Overnight passages - are they really bad?

First published in Living Aboard Magazine. Read, print for your friends, share it, but please don't publish it without written permission.


Gene Gruender
Austin.sailor at yahoo.com


Night Watch
Nellie Symm-Gruender
Copyright 1999

One of our friends told my husband that his wife loved going to new and interesting places while cruising, but she hates making the long passage it takes to get there. While I'll admit doing watches 24 hours a day for several days has its draw backs, I've actually come to enjoy the passage, especially the night watch, as well as the arrival.

It has been my habit while cruising to accept the night watch. Traveling on a boat with two other people (one being a teenager) the opportunities for solitude are rare. I've learned that the night watch allows me quiet and a time to reflect.

Sitting on watch the other night I was once again awed at how small we are in the large picture. Somehow the picture looks much larger and I look much smaller when sitting in the middle of all this water with no one in sight! What a shame that those people who are carrying guns and shooting other people to protect their turf can't spend a night rolling on the waves rather than ducking bullets. Turf seems pretty insignificant out here. I wonder how I would measure my block?

As the boat rolls and lopes along I constantly wonder what we're rolling and loping over. I'd love to have one of those aquapods that could show me the mysteries of the millions of things we move over. Who knows what kind of slime creatures we might have the opportunity to meet. I feel quite certain they would think what an odd looking specimen I am! If the bottom could talk I wonder what kinds of stories there would be to tell. If only this spot on the bottom could whisper to me about all of the other vessels that have gone above. At 100+ feet there would certainly be few anchor marks on the bottom.

After contemplating my insignificance, and what creatures loom in the deep, I begin to focus on the stars. It seems out here there have been a few trillion tossed in as a bonus for just being out here. We civilization dwellers, of course, never have the fortune to see these in the city. I wonder how many other sailors have viewed these very same celestial bodies and found their hearts beating a little faster. Mesmerized is about the only way to describe the hold all of those stars have on you. With all due respect I feel quite sure the "real" sailors who did this without a GPS, autopilot, and all of our other electronic gadgets also saw those stars as their highway! What respect I have for those people who did this before the electronic age!

Suddenly I noticed the moon as it begins to drop in the night sky. It looked like a huge peach half, hanging just above the horizon. You could almost see the syrup dripping off of it as it slides on its way down. Its golden glow was the stuff that artists try to capture, but never can quite get the right hue. It made me go below to see if I had stored a can of peaches. Sure enough I did, but they were diced, and it just didn't quite seem the same.

As the moon goes down I begin to enjoy the light show beneath the boat. The first time I saw the fluorescence was on a trip to Mexico on another boat. I thought it was interesting that our friends had neon lights below the boat. As I later learned it's the plankton in the water that give off a greenish glow. The sight is incredible. As the boat glides through the water it explodes in green. I feel like a three year old at a fireworks display. I wonder how those sailors of old explained this light display from the deep?

The grand finale of course is sunrise. A huge orange disc suddenly hits the horizon and demands to be noticed. It signals that all of my night time wonderment will disappear in the glow of a new day. The exciting part is that I know that a curtain call is only a few hours away.

How could anyone not like the passage part of cruising? What's a few missed showers and hours of sleep compared to knowing I'm the only person at this moment at this place in the world that is seeing all of these incredible things.

I really hope my husband mentioned to his friend that I didn't mind the passages.

Copyright 1998
All rights reserved

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