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Old 21-12-2010, 04:16   #1
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My Most Memorable Night at Sea

It's the morning of December 21st, the winter solstice and a total eclipse of the moon. I'm up early (4am) watching the eclipse from my balcony over looking the north side of St. Thomas. The moon is in full eclipse and you can see almost every star in the sky! absolutely gorgeous! It also reminds me of the most wondrous night I ever spent at sea.

It seems that cruising forums are mostly full of horror stories about pirates, CG boardings, tsunamis, storms and the like. So I decided to write about the magic that makes it all worth while. Oh, and less I forget, 6 weeks in the yard requires me to recount this to save my own sanity. More on that in my next post.

To set the stage, my wife (then) and I were on a 6 month cruise of the Sea of Cortez. Our boat was a 22' engineless Falmouth Cutter by the name of Angelsea. Many times I have been asked what it was like to sail without an engine, what kind of inconveniences did I encounter? After sailing Angelsea for 16 years I can only remember not making port when desired only a few times, but this was to be one of them.

We had departed La Paz early in the morning with our sights set on anchoring for the night at Isla La Partida, about 25 miles to the north. The wind was extremely light and with our asymmetrical flying progress was slow. Needless to say we could not make the anchorage that night. We were going to heave to and enter at first light. Finally the decision was made to sail to the next island overnight and catch Isla La Partida on the way back. Our destination now was Isla San Francisco about 20 miles further north.

Finally about 2000h the wind filled in from the NNW around 12 knots. We were close reaching and making about 5 1/2 knots. The self steering was working away without a complaint. It was turning into an absolutely wonderful sail, but more was to come.

The night was moonless and totally clear. With no light pollution around you could see every star in the sky! We were also experiencing phosphorescence. A great deal of it. Our wake was absolutely aglow. But wait...it gets better still. I have not seen this before or since, but the surface of the water was covered in the little things that cause phosphorescence. It was like Tinkerbell and scattered pixie dust on the surface of the water. The experience was akin to sailing in a sphere of stars. It was totally black with a million points of light. WOW! But wait, it gets EVEN better. Off our starboard beam we saw about a dozen bright tubes of light rushing toward us. It was like somebody had just fired torpedoes at us. DOLPHINS! With these guys zipping and zooming around us with the bright phosphoresce, it was magical.

After about an hour we sailed out of the surface phosphorescence. The dolphins were off to find someone else to buzz. We sailed on to Isla San Fransisco. Arriving around 0300h we hove to and got some sleep. At first light we entered the SW anchorage of Isla San Fransisco, as visions of sugar-plums danced in our heads.

God I love sailing!

Cheers, Gary

I invite everyone to add their most memorable night at sea.
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Old 21-12-2010, 06:19   #2
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This will be an all time great thread.....thanks......i2f
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Old 21-12-2010, 09:13   #3
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Really nice account of some magic moments Gary....Thanks!
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Old 21-12-2010, 09:32   #4
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Cool story, Thanks!
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Old 21-12-2010, 09:58   #5
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My second most memorable night at sea

(The first one I won't describe, there might be kids reading over your shoulders )
Absolute windless and clear night, no moon, slowly motoring on my way back to Spain from the Azores. I suddendly realized that the stars reflected perfectly on the water, so it felt like looking at the sky when peering down ... I had the uncanny impression that I was floating in space, with stars over and under the boat... This illusion lasted for a long time...
I don't think I'll ever quit sailing...
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Old 21-12-2010, 10:14   #6
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I've had a similar night and they are magical. Drifter up alone, sheet in my hand, broad reaching at maybe 5 knots apparent. The algae was sparkling in the wake like some sort of magical trail. Really amazing.

We have some friends that were laying on their backs snorkeling in 80 degree water listening to whales singing for an hour, a few hundred yards away. I think that would be pretty magical too.
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Old 21-12-2010, 10:19   #7
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I think I can honestly say that every night we have spent at sea was magical. We have done many overnight passages and the longest was 4 days. Chuck
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Old 21-12-2010, 10:20   #8
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Loved reading about this. It seems difficult to capture these kind of moments in words, or film.
Spencer
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Old 21-12-2010, 10:31   #9
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I was returning from a day sail on the Cheaspeake Bay and time got away from me so I was not able to enter the Patuxent River before dark where the boat was kept. I was worried about sailing through the crab pots in the dark that were prevalent in the area, but the sail was so relaxing that I just sat back in the cockpit marveling at the sunset and the resulting starlite night. A couple hours later as I approached the river a spot light lit the cockpit from astern. I thought a freighter was appoaching since I was still in the ship channel but as I turned to take evasive action I was priviledged to see the largest harvest moon rising that I've ever seen.
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Old 21-12-2010, 11:54   #10
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After sheltering in Figueira da Foz, Portugal from a bad storm for five days I set sail on 2nd November 2010 at 1535hrs in nice autumn sunshine bound for the Algarve. With a NW 4 blowing and a course of 217° it was a nice beam reach with speeds of 7-8kts.

