Guilty as Charged

An overnight in a posh resort has this sailor questioning her stripes. "Osprey's Flight" from our May 2010 issue

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Wendy Mitman Clarke

Forgive me, Osprey, for I have sinned. I've lusted for unlimited hot water. I took two showers and a Jacuzzi bath all in one day. I indulged in a massage, with hot stones pressed gently into my sore back and essential oils rubbed into the very soles of my deck-worn feet. I wore a big, fluffy, snow-white bathrobe that enveloped me like a cloud. I slept in an enormous bed with eight pillows and a down comforter in front of a television with a remote. I used air-conditioning, and I liked it. For these impure thoughts and actions, I'll-well, I'll bless my sister Stephy for coming to visit and letting me stay in her five-star resort suite for a night and a day.

I don't consider myself to be a very high-maintenance person. Some days, I even forget to brush my hair. I can go for several days without a shower if need be and not whine about it. Other than Blistex with color added, makeup hasn't been in my repertoire pretty much since moving aboard, and I've thinned my wardrobe to fit into one drawer and two shelves, along with a dress or two sharing a hook with my foul-weather jacket. My collection of timelessly styled stiletto heels stayed in the storage unit, traded for those dubious fashion statements, flip-flops and Keenes. I forfeited my own fluffy bathrobe, goose-down pillows that would never survive the humidity, and numerous other petty comforts. I was ready, when we moved aboard, to pare my life to fit a more simple way of living, and I remain committed to that-well, most of the time. Until, that is, someone waves a marble shower, Jacuzzi tub, and/or a featherbed in my face.

Just say it: I crumbled. Not only did I crumble, I involved my children! They came with me to said five-star resort, and while Kaeo was fairly appalled at the air-conditioning running while warm tropical breezes caressed the palms outside, he caved completely at the SpongeBob SquarePants marathon on the 40-inch flat-screen television. He even drew the blinds against the bright sunlight to make the room seem more like a movie theater. Kailani, I'm afraid, was as spineless as I. She took three Jacuzzi baths and watched enough SpongeBob to shrink her brain to the size of a pea. And both of them got sucked into those amazing diabolical robes. Only Johnny, my husband, remained steadfast and pure, staying with Osprey rather than letting himself be tempted.
One of the beautiful aspects about our way of life is that you truly appreciate seemingly small things that would go largely unheralded in an "ordinary" lifestyle. When you've stood a long, chilly night watch, nothing seems as luxurious as handing it over to your mate, shedding your gear, and climbing into a warm bunk. For that matter, a bullion-sized cube of dark chocolate after a delicious meal of homemade bread and fish chowder made from fish you've caught yourself can be grander than the finest haute cuisine. All of your senses are heightened, so very little slips by unnoticed.

And let's be honest: We're not living like ascetics out here, although some sailors do. We have hot and cold running water, refrigeration, a stove and oven, an iPod with a decade of music on it, a heater for the cold, and breezes for the hot. All that anyone could need, really, just trimmed to its minimums. And that's what I wanted: a cleaner, simpler way to live, farther from the air-conditioning and closer to the sky.

So why, now, all this self-doubt, provoked by little more than high-quality cotton and sunflower showerheads? I mean, really: Get a grip. I'm a sailor, dammit, as true to Osprey as ever, as committed to the life as I was before this collapse from grace. Right. Now pass me those plush slippers, if you please.

The Clarkes have now added nail polish to the ship's stores aboard their 45-foot steel cutter, Osprey.