"How was it out there?" I yelled as I was leaving.
"Nothing but fog! I hope you have some extra batteries for your GPS!" Maury shouted back.
I wasn't concerned. My cell phone had a GPS and it was charged. And anyway who needs a GPS when you have a map and a compass? I thought. So I waved goodbye and pressed on. Leaving my slip behind, I glided out into fair winds down the channel. It was a pretty foggy day but that didn't bother me as I had sailed in fog before. Out in the main channel I could see how much visibility there was. Not much. About an eighth of a mile. Tacking again on the north side, I could see one speed buoy behind me, one buoy next to me and one in front of me - that was it. After that it was pure white mist. Leaving the breakwater behind me I headed out to sea. Here the fog created its own weird sensation. It didn't even seem like you could see an eight of a mile because there really is nothing to see out there. Soon the fishing boat and the breakwater were completely gone from sight and yet they were not that far away. All I could see now was a little circle of ocean. This was my whole world. I had still my inner sense where the breakwater had been but that was it. Now the only way I knew where I was, was by looking at my compass.
"I had better keep really good records of where I am and get out my map and navigation things." I thought. So I laid them out before me on my seat in the cockpit - instead of in the cabin as I usually did. 'I would need them constantly today. My heading is 180 South.' Yet the boat was determined to head 150 instead. I brought her up into the wind as much as I could and found if I stayed constant on the tiller I could maintain 180. Looking at the map and compass rose, I could see that 150 SE, would end me up on the beach eventually. Taking down the time, 5:40 pm, I then saw something red out in the water. At first thinking it was a life jacket, I aimed the boat at it. 'I could always use another life jacket, an by the looks of it, it appears new!' I then blew my foghorn like I was supposed to every minute or so and headed up towards it. Suddenly another boat came down out of the mist heading my way. But he was not on a crash course as he must have heard my horn and saw me as he went by. The lifejacket floating on the water turned out to be just a real shiny red balloon! So I left it. After sailing for 45 minutes, the winds strength seemed to ease a little. I was not completely sure of this as the sails still remained full, and the feeling of the wind was the same on my face. It was just one of those gut feelings you get. So I tacked the boat around on a reciprocal route back. All seemed fine. On the map the opposite route to 180 was 0 degrees and I knew that sea drift and some inaccuracy would need me to steer more to 10 degrees north. So I did and gave myself a test to see if I could get back to the marina without using my GPS. "After all, even if I got it a little wrong I would hear the breakers on the shore and go up or down the coast to find the entrance." So I wasn't too worried.
By now it was 6:13 pm and I
knew sunset would be at 6:30 giving me just till 7:00pm to get back before total darkness. What I didn't remember was that sunset had changed since I last looked and that it was probably setting around the very time I was thinking all of this! Of course the fog made it impossible to see any sunset or give me any clues at all. So I wrote in my log all these thoughts including my estimated time of arrival to be at 7:00pm. By 6:30 I noticed I was loosing light. At this indication I realized I had better use my GPS as the possibility of losing wind after sunset was real. 'Better to use it and get home than be an idiot just to pass my own test.' I figured.
At 6:45 pm it was completely dark and the wind had definitely lightened considerably. By 7:00pm there was no wind at all and I was freaking out! Not that I was scared of being at sea in the dark. I did that weekly. But it was being out in the dark with no sight of any lights to guide you and with no wind and only a compass reading to go by. 'I must be somewhat near the breakwater.' I thought as it was close to my Time of Arrival. The waves were now very bumpy without the power of the wind in the sails to drive through them. The sails whipped back and forth from the motion - making it all very irritating! My GPS reading put me past Dockwhiler Beach but not quite at the Marina. In fact, when I looked at it carefully, my reading put me a little closer to the beach than I was wanting! All I could think of now was what if the wind died for good? I consoled myself that this rarely ever happened at this time of night. Another fear was what if this was really it and I was finally doomed to crashing my boat on the rocks? Hearing the breakers on the beach just added to my suspicions as I immediately tacked back out to sea. If I could just find the green or red harbor lights - all would be well! I kept getting this longing to just be back in my slip, safely resting. I was really tired too. All this work was really getting to me. I kept telling God to please send some wind and that I really did believe He could do it. And then it occurred to me that God had let me watch a video clip just a couple days ago about navigating through blind areas and trusting the instruments. Seriously, if it had not been for the video I had seen, I really would have thought my compass was all goofed up (as it kept telling me readings that were totally wild. It would say I was going east when I had just turned the boat north only a minute ago!) The video had said people had died because they didn't trust them. So tonight I decided to trust them - even if it made me crazy!
So after tacking back out to sea, the only wind I could get (and it was debatable whether you could really call it wind!) was on a close reach back the way I had come! Still it was better than beaching the boat on the shore. Having a thousand pound keel that went 3-4 feet under the water line, the breakers would tear my boat apart as soon as it lodged into the sand. I steered as far away from that scenario as I could.
