Aboard Flyer, at 39 41 N, 51 05W, we’re barreling along in a trough at the tail end of a cold front that accompanied a low-pressure system. With gusts to 40 knots from the NW, three reefs in the main, and 15-ft aqua marine waves topped with a dollop of spume surrounding the cockpit in a carousel of moving mountains, it’s an engrossing scene.
Bundled in foulies, wearing a harness, and tethered in, I’m certainly captivated. First my mind runs through a list of all the sailors I know who’ve made this type of crossing with equally well-found, yet smaller vessels than a 57-foot Swan and a crew of five. Now, as a wave forces me to respond and flex the muscles of my body to stay upright, I’m really appreciating, and perhaps truly understanding for the first time in years, the accomplishments of Diana and Alvah Simon, Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander, Thies and Kicki Matzen, and of course, Lin and Larry Pardey. And, as I sit on night watch from 2000 to 2200 with my other half and the captain of this voyage, Rick Martell, I have a tactile sense of all the miles and the boats in his wake as a delivery skipper.
When was the last time I lived on the tilt in Force 7 for at least 24 hours, I ask him, running through the boats we lived on and worked on and delivered together in the Caribbean, New England, and back and forth from Bermuda. “Maybe Bermuda,” he says, “and anyway, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve never done this before. And once you have, you’ll be able to say, ‘I know what that feels like,’ and it won’t be a big deal.”
He utters those words not a moment too soon. The next thing I know, while the waxing moon so high in the sky drops its light in silver beams on the ocean surface, a huge wave comes along, baptizing us in the cockpit. Flyer shudders and gathers herself, and the crash from below comes up the companionway in a thousand little shards of sound.
I unclip and go below. As crewmate Todd Mennillo and I slide around the saloon to gather up broken bowls and clean up the mess, more thoughts run through my mind:
– The night before, crewmate Manfred Arnold volunteered to clean dinner dishes, and left not a single utensil, bowl, or lid out to dry (this is his fourth transatlantic).
– A day ago, I was perusing the copy I’d brought along of The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew by Lin Pardey. I did read her advice, so I repeat it here to remind myself and to save fellow voyagers a future agony: “Even if you have worked hard to secure everything before you set sail, make sure the on-watch crew takes a few minutes to listen for, hunt out, and quiet any rattles or thunks that might wake the sleeping crew.”
Roger, Lin. Tonight, that’s the plan.