Last night in the Pacific was spectacular. The wind was blowing us towards Hawaii with enough pressure to allow Reinrag2 to surf from 12 to about 20 kts on the smallish 2 to 4 foot seas. The air was in the low 70s, chilly with wind on wet clothes, but pleasant to my New England accustomed senses. Oh, and the moon was full and shining down on all, the white foam of breaking waves, the sparkle of the spray from the bow, and the ghostly white of the spinnaker curl in trim.
As I relieved Tom and took my turn at the helm, he admitted understatedly, "Ok, maybe I had fun for a few moments there." Pointing out that there is something here in these moments of driving a small boat across this wide ocean that make it worth the price of admission. The expense, the months of preparation, even for a boat and crew that's done it before, and the time away from family and career. Why do we do it? And why do we come back and do it again? We do it for last night, that feeling.
Behind the wheel, I started to think how I can describe it. I chuckle to myself as I think in my SoCal raised way, "it's just awesome dude!" And in a way it is.. a feeling of awe. No, not so much in the natural world around us; it is just too alien. The ocean raging from the trade winds, the tiny sails of the jelly fish, the moon and Jupiter beside it are indifferent to our passing (although the porpoise do check in on us from time to time). No, I feel the awe about the humanity invading this night so far from land. This boat, these five primates on it, riding, crashing, bursting towards Hawaii.
I stand behind the wheel, my feet firmly planted on the deck, through which I feel the boat almost as though it were an extension of my body. The pitch and roll of the boat tells me what the waves are doing, though I see only a crest reflecting the moonlight. The boat pitches down and begins to roll to leeward as the stern is lifted by the oncoming wave. Like a dinghy I shift my weight unconsciously to windward and will the boat to catch (in fact I move the wheel to leeward and the boat rolls windward). She catches the wave and accelerates. Tom is watching the sail and grinds in to keep her pulling as the apparent wind shifts forward. The boat is now doing half again as much speed as before and I hunt by feel and moonlight for a second wave to catch, or a clean exit from the one I'm on. Eventually the boat slows and Tom eases the sheet.
There are instruments to help... a compass, apparent wind angle, boat speed etc.. but these are secondary checks. Surfing is done by feel. You feel the wave, and you move the boat... and it's a wonder. Standing at the wheel, riding over the ocean is just awesome.
Yeah Tom. You did have fun for a moment. And the better thing is.. we just reached the trades. Many more moments and days to come.