Photo by: James Austrums
November 15, UTC 02:15 // 25˚47’ N, 65˚51’ W
An eerie, absolute stillness disturbs me at the nav station, and I look up from the charts. Not a sound is to be heard onboard. No melancholy tunes from Ben’s guitar, the galley is deserted, and even the trusty snoring from the off-watch is nowhere to be heard. And every bunk seems to be empty. Only the slightest whisper of water along Isbjørn’s hull, as she glides fast through the night with the warm breeze well abaft her beam.
Even the usual banter from the cockpit has died away. Running through terrible mass-MOB-scenarios in my mind, I stick my head out through the companionway into the night. And as my eyes adapt to the darkness I make out limbs, bodies. The crew is there, laying down on their backs, sprawled out in the tiny cockpit. What happened? That massive beef stew we just had for dinner could certainly be part of the explanation.. How we ate.. But as my eyes take in more and more of the night, the true answer is painted across the entire night sky.
The Milky Way’s enormous beauty, glowing in the clear, moonless sky had spellbound Isbjørn’s crew, and now her captain.
Isbjørn has been sailing for 7 days, through every point of sail and an impressive temperature range. She’s now settled into the pleasant beam reach straight south towards Tortola, 450 miles away. The gentle easterly trade winds set in after the passage of a cold front two days ago.
The boat and her crew were well prepared for this event, with three reefs in the mainsail and the storm staysail bent and ready on deck. But as the grey wall came stampeding towards us from windward and we rolled up the last scrap of the genoa, the furling line parted at the drum. The entire sail unfurled, and flew like an enormous flag from the forestay. A nasty surprise to be sure, and the flogging sail was a threat to both itself and the crew, her metal clew flailing about in the squall. We put the helm alee, filling the sail and reducing the apparent wind by racing downwind. A call of «All hands!» made its way through the boat, and within the hour, the sail had been safely wrestled down, the furler repaired, and the genoa rebent on the furler. A draining and complex task in the strong winds, but the crew could not have handled it better. Fantastic teamwork from start to finish. When we finally completed the operation by hoisting and sheeting home the tiny staysail, the wind died completely. The storm sail was hanging from it’s stay like wet laundry, and we were obliged to start the engine. The front had passed, and Isbjørn lay her new course due south.
There was no grog onboard with which to reward the crew, who had to content themselves with the skipper’s bangers and mash.
As our little community settles into the watch rotations and the daily workings of the boat becomes muscle memory, we’ve started to pick up some celestial navigation. Earlier tonight, the planets lined up in the west above an impressive sunset, and we managed to measure them all with the sextant. The sight reduction is not quite nailed down yet, but luckily, we still have a few days together on the boat.
The nearly full moon rises above the horizon in the east, wiping the Milky Way from the sky. The crew stirrs. It’s time to turn in.
25˚47’ N, 65˚51’ W
This article was syndicated from 59º North Sailing // 59º North Blog