On the Pacific, my dreams have become rather numbed (and by 'dreams' I mean my aspirations rather than REM sleep, of which there is precious little to be had). For some reason, my usual concerns – destination, cash flow, cultural experience, maintaining a reasonable social life, wishing I'd been around in the sixties, the normal sort of thing – become both irrelevant and disconnected when I'm surrounded by sea for weeks, with no contact for so long. The desert was never like this, because however desolate the outback might be, it's teeming with folklore, wildlife, mountains, gorges, strange plants and, above all, amazing people and settlements. The Pacific is totally different, and although I wasn't expecting the sea to be anything like the desert in terms of psychological effect, it's surprised me to feel so detached.
So what if I've got so-and-so dollars in the bank? It's no use to me in the middle of the ocean. So what if I meant to write a letter to blah-de-blah? There aren't any post offices halfway to the Gambier Islands. So what if I haven't showered in two weeks, and all my clothes are smothered in salt crystals? There aren't any people here to meet anyway. The situation is like no other; if it wasn't for the daily radio contact, the whole world could disappear and we wouldn't have a clue. (In fact, I arrived at the Gambiers knowing that the UK had had a General Election about two weeks before, but I didn't have any idea as to the result. It took quite a bit of effort to find out, too; apparently Tony Blair won for Labour.)
The world of Zeke on the open ocean makes me feel like I'm in a play; a play is self-contained, with a few actors, a handful of different scenes, and a plot (or, in this case, a destination), and just like on Zeke, a play is an escape from reality. Sure, plays are normally set in familiar environments – houses, gardens, cities, and so on – but the connections to reality are all in the audience's imagination, and taken as a self-contained entity, a play exists apart from the world in which it plays. How else can one play be a story of everyday life in one country, and a seriously subversive piece of literature in another? So Zeke is like a play, and like all plays the actors don't necessarily behave like normal humans would; there's melodrama, comedy, soliloquy and so on, things that happen in everyday life, but which occur more intensely or dramatically in a play than in the real world. Believe me, four weeks on the ocean in Zeke is nothing if not melodramatic.
One particularly memorable example of the tragicomic nature of Zeke's script happened deep in the voyage, around halfway to the Gambiers. Rob and Laurent were not getting on by this stage: Laurent's gallic shrug of a character wasn't compatible with the control freak that Rob became on the sea, and by the third week, they were no longer speaking. This wouldn't have been a problem, except they decided to treat me like the lawyer in their messy divorce, so all I got was an earful of, 'Tell the chef that it's time he got cooking,' and 'Tell the captain I'll cook when I'm goddamn ready.' Which was all very well, but I was over the side of the boat most of the time, wondering when this seasickness hell would stop, so all they heard from each other was, 'Tell the chef that it's time he got bleaurghh...' and 'Tell the captain I'll hueaurghh when I'm goddamn ready.' I didn't particularly enjoy that part of the plot.
Another result of Zeke being like a play is this feeling of being totally cut off from reality. I have never felt so truly alone before, yet this doesn't imply loneliness, more an appreciation of isolation. We've sailed 2000 miles and the nearest land is 1000 miles away, and the progress of Zeke at around 100 nautical miles per day makes this distance feel sizable. We're getting there, but it's a slow process, and it's such a radical change from the hustle and bustle of normal life. I'm not particularly enjoying it, but it's certainly an experience I won't forget in a hurry.