Caroline’s Update #3

The sailing itself has been great, although at times, challenging. What an amazing feeling to be slicing through the water with nothing but the wind to keep things going! I should perhaps preface my discussions about sailing to admit that I have a longstanding phobia of water (be they oceans, lakes or rivers), and although I have conquered a great deal of it over the last decade (done mostly when we lived in the BVI), the phobia tends to rear its ugly head whenever I venture outside the proverbial box, namely into unfamiliar waters. Ethan’s shocked response to learning about this was “But Mom, you’re an amazing sailor, how can you be frightened of it?” Yes well, who said phobias were rational? All that to say, while I very much enjoy the activity, it has a (occasionally significant) cost! (Trust me, there have been times where I would have welcomed a nasty code in ER any day over sitting in the boat!) I’m sure you can imagine my apprehension when we did our first night passage from Virgin Gorda (BVI) to St Martin, across the Sombrero Passage. We left around 4pm (after getting soaked in a quick squall!) and watched the sunset behind the island as we headed out to open waters. Of course, we were sailing closed hauled (to you non-sailors, that is as close into the wind as the boat can sail, which is tough going with the boat sailing on an angle) into big waves. In the cockpit, the sounds are something, but down in the cabin, the sounds of creaking wood, squeaking ropes and the huge bang as the hull crashes into the water are many times louder. One would swear that the boat would split apart with each crash, but of course, the boat is meant to do this. The kids seem to prefer the cabin (probably because of the unlimited electronic game rule) despite the noise and the world turned on its head. Fortunately, we had a full moon that night, so things were fairly bright (much better for the anxious among us!). Eventually, Paul took a rest in the cockpit while I sailed for a few hours. Somewhat a lonely experience…just you, the ocean and God. I was overwhelmed with an awareness of just how insignificant we are and how big the ocean really is (and I wasn’t even that far from land!) An hour or two later, we started to see other vessels in the distance…cruise ships, fellow sailboats, tankers etc. The darkness makes depth perception challenging, and often I had to wake poor Paul up to help me interpret their light configurations to see which way they were heading, what kind of boat and how far away they were. At one point, I was watching 6 vessels on the horizon and another sailing vessel silently slipped by us (heading down wind, smart people!) a few hundred feet abeam of us…. a little freaky when my depth perception thought they were a lot farther away! After sailing for a couple of hours, the knots of tension in my neck finally became painful enough that I needed a break, so I had Paul take over. My next shift (after the rain storms that Paul sailed through…lucky him!), I emerged from below to complete darkness…. the moon had disappeared below the horizon. Eek…notch up the angst metre! In its place however, was the most incredible scene of the night sky painted with more stars than you could ever imagine. Incredible. Off in the horizon at this point was the red beacon on the top of St. Martin’s mountain to help guide our way, and although it was still hours and hours of sailing away, it was a welcomed sight. The sunrise was lovely, and with it came views of St. Martin, Anguilla and Saba in the distance. We were almost there. Upon arriving in Simpson Bay, we were greeted by a wind and rain storm that had me dropping sails liketty split…the appearance of hail (albeit small) was something of a surprise to all of us! Once we made it through the narrow passage and to an anchor site, Paul and I were totally exhausted. The kids on the other hand….! Looking back, it was quite the experience. Paul did huge prep work to make sure we were safe en route, so I really believe my experience was all about me dealing with my perceived dangers/phobias. Since then, we have done a few long day passages, which have been quite fun and really incredible. We seem to be continuously heading into wind, to the point that I am convinced that there is no such thing as running with the wind. Paul assures me this is not so. (Personally, I think it is a conspiracy between Paul and Mother Nature!) Am I eagerly awaiting the next night passage…. not really, but hey, life is about overcoming fears and facing challenges, isn’t it? Having said that, I will NOT be crossing the Atlantic in this lifetime.

[More Tomorrow…]

One thought on “Caroline’s Update #3”

Comments are closed.