We weren’t moving. The boat was at a standstill, as if we were beached somewhere. I turned slowly around. It looked like we were on a silver prairie, stretching off in all directions, one flat continuous expanse of space. The horizon seemed very far away. The sun slowly sank down. The boat stayed still.
We were halfway between Sardinia and Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. It was July, and the air was hot and humid. No land was in sight. We had left Sardinia the day before, and we still had at least another day to go before Sicily would come into sight. At this rate, it could be two, maybe three days, maybe four days. Who knows. The boat didn’t even bob gently. The whole world was still.
I had never seen an ocean like this before. Sure, I’d seen calm bays and glassy lakes, but always within the protective embrace of land which sheltered the water from the great oceans beyond. But here we were, days away from land, surrounded by water, and it seemed as if we were in the middle of a giant puddle.
Reality didn’t feel so real anymore. When you “grow up,” it’s harder to find new things to marvel at. Our eyes have seen so many things already, and even things that we haven’t seen can be made sense of with our logical brains. But this felt bizarre. The horizon was becoming misty, blurring the line between sea and sky. Everything swirled into the same kaleidoscopic colours of sunset. The boat was quiet. Nothing flapped, nothing groaned –– there was no wind to move it. The night passed in a strange way, as if the line between sleep and reality couldn’t quite be found.
The next morning there was a slight breeze — just enough to pull out both sails and limp onwards towards our destination. The water was still flat, no swell to speak of, but now the surface was slightly lifted with small ripples. There was still no land in sight. We sighted a sea turtle, which seemed to panic as we approached and dove clumsily downwards. Some tuna jumped in the distance –– at least we thought they were tuna. When we changed course to investigate, they never reappeared. We played cards in the cockpit, which is a rare treat on a passage as usually the wind blows the cards up and away into the endlessly moving ocean. Slowly, slowly, we neared Sicily. And when it finally came into the horizon, all jagged and steep, it felt as if we were arriving to somewhere from a storybook, and that we ourselves were the enchanted travellers.
I’ve been sailing now for three years, and I’ve still never had a passage quite so surreal. For a brief moment in time, I felt as if I was in a world completely different from the one that I knew, as the gentle colours and the soft mists wrapped our small boat up in a perfectly still sphere. And Sicily, with its sweet granita and creamy cannoli was the perfect end to this memorable passage.
Maya and Aladino have sailed their 28-foot boat Magic Carpet around Europe for the past three years. They are now working on a new boat in the Pacific Northwest. You can follow their adventures at youtube.com/SailingMagicCarpet.