Chapter One: Fair Winds and Following Seas
The island slowly shrank as we sailed away. I couldn’t see anything happening when I looked right at it, but when I went down below for a while, then came back, it was shocking to see how far we’d come. It was unnerving to watch something disappear incrementally.
I’d only spent a few days at Isla Isabela, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was leaving home. I’d come to know my way around the place; I knew the best route to get from the lagoon to town on foot, I knew which grocery store carried the good cheese, I had a favourite restaurant. And I already missed the bakery that made raisin bread in old coffee cans so it came out as a ridged cylinder.
I was nostalgic for a place I’d only visited, but it was just a way of covering up my nervousness. The longest ocean passage I’d ever been on was four days and that had seemed monumental at the time. Now I knew the Byte Bucket would be at sea for weeks, possibly close to to a month, of total isolation. I wasn’t afraid, exactly — I trusted the captain and the rest of the crew completely, and they’d demonstrated that they knew what they were doing — but it was daunting nonetheless. So I focussed on the island and tried to see it recede into the distance of space and time.
Jim “Call Me Jimmy” Houghton, ship’s cook and resident old salt popped his head out of the companionway. “Anyone mind if I load up the tunes?”
Heads shook and the captain said, “Go for it.” Jimmy disappeared and a few seconds later the opening notes of “Rock the Casbah” boomed out of speakers cleverly built into the sides of the bench seats in the cockpit. Mat, the captain, grinned at me. “We don’t stand on ceremony much on this boat, but the first day at sea is usually a dance party night.”
I frowned. “We didn’t do this on our last passage.”
Mat tossed her head, dreadlocks swaying. “We didn’t want to spook you. Besides, that was only a couple of days. This is the real thing. We ought to celebrate. Come on, Devi, let’s dance!” With that, she grabbed my hand and began to dance around the cockpit. The other crew members joined us, filling the spacious area. Tulia and Martin, the two junior sailors, danced nearby but not together in that tried and true method of high-schoolers who like each other. They were pretending that there was nothing between them, but we all knew better. I grinned at Martin and watched him blush and avoid my eyes. Tulia had been jealous of my friendship with him at first, but after she found out about my ex-girlfriend, she’d warmed up to me. And here I’d been worried that she’d be nervous about sharing a bunk room with a queer girl.
Mat and I shared an incredulous look as Jimmy appeared out of nowhere and tried to get a mosh going with Christine, the mechanic, and the mate, Isaac. They were probably half his age, but at times you’d never know it.
It was a better ride than I’d been expecting. The wind wasn’t very strong and we were on what I’d learned was called a beam reach — where the wind is blowing over the side of the boat. Isaac, the ship’s mate, had told me that it was the fastest point of sail, though it could often be uncomfortable because the ocean waves hit the boat broadside. However, today we were lucky — the swell was astern even though the wind was abeam; a perfect sail.
“Fair winds and following seas,” I said, echoing the phrase I’d heard sailors say when they wished each other well.
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” Mat said, twirling around with her arms in the air. “The one truth about the weather is that it will change.”
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