“Rob, does this light bother you?” It’s 2015 on Tuesday evening, Goose just took the helm from me for the last 45 minutes of my watch. I flicked on the red tone of my headlamp, which has been my go-to flashlight since leaving St. Maarten. The captain told me last night that the light on in the cockpit ruins his night vision while piloting. I think he’s just an old salt set in his ways. Or maybe Rob is too polite. If we run headlong into a wave and capsize because Goose can’t see, I’ll take full responsibility. In the meantime, let’s get up to speed on the last 24 hours.
I had the midnight shift last night, which was a perfect way to return to the harmony of sailing by way of the stars. As we are on a 346 heading, pointed just West of North, I followed the Big Dipper, rather than the North Star, all evening. The dipper was inverted, and vibrant in the dark, and sometimes ominously black sky. On our Bermuda passage, our crew’s brainiac Professor, Jeff, explained how the star that forms the kink in the big dipper’s handle is actually two stars. In Native American culture, if a young boy could pick out the smaller star that is just adjacent, and rotates around the more pronounced star, he could become a hunter. If not, he was relegated to the job of gatherer. I wonder if the chief walked him through...”image 1 or image 2. Image 1 or image 2.” Star 1 or star 2? My LASIK surgeon would be happy to know that I would be a hunter.
The winds and seas last night returned to the fury we had experienced just outside St. Maarten. Wind speeds of 20-25, and rolling seas made for a very choppy evening. Making the passage more challenging on our heading. Because of our course, and the wind direction, we are forced to take the breeze ahead of our beam. What that entails is adding to the apparent wind speed. When the wind is 25, and it hits our boat closer to the bow than the stern (ahead of the beam), the wind increases in “apparent” strength, causing us to heel more and experience a harder blow. It was thrilling to have a hand on the helm, and one on the handrail for balance, surfing the waves and heeling over to leeward. “Fireflies” (bio-luminescence) followed our wake all evening. It was a perfect reminder of why I was on this adventure - not St. Maarten or the sandy beaches of Bermuda. Harnessing Neptune’s power to move a 16 ton boat smoothly through the black sea reflecting the lonely stars above is why I sail.
The day following was void of any excitement. The wind nor wave strength had dissipated, so the entire crew slept or read quietly all day while off watch. No meals were prepared until dinner, and even then, Alejandro simply sliced up the remaining beef we had grilled onshore in Bermuda, and steamed our asparagus for quick nourishment. I slept after my morning shift in my bunk, but woke up after an hour. Between the humid, stale air, and the pitching of the boat, I decided to hang out well ahead of my morning shift in the cockpit. After my turn at the helm, I read for an hour, and then slowly drifted off to sleep on the couch. The open air of the saloon, and light circulation from the fan, accompanied by the gentle rocking of the boat put me into a deep sleep. When the boat is in sync with the waves, the temperature and air flow are in balance, there is no better sleep found than within the belly of a ship. Someone once told me that it’s the closest thing to being back in the womb. As absurd and unfounded as that may sound...they’re right.
Back to the present. We are a mere 380 miles from Newport currently. We did 200 miles in the last 24 hour run and have not let up in our speed. At this rate, we could be making landfall by Wednesday, though Captain thinks we won’t put in until Thursday. He said the trip usually takes 4-4.5 days. We are on a pace to make it in 3-3.5, although the elusive and sometimes dangerous Gulf Stream awaits us and may have an opinion about how quickly we’ll reach our destination. We should be into the stream by tomorrow evening, and through it 10 hours later. The wind is currently blowing from a similar direction as the current’s origin, so the strength of the Gulf Stream may be more intense, but won’t be “confused” by a conflicting wind direction. That would whip up a nasty cauldron of boiling waves during the final approach to shore. Stay tuned to find out...
With nothing to preoccupy my thoughts today, I started reflecting on this journey over the past week. What would I take away from the experience? Did I enjoy myself - I mean really enjoy the sailing so much so that I want to sacrifice all the financial resources, time, and heartache necessary to pursue the same dream that accompanied me to St. Maarten? Was there something this sailing excursion taught me that would make me a better business owner? Father? Husband? To all of those questions, I’m realizing the answer continues to be yes.
Last night, today, last week - every time I utter the words “helms mine” I am transported to a place of complete awareness and satisfaction - I’m acutely aware of the breaking seas in front of the boat that I must dance with to keep us moving ahead with comfort and speed. I’m aware of Tara, and how much I wish she was living every second of the journey with me. I’m aware of my girls, and how excited I am to walk in the door, shower them with kisses, hugs, presents, and my attention.
I realize that it takes an immense amount of patience to make this journey a success. As a helmsman, you have to head down a little when the wind picks up, or head up when the wind dies down. Minor adjustments. If the wind changes persistently, you must make a bigger adjustment as well - reduce or expand a sail, ease a sheet, or tighten a line. When a breaking wave attacks the stern of the ship, and your course is thrown off, you need to react. In all of these situations, it takes a steady hand and a keen sense of the ultimate course - not the one right in front of you. The inexperienced helmsman can’t “feel” the waves or the motion of the ship, and is constantly over correcting. I think about all that I am learning and trying to control with regard to a growing business, a bigger team, and all the challenges that accompany our clients...and I’m reminded to be patient. Slow and deliberate maneuvers. Don’t over steer. Don’t over correct. Don’t overreact. The vast ocean lies ahead, and there is plenty of time and distance to change tacks. Follow the stars. Enjoy the fireflies dancing in your wake.
The dream is still very much alive. And coming true.
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
Follow our crew (Royce, Tara, Avery, Charley, Nora & Ruby)
as we blog our sailing adventures
Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
Set Sail 9.22.21 | Sweden - Germany -
Set Sail 7.18.19 | Newport, RI -
Martha's Vineyard, MA -
Nantucket, MA -
Thanks for reading !
Previous Trip Posts: