Adventures in Sailing, part 8
Nights on the Pacific Ocean were absolutely fantastic. The stars shone brighter than I had ever seen since the sky was free from any city light pollution. We practiced taking sights with our sextants. We were under strict orders to always wear our life jackets and to attach our hooks to the lifelines and always keep one hand on the boat, basic boating safety.
One night, on a late watch with the captain’s daughter, I could not keep my eyes open. I was so tired, partly because my bunk was used as the dining table through the day so I never had a comfortable place to nap. The deck was too hot and too noisy with the day’s activities. We had two hour watches and I remember not being able to keep my eyes open. All of a sudden, I got a slap across the face. It startled me awake and I turned to Christy, thinking she had hit me to wake me up.
In the cockpit was a flying fish. It flopped around at the bottom of the cockpit and I saw its wing-like fins. I had thought flying fish were just a myth, something adults tell kids. But here was one, saving me from embarassment as I was falling asleep on watch.
Another night, I was finally getting a good night’s sleep when I heard the ship’s bell calling everyone on deck. The wind had whipped up and it had grown cold. Our boat had far too much sail out for the strength of the winds, and we needed to act fast to reduce sail and manage the boat in these rough seas. The captain said this was merely a small squall. To me, it seemed like a mighty storm, the ocean turned to angry gray-black monster ready to swallow us up and dash us to pieces.
We worked as a team to pull the jib down, which landed in to the water, making pulling it on deck all the more difficult. The mainsail was much bigger but since it was in the middle of the boat attached to the main mast, it was in less danger of blowing around. Once we got the sails down and in their bags, the sailboat slowed. We still made 3 knots with just our bare masts, but it felt as if we could better control the ship. At the time, it seemed as if this storm would never end, but it only last a few hours, after which the seas seemed relatively calm. We put the sails up, reefed in case the storm returned, which was unlikely, and we began surfing the waves again.
I wasn’t the strongest kid, with my skinny arms, but I had great leverage and was able to pull my weight during this mini crisis. The activity made me forget about seasickness, and my adrenaline kicked in. It was definitely a highlight of the trip, though I can still remember feeling scared having never experienced a sea squall before. Later in the trip, we would be challenged again when making the 24-hour trip from the big island to Maui, but all in due course.
Oh to be on the water again, under those clear skies and those bright stars, in that warm air. The sea becomes a part of every sailor, and even though I was beset with challenges throughout this trip, the sailing bug crept into my soul and has never left.