AIDA AUSTIN: What harm that I haven’t slept all night? I’ll find my sea-legs!

Meganisi Port, aboard the “Sophia”.
1.30am. Sleeping arrangements have just been urgently revised. 

I don’t care that the whole port heard me making my escape from below deck; fleeing Joseph Fritzel’s sauna has made all else trivial.

1.40. I’m on deck, that’s all that counts. So what if there’s a step in this bench? I can sleep on a step! I’ll show my husband the stuff I’m made of.

2am. Just because I’m claustrophobic doesn’t mean I’m not a yachtswoman! Let them all incarcerate themselves down there in Fritzel’s sauna if they want to, it doesn’t mean I have to.

3.45. So what if the boat is rocking? What’s a bit of sea-sickness after all, compared to being down there in Fritzel’s?

4am. I mean, remembering the terror of being down there is making me feel positively high up here. But best not remember too much; my high is dangerously brittle, what with the terror and now the rocking. I must protect my high. Best look at Ursa Major.

5.40. I mean so what if the bench is a foot too short? What’s a measly foot when you have all these stars? Oh, I think I can see the Plough up there!

7.30. Big deal if right now I’d give you the Plough for an extra foot. In fact, I’d give you the whole f*****g Milky Way for just one extra foot, so I could stretch my legs out and get some sleep. I’ll just sleep sitting up!

8am What harm that I haven’t slept all night? I’ll find my sea-legs! This is only night one! I’ll show them all down there what a tough old sailor I am.

1pm. Check me out, standing up here on the bow, like a proper sailor. So what if I can’t keep my eyes open? 

What’s important is that Pugwash, his wife and my husband have entrusted me with anchor-duty. I simply have to await instruction before I drop down dead with exhaustion.

1.05pm. I’m still standing but fear I might have nodded off: my husband is shouting, “wake up,” from the back of the boat. I think I need to press this button and…oh! Up the anchor comes! There! Too easy! That’s shown them all what a tough old salt I am!

3pm. Sophia is gliding through the water. All is calm. Everyone is lying down on different parts of the deck, apart from Pugwash, who’s steering the boat. Pff! Steering the boat looks easy. 

His wife is reading. My husband is reading. I would be reading too if I could keep my eyes open. 

“Is this sailing?” I ask my sister-in- law. 

“Pretty much,” she says, “when there’s no wind.”

4.30. I lie down on deck. Sailing is easy.

4.45. Sailing is really easy.

5pm. I just can’t believe how easy sailing is.

5.06. It’s the sailing life for me.

5.07. I close my eyes.

5.08. I’m instructed to come to the back of the boat immediately; the sails are going up. I scurry down, eyes wide. The sea is no longer calm. I’m no longer calm. Neither is Pugwash, my sister-in- law, or my husband. 

Everyone is doing urgent-looking things in frantic manner. I don’t know what these things are, nor do I care. I can’t hear for the deafening sound of wind flapping the sails but if I’m to believe my ears, everyone is shouting, “DIE!” They cannot be shouting, “DIE!”

My niece drops to the floor. She crouches in a ball on deck with her arms over her head. It looks like some sort of “brace” position: she is bracing herself for death: they must be shouting, “DIE!”

I drop to the floor. I look at her closely. She doesn’t look terrified enough. Not for dying. I stand up. I look around. Which is the best spot on a sailing boat for avoiding death?

Pugwash is still shouting. Oh thank god, I can hear him better now. He’s shouting, “DIVE!” 

I’m not sure how to feel about, “DIVE!” As an instruction, “DIVE!” is better than “DIE!” but not by much. 

I stand up, scramble to the side of the boat. I must prepare to dive.

“What the **** are you doing?” my sister-in-law shouts, bounding towards me. 

“GETTING READY TO DIVE,” I shout. 

She rugby-tackles me from behind.

“‘JIB’, YOU FOOL, NOT ‘DIVE’,” she shouts, bringing me down. 

“HE DEFINITELY DID NOT SHOUT ‘JIB’,” I shout, trying to struggle free from her clasp, for DIVING IS STILL THE ONLY WORKABLE SOLUTION FOR THIS OLD SAILOR.

“IT’S ANOTHER WORD FOR ‘BOOM’, YOU FOOL,” she shouts, holding me fast, “PRONOUNCED ‘JYBE’.”


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