Sunday, June 05, 2011

Night Watch

We are on our second major Puddle Jump passage, this time from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus. This journey is roughly 500 nautical miles and should take four days. The forecast is for light winds for the first few days, then the last bits of a front with slightly stronger and perhaps squally conditions for the last day or so. By the time the front gets to us, however, we'll be experiencing the top, dissipating edge of a system moving almost due east well below our track. The usual southern trades have been particularly mild for nearly a week. Moreover, tonight there really isn't a system anywhere within a 500 miles. There are no wind waves, almost no swell. The wind is from the east at a steady 10 knots, just enough to keep the chute open without flap, luff, strain, or collapse. We're heading directly down our course at roughly 5 knots so smoothly that the autopilot is barely hunting, the tiller hardly moving. The family is asleep below, rocked more gently in these calm conditions than at any time since we left Mexico.

The skies are absolutely clear and moonless. I have never seen so many stars, not even on nights spent star gazing at over 9000 feet in the Sierra Nevadas. The Milky Way blazes across the ski bright enough to light the deck. Our wake is alight as well with the bright paparazzi flashes of the southern phosphorescence. Unlike the sparklers of the Sea of Cortez, here they pop and flash and linger for moments before burning out. They appear behind, in front and on all sides churned by our wake and passing fish.

Dulcinea prowls the deck, her lean form to be seen alternately on the salon, the main sail cover, stalking flying fish on the foredeck, or at the tiller checking the instruments and our progress. With no swell, the flying fish are having difficulty making it as high as the deck, aggravating my cat but ensuring the night is free of fish guts oozing between the toes. The night is cool enough for a sweatshirt but warm enough for shorts. I clip in and pad around the deck in my bare feet checking the rig, secure in the unusually dry footing. All is well as I lie on the tramp and chat with the dolphins flipping in and out of the bow wake. All is well with the spinnaker lines and the purring, rubbing, furry animal who tries to trip me along my route. All is well on the horizon where our buddy boat is just visible on the horizon as a single point of light.

Returning to the helm, I sip a cup of hot mint tea. Oddly, the warm fragrant steam reminds me of my childhood and sneaking into the kitchen in my mother's office to make the world's sweetest, lightest cup of Bigalow tea. I spin through the selections in my playlist: Enya, Kottke, Vangelis, Enigma, Phillip Glass. But none of them feel right, so eventually I drop the iPod into the helm box and sit back to listen to the night. It turns out the stars actually do make music.


Anonymous said...


Andy in Mpls.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

Wishing this was Facebook so I could "like like like".