Eventually I got a little bit further from shore but my nerves were tearing me apart. Having practically no vision (now that it was dark), feeling the constant pressure of the waves, having to look at my compass and GPS every 20 seconds and with this non stop worry in my head, I was beginning to feel really sick and agitated. I wanted to just throw up and get it over with! But I knew I had not got that sick yet. My inner self was telling me I could still beat seasickness. So I jumped down into the cabin and got myself a butterscotch candy from my supplies and sucked on that. I don't know whether it helped or not but it was going to have to! Then I just gave up momentarily with the constant compass readings. I was falling apart inside but despite that, I knew I could sit out here in the ocean a long time with no power before getting near the beach. So I looked down into the ocean and was half surprised to see little glowing sparkles of green from the bio-luminesance! Suddenly what appeared to be a glowing green streak across the water (like a torpedo) caught my eye! And then another following it! It went from the north to the south with incredible speed. I had never quite seen the trail of dolphins like this before - but there it was! Though this nagging fear of failing tonight seemed to haunt me, the beauty of the water and the dolphins woke me back up to Gods love and protection. Now with the bio-luminesance in the water, anything that touched the water sparkled. That included my oars as I began to row the boat away from land. Each time my oar hit the water, a huge ball of eerie green light would appear on the dark sea. It was as if a huge flashlight was shining up through the water or like stirring a magical brew in a cauldron! I couldn't believe it. As soon as this occurred, my lack of sight was appeased and I started to feel a little more like myself and realized I should just keep rowing. It would take time and a lot of work to just get a little further, but with virtually no wind, it was my next option. Having lost my engine in a big storm didn't give me many more options either - besides just staying out all night and waiting till the fog cleared! But that was risky too.
A good hour must have passed in which I rowed, tacked into a deceiving wind that I occasionally thought was blowing, took down the head sail, put it back up and checked my GPS and compass constantly. And then the wind finally came! It sparkled green on the sea as it stirred the bio-luminesance, giving it a magical feeling! With the fog all around and the darkness and then the sudden sparkles of green light everywhere - it really was beyond description! But I couldn't focus on it for long. There was work to do so I jumped up onto the cabin top and raised the jib sail again. I felt a stirring of joy back in my heart! Thank You God for the wind to get home! If only I could now steer clear of the rocks! There were other concerns too: anchored boats near the breakwater without anchor lights. It would be a seconds warning - if even that - if I came near one. 'Oh please, please have your lights on!' I hoped fervently as the boat took off on a gallop through the wall of darkness.
And then I saw something of a light. I was approaching it quickly. It was very blurred and I could not make out what it was. And then a very dark blurry shape appeared - beginning to look like a boat. It had no navigation lights only the one masthead light - so it must be one of the anchored boats! I steered clear. Step one had been completed. I had found the anchored boats. The harbor was near. Now to find the green and red entrance light! And then almost as the same moment I thought it - there it was, flashing brightly! At least the green one was. It appeared out of nowhere, as if it was sitting in midair without anything holding it up! But I was grateful. Now if I only could remember which side of the green to come in on. If I picked the wrong side, my chances of crashing were greater. I suddenly couldn't remember something I had known for years - even though I racked my brain. Panic does that to you. I had never seen the light alone by itself without anything else to measure it by. So I prayed and asked God to help me remember. And as I prayed, I vividly remembered seeing the red light on the shore side of the breakwater. So that meant the green was to my left. I went with it and steered down. I was going against some rational thoughts as I didn't remember the anchored boats being parallel with the harbor light. But I was determined and besides the red light was nowhere to be seen. As I steered downward of the green light, I suddenly saw the shape of rocks below the light and jumped for joy, for that was the breakwater entrance. Soon the red light appeared too - glowing eerily in the fog. And as I entered the harbor I suddenly saw ten or more streaks of green light as dolphins were all over the place! Two seals came near my boat as well, but all I could see of them was a ghostly green light moving through the water in all kinds of directions. Even little flashes of light went by as fish moved away from the boat. And then the most amazing thing happened. The dolphins must have been diving, for suddenly the circular glow around them got bigger and bigger and bigger until it was the square size of a boat. And this was happening everywhere, so the water was just lit up all over the place! What an ending to a very scary evening. My breathing finally became normal again as my heart rate went down and I took a deep breath of relief. Out at sea I was very fearful - like how I felt in a storm, and my pulse beat twice as fast. But now with the wind blowing fast against the sails and with the harbor lights on each side guiding me in, I sailed on home with excitement and happiness in my heart - very thankful to God to be back!
Blog Hints Added: 4-9-12
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Welcome to Sailing with Albie!
I made this blog because I wanted to share my adventures at sea with all of you! Some of you may be wishing they had their own boat or just want to 'get away' even if just at home on the web. So each week I decided to write down my feelings while out at sea and share them with you. If you enjoy them, please feel free to come back here weekly and see what's new. Also please share the blog with your friends and with those who you know like sailing!