Saturday, November 20, 2010

Night watch (Betsy)

We do our best to avoid night watch. Sometimes we have crew on board to maximize our sleeping hours, but having crew changes our boat mode. This time it's just the two of us running down the coast of Mexico's Baja peninsula, so we've been making day hops from anchorage to anchorage when possible. But now we can't avoid the big "N" any longer.
This morning we poked around a dusty little town collecting a few provisions to tide us over for the next several days until we reach Cabo. We stowed the dinghy on the boat deck, raised anchor and were underway before noon. The next time our anchor touches bottom will be in Magdelena Bay with its rich marine life and perhaps a chance to trade some Goodwill hoodies for lobster with the local fishermen. But first we have to run 26 hours to get there.

By mid-afternoon David is sick. He never gets sick, but he is violently ill. And it isn't seasickness. Must have been the huevos rancheros in Turtle Bay. At one point I find him bent over the bed in our cabin. He's trying to come up to stand his watch but is too sick to even make it up the stairs let alone keep an eye on the boat, so I tuck him in and go back to the pilot house.

It's a lonely feeling being fifty miles offshore, out of sight of land, watching the moon rise as the sun goes down and hoping David will feel better soon.

Before the sun is gone I turn on the running lights so other boats, if there are any, can see us. In the pilothouse, I dim the displays on the navigation equipment and switch on the red console lights to save my night vision.

The hours wear on and occasionally a big wave catches the boat swinging us from side to side before the stabilizers have a chance to do their job, Mystic's long-familiar creaks tell me she is groaning back at the sea. The autopilot grinds as it works to correct our course and once or twice its siren-like wail gives me a start. By the time I jump up to have a look the alarm has stopped and we're back on course. Sometimes we get a "slippery" wave and each time I hope David is asleep and doesn't feel it.

I haven't heard a peep from him in a couple of hours and am hopeful that the drugs he took are working. Just to be sure I go down to check. The night lights are on and I can tell he's asleep. Finally, some rest for him.

I'm feeling peckish, but it's not much fun dining alone so I start the generator and pop a bag of popcorn instead. A glass of wine would be nice, but not with popcorn, so I skip it.

Running in daylight is so different from nighttime passages. During the day I am futzing around the boat doing a little cleaning and chasing down dust bunnies that magically appear in all the regular places. I keep up with my iPad Scrabble. And now that the water is warmer, I put out two fishing rods, one with a cedar plug, the other with a Mexican feather lure. So far the fishing has been terrible. I've managed to catch a bird, yes a bird, and one Bonito, a so-so edible fish that made a mess of the back deck.

Traveling at night is another story. I glance at the radar every few minutes to see if there are any boats in our path, but there aren't. Most boats don't travel at night. I also keep an eye on the various gauges; oops, I suddenly realize the generator is still running after making popcorn and jump up to turn it off. Then I wonder if we have enough fuel in our day tanks to get us through the night. If I open the engine room door to check, it's sure to wake David up. Hmmm.

Looking out the pilothouse windows the moon lights up the sea as it rushes by. If only it would rush by faster so we could be anchored in Mag Bay and David would feel better.

David suddenly appears and offers to stand his watch. But he's still sick. Back to bed with him.

It's only 10:30pm but I've been in the pilothouse since noon and am starting to feel drowsy. Maybe another game of iPad Scrabble will get me going again.

Traveling on a boat at night is like flying a plane at night but with a heck of a lot more room for error. Everything is done by instruments and you have to trust them because it's just plain dark outside.

The sea has quieted a little and the boat motion is gentler now. As the night wears on it might settle some more.

The various boats noises have become part of my night watch rhythm and the slightest change is cause for attention. Fortunately, Mystic has carried us a long way with little trouble and she'll make it through this night without a problem. And so will I.

At 2:00 a.m. David manages to drag himself into the pilothouse. He doesn't look great but says he feeling better. Probably a white lie, but I'm ready to go below for a little rest. Thank you, David. I hope you feel better soon.