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Pacific Crossing – Day 8, March 26, 2014

I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done. ‘Stupid’ is the number one word that resonates throughout my day as we tick the slow minutes away to the kids’ bed times each night. ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ ‘Why did we pick such a hard way of traveling?’ Stupid.

There is a tiny Jiminy-Cricket –Charlotte on my right shoulder. She is wearing high quality yoga pants, an attractive sun shirt and a sun hat that actually makes her look good (said hat does not exist in real life, but hang in there with me). She is lean and has a face worn with smile lines and wind exposure. She can navigate with charts and compass, she can sew canvas, and cook meals at sea. When it comes to traveling in far flung places, she always knows when to apply bug screen, which type of shoes would be best suited for whatever activity the day may bring and her back pack is small and comely, flung jauntily across a shoulder. She has an air about her that tells you she would be just as comfortable in an elegant black dress, or wearing denim overalls as she repaired fiberglass. This representation of my consciousness counters my complaints with thoughts like: “Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it is stupid.” “You’re accomplishing something you have worked very hard for.” “How could you have possibly known what an open ocean voyage would be like? You can’t know, until you do.” (She also loves Star Wars.) “The South Pacific will be worth it.” “It’s important for your girls to see you do difficult things, and to see how you handle them.”

And the other Charlotte? The one who keeps saying ‘this is so effing stupid,” well, that Charlotte is tiny too, and perches on my other shoulder wearing a nice pair of form fitting jeans. Jeans that would take forever to hand wash and even longer to dry. She is wearing shoes that don’t make her feet look like Donald Duck. She carries a small purse, because she doesn’t need to lug a backpack around all day. Her muscles are sore from the run she just got back from. The good kind of sore. She is sipping on a Starbucks soy latte, in the front seat of her car, parked outside of Target, talking on her cell phone to her sister. She looks, and feels, comfortable and happy. She says: “Seriously, what.the.fuck., turn around, turn around, turn around!”

“You just washed your third poopy diaper liner, by hand, in your galley sink. And you just scrubbed poop out of your yoga mat, on the side deck of your boat, hand pouring water over it to rinse out the poop because you have no pressurized water on board. Are you fucking nuts? Go home. Get a washing machine. And a shower.” “How is that coffee, Charlotte? Sure would taste better with a little Baileys in it, right? Too bad you can’t drink when you are sailing. “Wasn’t going to the South Pacific supposed to be relaxing? You.are.supposed.to.be.relaxing. This is NOT relaxing. This is stressful. This is other than relaxing. Way to go, dumb ass.” “You feel sick because there is no wind and you are bobbing around like a cork in the ocean. There is no wind, because it is the fucking ocean, and you can’t just order up wind, dumb ass.” Yeah. The jeans-clad Charlotte isn’t very nice.

I think yoga-pants Charlotte has some valid points. I think this trip is stupid because it is hard. It’s a ton of work. Physically and psychologically; yesterday, once the girls were in bed, and trust me, I don’t really do any kind of deep thinking until the girls are in bed, I stepped out into the cockpit and turned slowly in a complete circle. All around me is water. Not still-standing water, like in a bath tub. The waves are alive. They are on a mission. They roll heavily southward, determined to get to an equatorial shore somewhere, or even further along towards Chile and the Antarctic. And the waves provide no exit or short cuts; we cannot get off this boat. There are no rest stops. No Holiday Inns. We can’t stop at a friend’s house. No Grand Slam breakfasts at Denny’s or Blizzard cones at Dairy Queen. We can’t walk into the waves. The only way to move is forward, or in our current trajectory, westward. If something breaks, we must fix it. The girls have no one to talk to but each other, and me and Eric. There is no true place to have alone time. We can’t go for a run, or take the girls for a stroll to get their wiggles out.

We are all tired. We rotate watches. The wind dies completely at night and the resultant swell makes it very difficult for Lyra to sleep. She won’t sleep wedged in a lee cloth, or in the baby chair we brought her. She ends up rolling all over the place, waking up frequently, and burrowing into my side to try to find a place where her body won’t move. This keeps me up, or wakes me up, and the whole thing is exhausting. My lower back aches from where it keeps getting banged against the nav table as I brace myself wave after wave. Poor Cora keeps trying to run and jump and move the way little kids love to do, but she can’t because of the movement of the ocean.

To be honest, that is all pretty hard, hence why I keep saying this is stupid. And the wiser Charlotte, the one with the fabulous, non-existent-sun-hat, gently says, ‘hard things are worth doing too. Hard does not mean stupid. It means just that, hard, challenging, difficult. In the end, will you say that it will have been worth it? Because if the answer is yes, then keep moving, keep trying.’ So I do. There is a lot to be said for reaching a goal. Not everyone gets to realize their dreams in life, so I really am trying to focus on the amazing things. Like the fact that I’m doing something that very little people have ever done, or ever will do. I’m reading Eric the Lonely Planet South Pacific book and we both keep chortling every time the guidebook says that a beach, or an island, or a cove is ‘only accessible by boat,’ or is a ‘favorite with visiting yachties.’ Muahahahhaaahaha. And that is why we are traveling in such a difficult manner, difficult, at least, to first world standards of living. And while yes, many people will never get to see the South Pacific, or if they do, they’ll only visit one island or one particular beach, I think the bigger ‘few-people-have-done-that’ item is sailing on this ocean. It’s a massive part of our world that is wildly alive, that is in danger, that is changing every day, and that may be vastly different by the time our daughters are grown.

