It’s one of my shifts during our 48 hour sail from the west shore of Long Island in the Bahamas to the country of Turks and Caicos. We left at 0830 and sailed through the night. We have night sailed before, but on this one it is different. We continue a slow and steady progression farther East and South to reach the Caribbean Sea and its chain of tropical islands. Tonight we are blessed with clear skies and a waxing moon that came up mid day which always means that at some point thought the night it will get very dark as she sets, before the light of day reappears. There is a long cast of moonlight on the water leading from the starboard aft. Its shape changes with the movement of the undulating swells which you can clearly see with all the ambient light. We know these liquid souls are like small hills of water that move around the earth as remnants of old storms 100s and 1000s of miles away. (Thank goodness!) It is like looking at a barren field that stretches endlessly.
We saw the last of “terra firma” passing Mayaguana Island at dusk tonite and will not view land until morning. Tonight there is no boat traffic. ( We usually see 1-2 tankers, cruise ships, or barges on an overnight sail…the reason for keeping at least one person on watch, besides to monitor the navigation). We are in a part of the North Atlantic Sea in the very SE part of the Bahamas that is not a main route for commerce. There are stars which seem muted by the bright light of the moon, but they soon show their extreme radiance after the moon sets and this turns the night into a literary a ‘starry starry night”. The air is moist and the winds are very light. The sails were taken down at sunset today because the were just like sheets in the breeze, flapping and flailing refusing to fill with the lightest of wind. We must run the engine tonight , however, to propel us on to the next port by morning. It will be those hours we use to aid daylight navigation through shallow waters strewn with coral heads. So admidst the drone of the diesel there is the rush of water heard from the stern. It is quite mesmerizing in the cockpit as the gentle rock and roll of the boat moving over the swells through the water incites the slightest bit of somnolence. (Quite unlike the previous night with 12-17 knot winds where we were cruising at 6 knots over 3-4 ft swells at times.) The radio is also quiet as we are out of range from many boats and most civilization.
My watch duties are simple tonight. The navigation is straight forward as there is little wind or current to set us off course. A cup of tea is a welcome bonus and an easy task under theses mild conditions. We are fortunate to have state of the art electronics and chart screens to help safely carve our journey through these waters whatever the conditions. We read about each destination and the stories of ships or other craft trying to find their way only to end up on the rocks or sand, so we maintain a careful watch however advanced our gadgetry.
As my shift is ending the moon is moving off to the horizon, the reflection on the ocean water becomes narrower and almost takes on an orange tint, until the moon sets. The multitude of stars overhead now become visible and share their own light into the night. As I scan the horizon there is less and less distinction between land and sea. The eyes strain to make some perception of depth out of the liquid landscape. I can pick out a hint of light in the distance as we make the distant approach to our next landing. The almost unreal sparkling fluorescence of the bioluminescence is now evident as Lost Loon makes her wake and disturbs the water. There is comfort even in the dark, knowing that only 6 hours will elapse until the light will begin to fill in from the East as we make arrival in Providenciales, Caicos.
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