Oh Dark Thirty

Saturday 2015.06.13
osition: 35° 28’N, 067° 50W

Photo by: Jen Lawinski

'I went down to Captain Tony's
To get out of the heat.
I heard a voice call out to me
Son come have a seat.
I had to search my memory
As I looked into those eyes.
Our lives change like the weather
But a legend never dies...'

That's of course from Jimmy Buffett's 'Last Mango in Paris' song. There's a line later in there about 'It was somewhere past dark-thirty...', the inspiration for my coffee brand of course. And as I write this, the actual time of day (or night I suppose).

Sometimes I feel like writing about the sea and the boat. We're blasting along on Blue Heron tonight, making 7-8 knots on a beam reach and gleefully ticking off the miles. Well I say gleefully, though I'm not sure Tasha and Alyce would agree given their mild cases of mal de mer. I managed 22 miles made good on my 1500-1800 watch earlier, only to be shown up by Oskar and Tasha who banked 23 immediately after. These kinds of competitions I'm happy to lose. Just means we're sailing faster!

Until about noontime yesterday this had been a motor boating trip. We left Bermuda in the midst of a big high pressure area but anticipated a SW breeze as we got further north and west. The calm weather made for a nice ease into life offshore, and we have plenty of fuel. Though it was sticky hot on deck with no airflow. But after 24 hours, the wind started tickling the waves and we soon had the A-sail up making way in peace and quiet.

By 1700 yesterday the A sail was too much. Actually it was too much by 1600, but I started hand steering and was having far too much fun making 8.5-9 knots blast reaching across the ocean so I let it ride. But the wind gradually started veering and I couldn't hold the course any longer so Doug, Tasha and Oskar came on deck for a very well-executed douse in boisterous conditions, with the wind topping out at 20 knots. We've been under the working sails since.

Sometimes I like to write about my thoughts. Offshore, you get time to think. Last night as we motored along on a very flat, very dark sea (it's a new moon now, so the nights are black), I sat at the back of the cockpit with my coffee and pondered the stars. There are loads of them out here when the clouds aren't around. I was reminded of a time, a very vivid memory I have (and I have a terrible memory, so the vivid ones are extra special) about the first time I went to New Zealand, back in 2004.

I was en route to Australia for a semester of university in Brisbane. I had stopped off for two weeks of travel prior. I wasn't alone. A girl called Lindsey had met me the LA airport (we'd planned this, as she also went to PSU and was also going to Oz. In fact we ended up staring an apartment there eventually). But that's irrelevant. One night at a hostel in Milford Sound I went outside and laid on a picnic table and gazed up at the stars. This was years before my first ocean passage. Down there though the stars were just as brilliant as they are offshore. Milford is on the edge of a great southern wilderness with no light pollution to ruin the view. I remember thinking how interesting it was to see a part of the heavens I'd never seen before as a resident of the northern hemisphere. The Southern Cross high and bright. I felt like a visitor on some strange faraway planet. Those moments that get seared in our minds have to be why we travel. Right?

I'm feeling inspired tonight, very confident in the choices I've made that have led me to this place in life, at this moment some 350 miles from the continent in this wild ocean wilderness.  It's easy to forget just how isolated you are out here, especially as I write this on an iPad. Technology makes you feel closer to home, but the reality is quite the contrary. It's hard to get five miles from a road or other sign of human beings in the continental USA, and here we are several hundred miles from anywhere.

I'm conscious of how rare it is to be able to see the world and the stars from this perspective, and I try to appreciate that. It's not always easy - I bet Alyce and Tasha, slightly ill as they're feeling, might have other thoughts right now - that's the ups and downs of ocean sailing. But when you're 'up,' aided perhaps by a bit of sleep deprivation and caffeine, it's a spiritual feeling, in a very non-religious way, and one to savor.

Until next time...

2015.06.13, Blue Heron sailing from Bermuda. 35° 28’N, 067° 50W