Ahhh. Nothing like a peaceful night. Off-watch we dream deeply, vividly, and occasionally weirdly (an army of barbershop quartets in every Woolworth's? Whaaa?) As I made coffee this morning, I figured some of you might be wondering: how does the kettle stay on the stove? Answer: sea-rails, a metal one to clamp it over the burner, and another edging the gimballed stove's perimeter. Sea-rails of wood line the galley, to keep food from sliding off. Sea-rails keep books in bookshelves, stuff in cabinets, and lee-cloths, a form of sea-rail, keep us in our bunks.
There is another kind of sea-rail, though. It's the kind we thought we left far behind in childhood, the kind we used to whine eternally from car back seats: Are we THERE yet? No, honey, we're not. WHEN ARE GONNA GET THERE? WAAAH! Surprise! We've regressed!
This kind of sea-rail is likely to hit long-passage newbies like us, who are surprised at how tired we are. We've been on guard for it. Not even the memory of an Oregon coast gale can allay it. So here are some mental tricks we've deployed.
#1: We're not counting days until landfall. As Jim says, "We live out here now," which gives the in-between-ness of a long voyage its proper due. But we do track days sailed, and keep the boat sailing her best. Of course, in the backs of our minds we're expecting around 30 days.
#2: We look at our progress to our heart's content using electronic gizmos, but at sea away from land we don't plot our position on that huge-scale, paper chart #Int 51 every day. Although we frequently write our lat-lon position in the log book, on this long stretch the paper chart comes out like a dessert, every two days: Whoa! Look how far we've sailed! Of course, it'll be used more often on shorter legs to come.
#3: We admit to and discuss our tiredness, and we talk about these feelings, also with other boats.
#4: I'm reading Conrad, specifically his "Mirror of the Sea." Want some advice and a "Buck up, Matey!" lecture from a master mariner who not only sailed wooden square-riggers around Cape Horn but could write eloquently (albeit in the vernacular of his day)? Pull up a chair and let Conrad speak of year-long voyages, where 90-day passages were common. Our 30-day passage in good weather feels more in perspective, and I'm humbled by what those ships and sailors did. Of course, you're treated to Conrad railing about the erosion of the "art" of seamanship in a time when those newfangled iron square-rigged ships were replacing the wooden ones. Such good reading.
His prose is so vivid and sometimes funny that I can almost hear his voice. If I could have a conversation with Conrad about what we're doing in this sturdy 24-footer, following in the wakes of Guzzwell, the Pardeys and others, who knows, perhaps he'd crack a smile.