Adrift in the Doldrums
Until you have been becalmed in the doldrums you have no idea of the meaning of the word ‘isolation.’ There is no silence like the silence of the ocean when it sleeps and no terror like the ocean’s roar when it is angry. In either case, the ocean is free from trivia except for the plastic junk dumped in it by uncaring humans. In both of these scenarios it is apt to contemplate your navel, from which you emerged. It is a time to question what is really important.
Waiting for the wind to blow again I found myself reminiscing on my childhood. I remembered the day I found my dog dead on the carpet in the living room with a pool of blood around his mouth. He was my best mate. Someone had fed him a bait of ground glass. The grief took a while to fade and then I wondered why anyone would want to do that. There was still no answer forthcoming in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean not far from where Magellan had executed a boy for the crime of sodomy. Times change, or do they really? An owl arrived on board and took up residence on deck, exhausted from flying at least 100 miles or so. It cheered me up a bit. We put out water and bread-crumbs for him. He was shy at first but eventually took the offering.
Helen wasn’t coping well with the heat, the lack of progress and the savage squalls that often began as waterspouts, like snakes that rose out of the sea. Fortunately, none of them scored a direct hit on Wathara but we lived in trepidation. I decided we needed fortitude. Before leaving Spain we had stocked up on several bottles of duty free Chivas Regal and Johnny Walker. Not my favourite tipple but the price was right, and you would be surprised what a bottle of Scotch can buy on the waterfront. They were stored under the bunk in the aft cabin. I lifted the mattress and peered in, only to discover the stock had diminished by at least half. Helen must have moved them somewhere else, I thought.
I poured a couple of tots and took them up to the cockpit where she was sitting in the shade of an awning we had rigged over the boom.
“What did you do with the rest of the booze?” I asked her.
“We seem to have lost about half a dozen bottles of Scotch.”
To my astonishment, she grimaced, squirmed and made a curious noise somewhere between a snort and a grunt.
“Yes, really. Did you put them somewhere else, or what?”
“Yes, I put them somewhere else.”
She tossed her glass overboard and descended the ladder into the cabin.
Suddenly, it all came clear. There had been several occasions when I thought she was behaving strangely, but eating out in restaurants or with friends I had never seen her drink more than two or three glasses of wine. I had noticed glazed expressions on her face, which she blamed on what she called bile, and she did have an assortment of medications. I doubted if Scotch whisky was going to improve her condition anyway.