Nov 19, 2009
1158- I start the engine and weigh anchor. Motoring out of the inlet, I head for the open sea. Beside me sits a chart, parallel-rulers, binoculars, and a bowl of broccoli. Dory is trying to eat the broccoli. He has really become a menace, and is no longer interested in cat food. When my provisions run low, I’ll be eating the cat food and Dory will be eating the canned vegetables I have on reserve. Ah well.
1210- Set main and jib, 232ºpsc
1334- I can see Benji in the cockpit of Elizabeth. He is taking a shower.
1416- I carve the pumpkin I got for my birthday. On November 2, Benji and I pedaled our folding bikes past a farm. “Sweet Potatoes” was printed in black sharpie marker on a torn piece of cardboard. The sign rested against a tractor. Lately Benji had been having cravings for sweet potatoes. He talked about them in his sleep. We pulled into the drive.
“They say that sweet potatoes are like women,” the farmer said, “the smaller they are, the sweeter they are. That means, you must be really sweet.” My laugh was forced. “You’re naughty,” I told him. So, for my birthday, and as an apology, he let me select a pumpkin.
Now, twenty days later, I am finally carving my pumpkin. The pumpkin lived aboard Benji’s boat for several days, it even shared a bunk with Benji. Until one day, when a wave struck the beam of Elizabeth, the pumpkin rolled onto the floor. Crack! Now it smiles all the time, a long thin smile that stretches from one side to the other.
1451- SOG: 4.7kts, 232ºpsc, 60% cloud cover
1600- SOG: 6.5kts, 232ºpsc
1636- A pod of dolphins comes to play with Daphne. There are about six dolphins dancing in Daphne’s bow wake. They dive down making a pattern of crossing paths below my boat. It reminds me of Synchronized Swimming. I know they will have to come up for a breath soon, and when they do, I will see even more of the dance. Back and fourth they swim, and with each surface I hear a breath, and see a spray.
1700- Sunset. Land is nowhere in sight. The wind is becoming increasingly lighter, as the last bit of sun is just visible above the horizon. Soon, darkness will surround me. I clip my tether onto the jackline and make my way to the bow of the boat. Tugging at the jib I can see the dolphins still playing in my bow wake. I pull the jib down, furl it and lash it to the lifelines. I hank on the drifter, my lightest and most colorful sail showing all the colors of the rainbow. Hoisting it up, I know it will be only about an hour that I can enjoy its beauty.
Dusk is the prettiest time of the day. The colors are more vivid. Reds and oranges illuminate the horizon, and deep dark blues crown the top of the sky. The water is black with a golden shimmers. “Crystal swans,” they are called. But dusk is also the shortest time of day. Night intrudes quickly, stealing away the beauty and replacing it with blinders. Suddenly I’m alone.
1832- Jibe, 201ºpsc, SOG:3.4 kts
1930- Strike drifter, set #1 jib. The wind has built to 12 kts. The waves are much bigger. Daphne is rocking gunwale to gunwale, taking on water in the cockpit.
2030- Jibe, 248ºpsc, SOG: 5.6kts
2142- Dory and I start to watch Pilobolous: A Documentary. Throughout the night we watch ten-minute segments at a time, stopping to nap, check our position, scan the horizon, check in with Benji aboard Elizabeth or Chad and Nichole aboard Sabattical. I can no longer see Sabattical, but Elizabeth is in sight. I see a tiny white dot on the horizon, her stern light. Benji and I agreed to stay within sight of each other and “stand watch” while the other sleeps. This helps. Sleep, or lack of sleep, can be one of the biggest problems while solo sailing.
2233- Nap time. I pull my sleeping bag out of the aft cabin and wrap myself in it, boots and all. I don’t know if I fall asleep or not, but lying down passes the time. A wave fills the cockpit, soaking me and my sleeping bag. I sit up. What was that? A rogue wave? I wrap myself tighter and try to sleep again. Its cold tonight.
2332- I must have just passed through the Bermuda triangle. This would make sense out of the recent happenings. All at once I found myself bow into the wind. The sails were luffing wildly and waves were soaking the cockpit. On the radio I hear an alien speaking. I call him Mork for the rest of the sail. Are they coming to take me away? This is weird. Its all weird. At this very same time, my GPS flashes “GPS free zone” and my other instruments stop working altogether.
0012- The bioluminescence is bright. It paints the tops of the waves with a glowing light, both beautiful and eerie. The night is very cold and the wind and waves are building.
0026- Reef the main sail.
0143- QR buoy is sighted about 2 miles to port.
0237- Another boat (besides Elizabeth) is sighted. It passes ahead of me.
0355- Another short nap.
0438- After waking from my nap, I toss the sleeping bag off of me and go into the cabin. Sitting at the salon table, plotting my position, I look toward the companionway and into the cockpit. I see my sleeping bag. It sits up and looks back at me. Slowly it sways from side to side, dancing a haunting dance. I startle. My heart drops through my chest to my lap. Then I realize that the bag hasn’t come to life, its only stuck on the tiller.
0610- Sunrise is almost here. I can no longer see Elizabeth. The sky has turned from black to grey. There is an strange feeling like walking through a graveyard in a scary movie. The colors are dull, the air is chilly, and the wind howls through the rig as though it carries with it the souls of dead sailors. I am all alone, and my imagination is getting the better of me.
0900- Land Ho!
1015- I can see Elizabeth and Sabbatical! I hail them on the radio. “We’re here!”
Yay! Nice that you had Benji around to swap watches with, that’s awesome.
Those pesky rogue waves. They always dump on you at the worst moment. Usually when you’re half asleep, or wrapped up in nice warm clothes. Bah!
I need to get back to reading your blog, I actually have no idea where you are geographically.
Yea, Benji and I had a watch system for a bit that worked well, but one time I woke up and couldn’t see him anymore. He fell asleep on watch!
I’ll stand my own watches from now on.
Congrats on your safe arrival home.
Loved reading this sis! I wish I could be there with you so you weren’t so lonely. Can’t wait to see you soon! LOVE YOU.
I am wrapping my arms around you….that is what moms do…..I want to protect you,,,..MISS you LOTS
You are become an “old sea dog” in the tradition of Captain Drake and the Golden Hind. Congratulations on a safe passage.
I am guessing you have gotten to your winter destination. That is super. Hoping it is warmer there than here. It is getting winter cold here.
Hey , if you have a pumkin in season , and that is your birthday season too ,,, you share birthdays with other significent voyagers , like Capt Cook ,,, and even Larry Pardey ,,, Wow !
LOL “gps free zone”….why do these things ALWAYS happen at night? My last trip (SF to LA), running in 25-ish knots of wind 25 miles offshore at about 1am in my recently bought boat, I put the tiller pilot on (I hate these things, but it came with the boat and I needed a break) and then it blew and took out the electrical system.
Instruments? who needs them. On the downside it was too cloudy to see stars…
Oh what fun.
Great post! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time because I have done a few solo night watches and I know those feelings. I can’t imagine actually being alone though. You rock!