I stalked the never-ending dark blue sky. If it did end, there should’ve been navy waters brushing its sides. The reflection of the stars in the water wavered the lines between sky and lake so I wondered if there was any water at all or if I was soaked in constellations. My eyes swam in the deep blue that surrounded me and my nostrils bathed in the scent of fresh air. The water had to be there somewhere, though, since I could hear the hull rhythmically crashing through the waves. It seemed impossible that the cool-toned world that enveloped me now could have been infiltrated by rays of sunlight only a few hours before. I swayed back and forth, gripping the lip of the glossy, wooden bench underneath me. The analog clock’s ticking complemented the thrashing of the tide as it slowly rocked with everything and everyone else on the massive ship. The cartoon anchor printed on its face mesmerised me in my fatigued state and I watched the rope tied around its shackle slowly disappear behind the hour hand. Earlier, six of us were awoken after four hours of sleep to be on watch for the next five hours. All six of us were hyper, giddy, lethargic, or all three.
We were still floating through a bottomless sky as my eyelids’ weight became unavoidable. They hastily tucked my eyes into bed and my mind floated into a distant dreamland. Unfortunately, a crew member spotted me dozing off and ordered me to do some physical activity to avoid my drowsiness. Her voice startled me and drilled into my ear even though it was only a courteous whisper. I placed my hands on the damp, wooden panels of the deck as I started my push-ups, feeling the deep hum of the engine remind me of its vitality. We performed a deck wash everyday. The deck shouldn’t be dry for a technical reason I’m sure, but the crew just told us, “the ship’s soul has always been partners with water. It’s the push and pull of the tides, it’s the wind in our sails, and it’s the moderation of water in a boat that gives a tall ship the definition known to man.”
Much of our job was to monitor this relationship. The window of appropriate amount of bilge seemed small, but our measurements always hit in the range. We held heavy, chilled flashlights and tiptoed through the hold, avoiding our dreaming shipmates. In between checking water levels, keeping watch at the bow and stern, navigating, steering, and taking log, we sat in the bridge, chasing consciousness. Glaring down at us, the white light in the bridge was the moon’s only competition for miles, and as far as we could tell, ever. We had to pay attention, not talk, not play cards, not sleep. The homemade trail mix sitting in a plastic bowl on the boat’s table tempted me. The sweetness of the banana chips mixed with the salty peanuts kept me present as the ship rocked me to sleep.
Suddenly, one girl perks up and points out into that deep blue sky, except it isn’t just deep blue anymore. We rush out of the bridge and to the side of the boat like eager children racing to an ice cream truck. We gazed up and movement graced the reflections of our bewildered eyes. Bright greens, pinks, and purples danced across the sky to the song of the engine. The ship dancing on the water parallel to the colors almost seemed to be a better partnership than even that of the historic sea and ship. Every one of us admired the beautiful wisps of color. The grace of the hues in the sky and the ship bound to earth was the pas de deux, the dance for two. I hear the harmony that would come out of their mouths had they been singing instead of dancing, and our sense of giddiness returned. The crew members shared: “it’s rare to see Northern lights in this part of Lake Michigan.” We were most of the way South by now, having left from Mackinac Island what seemed like ages ago. We would soon arrive in Milwaukee, and most of us would soon be greeted by family. We would soon leave. We stared up above at the celestial performance anyway.
No longer do our feet drag underneath us as we seem to have a newfound lightness in our step. Our eyes sparkle and reflect the moon as we watch and listen carefully. We anticipate, and our keen hands shoot up before a crew member even asks for help. Our sore arms pull lines taut and steer us further. We circumnavigate, communicate, and collaborate willingly. Our mouths speak a mile a minute, both held back and pulled ahead by the unknown. We feel credulously and blindly but wholeheartedly nonetheless. Our under eyes are dark and baggy. Lost in the deep blue. And when we finally restrain ourselves and lie down to rest, we are fulfilled with our work and only hope to pass this opportunity on.