Tuesday, May 28

Night Passages

“Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue”
-Tom Petty

The sun is setting in the west on a cloudless evening.  To the east, the horizon is beginning to turn a dark shade of indigo.  The seas are calm and the wind is blowing 17 knots from our stern.  There is a gentle rocking and pushing from the following seas.  As I sit here on my last night watch of this 4-day passage, I am reminded that our trip is coming to a close.  This is it.  We have come so far and I am proud to say that I have come to love being on passage, especially at night.  What a difference a little time and experience can have. 

The first bright stars are lighting up the sky.  I can tell we are closer to home because I am wearing long pants and have a jacket ready for the cool night breeze.  I settle in as Craig and the girls prepare for bed.  I have my PFD (inflatable life jacket) on, my I-pod queued, my headlamp and bag-o-candy within arms reach.  I scan the horizon, 360 degrees, to take stock of what is around me.  The sails are set in their wing on wing position and the autopilot is steering our course.  I have another 5-6 hours to go until Craig comes up to relieve me.

Night sailing is something special.  On this particular night, the moon rises full and bright.  It illuminates the expansive ocean like a light bulb.  On other moonless night passages as darkness takes hold, your senses become exponentially heightened.  Your eyes adjust and your ears become almost super-sonic.   Most of our night passages have been in a tropical breeze where your skin feels every warm puff. 

Every ten minutes I scan the horizon, looking for other boats and ships.  I look up and sigh, amazed at how small I feel in this tiny little boat on a very big ocean.  At night, it is clear how small we really are.  The huge expanse of the sky swallows us as we glide to our destination.  If I’m lucking, I’ll see a shooting star.

As we sail along, I can hear the water rushing past the hulls.  The only things I can see in the water are the whites of the waves as they crash around us.  The wind generator is humming in the background.  There is a tad bit of anxiety that comes with sailing at night.  What if something suddenly breaks?  What if an unexpected squall blows through,?  What if, what if….there are so many.  But, you cannot dwell on these thoughts.  They will consume you.  You deal with each what if as they come and you sail on.

My mind has a way of playing tricks on me.  I think I hear voices or see disappearing lights on the horizon.  Remember when I thought a helicopter was going to chop off our mast on our passage to Rhode Island?  But it didn’t, it’s just the wind blowing through the rigging, the howls past our sails or fishing boats passing by.  Your mind goes into overdrive in the night.   The wind picks up from day before in which we had to motor sail.  But it isn't enough to put in a reef.  We are flying under a full sail.

I stay awake a little longer than usual during my last night watch, knowing Craig will not be going to bed at 6am.  We will be approaching our anchorage by then and he will need to assist Maggie.  I head to bed at 1:45 am and collapse into a deep sleep.  I miss my early morning watches.  Maggie has taken over as the sun lights up the new day.

The full moon rising

1 comment:

  1. I love night passages too. There's something magical about being at sea, out of sight of land, on a journey to the next discovery.