Wildnerness Adventure Voyage with Elwing Discoveries
Stewart Island, New Zealand
We sailed today. It was rainy and grey and even though the wind was not that strong it sounded like a thousand storms at once hitting the sounds off to our right. I sat at the bow looking into the rain with the wind coming at me on the left and the sounds on my right and the wild weather rolling over me and the sea a thick blue soup, impenetrable except for the few souls of floating jellyfish under the bow of our boat. The others raised and lowered the sails. I steered and Arthur shouted orders.
The shark looked awfully hungry and he was awfully beautiful. It was wonderful to have seen the shark after having been in the water. I was still dripping wet. I felt very alive and very lucky and in such good hands. I won’t forget the shark’s beautiful twist as he swam beneath the boat, a foot from the surface and the feeling in my body when I saw him and knew that Arthur was not joking. He was spotted and grey. It took me hours to stop thinking about how beautiful he was and to imagine instead what that underwater tug would feel like. And that rather than panic like I’d always thought I would, I realized that I would fight and shake and kick because to live is wonderful and so fleeting.
Last night Arthur woke me in the middle of the night and told me to get up on deck to look at the stars. I climbed up onto the dew-soaked deck alone. My socks were wet. There were so many stars in the sky that I couldn’t see all of them. The milky way–river strewn with many stones–stretched over my head, reflected in the glass-still waters around Elwing.
The wind was wild last night over the bay. We were protected but spinning slowly around once the wind turned southwest. It was blowing fierce and wild to hear. This morning it has died completely, the waters like glass outside. I had to switch cabins to make room for an extra kid and this new one is tiny. The bottom half is like a box that I have to slide into–almost like a coffin. I kept trying to move my legs in the dark and not being able to. A couple of times I felt like I would have to get out and collect myself, but I stayed calm. I focused on the closeness of the boat, its tight planes and curves, the water at my right and the wind above and finally I fell asleep.
Today I led the kids snorkeling over the long wrecked ship and then around the deep rocks of a small island. I was scared of the great whites that frequent the island and held down my panic by focusing on my breath. It is impossible to breathe well and right through a snorkel and panic. Arthur could tell my panic from my body language. I think he was proud of me. He told the kids I snorkeled through an open door. I got cold and though it was cold and I shivered it felt wonderful to be inside a body that was capable of feeling cold and of warming up.
All to be heard were the sounds of leaves hitting the forest floor, kakas chattering to each other and the wind coming up from a long way away and traveling towards us through the sounds.
If there’s anything I’ve learned on this trip it’s that time keeps turning. The days arrive and spin into night before you know it.