The millennial generation has had the benefit of massive advances in technology, so how would their conversation go with someone older like, say, Christopher Columbus? Sheena Jeffers shares this satirical piece in which Columbus gets an education on how boats have changed in the past 500 years.
Tired, I rub my eyes and yawn. With my watch complete, I‚Äôm looking forward to lying down and permitting the waves the rock me to sleep.
I find a comfortable place nestled between two pillows and doze off while the Caribbean Sea carries me north. I must have fallen deep into a deep, deep sleep because it wasn‚Äôt long before Christopher Columbus was sitting next to me on the bow of our boat.
‚ÄúMy, dear!‚ÄĚ He exclaimed (for my benefit, my dream translated Columbus‚Äô words into English). ‚ÄúWhat have we here?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúColumbus? Wow, welcome aboard! I‚Äôm Sheena. I‚Äôve heard a lot about you!‚ÄĚ He was staring at my usual offshore attire: my bikini top and lululemon shorts.
‚ÄúWhat is happening? Where is our heading? And what, for heaven‚Äôs sake, year is it?‚ÄĚ He asked, motioning toward what he believed was an obvious lack of attire. I adjusted my top a bit, spreading out the triangles covering my breasts. He adjusted his undercoat.
‚ÄúWell, first of all, Columbus: this is called athleisure,‚ÄĚ I said, motioning toward my water-wicking running shorts that I‚Äôve never once run in. ‚ÄúThe year is 2019. My boyfriend and I are sailing‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ he scoffs. ‚Äú‚Ä¶to Florida from Panama.‚ÄĚ
Suddenly, Columbus, startled, leapt to his feet.
‚ÄúWhat kind of tree is this?‚ÄĚ He asked, knocking on the hull of our boat.
‚ÄúFiberglass. It‚Äôs a common fiber-reinforced plas‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúA Fiberglass tree‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ he said, running his hand over our deck. As he walked his foot accidentally hit the down button on our windlass loosening a bit of chain holding our anchor.
‚ÄúDear, God! Does this‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ he eyes followed the chain and he ran across our trampoline and threw his head over the bow to inspect the loosened chain attached to our anchor.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs ok! It‚Äôs ok!‚ÄĚ I pressed the up button on our windlass and tightened the chain attached to the anchor. The anchor locked into place.
‚ÄúDear‚Ä¶ God‚Ä¶ have you written the King and Queen about this, this‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWindlass. And, no‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚Äú‚Ä¶ His majesties will want to know about this. In detail.‚ÄĚ Bending his knees, he jumped and the cargo netting of our trampoline held together by Dyneema line creaked beneath his weight.
‚ÄúLook at this!‚ÄĚ He said jumping and laughing and waving his arms as the Caribbean Sea passes below him.
‚ÄúColumbus, I know that is called a trampoline but it‚Äôs not really a tramp‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNotes! I must be taking notes,‚ÄĚ he exclaimed, still jumping on our trampoline/not trampoline. ‚ÄúMy letters to the King and Queen will excite them. Please fetch my journal and a pen, or a scribe. That will work.‚ÄĚ
I passed him my iPhone. He eyed it cautiously, and I remembered that he was always an old school kind of guy preferring dead reckoning to navigational technology (and I think to myself, wait until he sees Navionics).
‚ÄúOh. Sorry, here,‚ÄĚ I said, stepping beside him to allow the iPhone‚Äôs facial recognition technology to unlock my phone. I opened up a new note for him.
‚ÄúNo, thank you‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ he said, passing it back to me wearily. ‚ÄúI‚Äôll keep it all up here,‚ÄĚ he said, tapping his pointer finger to his brain space a few times.
Just then, he heard another noise.
‚ÄúWhat is that unrelenting hum?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh, it‚Äôs our engine. No wind out here today, so we‚Äôre motor sailing a bit ‚Äď just using one engine ‚Äď to get out of the doldrums.‚ÄĚ
He stared at me. Pissed? He seemed mad.
