A Most Excellent Sail and a Most Terrible Election
On the morning of November 7, according to calendars in the US, Dominic and I raised the main, unfurled the jib, and set sail for Australia. As is the usual paradox of emotions upon departure, we were sad to leave Vanuatu—we didn’t get a chance to visit her northern islands—but happy to be underway. Departing Santo at 9 am, we enjoyed the first breeze we’d felt in the cockpit after weeks of tropical heat, the seas were calm, and the sun was shining.
We, like most, were eagerly awaiting the election. Even with our desultory connectivity, we have been overwhelmed with campaign coverage. The headlines we were seeing before leaving Luganville were making us look forward with optimism—early voting was looking blue according to my self selected new feeds, Latin Americans were rocking the vote hard in Nevada, three generations of Bush women came out in support of Hilary, and Vox reported whispers of an Obama Supreme Court nomination. I was giddy.
Outside the lee of the island, the sailing was equally gleeful. We found a strong 17 knot breeze behind us and seas that started with a 1.5 meter swell and calmed from there. We were a little tired, had a slight loss of appetite, but were feeling great overall.
On our second day, November 8, I started reaching out to my family to get election updates via the sat phone. I spoke with my sister early on. Trump already had 15 electoral college votes to Clinton's four. I could hear a little panic in her voice, but she made every effort to be reassuring. “It’s too soon! It’s too soon! Don’t be upset! It’s too soon!” she kept saying. “It’s only Republican states that have been counted to so far! It’s too soon!”
So Dominic and I waited patiently, reading novels and marveling at some of the best sailing conditions ever, for six more hours before calling my dad.
“I hate to be the one to tell you this,” he said. “Trump needs 270 votes to win, he has 240 to to Clinton’s 214.”
“It’s too soon! It’s too soon! Don’t be upset! It’s too soon!” I said. “There’s still time!” I reassured myself, assuming there was no way California had yet been counted. I didn't have the internet, who knew how many electoral college votes California had this year. And Washington! Didn’t Washington usually go blue?
“It would take a miracle for Hillary to win,” he said. "Enjoy the sailing.”
We did. The sun was setting. The weather was sweet. I nursed a ginger beer and Dominic a Victoria Bitter. We played chess in the cockpit. It was quiet and peaceful, a peachy watercolor sky. I took a hot shower.
I called my sister. She didn’t pick up. I texted my dad.
Me: Dare I ask? Dad: It’s over. God help us.
Commence a downward spiral into the deepest despair. Dominic shook his head, slowly with downcast eyes (which is generally as negative and sad as he gets). I ranted—about the results of investing so little in education as nation, the shame I feel for my country, the battle against despotism and the free election of our own hateful tyrant, that Americans are so anti-woman they would elect someone who is completely unqualified and terrible and rapey.
I went to bed and didn’t sleep, got up at midnight for a star studded night shift of flukey wind, early morning sail furling and engine starting. Dominic woke at 3:30 to find me in a state of weeping exhaustion. I woke up again at 8 am, totally grumpy at the existence of the sun, so rudely beaming light in my eyes.
Over our morning quiche in the cockpit, Dominic and I realized we had both completely and independently come to the conclusion that my dad and sister were playing some sort of sick practical joke on us. No way would we elect a president endorsed by the KKK who—what’s the quote?—“grabs women by the pussy.” No fucking way.
Yes fucking way.
I emailed my girlfriend Maggie for confirmation. She replied: "We. Are. In. Shock. Like, as a social media nation, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are literally sadder and more shocked than when Michael Jackson died. It's like the a comet took out the last remaining Beatles...AND all puppies at once.”
Woe unto us. Woe unto the US!
Ok, ok. Deep breaths. Our 48 hours of excellent wind, despite the flukey morning, had magically turned into 60. We had made it west of New Caledonia and her northern reefs; the seas were pancake flat. We started listing all the things we should be grateful for. So beautiful in the middle of the ocean. So many birds. So much miracle wind.
“Maybe we at least now have a Congress controlled by the Democrats who will prevent Trump from doing too much damage,” I said, adding to our list.
Wrong, wrong again! Dimitri reports via email today that Trump remains the president-elect despite Clinton winning the popular vote (may you die a swift death, electoral college!), Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress, and my (un)fair nation has fallen into an age of endarkenment.
So many of my hopes and dreams for the US went overboard as this most disastrous news unfurled for us like a band aid being ripped off hair by hair, a dagger slowly twisted. Fewer military weapons discharging in schools? A few more steps toward health care for all? Too much to ask?
Or maybe just a president who has some amount of experience in public policy—like was a former senator, or a secretary of state—and isn't a misogynistic white supremacist. Too much to ask.
I finally got ahold of my mom today, who, after ranting in her own right, reminded me that all we can do is be beacon of light in our communities and continue working toward the greater good. She’s right, regardless of who sits in the oval office. But there are other enticing options, too—like a buying forwarding flights from SFO to Canada when the time comes, or rerouting our lives to New Zealand entirely. To be determined...