This may be my last entry before leaving the boat. We are 56 miles out of Newport, RI. I won’t jump to conclusions, but it looks like we will make landfall by 1 am tonight/Thursday morning. In the Captain’s 25 years of doing this passage, he has never crossed from Bermuda to Newport in less than 4 days. We are going to make it in 3 and 1/2.
Today has been a rainy, cold, dreary day. Quintessential of the East coast with the occasional seagull, a few brief dolphins, the smell of the sea and salty spray in the air, and a gray, colorless ski in all directions. The day started with little to no wind so we broke our non-motoring streak by running under engine power for a couple hours. While Alejandro and I sat in the cockpit, looking aft toward the empty sea, Hank worked tirelessly below trying to unclog the bathroom head. The potent scent of the ocean could hardly mask the foul odors drifting up from below. Perhaps the value of a captain on board goes well beyond safety and a hot meal. He has certainly earned his tip.
I finished my shift at 0900, went below, crawled into my warm sleeping bag, and crashed for a couple hours. I awoke to the familiar feeling of gravity trying to rip me out of my upper bunk. We were back on a heel, and apparently under sail once more. I visited the Nav station, which has been an hourly occurrence all day, to check on our speed, distance to port, and ETA. The excitement of reaching landfall is palpable amongst the crew...when they are not sleeping soundly below. The 40-degree rainy weather above has allowed everyone to catch up on much needed sleep. While we are still maintaining our regular watches, the auto helm is steering the boat for the first time since St. Maarten, and the crew huddles under the dodger during their 3 hours above. The shift can’t end early enough before they scramble below, back to the soft, cozy confines of their awaiting sleeping bags.
The rhythm of a passage has returned, but only in time for the journey to end. We made room in the fridge for the beer we’ve stowed since Bermuda, and put a few bottles of water in the freezer to procure ice for our celebratory cocktails in Newport. Given our anticipated arrival time after midnight, we will have to stay on the boat until customs opens in the morning and we can clear in. Sneaking off the boat upon arrival, even in a quiet boat yard would land us in a quiet cell in town, while a Federal judge contemplated our future. One more night on Avocation beats the alternative.
Looking back on two weeks, feels like reviewing a lifetime. How and when this adventure began would start somewhere in Madison 20 years ago when I tried my hand at windsurfing on Lake Mendota. What progressed into an attempt at racing sailboats, settled on purchasing Virago, and learning the ropes through trial and error. Fast forward through a handful of BVI trips, hours upon hours of pouring over ASA training books, sailing magazines and the occasional “how to” book or cruising novel, and I am exiting a plane in St. Maarten, alone, ready to embark on my first multi-day ocean passage.
Standing (or sailing) on the other side of that, looking backward feels like a reflection on a life that isn’t mine. None of this was ever a thought, let alone a dream, as I accepted my diploma and walked off stage into the real world. And yet, it all makes sense. Of course, I am arriving in Newport, Rhode Island for the first time, by way of sailboat. Of course, the trip was a success and adventure beyond explanation. Of course, the outlandish dream of going to sea with my family is still alive.
Last night, the bio-luminescence following in the boat’s wake was the brightest and most colorful since departing. It looked like a streak of paint, brushed upon the sea’s black canvas by Avocation’s stern. Ever since watching Life of Pi, and witnessing the colorful magic that Hollywood created, I looked forward to experiencing the same light show in person. Last night it happened.
What other moments, all of them magical, will I remember in looking back over this experience? That first night watch at the helm, chasing the North Star? Finding my sea legs and preparing a meal? Making landfall on a remote island, or listening to a tale of a wise old man reflecting on a life of love? There are so many moments. I think that’s all that life is. The stringing together of little experiences, that paint something unique and beautiful for each of us. Journaling has allowed me to look for those moments, and then recall them in a way that gave meaning.
Beyond sailing, perhaps that is my biggest learning. Pay close attention to each wave that passes by, each moment. Pause to watch it. Feel it. Remember it. Sailing 1,400 miles on the Atlantic was a reminder that life’s pleasures are everywhere, every day. Going too fast makes it all a blur. We are chasing the next wave, rather than experiencing the one kissing our bow. Perhaps we just need to slow down. What if we all lived at 7 knots? We wouldn’t miss a wave.
5/17/2018 12:53:27 pm
You made your mother cry. I am so proud of you and your love of life. 💕💕💕
5/18/2018 01:18:39 pm
Looking forward to a more thorough debrief over some dark and stormys. Sounds like an incredible trip. Good work 👍
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We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
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