It’s dark, but I can see the smirk and slight eye roll from Chris, as he looks at me from the helm. We’re at the stern of the boat, he on the wheel, me at the main sheet, as we wait patiently for Alejandro to finish tying a bowline around a preventer line. The inside joke, of course, is that we practiced that knot before leaving shore. In Alejandro’s defense, a bowline done in English, must appear different to a LatinX.
If the gap in the journal, or the complicated sailing jargon doesn’t signify, we are at sea. I’m sitting in the cockpit at 9:30, drinking my first black coffee of the day, the less refined and rowdy 2nd cousin of the Cappuccino. We slipped our lines yesterday a little past 4pm in the afternoon, local. For those of us with Garmin watches, there was a quick download of a new application, so we can tell time in UTC (the Woke time zone - Universal Time Coordinate - historically known as Greenwich Mean Time) along with whatever local time we will find ourselves.
The planned departure was 12:30, which, under the command of a German skipper, you would expect to, well, set your watch by it. But there was a missing wing nut or something of perilous consequence if not fixed, and that delayed us a couple hours. Passport control was another slight delay. Finally, as we prepared to slip the line, our commander inquired into the VHF:
“Harbor control, harbor control, this is Nordic Falcon requesting departure from the marina and out of the harbor”.
Nothing. Wait a minute.
Repeat. Nothing. German eye roll. Wait a minute.
Repeat. Nothing. Wait a minute. Shoulder shrug.
“Prepare the mooring lines…”. And we were off. I appreciate Chris’ sense of abandonment - I am beginning to understand why he no longer lives in the Deutschland. He’s certainly an outlier.
Once in the main harbor, and before passing the breakwater, we began to raise the main, with Staton and I at the mast, yanking and pulling and sweating, and hand-chaffing, and more pulling…
“Halt. The halyard is twisted. Lower the main.” Chris shared with indifference.
My turn to roll eyes.
“Does someone have their knife on them?” Chris inquired.
“I do. What can I do?” (whatever it is), I replied with excitement.
As we motored around, dodging 400 foot-long tankers entering the harbor, the boat rolling under foot, I climbed 5 feet up the mast, bear hugged the aluminum structure like a Koala might grip a stripper pole, and dangled there, knife in my mouth like a pirate, untwisting and twisting, cutting and zip tying. Not 30 minutes into our transAtlantic crossing, and my life is hanging in the balance, the crew silent with breathless anxiety, hungry sharks circling below…Ok, so the imagination can sometimes run afoul. It was a little scary, slightly dangerous, but unlikely to be the largest or most terrifying challenge of the passage.
Main hoisted, wing nut restored, tanker avoided, and Yankee (jib sail) raised, and we were under way. The sparkling blue water, reflecting the sinking sun stretched out before us, welcoming us into her bosom.
A couple hours later, I found a spot on the stern to enjoy Mia’s first dinner on passage, leaning against the rail, looking back as the sun sank over the silhouette of Las Palmas. The stress, anxiety, excitement, or general endorphins caused by the last couple days and the several months prior, in preparation, melted away. As dolphins emerged from the water, leaping about our stern and darting under our hull, I smiled at our good fortune. And appreciated the good sign from Neptune.
As I was sitting at my journal in the cockpit this morning, I was curious to learn more from our captain.
“What is the name of your son, Chris?” I asked.
“What do you call him?”
Pause. Smirk. Staton explodes with laughter. Forget Neptune, the dry humor alone is a good sign for a pleasant, if awkward passage. Oh, and the dolphins just returned.
The stars have come out
They spot their face on the sea
Guiding our passage.
I’m not sure if these haiku’s are sounding better or worse as we go, but they’re fun to write.
It’s almost 9pm, UTC. I’m in the cockpit, awaiting my turn at the wheel. Still Tuesday - are these days getting longer? I was first on the watch, at 8PM, as the sun was dipping below the horizon, and the quarter moon was hung out for the night. Like a lantern on a hook, she seems to swing with each gentle bob of our little vessel.
Though just a speck on this vast ocean, we’re bustling with life. When I came up from my 5 hour siesta, I was greeted not only by the other watch mates, but a medium-sized pigeon quietly sitting in the cockpit. So far from land, city parks, and stale cigarettes, one must wonder how this winged rat was planning to survive so far from home. She seems out of place, given our surroundings, but then, which of this crew was born to the sea? We all found our way here through life’s twists, misfortunes, or galactic alignment.
Mia, for example, had finished a years’ long gap from Sweden as an au pair in Boston. A friend, who procured an extra visa for her now abandoned boyfriend, offered Mia the chance to continue her adolescence in New Zealand. It was there, on a bus ride to skydive, where she met Andy. He had a day off with his mates, and joined them on the ride to the drop zone. No lost boyfriend, no free visa. No visa, no Mia. No day off, no Andy. Until that point of cosmic magic, Mia had never sailed. Andy introduced her to the sea.
When the sun finally set, both Chris and Mia shared their knowledge of the stars. Where I mistook a reddish planet for Mars, they highlighted that I was looking at Beetlejuice, a red star easily identified by Orion’s Belt. Mia and Andy’s first boat, years after their star-crossed meeting in the New Zealand wilderness was named Arcturus. That star can be found by following the arc of the tail of the Big Dipper to the next brightest star. When challenged by the need for a second boat name, they revisited the stars. “Follow the arc to Arcturus, and then speed on to Spica”. Boat number two, appropriately, is Spica.
Not one for Zodiacs, I would naturally question all of this. And yet, there it is, painted in the night sky. All of us, like the handful of satellites spotted this evening, racing through the cosmos until we bump into each other. Now if we could only think of a name for this pigeon. “Beetlejuice”, of course. Never call out to her three times.
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 -
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