Life on a Raft
God it’s scorching out here. I may as well be floating on the sun’s surface it’s so damn hot. I’ve lived through some days I thought I was going to melt from the heat, but it’s getting worse every hour, especially as the sun rises higher. Of course, it doesn’t help that my water ran out a few days ago. It got so bad a day or two back I tried drinking salt water, Lord knows there’s plenty of that. All it did was made me wretch, leaving me thirstier than I was before. But, for the briefest of moments, I had the feel of cool liquid in my mouth; it seemed like a gift from heaven, until it came back up.
I remember reading somewhere a person can only go a week or so without water, so I’ve still got some time. Or maybe that was food, and you can only go a few days without water? Anyway, once tomorrow rolls around, I should be able to lick some of the condensation off the sail, and my little wooden mast. There are usually a few, tiny droplets each morning, tantalizingly close to dripping away and being lost forever. I have to move fast if I want to enjoy them before they’re gone. I run my tongue along the bottom, slowly, so I don’t shake the others loose. I can taste them now, a little salty, but like sweet nectar to me. I find myself looking forward to those precious morning drops; like I used to feel as a child, waiting for my parents to come downstairs on Christmas morning.
What a feeling it was, setting sail from Newport in my 41-foot ketch. Only looking forward. It was the culmination of a life’s dream. I remember thinking how long and how hard I’d worked to make it a reality, and at long last, here it was staring me straight in the face. Wow, thinking about that moment still puts a smile on my face, even now, out here in the middle of nowhere.
Even with everything that’s happened since, it’s been worth it. An amazing two years, and I loved every last moment of it. I’ve seen incredible things I can’t begin to describe. The most beautiful acts of nature and man happening all over the world, right in front of me every day. It really has been a great ride, one I wouldn’t trade for the world.
The particulars are pretty fuzzy now, but I recall a hellish storm hitting me, and hitting me hard. I knew going in that even all of today’s technology, and all of the safety precautions I took, can’t stop the ocean from deciding to kick me in the ass. All I can do then is hold on tight, because I sure don’t have any say in the matter. I suppose if I were a god-fearing person I’d somehow think I was being paid back for some long-forgotten sin. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case though. Hell, with my past if God wanted to punish me, I’d have gotten mine long before this.
I’m coherent less often each day. If feels like coming out of a disturbing dream, only to find your reality isn’t much different. I sometimes wonder if I’m really waking up, or going back to sleep. To be honest, it’s a little scary, the idea of being coherent just long enough to know you’re losing your faculties. I seem to do that more and more lately.
When I have the energy, I spend a lot of time scanning the horizon. For other boats of course, but that doesn’t seem too likely anymore. Now I spend most of my lucid time looking for any one of the million wonders that occur out here. Just the other day I floated right by a couple of orcas tearing into something like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. I couldn’t see what they were enjoying so feverishly, but whatever it was had all their attention. I suppose it was just as well, because they were each bigger than my 9-foot dinghy.
I know it doesn’t make sense, and I can’t explain adequately, but the longer I’m out here the more I’m starting to enjoy it. I feel a contentment that I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. It really is beautiful.
I haven’t been counting the days lately; it seems kind of pointless really. Einstein was right, time is most certainly relative. I suppose it is what we choose to make of it, and I’ve made my choice, so I guess that’s that.
But I have to say, and I’ve had lots of time to think about this, anyone who looks back at their life and says “I wouldn’t change a thing” is either stupid, certifiably nuts or a damn liar. Of course there are mistakes I’d take back, even if they helped me in the long run. I’m not an idiot, for God’s sake.
Look at that sunset, man that’s beautiful. You know it’s odd, but I don’t feel as thirsty as I did a couple of days ago, or even earlier today. I don’t remember drinking anything though, so I’m not sure what that’s all about.
Come to think of it, my appetite is gone too. What a nice feeling, kind of comfortable I guess. I haven’t felt comfortable for what seems like a lifetime. But it’s strange at the same time, because I can see just about all the bones in my body, so I should be starving. My ribs, arms and legs have hardly anything but skin on them, lobster-red skin, and what muscle there was has long since gone. I don’t look at myself too often anymore; it can be a bit depressing. I try not to think about it, as if that will somehow make it too real, but I’m pretty certain I’m not going to make it off this dinghy. It’s a difficult thing to reconcile, my own mortality, but when it’s all said and done, I’ve been too fortunate in my life to start complaining now.
I’m going to miss some things, I’m sure of that. Playing with the grandchildren I’ll never know, seeing my kids continue becoming the wonderful people they already are, the middle of the ocean at three in the morning with a warm, perfectly angled breeze propelling my sailboat along at a nice, comfortable clip. I suppose the most important thing is I have no regrets, so I take solace in that. It’s been great, it really has. Like now, as it finally starts cooling down, and the sky shimmers from blue, to orange, and sometimes even red and purple; what a perfect night. Beautiful.
Tim Brugger has been writing, professionally and otherwise, for nearly 20 years. When not writing he enjoys spending time with his three children at their home in Portland, OR.
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