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Crossing to the Berrys

Crossing to the Berrys

Despite the constant fury of sounds, motions and airs, it is usually the smallest of changes that awakens. Rarely is it the actual minute timer. It could be the luffing of a sail, or possibly the change in the sound of the constant hull-slap of a persistent pattern of wave. It might be a far away voice on the radio below discussing maritime encounters to be avoided. It might be a change in the wind, or the angle of heel from a nice puff, which while waking, would also simultaneously signify the making of even better time towards our island destination and the arrival of morning. But this was not what awoke me at approximately 3:30 Wednesday morning as we rounded just north of Great Isaacs Lighthouse. It was simply, the winking out of the alabaster companion who had lit our cockpit and path southeastward toward the Berry islands. As that waxing orb slipped westward into the black currents of the Gulfstream, suddenly the sky was awash in paint. I had been asleep for seven minutes, Lilly for hours.

Both of us roused at the same time, both stunned by the heavens. She moseyed over and sat leaning into me in the windward cockpit bench and we gazed upward to find Perseus, Taurus, the Pleadies, and arcing through them, frequent but singular, traces of stardust. We would lie or sit still, in the darkness for a while and then together, “see that one?” Lilly with binoculars as big as her head pressed to her eyes scanning the deep skies. The stunning infiniteness stones any doubt of a creator. A faint but clearly discernible satellite silently transits the sky. Quiet, then a short diatribe on what makes them glow. And then as if the surface of the ocean horizon had been hiding a burning ember: the arrival of Venus. She slips up from under the waves and pauses for a moment with a multitude of reflections before quaking ruddy and smoky in the east. “Dada, what is that thing? Is it a planet?” And so we talk briefly on which planets are moored to the Sun and why, and which of those wander more aimlessly about the heavens.

The wind falls slightly but we, having made good easting, can turn even further south and so a few clicks to the autopilot results in another deeper lean of the ship. More wind whining in the rigging, more rush against the hull. The ships log slides off the cushion onto the floor, but I am pleased by it. Without a word, Lilly climbs back to the bosom of her lee cockpit berth and retires to more worriless slumber. We all have these moments with our children. Brief pauses in our days, or nights when, and usually without any prompting, something quiet and amazing happens. They may be rare in our lives, and so even more important to recognize their importance. What happens in that moment? Certainly some small bit of information is passed, but within that moment all is right. There can be no wrong. The peace of eleven years meets the concerns, thoughts, worries of my soon 47. And peace wins.

Ibis slips on now approaching the skinny waters of the Bahaman Bank. Coral heads loom in this shallow ink, and in my mind, but the heeling of the boat further distances her deep, winged keel from those stealthy mines. I cannot sleep. Rushing just a few feet beneath us: sand flats and seagrass, scuttling bonefish and barracuda. Lobsters in their hidyholes. The painted wings of spotted eagle rays. The twitches of nurseshark tails.

Sailing at night is exquisite. Daysailing, in contrast is a social time, family up and helping, discussions of routes and charts, weather and the geometry of travel. But at night there exists the deepest solitude. The electricity of anticipation subdues into the hum of time. Usually one is sailing distance at night. Trying to cover miles while the family sleeps.

While the daytime visual scope reveals the perils of collision long before they occur, at night one must depend firstly on dedication to attention. Attention is principally given to the timely search of the horizon and any lights, and then to the compliment of navigational aids, the chart and compass, the radar and the AIS. This must occur routinely, on schedule, without delay or remiss. Recent lapses are recorded on Navy shiplogs, the consequences serious. The period between searches is subject to great debate, but never-the-less a near seamless attention is required. While seemingly difficult, I do not find it so.

The very first glimmer of subterranean life, yawning too on the horizon is my reward. Sometimes it is with a deep violet or ocher, that the Sun heralds her arrival. Often it is just the first sense of starlight fading, or an almost unconscious awareness that the darkness is less so. The first moment of dawn always seems to have passed before I recognize it. Now, I am tired. But with the morning comes anticipation of an anchorage, searingly blue waters, diving from the bow, lobster hunting, coffee with my bride and a knowledge that all is right with the world.

Despite the worldly struggles and distractions, there is solitude and rightness around us. But when those distractions are left contained ashore, the simple perfections of this world and my life are alarmingly clear. And in the stillness of night, with wind filled sails and quiet sleeping souls perfection is deafening.

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