|Night Sail. Art Quilt by Jean Baardsen|
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.
It was time to head north again. I had been a little (??) apprehensive about the sail to Antigua, because it was going to take us two days and nights. I'd never gotten fond of the long passages. The trip was, if anything, anticlimactic. We left Bequia May 6th, at 8:00 a.m., and were anchored at Sandy Island, Antigua by 10:00 a.m. on May 8th, having covered 220 miles. Our standard procedure was for Ed and I to alternate watches, two hours on and two hours off. On a long sail, we made an entry in the log each time we came off watch, usually just noting the time and mileage, with an occasional comment. The sum total of comments for our 50-hour trip to Antigua read as follows:
St. Lucia Channel
Off St. Lucia
In the middle of nowhere (guess who wrote that one?)
Almost abeam Les Saintes
The most interesting parts of the day on passage are dawn and dusk. I got a little nervous as night closed in on us. I found myself straining to continue to make out the horizon ahead, or the island to starboard, as all subsided into inky darkness. I would take a deep breath, adjust my mind to the blindness, and tune in to watching for distant lights to indicate the possibility of approaching ships. I felt I kept a more careful night watch than Ed. They say that from the time you spot a ship on the horizon, till that ship reaches your boat, would be about fifteen minutes. Not very long if you have to take evasive action. My recurring childhood nightmare was of being in the water at night, with a large black hull bearing down on me. I decided that if that were ever going to happen, it wasn’t going to be on my watch. (Famous last words…)
The more perceptive readers among you, well aware that Ed could hardly walk, might wonder what the hell we were doing on a 50-hour sail, standing two-hour watches. The simple fact was that Ed learned to sail laying down. With a cushion propping up his head, Ed stretched out along one side of the cockpit, and handled the wheel with one hand. Since he couldn't see the compass from that position, he followed John Masefield's advice and used "a star to steer her by." Here’s the first stanza from "Sea Fever." The poem didn't mean much to me when I was a landlubber, but it means quite a bit now.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
Dawn breaking on that last day was especially sweet because we had been approaching the south shore of Antigua in the dark. We could see a smattering of lights along the coast, but as Antigua didn't go in much for lighthouses, there was nothing to indicate the western edge of the island. But, just in time, dawn first sketched the dim outline of the island, and then filled in the details with mountain peaks, beaches and palm trees - a familiar, and very welcome sight.