“Long Were The Nights”

Sunday Evening, July 11, 2021
Latitude 52o 18’ N
Longitude 19o 36’ W

We survived last night’s running the gauntlet of high winds and waves noted on the Pilot Charts. Yesterday, by late afternoon the seas had built to over 10 feet and the winds would occasionally gust to 45 knots. During the day, those conditions are exhilarating, but at night, when you can’t judge the size of the overtaking waves, or whether the lines securing the diesel jerrycan on deck are chaffing, anxiety starts to creep in. As friend Dick Hiatt has said to me, we are sight centered beings.

The conditions at 2 am were no worse than when I went to bed, but I woke up for my 2 am watch 20 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. My first action was to look up and examine the wind gauge mounted over the navigation table at the foot of my bunk. Ever since I’ve had the boat, the starboard settee in the central cabin has been my sleeping bunk of choice for blue water sailing. For one, the center of the boat pitches less than the bow or stern and makes for a smoother ride, and secondly, I can directly view an array of instruments providing readouts on the speed, headings, radar contacts, and winds. According to the meter, the winds had dropped comfortably into the twenties and the rocking of the boat was noticeably less pronounced. I probably let out a sign of relief as I quietly informed the instrument panel, “well, that’s better!” I then fumbled through my ritual of getting ready for watch and relieved David on deck.

The watch that followed was as if a reward for the rough weather and concerns of midnight. The seas continued to relax and the darkness quickly retreated, replaced by the extended twilight associated with these latitudes at this time of year. Sunrise was at 4:01 am and the sunlight breaking through the overcast horizon hinted of the blue-sky day to follow. And as if that weren’t enough reward, shearwaters were soaring round the boat and porpoises were crisscrossing back and forth under the bow as Brimmer relieved me at 5 am.

P.S. The title of this blog comes from a book I read as a youth entitled “Long Were The Nights” about being stationed on a PT boat in the Pacific during World War II. The thought of night operations during war is hard to imagine and should remind me that for us it’s only a matter of physical discomfort and perhaps some damage to equipment, such as tattering a sail or the loss of a jerrycan, not a matter of life or death.

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