Detour to the City of Clocks

Tuesday morning, as we prepared to leave Racine for Port Washington, there were beautiful blue skies and a marine forecast of winds out of the Northeast, 10-15 knots, waves 2-4 feet.

"It's going to be rocky," Mark said.

Not that I didn't believe him, but I had this idea that we'd be granted special clearance - like God would split the waves just to make a calm path for our 5 1/2 hour journey. I fully expected to be in the City of Seven Hills by dinner.

Mark was right. Those 2-4 foot waves were closer to 4 or 5, and luckily we were heading into the waves, rather than rolling along sideways, so that our nose went up and down rather than side to side, which cuts down on sea sickness, though I concentrated on keeping my muscles loose, my hands and jaw unclenched - tension only makes sea sickness worse.

I sat at the helm, managing the roller coaster ride, while Mark checked the engine room. Grey clouds rolled in from the west, so that half the lake was blue beneath blue skies, the other half grey. Milwaukee loomed in the distance. We kept riding the waves, spray shooting over the bow of the boat, soaking us up on the fly bridge. Milwaukee closed in. Mark and I counted the minutes to Port Washington: we still had three hours to go.

"It's going to clear up after Milwaukee," I announced, for no other reason than there are no other harbors between Milwaukee and Port Washington, and surely God was about to grant us a reprieve. But then reality (the "real" God as opposed to my "fantasy" God) appeared before me: the field of white caps had tripled: this was not going to get any easier.

"Can we go into Milwaukee?" I asked Mark.

I didn't have to ask twice. We very carefully switched places so that he took the helm, and I took on the new job of making sure nothing fell overboard as we tilted back and forth at 20 degree angles. As we headed toward shore, rocking side to side, I fleetingly thought of the chaos happening inside the cabin, and our poor cats - but at this point, it was every man for himself.

Once docked at McKinley Marina, we went down into the cabin - the place had been ransacked by reckless thieves. The stereo and lamp lay on their sides, the kitchen counter on the floor, the contents of the fridge across the room. There were books and papers and drawers all over the forward cabin. I hadn't tightened the windows in the forward cabin, and the entire office - including computers - were wet. Hunter and Leo were huddled, terrified, near our pillows in the aft cabin, cat puke everywhere.

We were upset.

I was mad at myself for not battening down the hatches, mad that electronics were wet, cats were sick, and we were in Milwaukee. Milwaukee's a fine city - but it's just that: a city. McKinley Marina and its encompassing park look far too much like our home in Belmont Harbor and Lincoln Park. The sound of traffic and sirens in the distance was daily life, and this was vacation. I wanted small, quaint, provencial towns. But at least we were safe, and nothing was broken, and even though it was a pain to put everything back in its rightful place, in a couple hours we were done.

While replacing the contents of my bathroom cabinet that had fallen into the sink, I found my favorite perfume - Calvin Klein's "Euphoria," (the first gift Mark gave me) - and put some on. Right then, I started to feel a little more like myself.

We spent a low-key evening in the City of Clocks. I caught up on emails and phone calls, and Mark fixed stuff: the cup holder on the fly bridge and a windchime; he even got out his sewing machine and stitched up pants that had torn. I kept turning on the weather report, hoping it would suddenly change, but it remained constant: forecast for Wednesday was NE winds 10-15 knots, waves 2-4 feet. Exactly what we'd just come through.

"The boat can handle it," Mark said, "but can we?"

Before going to bed, I made myself stand out on the deck and take in the city. I was powerless over the weather. If we had to spend another day in Milwaukee, we could visit the art museum and the farmer's market and bike around. Maybe it wasn't what I was expecting, but it would be okay.

The next morning, Mark was up early, returning from Home Depot with a new bolt for the alternator and some coffee for me before it was even 7 o'clock. "It looks calm out there," he said, "Let's make a run for it."

We battened down the hatches for real this time, preparing for the worst. And though the weather report was exactly the same, the lake was completely different - she was calm, soothing, without a white cap in sight.

I learned something important today: weather reports and radars are not to be relied upon. Better to look at the reality right in front of you. And listen to the captain when he says, "Let's make a run for it!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got seasick just reading your blog. You are a good mate, I would have been screaming and telling the captain to turn around and take me back to shore.