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Sailing through the night of Biscay

Catching a Moment - Driving lessons

WORLDWIDE | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [315] | Scholarship Entry

"It's just like learning how to drive!"
I give Gary my best skeptical look.
"Here, try it!"

The rain is pouring down. The night is pitch-black darkness; if you fall, you’re gone. The waves are busy trying to swing the ship deep into the ocean. My hands are busy trying to make sure I go down with it, and not next to it. Gary is smiling an all-American smile and making inviting gestures towards the round steering wheel, shaped in that pirate-style, the one with all the handles. While I seriously doubt any amount of steering will do much good in this weather, I alter my grip to include the handles of two spokes. I look out over the water and brace myself. The waves rise up and the ship with them.

We’re somewhere in the Bay of Biscay in the middle of December. I’ve lost feeling in both hands and half of my left foot and have given up on locating other ships out there in the vast darkness. Midnight. Our watch will be relieved soon. The rain is starting to let up, and from time to time Jupiter peeks down from the edge of a cloud. Gary is telling me one of his many stories collected over the years. I laugh when I feel I’m supposed to, but I’ve heard this story before and am more concentrated on counting the sore spots I have from last night, hitting the little plank attached to my bunk bed keeping me from falling onto the floor. I’m up to seven before a pause in Gary’s monologue signals me to laugh again.

Up. The mast doesn’t go any further. Hands are sweaty. Body is shaking. Mind is reeling. The ship sways on, rocking from one side to the other. Iron grip around the rigging. Nothing to keep me from the ground except my fingers clutching the wires. Thirty meters down. Adrenaline’s pumping. And people wonder why I do this.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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