Ultimately, how many people will ever experience the feeling of being surrounded by waves and wind, as close as an arm’s reach away from them, for weeks and weeks? It is a difficult, self-imposed isolation that is completely worth it. Okay, maybe still a tiny bit stupid, but worth it.

Reader Comments (17)

While reading this I could feel the scenery for a moment . Water, dark moving water in all directions, no land, no stable point to stand on, a-mazing. The smell, what would be the smell like?

I love the mix of hardcore realism, strenght and optimism in your writing. Reading such things is keeping me on the track with my adventure. It's not about sailing, at all, but your writing is aplicable anyway.

March 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTnT

You guys are kicking butt. It will be worth it when you get there. It will. Come on wind. Come on current. Get our friends to a tropical paradise island in the south pacific where frolicking on the beach is guaranteed.

March 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Thanks for the very last sentence !

March 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSven

Great post! I feel like a scared kid reading it, as I hope one day myself to voyage out. I admire you all.

March 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCol

Half way to Easter island we finally decided to turn around as the bashing and crashing were just too exhausting to take any more. We had to aim the boat just right into every single wave. I hadn't slept for 72 hours, my body was starting to lose the ability to regulate my temperature and no one was having any fun. Just like you, I was determined that our children should see us make a plan and fulfill it, but I also wanted them to be safe. Turning around and saying goodbye to the Southern Cross was the hardest and saddest thing I have done. We spent 3 weeks going nowhere and it felt like the biggest failure, but it was the wisest thing to do. Your blog is doing a bigger service to cruising families than all the happy family success stories out there.
BTW I wonder if there is any way you can make a little hammock for Lyra using your sling?
wishing you sleep and perfect wind

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterclare

Dear Charlotte, as an older cruiser my advise is to not be afraid to turn back if it gets too hard. There is no shame (and a lot of pleasure) in coastal cruising in the Carribean, Mexico or South America while the kids are young. You can sail until you are 70+ so why not do the Pacific on a comfy vessel with a washing machine, hot water and separate shower, down the track. Look after your marriage and your kids and all the best.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Tina has a very good point. Please be careful. You have nothing to prove.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFree

Good luck guys, I'm praying for good winds for you. I think you're brilliant, not stupid!!! Poopy nappies are rubbish wherever you are, they are just more challenging and interesting to deal with at sea! Xxx

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEsther

James says it's normal to have these emotions the 1st week of a crossing. Soon you will all fall into a routine and all will be well again for the crew. We admire you for doing it w/ kiddos, too. Colin says to tell Cora that he misses her, too!! (pics of the 2 will be waiting for you in your email). Hang in there!! :-)

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMillie

I've been checking in daily, I hope your crossing has become significantly more enjoyable.
Hang in there, we are rooting for you to have a safe sail, no matter which direction you decide to head!

March 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRocky

Some dreams turn out not to be as dreamy as we hoped, but the pursuit and achievement of our dreams makes us rich in ways we never would be if we turned our backs on them…

Your cruise will be over one day, and you will look back in awe at what you did.

March 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Charlotte, you are such a great writer...you had me laughing (in sympathy) at your two "inner companions." (They sound very similar to mine, by the way. Poor us.) I have stopped receiving notifications of your blog posts, so I visited your site after a few days of silence. Glad to see that you are still able to post! Hang in there...all of the WWS are pulling for you and sending positive vibes your way.

Virtual hug,
WWS Beverly Mason

April 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly Mason

So, you have been washing "poopy diaper liners" in your galley sink, and you wonder how your kids got salmonella? Really? Ever heard of a bucket? Good grief....

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

I admire your adventurous spirit. You can prepare all you can but you never know what will happen. People without boats will not understand.

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Hi Charlotte, I just read the story about you and your family in the NY Times. I just wanted to say that I have a deep admiration for your courage in embarking on such a journey. Your decision to bring your children is a refreshing contrast to the sterilized and sheltered upbringing many kids in our society face because of fear on the part of parents. Cheers to living the bold life!

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjm

When driving to Target or wherever to shop for all the diapers, etc., did Charlotte and Eric put the girls in car seats? They weren't stupid when they went to a doctor for the salmonella diagnosis. They obviously did not consider the consequences if major problems developed. Too absorbed in their own dreams to consider their responsibility as parents to care for and protect their children. Charlotte seemed to think herself stupid because she was giving up Starbucks. They weren't only stupid; they were irresponsible. I and many others paid the Coast Guard and Navy forces that rescued the girls (and their parents). Are Charlotte and Eric going to pay us back? I would suggest they each spend the next year performing 40 hours a week of community service with abused and neglected children.

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergthomas

Charlotte, my husband and I have also made a choice to raise our children outside the comfort of the USA. We are in a place that has diseases we do not know about in America and my kids get "riot days" instead of "snow days" off school. two of my children have suffered with Dengue fever (which I suspect Lyra may have). My point is it has been a wonderful experience and we are a stronger family for it. Taking risks and stepping out of comfort zones is a great lesson for us all. Things happen we cannot plan for.You called when for help when you knew it was time and I commend you for that. Your girls will realize one day what you are trying to teach them.

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteranothermother
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