To be honest, I prefer not to have overnight charters. Right now it’s a way to make money, but I hope to find other ways very soon. Almost all of the people we’d had have been really nice. It’s just that there are people in my home who want to eat and drink stuff and be entertained. And I have to give up my really comfortable bed for a hard bench where I can feel all my rib and hip bones. Luckily I am now accustomed to this method of sleeping!
At first it was really hard, excuse the pun. That brings back a memory of the top of the bell curve of uncomfortableness. We were in one of my favourite lagoons in Cartagena with a nice group of interesting marine biologists (or so I was told. They were Colombians and at this time my level of Spanish was little more than smiles and imitating other’s facial features because I really had no clue). I hadn’t slept comfortably for three nights. There we were, on the deck, gazing at the stars and watching the mosquitos trying to break through the mosquito net (it finally came in handy!). What would normally be a perfectly romantic evening for rested me, was anything but. After calling to the sleep gods, I finally managed to fall asleep. Those mosquitoes worked hard as apparently my ankles were irresistible. I awoke to a group of them happily biting away at my ankles. My groans of frustration awoke CC who assured me I was imagining it all (the bites the next morning proved otherwise). I whined about how uncomfortable I was and started talking about wanting a really soft king sized bed to sleep in. As it was 4 a.m. and not the first time I whined, CC replied something insensitive. I shut my mouth and tried so hard to sleep. As I was about to start crying, CC said, “Don’t start crying. It won’t change anything.” To which I promptly burst into tears and said “I’m just so tired and so uncomfortable.” CC gave perhaps the best response ever, which was not so funny at the time, “If you want a comfortable bed to sleep in, find a captain of a cruise ship to shag!” As cruise ships have no interest to me, I was filled with rage at his suggestion and realised that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
As always, I digress. After a busy few months, I was relieved when the quiet month of September came along. I was looking forward to fun sailing just the two of us when I can practice being captain, jungle adventures, not having to cook for people and my bed!! Be careful what you wish for…
The first two weeks were great! We sailed around San Blas, had lots of time to snorkel, relax, explore islands, view the stars and talk about life. Then the money started to run low and as food is more expensive in the islands, we went to Portobelo. The first part of the first week was great. I had been having ear problems on and off and towards the end of that first week, it was constant and painful. Swimming made it worse so I stopped and I felt punished as not only was this exercise, but also one of the perks of the lifestyle! The humidity of Portobelo was making my ear more and more painful.
Then came the hunger… Not working means no money for food. Please understand me, I’m writing from a first world perspective. We were not starving and although I was losing weight, still had my health. But this was a new thing to me. I could always eat as much as I wanted. We had bread for breakfast and either lunch or dinner. I used to dream of exotic and luxurious meals the meal we didn’t eat. With the pain of my ear and my hunger, I sometimes had a hard time keeping it together. Some days, the pain was so bad I couldn’t sleep and when I “woke up” in the morning, I would burst into tears. Most of the time CC was supportive and gave me a hug asking if there was anything he could do to help make me comfortable. Other times, the stress he was under and his frustration of not being able to help me, provoked a response that seemed to make everything worse.
In two months we had one three day charter. We had no friends in this marina and really there were few people living on their boats to make friends with. We started to become good at finding the other person annoying. We both tired of spending our days reading, cleaning off the mould that developed daily due to the humidity, the same scenery and the same basic food every day. This is truly getting to know someone and a great life test on how to work through a challenging time.
As my lovely friend who spent 20 plus years on the sea said, “If you think you want to marry someone, spend six months with them on a boat. If you don’t want to kill him, he’s the one.” I’m not interested in getting married, but it made me realise something. Despite the hardship that CC and I faced those two months, I think of that time with a smile. We had so many lovely times together. I remember laughing a lot more than being upset. Portobelo has some beautiful hikes through the jungle which we explored while creating hilarious memories. There’s a fortress across from the marina which we made into our gym. There are three of them on a hillside so we climbed up and down twice almost every morning. It felt so good after not having other exercise!
We managed to find a way to deal with the other person in a way that was supportive instead of unhelpful. Mind you, I had the easy job. I just had to be silent and wait. CC had the hard job because what was supportive to me was different depending on my levels of pain, hunger, tiredness and boredom. Had I been with a less patient person, I would’ve been thrown overboard!! We got to know the locals well and enjoyed being a part of the community. We welcomed the Friday and Saturday night entertainment of the locals in the town square and overall managed to enjoy the beautiful things we had in front of us.
Life is about balance. There are always two sides/extremes. With every dark cloud, there is always a silver lining. You just have to choose the right glasses to see it.