January 1, 2011

Passage

approx. 3 hours after dark o'clock

We are on passage from Roatan Honduras to Isla Providencia, Columbia. The moon appeared over the horizon about an hour ago, and tonight it's full and bright.  We are hoping to make landfall before tomorrow night, but it doesn't seem possible right now.  I do the math, then re-do.  Same result; we'll arrive no sooner than a couple of hours after dark, and you just don't enter a strange harbour in the dark. But for now, it's time to pay attention to the job at hand, your watch, because everybody else is sleeping and hoping that you don't put the boat on the rocks in the dark. (Rule 2 of Cap'n Pedro's famous 3 rules of sailing.)  We are trying to round the corner where Honduras and Nicaragua join, and then turn south towards Panama, but the area is full of reefs and small cays, or islands.  So that means that we have to go straight east for a long distance in order to clear all the dangers, adding a lot of time and extra miles to the passage.  Charts in this part of the world are not always reliable, and in some cases we have been exploring new vistas in sailing by crossing charted land with a sailboat.  But tonight is not all a nail-biter; after all you are only moving at about7 knots, or 8 mph. This means that when you see something on the horizon, you see the same things for many hours before it disappears behind you.  Your stomach is full and contented, the result of sharp eyes on the boat spotting tuna boiling the water in pursuit of a school of bait fish. Cap'n Pedro swings the boat to starboard and makes a pass thru the area, resulting in 2 blackfin tuna on board.  Daria (her meals are as much a treat for the eyes as the palate) makes a fantastic sesame seed encrusted tuna supper.   So you have ample time to think about the important issues in life.  The meaning of life is there a god, what does the future hold?  No, you start to think about muffins.  OK, condensed version of Muffin Management 101.  In the middle of night, a watch drags on for a very long time.  You devise different methods of passing the time, and a sailor's favorite is to have a small treat to look forward to.  Just as in many areas of life, you can't peak too early or the letdown on the other side will drain your will to stay awake.  So on a 3 hour watch, you can't just gobble your muffin in the middle, or for the last 1.5 hours your life will have little purpose or meaning.  And tonight, you have checked the muffin bin and bonus, still two left.  So the calculating begins, and you decide that at the last  45 minutes is the best time.  But time passes slowly, and you look around your little floating world, happy to be alive here.  No land or lights in sight; you are truly alone.  But this is where you want to be; you feel safe and comfortable tonight. The weather is favorable, just enough wind to fill the sails and bring an easy motion.  The wind starts to clock and blow a bit stronger.  So you move the main sail traveller down a bit, and ease the jib sheet to spill a bit of wind.  (Look at this prairie boy talk sailor!)  This has the effect of slowing us down a bit and smoothing the ride, much like easing off the gas peddle on a bumpy road.  Instead of launching off the waves and slamming down, the bows cut thru the water and curls it back. You settle back on the helm bench, and watch to see if the adjustments are right.  Movement in the companionway; Cap'n Pedro feels the new motion and comes out to check on things.  You start to chat softly about the night, the boat, sails, course, and will you make landfall before dark.  Captain is fully awake now, and sends your below for your sleep.  You go down to your cabin, rinse the salt off your feet, and climb into the bunk.  Tired but peaceful, your mind starts to fade off, and you suddenly remember you didn't eat your muffin, too busy with trimming the sails.  You hope that nobody else eats all the muffins during the .......zzzzzzz.

The Muffin Man