Last month I entered a competition hosted by WorldNomads.com, aiming to win a travel writing workshop with an expert. The prize includes a 10-day road trip through Europe, and a commission to write a journal of the trip and follow-up articles. Results are announced later today, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
This is my entry:
The cold, damp concrete floor in Fedje’s derelict whaling station is still and solid under my back. Thin, grey clouds scud across the whitewashed sky, and a weak, watery sun swims overhead. If there is a more perfect place than right here and now, I don’t want to know.
Seasickness has two stages they say; first, you believe you’re going to die, and second, you wish you had. I think there’s a third; you may actually be dead, and just not realise it. A creeping limbo as you lie supine on deck, body moving in synchrony with the flexing hull. Every creak of the hull echoes in your bones.
Pas på. A loud Danish voice booms into the wind, and my body responds automatically. A thud on the deck as we slide a beam from its nook on the port side, then replace another on the starboard. Then I’m hauling a thick rope with all my strength. Others are there too, but I can’t tell who or how many. Rain and salt make me blind, save for an intermittent white light sweeping over us; a slow strobe as we run to harbour.
The wind switched suddenly, washing in across the tide, making the ship roll and pitch wildly. I stumbled across the lurching deck, falling against the gunwhale. Ripping off my storm hood, I gulped deep lungfuls of cold air and salt spray. It wasn’t enough to stop me from vomiting, and the spasms in my body making my legs give way. My face is wet, from sea spray and rain; I might also be crying. A firm hand on my harness stops me slumping down into the scuppers, and I wonder if I’ll lose control of my bladder.
Forcing myself to sit up, I find I’ve been joined on the floor by Carsten, our skipper, looking ashen-faced. He passes me a mug of steaming black coffee. “Twenty years I sailed ships like this, and always get sick when waves are against the swell; when the weather is poor,” he confides. “But you soon forget the bad times.”
I think. Colour drains from the sky as we slipped from the berth in Bergen; first stars visible as we raise the single square sail. When Hellisøy lighthouse signals on the horizon we tack to port, leaving the shelter of Hjeltefjord for the open sea. Save the lighthouse flash and distant oil rig flares, we’re immersed in darkness.
I lean out over the bow to watch the ship cut through the inky water. We’re sailing fast, the fastest we’ve been, my hair streaming in the wind. Phosphorescent green sparks glitter and tumble into our wake. I’m flying over the stars.
I know there’s somewhere I’d rather be; back at sea.