Magic Dolphins

0947. We’re approaching 24 hours straight with the spinnaker flying. After a few calm spells during the first two days (in which we averaged only about 130 miles per day), the wind finally filled in from the ENE yesterday morning and we’ve been cruisin’ ever since. Around the noon watch change on the 5th, we set the chute on starboard, trimmed it for a broad reach, and haven’t touched the sheets since, instead subtly adjusting the boat’s course with the variations in wind speed and direction.

Great sleeping weather! I woke up on my own at 0630 this morning, finally feeling fully rested. I’d gone deeply unconscious after dinner, sleeping on another planet from 1930-2230, the alarm pulling me out and back to reality to take the final 90 minutes of Mia’s evening watch.

Magical pink sunset en route to Las Palmas.

The night’s have been dark. No moon and clear, cloudless skies makes for some epic stargazing. When I came up at 2230, I turned off the steaming light, which we’d been using to keep an eye on spinnaker trim in the dark. I also had Mia kill the tricolor and the instrument lights. With those extinguished, all that was left was the natural light of the stars, which filled the sky in a way impossible to see ashore. They covered every inch of black sky, from horizon to horizon, the lower ones even casting a shimmering light over the flat, dark sea.

And then there were the stars down below. I recall from the 2012 passage on KINSHIP in these waters that the phosphorescence was stronger than I’d seen elsewhere, really something to behold. When we turned off all the lights, ISBJORN left a glowing comet’s tail in her wake, thick with plankton that glowed in the dark as the rudder and Wattsson’s propeller disturbed their evening slumber. Our bow wave sparkled with glowing green diamonds.

And then came the dolphins. Off the starboard quarter they came, streaking in the glowing ocean, leaving their own comet’s tails behind them, their outlines clearly visible in the light created by the glow, diamonds flowing off their dorsal fins and shooting into the air when they surfaced for breath. Their wakes remained for a few seconds, leaving twisting trails as they ducked and darted on either side of the boat, trails which only slowly faded back into the blackness of the sea. Four dolphins arrived and stayed for 30 minutes or so, dancing in the bow wave, then spinning 180º and racing towards the stern, where they’d turn again and surf back towards the boat in ISBJORN’S stern wave, leaving behind their glowing torpedo trails. Sometimes they’d dive, and you could follow them deep down by the trails they left behind in the dark.

Perfect beam-reaching conditions.

“It’s little wonder where they get fairy tales from,” said Mia as we watched in pure joy. To think all this on display for us last night is pure nature, and that so few of us humans will ever see it, an even those of us who do these long ocean passages may miss night’s like this for wont of turning off some lights. The joy I felt at watching those dolphins streaking through the water and around the boat as our big white spinnaker pulled us towards Las Palmas at 7 knots on a flat, black’s childish. Absolute 5-year-old happiness in that moment, there’s no other way to describe it. Smiling from ear to ear, firmly rooted in the moment and not thinking about anything else but the magic surrounding, pure magic that only nature, and only when you’re paying attention, can produce.

That’s the magic that we’re searching for every time we go to sea, and why this will never, ever, get old.