Continuing the “Voyaging with Velella” series by ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary. Meghan, Prescott and their kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics.
“Dark as night” gets to deeper levels when you’re 50 miles offshore at 3am. The absence of the moon makes the blackness complete, since the stars shed no light, but merely leave a pointillist reminder of what light was like in the sky.
I awoke for watch at 2 o’clock this morning; Prescott had been on since 8pm. We’re doing 6-hour night watches this time around, because 4-on, 4-off is just too exhausting on too little sleep for us. If the weather is good, 6 hours pass painlessly, even in when it’s pitch black. Still, you have to keep count.
We wake each other up for watch with a hot cup of black tea. Once I get settled in to the cockpit (position and course understood, sails and autopilot tuned how I want them), I clip in and curl up under the dodger with several pillows, a fleece blanket, and my warm mug. For the first hour, I let my mind go totally blank for as long as I can. I don’t know why I do this-probably in part because I’m just waking up, and in part because I’m trying to save all my thoughts and activities for later in the watch when I’m bored. Surprisingly, my first blank hour sails by quickly.
By the second hour, my boiling hot tea is finally cool enough for me to drink. So I turn on my iPod and listen to music while I enjoy it. Tonight is the night we “fall back,” and it happens on my watch, so I get stuck with an extra hour. Ouch.
The third hour is when I start writing in my head. I consider several possible stories and detail them at length in my mind. The fourth hour is when I get out my computer and actually start typing. By the fifth hour I’m hungry, so I consider at length what kind of breakfast I should make when Prescott gets up. This decision takes into account the sea state, the temperature, what’s on top of the fridge, and how strong my stomach is feeling.
Just when I’ve decided on pancakes and coffee and start feeling sick because I haven’t seen the horizon for so long, the darkness begins to lift, just a little bit, in the East. Like a heavy blanket it’s pushed up by a light grey arc, which becomes purple, then pink, then orange, then glorious light blue as the sun lifts swiftly over the horizon and thaws my fingers. Nessie often wakes up in time for the sunrise and watches it with me from the cockpit. As I write this, a lone tern has found Velella and is circling and dive-bombing us-an activity which Nessie finds endlessly amusing.
We are currently making way southward toward Turtle Bay, about halfway down the Baja Peninsula and clipping along at close to 7 knots. Since we’ve left Los Angeles, the weather has been warm and welcoming. Yesterday, we spent less than 24 hours on a brief stop in Ensenada to clear customs into Mexico-an onerous task which took no less than five of those hours, after which we slept for twelve.
I’ve read and heard that Pacific Baja is like the husk surrounding the fruit of the Sea of Cortez. But with weather like we’ve been having offshore, and the hot southern sun rising over my shoulder right now, I rather like the husk! At this rate, we may be in Turtle Bay by the end of the day tomorrow-which means only one more yawning night before we can curl our toes on the beach and relax. Meanwhile, you can follow our live track!