WRITTEN BY KY DELANEY
LEG 8 EASTER ISLAND TO TAHITI
You’re standing in the corner of the navigation station on the first day of twenty-one days sailing the Pacific when your stomach rolls. The skipper is briefing you and four other women on how to complete the logbook. The room is hot, and everyone is sweating. Never mind, you’re tough. You can will yourself through this. The boat lurches to port, then starboard. The rolling sea seems a bit higher than before. Your queasy, then stifling hot. Still you’re sure you can outwait this. The push of your stomach in knots makes you sprint up the companionway. The last thing you want is to be the seasick one, the liability.
The fresh air provides a slight relief. You think you’ve got a fighting chance if you concentrate on the horizon line hard. Then you smell onions someone is cooking for lunch. You make a mad dash to the lifelines and poke your head through so you can lose your breakfast to the sea.
For the next few days, time moves unevenly. For weeks leading up to this few weeks at sea, your brain juggled multiple to-do lists. Now all your brain can hold is trying to cope in this moment. This is a brain purge. It takes your full concentration to complete the simplest of tasks. Drink water at first. Then Gatorade. Apply sunscreen. Brush teeth. You feel wildly accomplished.
You double down on taking seasick pills. The nausea subsides, replaced with a thick haze. You move at a frustratingly slow pace, but there is nothing you can do about it. Luckily everyone is understanding, refilling your Gatorade, encouraging you to eat. You don’t want to eat or drink. All you want is to get horizontal. You feel so lethargic that you think hard to do the next thing. It brings you near tears when someone asks if you’re okay. You want to say yes. You are among so many incredible women, you want so much to contribute.
Everyone helps you. When you thank them, they insist it isn’t a problem. They say if they were sick you’d help them. You want to believe them, but taking care of yourself much less anyone else seems so out of reach right now.
Then on day four it lifts, as if by magic. It’s only now that you realize the way being at sea feels like a personal miracle. This is actually happening and you get to be a part of it. The sea, this boat, these women, and trying to understand the science have become your entire world. Everything else has faded away, out here surrounded by all of this blue. You are here now. Sure that you’re becoming a better version of yourself, that you’ll go home a little more capable of making big changes.