‚ÄúEngine? To carry you when there is no wind?‚ÄĚ He was pacing now. He was definitely pissed. ‚ÄúAnd, to be clear, to ensure my complete understanding, you have‚Ä¶ more than one? And this‚Ä¶ thing‚Ä¶ it moves the boat forward when there is no wind?‚ÄĚ
I felt it coming. I felt the mom ‚Äúback-in-my-day‚ÄĚ speech coming. I know Columbus, you walked to school 3 miles each way in the snow carrying all of your books.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre for propulsion when there is no wind, yes.‚ÄĚ He stared at me. ‚ÄúDo you want to see them?‚ÄĚ I say, hoping to distract him from the speech I definitely see coming.
‚ÄúWho‚Ä¶ who are you again? I don‚Äôt know how to address you.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMy apologies. I‚Äôm Sheena. I‚Äôm First Mate here on this sailing vessel we call Seas Life.‚ÄĚ
He is laughing.
‚ÄúA woman! First Mate!‚ÄĚ Laughing.
‚ÄúSeas Life!‚ÄĚ Laughing. ‚ÄúFor whom is your vessel named after to honor, to serve, to protect?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh, no one. It means to make the most of your life while you‚Äôre here living it. We toyed with the spelling because we‚Äôre out here on the seas‚Ä¶ seize‚Ä¶ get it? Here, YouTube will tell you everything about‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúStop!‚ÄĚ He commanded, hand raised. ‚ÄúI serve only my God. I don‚Äôt know who this life-informing YouTube idolator is; I shall hear nothing YouTube wants to tell me. I serve only my God and my highnesses.‚ÄĚ
‚Äú‚Ä¶ and your personal desire for fame, riches and ownership of land you don‚Äôt own‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ I mumbled under my breath.
‚ÄúWhat did you say?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSo, engines?‚ÄĚ I asked, smiling. We make our way back toward the stern with Columbus touching every boat cushion, standing rigging, and sun cover while running his hand over every dagger board, fishing pole and squeezing every Luci light.
I opened the door to the engine room and he slowly lowered down staring at the engine roaring, churning, chugging along.
He cautiously peeked his head into the small space of the engine room and listened to the roar. Eyes wide with amazement? Fear? Horror? Resentment? Disappointment?
‚ÄúColumbus?‚ÄĚ I asked. ‚ÄúAre you all right?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIf this, this‚Ä¶ thing, here,‚Ä¶ is making that noise then it‚Äôs‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMoving the boat forward.‚ÄĚ
He suddenly jumped to his feet and ran to the helm.
‚ÄúWho is manning this vessel?!‚ÄĚ He yelled back. Auto-pilot started beeping from his grabbing the wheel which made him immediately retreat; hands high in the air as if prepared to say, ‚Äúit wasn‚Äôt me!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúAuto-Pilot is driving.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWhere is he?‚ÄĚ Columbus asked, looking around.
‚ÄúHe ‚Äď or she ‚Äď is a machine. It holds the vessel at a designated compass baring.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe vessel navigates on its own? But how does it see the stars for calculations? Feel the wind? Look for birds or floating reeds for signs of land nearby?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt can read the wind,‚ÄĚ I said, pointing to our anemometer. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs only 6 knots right now, hence the motor sailing.‚ÄĚ
Columbus busted out in a forced belly laugh then immediately stopped and gave me the side eye.
Just then, the sound of the electric macerator pump and the smell of my boyfriend‚Äôs morning poo wafted in the air.
‚ÄúLord, have mercy on our sinning souls. What is that dreadful sound? The smell, well, I‚Äôm familiar.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs our electric head downstairs. My boyfriend must be awake.‚ÄĚ Columbus ran inside of the boat and down the stairs.
‚ÄúGood, uh, morning. Columbus?‚ÄĚ My naked boyfriend asked.
