My misadventure at the transom had made me very thirsty. Remembering Mamede’s warning to conserve our water, I sucked up only a couple of mouthfuls from the cask, though I wanted to drink so much more. Kneeling by the barril, I could see it was less than a quarter full — about two gallons left for the rest of the trip. That quantity of water would sustain us for a few days if we were careful. But screwing the cap back on, I started to worry about this.
When cruising on a sailboat you want to have at least half a gallon of freshwater per person, per day. And if you’re being cautious you double that amount as a safety factor (like engineers do when they are unsure of their calculations). So, one gallon of freshwater per person, per day, is a good—safe—amount to take on a voyage. And that’s only for drinking and cooking, no washing or rinsing.
Everyone has their comfort level. When it comes to safety, I like to be extra comfortable.
Improbable as it might seem, I had never really worried about water before taking that trip. I’d been on other voyages, or camping, where we had to be careful with the water we used. But I had always felt that we had enough, or weren’t so far away for it to be a problem. Looking at the barril, however, I could see the problem right in front of me — could measure it in inches — and the reality of that fact wasn’t very comforting. I had no control over the situation — could not make the rain fall or the wind blow to carry us home. All I could do was ration what I took and hope the others did the same.
If we were stuck out there, how long could we last with the water we had? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t have a clue. In that blazing heat, I couldn’t imagine getting by on anything less than a pint of water a day. I was probably transpiring as much from my skin and lungs just sitting there in the shade. Aside from the water in the barril, there was ice in the box. But the ice would soon melt and drain away. My best guess: we had enough water for maybe four or five days, then things would start to get rough.
Pondering the situation, part Irish that I am, I started to make odds on who would be the first to drop. This exercise did nothing to ease my growing anxiety. The dimmest bookie in Dublin would know that the odds on favorite was me, and by a wide margin. Even João, who was in his fifties and not exactly in the picture of health, would probably outlast me. Weathered though he was, he was tough as nails. And there was no denying that look in his eyes — the, I’m gonna eat you before you eat me, look. That alone can take a man far.
But you never know. You just never know . . .
One thing I did know, and I would have bet the farm on it, if the whip came down, yours truly would not be the last man standing on the deck. No bloody way. The odds of that happening were very high indeed. We’re talking about Mega Lotto here.
I ran through these thoughts for a while, then limped back to my spot by the tabernacle. Despite telling myself not to look at my watch, I looked.
Ah, F—! Not even 16:00.
Little happened after that. I got up once and watered the deck. The rest of the time I stayed under the awning and tried to keep still. It was so damn hot, even Bitching & Moaning required too much effort.
Next chapter: Second Chance