort of. The waves remind me of my sweet surfing social worker at home probably catching waves much north of here in the Atlantic. When we pass big container/cargo ships, we see huge wake swells that look like they would be fun to ride for a bunch of adrenaline junkies – I think I know a few at home that would partake if they had the chance. My uncle G would be all over it.

The key to the big wave party at sea is being on deck. On deck there is, sometimes, a breeze and you can see the waves coming in and the boat going up and over them. You can anticipate the movement and brace yourself, which doesn’t always mean that you don’t land on a hard surface, but at least it cuts the chance down a bit. At night and during science, we are tethered in by our life jackets for obvious reasons. As fast as we are moving, the height of the waves, and the current here are several factors that would make it hard to get back to a woman overboard. We did, however, practice a woman overboard drill a few days ago and I am confident that our crew would be able to recover someone if they needed to. I really don’t think that will be necessary given that the first rule of sailing is to stay on the boat.

Big waves and kitchen work is sketchy and today Katrina and I have cooking and cleaning duties throughout the day. At least the stove is on a gimble which makes the stove top rock front and back along with the motion of the boat. It helps to put on some music to go along with the rocking of the waves. Today, we have chosen a varied selection of strictly 90s music, which brings me back to the days when I was much more of a free spirit than I am now. Back then, I would probably be screaming “weeeee” at the motion of these waves and dying for a chance to be pulled behind the boat by wake board or skurfing board. This reminds me of a time that my husband and I were sailing his 23 footer along the ditch (Intracoastal Waterway) from Sneads Ferry to Beaufort and I had the crazy idea of getting pulled behind on a kayak while at sail. It was a very interesting experience to say the least. Probably not the smartest idea, but I survived with a fun story to internally giggle about when the memory pops in my head.

Waves and going to the head… Wow, what can I say about that?! I really thought I would have better sea legs by now since I have completely forgot what it is like to walk on a nonmoving surface. The head, which includes a shower and toilet in one is about the size of a telephone booth, but not as high. It sort of reminds me of the shower space in an apartment I had once in my early 20s. You basically straddle the 2 ft by 2 ft square of floor with legs to keep from bouncing off each wall while standing for a shower, brushing teeth, or washing hands. Yes, I still bump into the walls no matter what. If it wasn’t plastic and it wasn’t so hot, I might consider wrapping myself in bubble wrap. Maybe recycled tires since they seem to work so well for bumper cars. Bumper cars is exactly what it is like walking through the galley way. I am so glad the tropical sun has tanned my skin enough to help hide the bruises. Maybe these too, I should call beauty barnacles. The beauty barnacles of sailing. It makes me even more impressed by our three full-time sailing crew of women that live for this lifestyle and make it look so easy and graceful. It also makes me laugh at myself and recall my Dad joking about my lack of grace even after he paid for 5 years of ballet lessons in my youth.

At night the big mountains of waves are so incredible beautiful. Stars light up the night sky and the water turns an almost blackish blue. The waves that strike the boat occasionally blast a bioluminescent glow made by the creatures within it making helming that much more magical than I ever imagined. It reminds me of a random kayak tour we got talked into on a dive trip my gal pal, Krissi, and I took in Vieques, Puerto Rico this past year and gives me a smile from the memory of all the good one-liners made on that trip.

While we, eXXpedition, are riding the waves of the Atlantic ocean, I am also wishing my friends back at home good swell and surf weather and sending you all good vibes this holiday season. First in, last out – Surfs Up – Get your Glide on!

Con mucho amor,

Lisa Rider

Lisa’s hand illustrated birthday card by resisdent artist Stella Marina