When we were hand-steering back to Sint Maarten, over a week ago, I had a lot of time to observe our surroundings. In fact, when one is hand-steering at sea, it is one’s job to observe the sea, sky, sails, and instruments – and to maintain our course, of course. Off-watch, both of us slept, so much of each watch was spent alone on deck, contemplating life, looking at clouds, and trying to stay awake. (Not necessarily in that order.) About 20-30 miles north of the Mona Passage, I watched a line of squalls head East to West as we were moving South.
Have you ever been at sea and observed a line of squalls? These were rather benign little things; a row of puffy gray clouds, white on top, and darker below. The darker clouds held rain, some of which was released in our direction. There are wind squalls, rain squalls, and squalls that provide lots of wind and rain and excitement. These were unexciting squalls, but still required adjusting the sails and donning a light jacket. They marched in an uneven line; some went ahead of us and some went behind; others went right over the top of us.
I thought of how life can provide some squally moments. Some squalls are benign and hard to dodge. Those are the things that won’t matter tomorrow or next week: an argument, spilled milk, a bad day at work. You move through them and move on. Other squalls can cause havoc and damage the boat or sails. These are things that may not be important a month or a year from now, but certainly make you change course or adjust your immediate goals: a fender bender, a failing grade, an illness, or a broken auto-pilot. Whether on land or on sea, some of these larger squalls can be avoided, others have to be endured. How we handle ourselves during the squally moments is an excellent test of our maturity, sense of humor, and adaptability.
For the most part, both EW and I have been handling this well, but I had a bitchy moment this morning. I can’t easily get into my clothing drawers, I can’t put the sewing stuff away, the master stateroom has been torn apart for over a week and, as Mandy from Secret Smile would say, bits and bobs that have been displaced from our cabin have made their way to every other part of the boat. It’s a mess. This morning I wouldn’t let EW make a pot of coffee until I had neatened what could be neatened and cleaned the surfaces I could see. He wisely vacated to the deck and gave me ninety minutes to create my own cleaning squall below. Now he’s off to FKG to get an answer on the viability of this second non-working part. My fingers are crossed that it can be repaired by tomorrow and we can leave this weekend. It’s still not too late to head across, but we will be one of the last few boats to leave Sint Maarten for the Azores this season. I didn’t want to be one of the last boats.
Still, this has allowed me to stock up on some good story ideas, evaluate my provisioning (I did good.), make new friends, and visit with ones we haven’t seen for a year. EW got to participate in two open mike nights at Lagoonies. I have upgraded the sea bunk lee cloth, repaired the main sail, and reorganized a few cupboards. As squalls go, having to turn back at 377 miles is much better than losing the auto pilot half way across the Atlantic. (Knock wood, people. Right now. I mean it.) I loved our time at sea (before Casey broke) and look forward to the crossing with more excitement than I did before we left the first time.
Some folks have pointed out that this auto-pilot squall could have been avoided if we had a wind vane. (For you non-sailors: an Auto-Pilot attaches to your steering system and uses electronics and electrical power to steer the boat in the compass direction you choose. A wind vane attaches to the rudder and steers the boat using a hard “sail” to keep the rudder working with the sails to move the boat forward. Many boats have both; some have one or the other.) It can be difficult to attach a wind vane to a center cockpit boat, it had not been done by La Luna’s previous owners, and we chose not to the invest time and money before we set sail. A wind vane is one of many things we would install in an ideal world, but we live in the real world of squalls, and had to make choices. We opted to leave Maine in 2010 in a safe, working boat, instead of working for two or three more years during an uncertain economy with the hope of making La Luna perfect. We decided to sail, and it was a great decision.
Thanks for all of your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. We are fine; we are safe, we are eating very well, and we are weathering this squall.
- La Luna at sunset in Sint Maartin
- Master Stateroom amidst the Auto Pilot Squall
- EW at Lagoonies
- Shana, S/V Quartette, Mandy, S/V Secret Smile, and me doing the “Fish Dance”
- Dave and Trudy, S/V Persephone
- Gavin, S/V Secret Smile
- Gavin, EW, and Art – musician, ad man, emcee extraordinaire – leader of Lagoonies Open Mike Night.l