Cruising and Traveling and Dreaming of Traveling
Safe at Anchor in Graciosa


We are less than 100 miles from the island of Graciosa. I have the midnight to six watch and motored for a half hour, now we are sailing in 4 knots of wind. Sailing very slowly. There are no seas, and the sails aren't flapping -- much. EW is sleeping, and I'm glad he seems to have dropped back into slumber after I woke him up with,"I need need an extra pair of eyes."

At the change of shift, we had been watching a target eight miles to starboard, and he assumed that was why I woke him. No, I was certain that we had been on a collision course with a sailboat. Well, almost certain. On one of my periodic gazes around the sea, I identified the mast light of a sailboat, heading for us. I was so sure it was a sailboat that I tried hailing them on the VHF radio, to no response. Many sailboats don't have a transmitter for AIS; we don't. It's more expensive and when we purchased our receiver pleasure boats weren't encouraged to transmit. So not having an AIS signal for that sailboat didn't mean there wasn't a sailboat. Since we've have very light winds, I started the engine to move us more firmly to starboard so we'd pass safely port to port. Still, I wasn't sure that I was seeing a sailboat, and if so, in which direction it was sailing. That is why I woke EW.

It wasn't a boat. Here's the thing: Every cruising sailor has been fooled by the moon. That sucker can rise out of the sea and scare you half to death because you are sure that you're going to be run down by a ship or hit a lighthouse. Trust me. I've also been fooled by planes. Along the US coast whenever we passed near an airport at night, I would invariably think that a plane taking off was the mast light of a sailboat -- heading directly for me.

Tonight's escapade wasn't a plane. It was a star. A very bright star rising on the eastern horizon. To make me feel even more stupid, once EW went back to bed I remembered something he had told me today. "When you're on watch tonight, look for Orion's belt. The brightest star in a straight line below it is Sirius."

He knew I'd be interested because we named our first boat Sirius. It was a compromise name, suggested by EW, who said that Sirius was the "dog star", and that naming our boat Sirius was a sneaky way of naming it after our dog, Coffee. I melted and agreed. Last we knew, Sirius was still Sirius and happily sailing in Casco Bay.

Tonight her partner in the sky made like a sailboat and got my adrenalin pumping so I'd stay awake on my watch. I'm awake. I'm very awake, and I'm climbing back on deck every few minutes to make sure I look for other boats not on AIS. I'm on watch and EW is deeply asleep, just as it should be.

While I've been writing and watching, the wind dropped to 2 knots and I've turned the engine on again. If we keep the engine running, or if the wind picks up so we can sail 4-5 knots, we'll be in late on Friday afternoon. If the wind picks up just enough to sail at only 3 knots, we'll make our mark after dark tomorrow and will have to hover or sail around until daylight on Saturday.


We are at North 30 04.94 and West 014 34.383, under a full moon and a bright star. Who could ask for more?


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