One Week at Noon Today

Counting myself blessed this morning. It is yet another beautiful, sunny day, sparkling waters and a following tradewind breeze of about 15 knots. Everything on the boat is working well enough. I managed to uncover my modem problem (fingers crossed, seems it needs its own independent power supply in addition to the feed it gets from the radio) and I slept well and deeply a couple of shifts last night. We are making about 8 knots through the water, against a .5 to 1 knot counter current. At this speed the boat bounces around a bit, but at least for sailing near dead down wind she is level and rolling only a little.

Today marks the end of my first week. I am feeling very at home, yet aware that my comfort and ease can quickly disappear with a change in the wind, an equipment failure or even a minor accident. When things go wrong on a boat, it usually happens very quickly, and often without much warning. So for now, I am vigilant, but also enjoying myself with reading, writing and fiddling with the boat. Enjoying it while it lasts.

What does with oneself 24 hours a day at sea on a solo passage? Well, a routine day shapes up something like this, although from my more general experience sailing, non-routine days can come back to back or weeks apart. Heavy weather, break-downs or whatever just totally hijack the day, but most days are fairly routine.

My day is tracked noon to noon, I guess as a reflection of the fact that this is the time of day of the traditional noon site, anchoring each day's celestial navigation. Thank goodness those days are gone with GPS So at noon I sit down here at the nav station, open the electronic charting and calculate the days run from the previous days noon site. Then I LOG the GPS position in the paper log so if I am struck by lightening and loose all these delicate electronics, I still have something to work with for finding my way ashore. But I do have no less than four GPS units on board. Two plug into the computer, one as a stand alone unit and the second built into the AIS (Automatic Identification System). A third is the nav station unit powered by the ships batteries and the fourth is a battery powered unit stowed in the abandon ship bag.

After that I usually make my biggest, and sometimes only meal, of the day. Its easiest to cook midday when it is daylight, but you know, when its just me, its too simple, so simple its a little embarrassing. Yesterday it was instant mashed potatoes, a gravy mix and a can of pre-cooked roast beef, for example. Next to that, the boxed wine is good. Then comes, of course, an afternoon nap, followed by ham radio work – usually a radio check in to a cruiser net, then a position update and another log entry. At dusk I do another email pickup which includes my scheduled weather grib files (wind and wave predictions) storm warnings and other advisories. Before dark, I go around the boat on deck checking the rigging, sails for chafe or damage, toss the flying fish back overboard (I hate stepping on them in my bare feet in the night) and just get things ready for 12 hours of sailing in the dark. I usually reduce sail a bit, so if a squall wakes me up, its not quite such a shit fight to get the boat back under control.

I usually sit on deck with a scotch and some tunes, play my drum, or just contemplate the day as the sun goes down. Best part of the day. Before it gets dark, I make up the cockpit for sleeping. Sometimes I'll read, do emails, it depends on my sleep quotient. Usually, I'll start the night routine with going to sleep until the boat wakes me up – not usually more than an hour or two. Then I have to do something – steer around a fish boat, change sails, close up the boat against the rain, get something to eat, reset sails and so on. Its amazing how just keeping the boat moving in the right direction with the right amount of sails takes more or less hourly attention, while sleeping around the events. It takes 10 hours to get 6 hours sleep. Before sunrise, I am usually so stiff from sleeping on the cockpit bench, I am waiting for the sun to rise so I can make my first cup of coffee to greet the day with. Nothing like it.

Morning, is kind of ridiculous, because its my most ambitious part of the day. I put on a bunch of sail if I can and tune the boat up for speed, fix anything broken from the night, and do another round of weather emails and log entry and navigation. If I am expecting compny, I'll have a salt water bucket shower on the aft deck. Soon its noon.

Inter dispersed with this at any time of the day and night, I will just plunk myself down – could be the bow, the aft deck, the cockpit, even a little way up the mast and I will just enjoy watching her sail through the waves. There is nothing quite like it. A sail boat is a simple machine, but it harness such power from the wind, no inboard motor would ever generate such energy, or do so with such finesse, balance and modesty. No smoke, no noise, no fuel to consume. Simple raw wind power. Leaving her to the hand of the windvane steering, I watch this harmony of design, materials and labour move so elegantly amongst the great rollers out here, I cannot help to feel in flow by association. As a machine, the boat is an extension of my knowledge and labours, and yet as my master out here, it commands my diligence and respect. This is such a big boat, I really need to stay ahead of her. I am merely the rider on the elephant! Master, yet mastered. Humbling, yet satisfying.

Flow is our ultimate reward for engaging the struggle and learning from the experience. When we grapple with forces bigger than us and engage them with earnest intent, we gain a modicum of mastery. Gradually, as we gather our experiences and forge our skills, we grow the depth of our competence and expand the challenge, never to achieve absolute mastery, but mastery of a sort none-the-less. By engaging the elephant,we discover our unique gifts, and through the cultivation of our gifts, build lives of passion. No challenge, no learning. No learning, no mastery. No mastery, no passion. No passion, no joy.

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