The Magic of Light-Air Sailing

0900 Wednesday August 10. We're sailing again, close-reaching on the port tack now, careful to stay south of our rhumb line in anticipation of a SW'ly shift as we approach the Chesapeake. It's beautifully warm outside now. The sun is strong enough to require the bimini again, but it's not the humid, stifling heat of the Bay. Yet. We're far offshore, 155 miles SSE of Nantucket and 275 miles E of Cape May, 10,000 feet of ocean under our keel.

The past 36 hours have been an exercise in patience as the wind gradually got lighter and lighter. But it's also been an education in the beauty of light wind sailing. For hours on end we followed the puffs on the surface of the ever-calmer sea, bobbing and weaving between oily patches of no wind which popped up with greater frequency as the day wore on. Liz went aloft for fun, and to look for breeze. 'I've never seen this far in my life!' she exclaimed. The sky was absent of all clouds, and the intense sun penetrated far into the clear blue water. We wondered aloud how long you'd be able to see a brightly colored brick as it sank into the abyss.

After noon we stopped to swim, waiting all morning for the wind to die completely, which it never did. Isbjorn still made 3-4 knots through the calm and we didn't want to waste it. Finally we gave in, hove-to and jumped overboard. We must be in the influence of the Gulf Stream now, as the water had to be close to 80 degrees. Dolphins visit frequently, we've seen half a dozen man-o-wars and I spotted a single flying fish. We even had a lonely tuna swimming next to the boat yesterday for almost an hour! We marveled at his brilliant blue dorsal fins and his speed underwater, a little blue and grey torpedo. I've never seen that before. We kept sailing after our swim, right on into the night. Isbjorn was a magic carpet, drifting along on a perfectly flat sea, impossibly flat to be this far offshore.

After sunset the wind finally turned in for good and Isbjorn was back on the iron genny. What was left of the cat's paws disappeared, leaving an oily sea all over, ever-so-slightly undulating in the smallest perceptible swell. Ahead, the quarter moon was setting off the port bow, about ten degrees above the horizon, it's reflection in the mirror-calm ocean extending all the way to the boat itself. The view of the moon through the binoculars was stunning & humbling.

Just then a pod of dolphins appeared on the bow, their fins literally throwing off sparks of phosphorescence as they streamed through the water in the moonlight. Mia commented on the magic of the evening.

'There might as well be unicorns jumping on the foredeck for how silly beautiful and surreal this is!' she said.

And the stars. You hear of stars going all the way to the horizon on clear nights offshore, but it's rare. Rare to the point of myth sometimes because you need absolutely clear, dark conditions, no moon, no clouds. Myth became reality last night as the Milky Way overhead disappeared into the sea to the south, an unbroken line of stars sinking over an imperceptible horizon. Black sky seamlessly transitioned to inky black sea making it hard to tell where one started and the other stopped. I'm not making this up to sound all flowery - it was really, honestly like that last night! Dan even asked what the lights were off the port bow, if the ship was showing on AIS. Those are stars, Dan.

So despite the motoring last night, there was magic in the air. As the sun rose behind us in the east this morning, the wind rose with it, from the south this time as we transited the center of high pressure and came out the other side. We're sailing again, the sea still perfectly flat from last night's calm, going fast, seven knots. Rand made hurricane eggs for breakfast. Tom & Liz are asleep in the forepeak, the hatches still open. All is well onboard Isbjorn.