Where to begin? It was only 10 days ago that we left our home in Atlanta and arrived to Ft. Lauderdale to move onto our boat. Honestly, it feels like 2 months. So much has happened, and we have been in constant motion, with very little time to reflect on our experiences. For this reason I’m grateful for this blog. It’s primarily a way to keep everyone we love up-to-date and reassured that we are safe. But of course there’s value in sitting down and remembering where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what we’ve learned.
(Side note – I tried to upload some photos to this post – but I had some difficulty. So if you’re on Facebook, you can see a video and some photos on my profile page. I’ll get the hang of photos on the blog, eventually. )
Our time with Captain Richard was a whirlwind. From the moment he arrived, there was a continuous stream of knowledge flowing from him to us: how to run the water maker, the gas stove, the shore power hookup, the generator, the air conditioner, and (believe it or not!) the heat! (I know, I know, you were much colder – but there are no heavy blankets on this boat, and I wanted to sleep rather than shiver all night long.) And then, as I wrote in the last post, we puttered around the Florida coast a few days, preparing to cross the ocean to the Bahamas.
What’s it like to drive a boat across the ocean? During the day it’s like regular sailing. The seas were calm, winds were about 10 knots (that means 10 nautical miles per hour), and we used both our mainsail and our foresail, which is called the jib. We kept raising, lowering, and trimming the sails as needed to accommodate changes in the wind. This part was pretty straightforward and gave us an excellent chance to practice what we already knew. It was after dark when things really got interesting.
Sailing at night (which wasn’t technically sailing, as we used only our engines) is like traveling at about 8 miles per hour down a giant interstate, in pitch-darkness, with no headlights. There is only starlight to guide you until the moon rises, and our moon was a slivered crescent that did not appear until about 2:30 a.m. During the day Captain Richard showed us how to find other ships on our radar. With the system we have, we can click on another vessel’s icon and see its name, size, speed, and – most importantly – the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) to our ship. And the TCPA – the Time to that Closest Point of Approach. So, for example, we can see when another ship is going to be a mile away in 28 minutes. Or .4 miles in 10 minutes, when we probably want to alter course a bit to put more distance between usand the other boat.
Doing this in daylight is a pleasant exercise. At night – well, it’s nerve-racking! Especially doing it for the first time. We took watches – meaning we all took turns sitting at the helm throughout the night, a couple of hours each watch. What this feels like is…
Every 3 hours or so you’re being roused from sleep to go take a solitary post. You sit there trusting the radar is working as it should, and that the other boats are using their radar too. You can’t immerse yourself in anything else, like reading; you have to stay alert and keep checking the screen for other ships traveling much faster than you are. And if you see a CPA and TCPA that is too close for comfort, you need to figure out whether you are supposed to get out of his way, or he’s supposed to get out of yours. There are rules about who gives way – but generally if that other boat is a great big freighter or cruise ship, you’ll be the one to move. With smaller ships, it can be dangerous to change course when the other boat is the one that’s supposed to give way. So you have to remember and follow the rules.
Can you see now why sailors are superstitious? I can only imagine how worrisome it was in the days before radar and GPS.
We arrived in Nassau an hour ahead of when we’d thought – top score! It is gorgeous here – clear turquoise water and temperatures hovering around 70-72. (The climate alone makes it worth the long trip.) Once we were docked at our marina, we showered, got some lunch, then said our goodbyes to Captain Richard. We were so incredibly blessed to have his expertise guiding us. And we were like sponges, soaking up everything he had to teach us. It was cool, because he let us get inside his head – showed us how he thinks about things, from boat maintenance to handling the lines and sails to navigating to choosing a spot to anchor. And now we are eager – and yes, a little nervous, but I think that’s healthy! – to put our knowledge to the test, on our own.
We’ll be heading out of Nassau this morning to go to Eleuthera. It’s a day’s sail away. We don’t have to do any more long or overnight passages for quite a while now… which gives us time to practice, gain more experience handling this boat, and build our confidence and our knowledge of these islands.
I spent some time praying early this morning, and the Lord reminded me that I am always dependent on Him… whether I am doing things I’ve been doing for years (like driving a car or living in a house) or doing things at which I am a beginner (like living and traveling on a sailboat). It struck me that being a beginner, at the sailing/cruising life, is an excellent way to get back into a daily – no, moment-by-moment – awareness of God’s presence and love for me.