‚ÄúA native,‚ÄĚ Columbus remarked. ‚ÄúNot a single part of the body clothed. I didn‚Äôt realize you had taken a native on board. This is good. We can use this.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh, no. This is my boyfriend. His real name is Christopher, too! Like you!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYour Christian name? A solid Christian name, native. One to be proud of,‚ÄĚ Columbus said, eyeing the porcelain toilet and fiddling with the button that brought the grinding of the macerator pump to life.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs my, uh, ‚Äėlegal‚Äô name but everyone calls me Ryan.‚ÄĚ Just then the macerator pump came to life sucking the water down the toilet.
‚ÄúSo, this button causes that noise? And the water? Where are your barrels for storing?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe button turns on the macerator pump which chops up the poo and moves it to a holding tank,‚ÄĚ Ryan explained.
‚ÄúMy God, native! Throw it overboard!‚ÄĚ Columbus said.
By now, Columbus had made his way back upstairs and I opened our refrigerator to pour him a glass of cold water.
‚ÄúHalt!‚ÄĚ He said, staring at me now frozen in front of our open refrigerator. ‚ÄúWhat is that chill? That breeze of cool air?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúRefrigeration. It keeps our food fresh for longer.‚ÄĚ
He touched the inside of the refrigerator with his finger and pulled it away as if it burned him.
‚ÄúThis maintains the integrity of your provisions? Your canned butter, your vegetables, your food left uneaten?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúExactly. Glass of cold water?‚ÄĚ He took the glass and drank, swallowed as if parched.
‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt have to‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt is required that I drink every drop. In my experience, we could be out here for days with no wind and no rain, and the water won‚Äôt stay potable. Bottoms up!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh, we have water tanks! And filters. And there are some boats that have water makers. They create potable water from the very salt water we‚Äôre on right now,‚ÄĚ Ryan said.
‚ÄúUnfathomable. The salt water will lead to a slow death by dehydration.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYes, but the water makers use a membrane to filter out salt and‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMy, God‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ Columbus said, interrupting the science behind water filtration.
‚ÄúChart plotter. It shows we are in relation to land and our GPS coordinates. These triangles here reveal other vessels near by,‚ÄĚ Ryan explained.
‚ÄúHow can you trust such things?‚ÄĚ Columbus said, backing away. ‚ÄúThe only way to know of your positioning is by knowing from whence you came, recording the passing of time and deep knowledge of how the ocean, stars and winds work. And there are no other vessels, unless they work for me, where I venture.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúRight.‚ÄĚ To be fair, he was right. If lightening took out our equipment, we‚Äôd be pulling out paper charts and plotting.
Ryan turned on the propane to boil water for coffee.
‚ÄúA small, controlled fire inside of the vessel: interesting.‚ÄĚ Columbus walked onward, talking aloud as if dictating his letter to Ferndinand and Isabella.
‚ÄúI see no signs of barrels for harnessing the powers of flame or water. I see a female parading in what she calls ‚Äėathleisure‚Äô on friendly, rather intimate terms with a native while a mysterious and as of yet unknown ‚Äėmachine‚Äô named Auto-pilot mans the vessel. In fact, technology seems to be running most aspects of sea travel including but not limited navigation, waste removal, anchoring, the creation of flame, propulsion, and the preservation of provisions. Further investigation is needed to understand the intricacies ‚Äď religious and political implications ‚Äď of said technology.‚ÄĚ
My boyfriend poured the coffee.
‚ÄúThe native seems to have been granted full access to the vessel, sleeping quarters and provisions,‚ÄĚ Columbus added. ‚ÄúOdd.‚ÄĚ
Just then our Garmin inReach jingled alerting us of a new message and Columbus jumped around, startled.
‚ÄúWhat is this?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúA message from my mom. She likes to follow our map and make sure I‚Äôm still alive out there,‚ÄĚ I explained, firing off a quick note in less than 160 characters: ‚ÄúAlive. Teaching Columbus how to sail.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis message‚Ä¶ how many weeks will it take before it reaches the mainland?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh, a few seconds actually. She will see it right away.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBut, no. Letters take weeks, sometimes months, depending on if there is a vessel to carry it.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis message travels through a satellite that is up in space and‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ Columbus walked outside with the Garmin but then decided he preferred me to type while he spoke.
