It sure is a nice boat, but time on board definitely isn’t worth dying for. Try telling that to the suicidal squid and the frantic flying fish as they leaped from sea to deck to join us for a taste of the sailing life.
Joel got to bed after his watch. It was 4:00 a.m. and he felt something a little slippery on his sheets. A suicidal squid had jumped into his bed, keen to share its last moments and a squirting of ink with my crew mate. Joel sent squid’s body back to the sea and in the morning got up to wash his sheets, only to find a second guest dead in his bed. It hadn’t been a lonely night, not that he’d been aware of his bedfellow.
Oh, how I laughed.
As the sun rose, I ascended up to the fly bridge to check progress and to keep an ear and eye out for changes to the wind, the weather, the whatever. It was my morning watch, the most perfect time of day when life starts anew and light re-enters our world. And there, on the seat directly behind the helm, was a little white shape with white-brown tentacles and dark, forlorn eyes that said ‘I tried, really I did. I just wanted to be captain for the night, but I couldn’t hold out. Over to you’.
I sat a while with dead wannabe captain, looking out over a somewhat choppy ocean as shoals of flying fish jumped from the water, soaring through the air before diving back into the depths. I could have thrown captain to a salty grave, back to his home, but selfishly I kept him on board for the company. Eventually, I said goodbye.
The others started to wake up. As happens most days, we scouted and cleared the deck of suicidal squid, their little bodies lying pasted to hard plastic. Early morning sunshine stripped away any watery life from their mollusc forms and ink seeped from their carcasses, staining the bright, white floor.
Over breakfast, Matt recounted a story similar to Joel’s, squid protagonist switched with that of fish, flying through the window into a warm, sleepy bed. A rude, wet wakeup, maybe, as she flailed around on cotton sheets, but lucky timing: Matt was in bed. With super quick reflexes, he flung her back to water. I like to imagine that she survived, that trauma didn’t stop her little heart from beating.
And the chaos continued when my skipper Alan burst out of his room. ‘I found a flying fish in the sink in my heads’. An open roof hatch had tempted her into the bathroom, and now she lay dead in a cold coffin of metal, staring up at the sky. Was that last flight worth it?
So I listened to my crew mates tell of their misfortune and I laughed along with them, although my own laughter was tinted with triumph and relief. I hadn’t been got. The closest I’d been to sea life death was up on the fly bridge with the captain. It hadn’t been a bad experience, a bit sad maybe, but fine.
But I did wonder when I’d get my comeuppance for my sense of lucky superiority and feelings of relief.
That afternoon, as it turned out. Immediate karma got me back, big time.
My bathroom had been starting to smell very sea-like. I couldn’t make sense of it. And then I found the offender: the familiar white-brown body, those tough, little tentacles, those giant, goggling eyes. He was a tiny one, small enough to take cover in the groove of the shower screen for a few days until a thorough clean-up job flushed him out of his hiding spot. Back out of the porthole he went. Stage one complete.
After supper that evening, I went for a sleep before my watch. I climbed on to the bed, glanced up and stopped dead. It’s funny how something unexpected can make you catch your breath.
Because there in the netting of my roof hatch was a mother of a flying fish, cradled, dangling above my bed. A few scales had fallen through, a drizzle of water. Nothing too dramatic. After a night-time deck excursion to recover and fling the intruding corpse, I lightly scrubbed down my bedding. Stage two was complete. At least the fish hadn’t made it into the room. That would have been far more of a frustration and a clean-up mission.
But of course, what you dread inevitably arrives into your life at some point. It was the day after the day of sea life suicide. I hadn’t been sleeping too well and I was exhausted. Please let me get a couple of hours before my watch, I thought, I really need some shut-eye.
Supper had made me a little sleepy so I headed to my berth, hopeful that the early evening calm would grant me a few moments of slumber. It wasn’t to be. Flying fish No. 2 had already claimed the bed. It was the last time I kept my roof hatch that far open. Lesson learned.
And oh, how the others laughed as I stripped my bed, soaked my sheets and washed down the mattresses. Fair play.