It is said we should occasionally return to nature. I thought being at sea for days, weeks, with no land in sight and only an occasional ship as company, would be a return to nature. Like a walk alone in the woods. Embraced by the trees, the rivers, the animals, the forest floor, the sound of the wind in the leaves. A comforting reminder of what we are and from where we have come. But this is not a return to nature. This is a return to Earth. To its impossible size. To its insignificant place among the stars. Our spec of a ship moving slowly across this infinite plain, this vast landscape, void of nature but for the rare breaking of the surface by dolphins. The everchanging expanse of water. On a sunny calm day, as blue and inviting as the Caribbean sea. During a storm, a rolling mass of angry grey peaks flinging us around at will. Back home, on land, we see the dominance of our role in the world. Here, we are not a player. Or so it would seem. Would that it were so.

Life on board. An intimacy I have never known before. And a respect for and abundancy of privacy. There are 24 of us divided into three rotating watches. 16 Spaniards, 6 Americans, a Brit, and a Dominican. 18 men and 6 women. 20 crew, a cook, and 3 trainees (2 American women besides me -you go girls!). Although the ship is 30 feet by 150 feet, most of that is not living space. The quarterdeck is where we spend our watches. I am on the 4:00-8:00, the best watch, twice a day with my seven favorite shipmates. We are now a tribe. We see every sunrise and sunset. We´re woken up at 3:45 (thank you Yeison!) and, after a scramble to dress, brush teeth, and grab coffee, are on the bridge by 4:00. It´s often pitch black with a sky full of stars, and recently the moon as well. Some people talk. It´s too early for me so I sit apart in my own quiet and watch as the sky takes the sea with it into orange and gold. Then, finally, the sun. It happens every day out here whether someone is here to see it or not. But now, I´m here. I am seeing it. And it brings tears to my eyes. A lifelong dream come true. To be in the middle of the North Atlantic on a ship, surrounded by only water as far as the eye can see. Happy birthday, Betsy! And thank you crew of El Galeon, my new family, for making it such a special day! Especially to Pablo and Madison for my pancake cake, and Wyll form my hand-made deadeye.

Gabriel, my love! I´ve thought of you a lot today and miss you. Have a piece of cake for me and a big glass of wine! And hug my boys. I hope all´s well. Thank you for holding down the fort so I can walk away for a month and disappear. From the book I brought to read:

“The simple act of sailing carried him beyond the world of reversals, frustrations, and inanities. And in the space of a few short hours, life had been reduced from a highly complex existence, with a thousand petty issues, to one of the barest simplicity…”

Endurance: Shackleton´s Incredible Voyage

Oh, and… Als meus amics catalans, hos desitjo una molt bona diada!

Betsy Renee Gude