Monday, November 16, 2015

You gotta do

Once upon a time, night flying was one of my very favorite things, and the more hard-core, the better. A night instrument take-off (ITO) into low hanging pitch black clouds was my cup of tea. Climb to the flight levels, maybe shedding a little ice along the way? Even better. Make a long run solid in the clouds (IMC) with a dead nuts (called that because nutsing it up would get you dead) approach to absolute minimums. Then finish it off touching down on a rain or snow-swept runway that appeared out of the mists at 100 feet. (Yes, one could go that low on an ILS if, at 200 feet, the runway threshold was in sight.) Now that's a pizza!

I really liked night flying but, for some reason, night sailing? Not so much. Which is a little weird since we liked sailing at night on our little lake. Since coming “out here” though, night sailing hasn't been near the magical fun it was at Carlyle.

Just a bit of color on this night sail though we had expected a glorious sunset.

I'm trying. We keep doing overnight runs partly because there is little choice if one wants to get to the Islands in the fall. Daylight is in depressingly short supply. Today, where we are, the sun will set at 1705, not to return until 0645 in the morning. Nearly 14 hours of darkness. Making any kind of distance means sailing at night. Besides, serious cruisers, even coastal ones, make multi-day runs and, someday, I would like to be taken for a serious cruiser. So sailing at night is something we just need to do.

We did one last night as part of our Oriental – Beaufort – Masonboro – Wrightsville Beach run. So far as night passages go, it was as benign as could be. Perhaps a bit too benign as there was little wind and we motored the majority of the way. Fortunately the tiller pilot mod to the Cape Horn wind vane was working pretty well. A nice surprise since it, literally, works on a shoestring. The sky over Kintala was clear and, though there was little moon, lights reflecting off the clouds over the distant shore made it less dark than it could have been. It should have been an easy passage. It was an easy passage. But I still could not wait until it was over.

I keep trying to figure out why. A lot of esoteric explanations come to mind, but none of them really matter. I just don't like sailing at night. Really though, last night had its charms. No one gets the view of the night sky that a sailor gets. There is no windshield in the way, no ground lights, just stars and planets wheeling overhead horizon to horizon, punctuated by the occasional meteor streaking across one's sight. Nothing will make one feel as small on the one hand, or as grand on the other, as seeing the cosmos laid out in all of its glory. There is barely a spiritual bone anywhere in my body, but I couldn't help wonder if my dad is out there now, a part of the mystery, and whole once again. One doesn't get that kind of healing on land. Sorry.

All things considered did a pretty good job. The stern nav light came a cropper with traffic closing in from behind. Some duct tape and a dinghy light got us visible once again. With the auto-helm working, the on-watch person could sit in the dodger while the off-watch person slept below. A huge improvement from sleeping in the cockpit when not standing at the wheel for hours at a time. The Masonboro inlet was new to us, but there was no way to time the trip to get us there in the daylight. So, as much as we wanted to be done with the hook down, we made the call to idle around the “A” marker until the sun was up enough to see. Masonboro is an easy inlet, but it was the right call to make.

The Wrightsville Beach anchorage

A walk to the beaach at Wrightsville Beach
And now we are tucked deep into the anchorage at Wrightsville Beech. There is some weather due to start building tomorrow night, so we will likely be here a few days. We liked this place when we came through here two years ago, but didn't stay long enough. We hope to remedy that this time around. It is also a chance to work the Dink and the Merc a little, both of which have been sitting idle for too long. And we are back, laying to an anchor in a pretty place. Which is why we came this way in the first place.

Then, like it or not, more night sailing will be required to keep on moving south.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

1 comment:

Mike Boyd said...

I liked flying on clear nights, but definitely not to minimums hoping to see the runway environment. I guess that is why I kind of like night sailing. I remember one night with the auto-pilot doing its thing, I went and laid up on the trampoline and stared at the stars. Of course, that was in a warmer time of year and right now I'm dreading the cold run south.

Hope your trip south goes well.