‚ÄúSend this message,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúMy highnesses, Ferndinand and Isabella. I find myself in an odd time with strange people. They appear to be friendly, nice enough, and moderately educated though depend heavily on the latest technology which I must admit has advanced considerably. The female reports the year to be 2019. We are somewhere in the Caribbean Sea and‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOh, don‚Äôt worry! They‚Äôll get a link to follow our live map when we send the message!‚ÄĚ I said, way too excited to be sending a Garmin message to deceased royalty.
He ignored me and continued.
‚ÄúWe appear to be heading toward Hispaniola. I realize my skill set is no longer‚Ä¶ needed on this island so we will most likely continue North following the Gulf Stream.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe will probably have to drop you off somewhere unless you have a U.S. passport?! Or, maybe you have one?! We did learn about you in school, so I guess the Coast Guard is aware of you?‚ÄĚ Ryan said, poking his head out from the cabin.
‚ÄúKeep writing. The weather is favorable, the seas are cooperating and my faith in Spain and our God remains unwavering. Sincerely, Christopher Columbus.‚ÄĚ
I typed away.
‚ÄúOk! Sent!‚ÄĚ (Since I didn‚Äôt have a telephone number or email for King Ferndinand and Queen Isabella, I actually sent the message to my mom who I‚Äôm sure is full blown worried I‚Äôve fallen prey to hallucinations in the middle of the ocean. Hopefully she doesn‚Äôt contact the Coast Guard).
‚ÄúI anticipate a response,‚ÄĚ he said, sitting down at the helm seat complete with a cushion for the tush and the lumbar.
‚ÄúMe too‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ I said. (Please don‚Äôt call the Coast Guard, mom. Please don‚Äôt call the Coast Guard).
‚ÄúWho is financing your voyage? It took me decades to find a country willing to fund my exploring.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe are funding it.‚ÄĚ Columbus lifted an eyebrow.
‚ÄúWho paid for the caravel?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúCatamaran. Ryan sold his home and with that money, plus savings, plus working online it helps us purchase food, boat supplies and pay for our‚Ä¶ explorations.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHave you claimed any countries?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWell, most of them are pretty claimed nowadays. You had a lot to do with that!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYou speak truths.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBut, for fun, we found a tiny island in San Blas, Panama and pretended it was ours while we ate some pasta salad.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWhy didn‚Äôt you claim it?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWell, because, it‚Äôs not ours. It doesn‚Äôt belong to us. It‚Äôs not ours to claim.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt understand. If you are doing God‚Äôs work, it‚Äôs yours to claim.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThat‚Ä¶ is viewed a little differently now.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúLet‚Äôs go claim it now!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNo, no! We are out of pasta salad anyway. It‚Äôs all right.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSo, what are you doing out here then, if you‚Äôre not working for a country to find new fortunes?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúTo experience the sea, the world and the beautiful people in it! You know‚Ä¶ to‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSeas Life?‚ÄĚ Columbus said.
‚ÄúExactly! You get it! Plus, is there anything more beautiful, more challenging, more life-enriching than exploring the open sea and the lands you run into along the way?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThere is no other thing. You are right, strange but astute woman. I lived the majority of my life doing just that: sailing the open waters, fighting the swell, guessing the weather and bumping into lands. And even though the thrill of it all ‚Äď finding and claiming unknown worlds ‚Äď it all peaked my interest, tickled my fancy, but what I really loved and what I really wanted was to be on the sea. Land is or becomes far too complicated, but the sea, well, there is nothing better.‚ÄĚ
With that, Columbus finished his glass of water.
‚ÄúDelicious,‚ÄĚ He said. Then he placed the glass in the sink and said, ‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs time for me to leave you to your exploring. I hope you hear back from the King and Queen on your,‚ÄĚ he waved his hands over our Garmin. ‚ÄúThat thing. May you enjoy Seas-ing Life.‚ÄĚ
He walked to the bow, looked around soaking it all in and slowly disappeared as if a fog set in and carried him away.
Just then, the Garmin went off; it was my mom: ‚ÄúI‚Äôm calling the Coast Guard.‚ÄĚ