Date: 28 May 97 13:23:09 EDT
From: Nellie Gruender <>
Subject: Isla Mujeres


Well we have made it to Mexico. Many people have asked me what I like about sailing.

My favorite part of any crossing is sailing at night. I know that for many it stirs terror in their hearts. It is a little spooky zooming along at 6 knots through the darkness. It can be dangerous (as I'll tell you about) but it also can be an awe inspiring experience (as I'll tell you about).

The danger....I was on my night watch from 2000 to 0100 just enjoying the night. As you often do, I began to see the light configuration of another boat. I could tell it was a freighter. (low white light in the front- higher white light in the back, and a colored light that tells you which way it's going.) This time the light was red. That meant it was going the same way as us, or at a cross path to us. I continued to watch the lights get bigger, but knew the lights were several miles off. Since my depth perception isn't all that great at night if I get concerned about the boats path I wake Gene to double check my perceptions.

I watched for another minute or two, and then went and got Gene up. He groggily oriented himself, and went above. By the time we got up top this ship was right next to us. It was going so fast that it was really hard to tell which way they were going at such a short distance. Before we could turn the wheel to do a circle in the boat, just to be safe, they did something that just drives us nuts. They turned a huge spotlight on us. It's nice of them to warn us, but it sure knocks out any night vision you have!!!! I must admit I was doing small circles in the cockpit because there's something in my makeup that just doesn't like to be that close to a boat that big when we're both moving.

The freighter did finally turn off the light when they realized we were responding their presence (who wouldn't), and within seconds they were gliding past us and becoming part of the horizon. We were quickly able to get back on course, and continue on. There was no real danger, just a close encounter.

Gene was able to subdue his adrenaline, and go back to bed to sleep until it was time for his watch. I settled down and began to enjoy the awesome!

Being out on the water at night is a lot like being out in the country. With no city lights the billions of stars come out of hiding. It seems as though every 10-15 minutes there's a shooting star streaking across the sky. Zach loves it because he makes a wish on each one. For some reason the intensity of the stars, and the sounds of the moving water just enclose you. I think every world leader should be sentenced to 1 week of nights at sea. There would be a lot less tension in the world.

Next you have the water. It sparkles at night. The first time I saw the sparkling was in the Gulf of Mexico on our way to Vera Cruz. I thought I was hallucinating. The boat in the water causes the plankton to light up like fireflies in the water. What's even more amazing is watching the water as the prop churns it up. Bubbles get caught just under the surface, and as they break under water it's like an explosion of green light. You'd swear a flash bulb was going off behind the boat. It's mesmerizing.

Finally there's the moon. When I fist saw a full moon coming up it scared me to death. I thought it was some ENORMOUS boat coming at us. As it comes over the horizon it's a huge yellow orange disc. It's no wonder people worshiped the moon. Anything that overpowering deserves a little reverence!

All in all sailing at night is a pretty humbling experience. You become less than a speck of sand in the universe and sail on.

More as the adventure continues.

Aboard Rainbow Chaser
Isla Mujeres, Mexico