Last Sunday morning I leashed up Yogi Armani (the designer dog) and headed out to Starbucks. Near our house there is a staircase down to Marine Drive where the nearest one is located. 217 steps. Easy going down, not so easy coming back up.
On the way down Yogi stopped and circled. I got out a poop bag. I couldn’t help thinking back to when I was in my twenties my jacket pocket might have held a package of condoms. Now one side has plastic bags and the other has dog treats.
When we got there I tied Yogi to a post outside and went in to get a coffee. A recollection came to me as I stood in line.
In 2010 I was navigator on Delicate Balance, a forty foot sloop entered in the Victoria to Maui yacht race. DB as we called it was not really suitable for offshore sailing. She had a large open cockpit with no shelter for the crew, and the interior was not much more than 6 berths, a head and a rudimentary galley, plus a large sail locker. However she was strong and well equipped. The crew of five was the Skipper, me as navigator and radio man, and three general crew. Only two of the crew were under sixty.
The start was smooth in light airs but after Cape Flattery the wind began to increase. Three days out from Victoria, off Northern Oregon, we sailed into gale force winds and monstrous waves. We couldn’t cook or even boil water for coffee as the kettle was literally thrown across the cabin. Many leaks appeared and soon all the bunks were wet. The two youngest crew members were violently seasick. The oldest crew member developed what we later found out was pneumonia and took to his soaked bed. The rest of us had to steer the boat in four hour shifts. All we had to eat were apples and Cliff’s bars. The cockpit was inundated with tons of water every few minutes, and expensive Gore-Tex failed to keep us dry.
On my midnight to 4 AM shift the powerful tiller threw me across the cockpit several times before I strapped myself down. I developed a splitting headache, then vomited my meager lunch. At the end of my shift I went below and slept fitfully until the next one. The headache was still there. It occured to me that it might be caused by caffeine withdrawal. Before taking over the helm I added a package of Starbucks instant coffee to my water bottle. The first gulp was heaven. In minutes the headache was gone and I was feeling human again. The shift went better, although every so often a wave would hit with a sound like an approaching train, and fill the cockpit to the brim.
After that I did the same on each shift. In a few days the gale dropped and we could go back to hot coffee, but I never forgot how good the cold stuff tasted.
“I can help the next person.”
I returned to the present and ordered a bottled water and a package of Starbucks Instant. I went outside and sat at a table near Yogi, despite the cold. I poured in the powdered coffee, closed the lid and shook the bottle.
Then I took a long deep pull. I gagged and spat it right back into the cup. It was disgusting!