“EVERYBODY WAKE UP!!” It’s 3 AM. I have to pull myself up, like I’m stuck between a 10 pound magnet and a fridge. I am on a rocky boat anchored off some island in the Exuma Sound. I have slept on a boat for the past couple of nights now, and have grown accustomed to the 30 minute night watch and stiff boards underneath me. I have to attach myself to the boat to keep myself from being swept up by the waves in sleepiness. I’m groggy and annoyed, but the calling of land motivates me enough. A few days before we spent 11 hours sailing across the Exuma Sound. We dedicated the past couple of days to exploring the islands; we saw a plane wreck, jutia rodents, rare iguanas, and that was just the beginning. We had a big day ahead of us, navigating a 6 hour route back across the Exuma Sound.
After 6 hours of hard work, we saw it. Land. It was a momentous occasion of celebration. We did it. We made it! It was so close! Just a little while longer and we would be on land. 6 hours turned into 7. 7 hours turned into 9, snowballing into 14 hours of sailing. It was so close I could feel it, but the day kept dragging on. There was nothing we could do. It was all up to the wind, but it was definitely not in our favor that day. So many words were said with little vigor, “jiving,” “tacking,” “falling off,” “sheets are luffing” “pull the foresail in.” These phrases were all foreign just a few days ago but had been so engrained that it didn’t matter how tired I was. My hands moved in whatever way needed and my body followed. After many nap rotations, snacking sessions, sleep-deprived moments of sass, and bursts of shivering from rogue frigid waves, we arrived.
The land that we were approaching was not near my bed, but rather an empty beach where we would embark on our long-anticipated solo. After being on a boat for several days with a similar group of people, humans and boats were the last thing I wanted to see, or so I thought. As soon as I stepped off the boat into the known land, I wanted to return. The ocean had engulfed me. The open waters, the unknown, the freedom of the openness called my name. Sailing after solo was like taking a breath of air. Sailing with these people and the open ocean had become my joy. I had never been on a boat for more than a few hours before, but after these couple of days, it was all I could think about. Even though I have returned to land for the time being to explore the island, the ocean will always call me, and soon I will answer.