A few notes from my journal:
10/16 N 36°13.89′ W 73°44.29 – Day two of our offshore passage dawns bright, with clearing skies. From Long Island Sound till yesterday we had a single day with sunshine, a week of overcast skies and drizzle. There were a couple good days of sailing in the Chesapeake but they were blustery fall days: chilly, a bit rough. Yesterday was absolutely perfect. We set out from Norfolk, past hulking Navy warships and submarines and as we pushed out the channel the sun broke through the clouds and remained there, at last. By afternoon we were running six knots on a broad reach. Out of sight of land with sun warming our bodies in tattered patches like a favorite blanket I feel that the trip has finally begun in earnest. The tropics can’t be far now.
|Blue waters of the Gulfstream|
10/17 Today the winds left something to be desired. We put more hours on the engine than I would have liked, but we had mahi-mahi sushi for lunch, the sun shone bright, and the swells were easy and long in period. Alaria is overburdened with food and we are reaching a point where we need to eat things before they go bad. We grilled chicken and I made a massaged kale salad (Ansley on massaged kale: “When I get home, I’m going to tell my wife ‘Look out the window- you see all those bushes? We can eat all that shit!'”), which leaves the rest of the mahi-mahi for lunch tomorrow. Tough life. Dinty-Moore stew languishes in the locker.
Night: A short nap and Bob calls me up thinking I’ve caught a fish. It’s a false alarm but I pull up a chunk of Sargassum which is sparkling with bioluminescence. It’s no less brilliant under the full moon, but more unearthly. This is a type I haven’t seen before, streaks and whorls of light which flash rapidly on and off, like a strobe.
10/18 We met a lost sparrow a few hours back, winging in from the Northwest, victim of some unexpected draught which overpowered its tiny wings and blew it out to sea. It was afraid of us and tried in vain to land on my fishing line where the monofilament stretched out behind the boat. Finally it landed on the lifeline just long enough to catch its breath before taking off again. The birders tell me its prospects are grim but it didn’t appear tired. Alone, 250 miles from land and life-sustaining water, what tenacity from a creature which would fit in the palm of my hand!
Ah, another pen. Amazing how easy it is to lose things even on a tiny boat. (In different ink)
10/19 Another perfect day. Fifteen knots of wind just forward of the beam and Alaria cuts through diminutive ocean rollers at hull speed. If I had grown up with ocean passages like this it might not have taken me a decade to come back into the fold.
As I hoped, discipline aboard has faded, gently worn down by the comfortable monotony of fine-weather offshore sailing. It’s been days since I was last chided for not wearing shoes on deck and even Bob no longer spends his watches standing behind the wheel. We are content to loll about, half-naked in the sunshine, fat with good provisions and good company, taking in the grandeur of the sea.
This was the trip, distilled. There were a couple lumpy days and we caught a lot more sargassum than fish but I’ve never had such an easy, pleasant passage. And then, Bermuda!
This article was syndicated from Safe At Harbour But Meant For The Sea: DIY Sailing with Paul Calder