A journalized account of our non-stop sail through the Windward Passage from Long Island, Bahamas to Port Antonio, Jamaica.
PRE A.M. (2:00 A.M.)
Ren and I just switched watches. After a four hour fit of no sleep I am sitting in the cockpit with Oreo under a waxing full moon, completely exhausted but resigned to my watch. We passed the “night necklace” we wear while on water like the baton in a relay race. Dangling from the necklace is a whistle and a strobe…just in case. However, we mitigate the risk of falling overboard at night by staying in the cockpit at all times. Never leaning over the lifelines, not even to urinate. If one of us must go forward, escaping the safety of the cockpit, they must first wake the other person and wear a harness. The harnesses are made of strips of purple webbing that wrap around both legs and arms, joining up in the middle with a clip that attaches to the jack lines. The jack lines run the entire length of the boat and are only on deck when we are traveling. Ren made the harnesses for us before we left. This precaution may sound like overkill to the sailor already well seasoned by salt but losing each other…well…that would be devastating to say the least and this kind of accident is mostly preventable.
I just sat back down from tweaking the sails. Ren’s approach to keeping watch includes constant vigilance to the sails’ shape, our direction and speed. He is always trying to bring the boat back to a homeostatic condition, pulling in one sheet, relaxing another in his constant attempts to gain speed and efficiency. It is this commitment to Nila Girl and our ETA that makes Ren a great captain. Personally I find the tweaking tiresome. I prefer to view my watch schedule as four hour appointments with myself where I can read, write, type up this blog entry, or spend time with Oreo. Tweaking sails is a minor inconvenience to the true purpose of watch keeping. My myriad of activities must also be interrupted-every fifteen to twenty minutes-by a visual sweep of the horizon and radar if we are using it. So far, no boats on this particular watch. I could really get some serious things done around here if it wasn’t for all the sailing.
Oreo is faring well but like me, takes a day or two to get adjusted to the new sleep, or rather, non-sleep patterns. It has been almost twenty-four hours now since we have parted Salt Pond and he still refuses to pee. His bladder will give in, it always does, maybe even sometime later today. Let’s hope he’s not lying in his bed when it decides to throw in the towel.
We are all sitting in the cockpit watching the sunrising overhead. I have always preferred the sunrise to a sunset. The sunrise, if awake before dawn, is a welcomed friend, come to bring promise of a beautiful and full day ahead, unlike the sunset who is always trying to turn the lights out. Also, I gain a sense of accomplishment from watching the sunrise. Any schmuck can catch the sunset but it takes another level of commitment to be up for the sunrise. This morning, the pressure is off, literally off Oreo’s bladder as he had decided to urinate, finally. We just did the math and we made about one hundred and two miles from yesterday AM through the night. We are averaging over five knots, we are making great time.
All three of us are tired this morning. We will spend the day partly lethargic, sleep tonight when its is our turn and then we will be in the groove tomorrow. We will feel better rested and in turn healthier by then. I have failed to mention that I have a set of workouts to be completed every day while traveling. We made a lot of progress reaching depth at Dean’s Blue Hole. Diving almost every day I was able to become more and more comfortable with the world record dive I will be attempting…soon. Since we will not be able to dive for the next few days because we are sailing, I have a daily exercise schedule. Yesterday included two stretching sessions and a series of eight breatholds called a “breathold table”. The table was successfully completed and the stretching was great. Today, two stretching sessions and an arm workout, yum.
The morning, in one word, sweaty. Ren caught another dolphin, a bit smaller than yesterday’s, but just as beautiful. I made tuna salad with the remaining tuna, which turned out excellent (mayonnaise free for all of you training athletes out there) so we kept the dolphin, as previously planned. Ren fought the fish up to the bow and back down the starboard side of the boat passing the rod around numerous obstacles, shrouds, sails, the stern railing. Each time he passed the rod around something from one hand to the next, he also had to be careful not to drop the rod or let the dolphin rip it from his hands. Fishing off of a sailboat is a real challenge. No fighting chairs, harnesses, or wide open sterns to secure fish from. Just a bunch of rolling from side to side and nowhere to stand. After finishing his lengthy dance around the boat Ren pulled the yellow and green fish out of the water and stabbed a knife into his brain, killing him and alleviating the suffering. He finished pulling the fish all the way into the cockpit, our living quarters, blood everywhere. We promptly laid a black rag over the dolphin’s eyes to reduce the chances that he would freak out and thrash about if he decided to come back to life. We watched in amazement as the fish turned colors from green and yellow to stark white and a brilliantly bright light blue color. His light blue dorsal fin was tipped in black like it had been dipped in ink. I am not sure if there is an evolutionary advantage to the color change but the radiance of the spectacle is unparalleled Although, the rapid color adaption of the octopus is a close second only trumped by the vibrant colors of the mahi.
We are now less than forty miles from Inagua where we will be making a turn to the West to head through the Windward Passage and deeper into the Caribbean. I will not conceal the fact that thoughts of pirates flooded my sleep deprived brain last night. My only distraction from the thought of six men with semi-automatic weapons ripping our boat apart only to find what we already told then we had, nothing, was the inspired cadence of Mark Twain.
The wind has picked up and I have the first shift 9:00pm to 1:00am. Before the shift starts we decide to watch just one episode of our TV series du jour, Pushing Daisies. Ren and Oreo cuddle up in a corner of the cockpit and I arrange the computer and external speakers so that we can both see and hear the show. I stay in the cabin while Ren stays in the cockpit to keep a watchful eye on passing ships. The show if full of really interesting cinematography. The colors are vivid and the plot and characters almost fantasy-like. It is an entertaining show.
Watching such a benign program with my little family helps to dry the tears a bit. They have been pouring out in fifteen minute bursts at unpredictable times. There must be something hormonal going on with me because, although we are leaving comfortable territory for the unknown, I still have Ren and Oreo with me. We are still living a dream. I predict a combination of emotions, both controllable and incontrollable are at fault here. Brewing a pot of emotional instability just for me. Ren is very patient with me right now. He understands that there is nothing he can do to fix the problem. His patience is not beyond asking me once, “You still like me don’t you?” It will pass in another day, whatever it is. In the meantime, “I want my Mommy!”
After the show I settle in for my watch and am interrupted within the hour by Ren who cannot sleep. Nothing surprising there, it’s hard to sleep here right now. He takes the first watch from me and I sleep for one hour and toss for another two. It is comforting for Ren to take the wheel. When he is on watch I am exempt from making decisions which is great. When he take the wheel I can lie down confident that everything will be fine. The rough seas are going to leave me exhausted.