▲ Sonah Lee aboard the sailing yacht Jade, about to depart Jeju Island. Photo courtesy Sonah Lee
We left Sonah Lee off the coast of Jeju, trying to beat the rising nausea of sea sickness.
A few hours out from Jeju, the sea developed lumps. Jade was beginning to rock ‘n’ roll, but the music wasn’t playing. The kids were the first to complain of nausea, but soon Cam raced to the port railing and brought up lunch, or was it breakfast. Arni left it too late to admit that he was nauseous, so seasickness tablets weren’t able to solve the problem. Jade had been idle for three months, as had her crew, and I was surprised at how quickly everyone’s sea legs had been lost. Cam was stoic, and raced from the railing back to the cockpit to tend to Molly, Nancy and Arni. I was impressed with her selflessness, and I guess that is what being a mother is all about.
The strange thing for me was that I felt O.K., although the sickness on board affected me. The kids had gone below to sleep off their nausea and Arni was trying hard to keep it together and steer Jade clear of the fishing boats and other ships, but he was struggling.
While all this activity was going on, the sun sizzled into the sea. Off Jade’s starboard stern, the disappearing sun signaled the end of my first day of sailing. We were hitting the swells pretty hard, but I kept my eyes firmly on the setting sun because, when seasick, it is important to keep looking at the horizon. It has something to do with stabilizing the inner ear. Besides, the sun appeared as a giant Jeju orange, then only half an orange, and then it was gone, but its color had leaked into the sky and the long wispy clouds were stained with its juice. If this was sailing, I wanted more.
And then it was dark. Arni had sailed us safely through the peak of the Jeju sea traffic, but now was fully reclined on the padded bench seat of the cockpit. He really wasn’t well. The auto pilot had been engaged, and it was trusted, but it couldn’t avoid obstacles. Someone had to be responsible. Cam had made some food, but everyone’s interest in eating was low. I’d ventured below to catch a few “z”s because I was due to keep watch with Cam from midnight until 5 a.m., and I didn’t want to mess up my first real duty on board Jade. As I reclined on my bed inside the starboard hull, I watched the ocean splash against the rectangular porthole. As the water slapped, I could both hear and see it.
The air was heavy and damp and breathing was an effort. Jade rolled with the swell and I felt a little afraid, or more than a little. This was my first time sailing on the open ocean, and I was feeling nauseous and alone. The kids were sleeping, Cam was hobbled by her nausea, and Arni was done in with fatigue and sickness. I couldn’t sleep indoors, alone, so I stumbled topside to be near the others.
As I lay down on one of the cockpit benches, tears threatened but didn’t fall and finally sleep took me, but only as far as dreams of storms and a broken Jade. I woke at 1 a.m. to find Cam almost recovered, but Arni was still not well. I asked about the storm, the thunder and the lightning. Both Cam and Arni looked amused as they reassured me that during my sleep, all had been calm. But it had all seemed so real.
With me awake and Cam pretty much recovered, Arni went below to get some much-needed and deserved sleep. Cam was now in the captain’s seat, and I felt proud to be her first mate. At 1 a.m., the seas were busy. We stared at the radar as targets entered and departed the screen. Cam explained how the technology worked, as she moved the curser over the various blips. With a blip highlighted, details of boat name, size and speed were displayed.
It was scary to see the screen filled with blips but reassuring to begin to understand the capabilities of the technology in use. I found it difficult to take my eyes off the screen, but as I stretched my neck and looked up, the clouds parted to expose a sky alive with stars. I watched as the gap in the clouds grew. The blips on the radar screen were nothing compared to the blips in the sky, which eventually was full from horizon to horizon. Cam and I talked about many things that night as we explored the heavens and the radar screen.
Talking with Cam in the calm times from midnight till 5 a.m. became the highlight of my five days at sea. I looked forward to midnight when Arni took himself below, and his tension with him. He was the captain of Jade and with that came responsibilities, and he didn’t take well to others not being able to read his silent wishes. Those silent wishes often then became intolerant orders. I wasn’t afraid of him, but I didn’t want to be around when he put on his peg leg and eye patch. Being lectured is not something I enjoy.
After my nightmares of the first night, the sea became strangely comforting, and I no longer felt fear. I was enjoying the ocean’s movements, its sounds and being at sea. I enjoyed listening to the kids talk about the adventures they had experienced in their five years of living aboard Jade. This harbor or those people or that country were enriched by their descriptions and Cam and Arni’s insights. And whenever I ventured below with my mind full, it wasn’t long before sleep stole my thoughts.
The next four days were full of the same - long conversations, night watches, Arni skippering and Cam cooking to everyone’s whims. And then I saw land - our first land in four days. I was the first to see the outline of the Okinawa islands, and I was jubilant. I yelled; I smiled and laughed; I jumped up and down; I pointed to the horizon; but the others had seen it all before and were blase about the whole thing. I suggested champagne but settled for beer. I was a little disappointed with the lack of shared excitement but I rejoiced inside.
After arriving in Okinawa, I then had to get back to Korea. Fortunately, Gary was in Tokyo attending a conference, so I flew there to share his free room for a few days and we flew back to Korea together. One adventure was over but more are yet to come. In fact, the finishing touches to the start of our new adventure are being completed in Banda Aceh, Northern Sumatra as this is written, but that will be another story.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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