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Cloudburst

by Liz Clark
Summer 2009

The line of unbroken horizon dips again and again from view as I settle into a cradled corner of Swell’s rolling cockpit. Over 600 miles and five days into my solo, mid-Pacific passage, and momentarily there is a lull in the sea’s frequent calls. Time alone on this open sea is time acutely divided. On demand, I’m critically present, but for now I can almost disappear. Only my slow, warm breaths separate me from this bulk of water and unending sky. The beats of modern humanity drum on around the world, but I can’t hear them here. Somewhere between French Polynesia and the Line Islands I’ve found an interim space – stripped of artificial barriers, outside judgment and contemporary clutter. I ponder my place in this wholly elemental setting. A minute bows into an hour and with a reverent nod, my eyelids sink and I dissolve into a swaying patch of afternoon sun.

A sudden gust jolts me awake. Lifting my cheek from the pillow of piled rope, my eyes meet a dark, sinister line of wind and rain charging at us from the east. The unstoppable assault of a squall front is upon us. Knowing that my weak, old headsail won’t withstand another blast, I scramble to my feet, release the jib sheet, and crank the winch with all my force. The wind knocks us sideways. I don’t look up. I hold my breath and continue cranking. Rain pelts me in sheets; my muscles burn and blisters sting, but I hardly notice. The remaining triangle of sail is whipped into a deafening fit until the squall’s leading blow subsides. Then, the fury dissipates so quickly that what just happened seems surreal. I look up at the rig to assess the damage. The shredded luff of the jib flutters in the remaining breeze as an indisputable souvenir. I want to cry. I want to liquefy into these raindrops.

About the Author

Liz Clark is a surfer, sailor, fisherwoman, environmentalist, writer, photographer, adventurer, and shipwright who has captained her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, 15,000 miles on the Pacific Ocean.

Check out Liz Clark and the Voyage of Swell on Wend.