Not much to worry about on this trip, the first objective is to "find" the approx. 4M gap between Cabo Carvoeiro and Isla Berlinga in the dark and avoid any of the large number of smallish Portugese fishing boats - easy for a singlehander!! This area between the mainland and Isla Berlinga is marked on the charts by "to be avoided" - upon further reading I see that that comment applied to big ships!

The wind then swings to the NE and increases and at 2040hrs it's time to put in the first reef - after reefing my speed is still around 10kts and the autopilot doing all the work. I repeatidly stand on the foredeck and watch the water spraying and sparkling with phosphorescence from both the bow waves and also behind the boat. The sky is overcast but it's not raining nor is it really cold. Lights as shown on the chart come up more or less and I head straight for the gap between the mainland and the island and shoot through the straight at around midnight bouncing along a fair bit in confused seas - log entry at 0200hrs says "At long last a nice sail".

Next morning I am becalmed at the entrance to the Rio Tejo leading up to Lisbon. Looking to my sterns I see I am trailing approx. 5 m of fishing net on both hulls - must have sailed over a net somewhere in the dark and not felt a thing! Bloody things got caught on my line cutters which I have on the two driveshafts.
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Old 21-12-2010, 12:11   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorF54 View Post
Absolute windless and clear night, no moon, slowly motoring on my way back to Spain from the Azores. I suddendly realized that the stars reflected perfectly on the water, so it felt like looking at the sky when peering down ... I had the uncanny impression that I was floating in space, with stars over and under the boat... This illusion lasted for a long time...
We had the same experience on a beam reach, light winds, calm seas, moonless night on the Bahamas Banks. Had it not been for the hiss of the hull and the phosphorescence of the wake, there was no way to know that there was a sea at all. It was disorienting and magical.
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Old 21-12-2010, 12:29   #12
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What time of the year does the phosphorescence occur?
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Old 21-12-2010, 13:15   #13
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Originally Posted by multihullsailor6 View Post
Next morning I am becalmed at the entrance to the Rio Tejo leading up to Lisbon. Looking to my sterns I see I am trailing approx. 5 m of fishing net on both hulls - must have sailed over a net somewhere in the dark and not felt a thing! Bloody things got caught on my line cutters which I have on the two driveshafts.
This reminds me of another sail coming into the river at night under sail. Since I was under sail I did not have much concern for the crab pots since the boat is full keel with attached rudder. I'm doing about 6 knots in the gentle breeze and then I notice that a tug pushing a barge is passing me on my port side. I look down at my knot meter and it reads just 3 knots. I can't figure out just what is happening since the wind direction and strength is about the same. I decide to come head on the the wind to stop the boat and as I look around at the stern about 7 or 8 crab pot buoys come to the surface much as the sene in Jaws. I can't understand how they attached to the boat and just as I'm deciding about diving on the boat to free up the mess....they all float away. I must have snagged them on the pinion where the rudder attaches to the keel. Glad I didn't have to dive in the dark.
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Old 21-12-2010, 14:08   #14
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From my personal log -

Day 16 - Sunday

Heading for Cartagena, Colombia.....at this point, fuel is our main concern. But right now we are hardly moving, so no definite plan.

We watched a beautiful sunset last night, shades of red, orange, pink, and gold. The sky was lit up in every direction. Never have I seen such a sunset!

The sailing was what dreams are made of. After sunset, the stars became bright points of light against the dark of night. The phosphoresence glowed in our wake. Later, a nearly full moon lit up the boat as though there was a spotlight on her white deck, and reflected on a calm Caribbean Sea. A nice, steady breeze provided us an easy 4.5 knots of boatspeed all night long, and lasted all morning.

Looking back, this was the most memorable 12 hours of my life. I can only hope to share many more of these special times with my wife. Truly, moments like those make all the time and money spent working on the boat worthwhile. Just as squalls and gales make the serene moments that much more special.

Ralph
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Old 21-12-2010, 17:55   #15
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Quote:
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From my personal log -

Day 16 - Sunday

Heading for Cartagena, Colombia.....at this point, fuel is our main concern. But right now we are hardly moving, so no definite plan.

We watched a beautiful sunset last night, shades of red, orange, pink, and gold. The sky was lit up in every direction. Never have I seen such a sunset!

The sailing was what dreams are made of. After sunset, the stars became bright points of light against the dark of night. The phosphoresence glowed in our wake. Later, a nearly full moon lit up the boat as though there was a spotlight on her white deck, and reflected on a calm Caribbean Sea. A nice, steady breeze provided us an easy 4.5 knots of boatspeed all night long, and lasted all morning.

Looking back, this was the most memorable 12 hours of my life. I can only hope to share many more of these special times with my wife. Truly, moments like those make all the time and money spent working on the boat worthwhile. Just as squalls and gales make the serene moments that much more special.

Ralph
hehehehehehehe, another virginity lost........i2f
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