Fri 22 Aug 2008 16:37
Course: South sou'-west; Speed: 4 knots
Weather: Fog, clearing
Day's Run: 106 miles
We are at sea, it is foggy, vaporous mists enshroud the boat as we push into the lumpy sea. The wind has died down some now. The bows are in an easier motion, no problems pushing into square seas like last night. All last night we punched and pushed, crashed and tumbled our way forward. Well not exactly forward, more a bit forward, crash, thump and then a bit sideways, a bit forward, crash, thump and a bit sideways . . The wind was from the south and veered into the southwest early this morning. As a consequence we have only made a little ground in the actual direction we need to go - to the southwest. Mind you Cape Spear was in the way as well. This morning we find ourselves well to the southeast of St Johns, our point of departure yesterday morning. At least it was a clear night, the stars shining brightly and a half moon rising at about 10 p.m.
Now, as I say, fog has closed around us. Visibility is down to about 200 yards. So I sit in the cockpit - not so much in the hope of seeing anything that might maliciously wish to send us into the fathomless deeps, but rather to listen - to hear the tell tale noise of machinery thrumming, giving away the presence of a man made object that might cause us some harm. Not intentionally I am sure, but we are all lazy and inclined to become complacent. You don't see or hear anything for days, eventually you start to think that there is nothing conceivably out here, that you are alone and that if there is anything it will harmlessly pass you by on this limitless expanse of ocean. And I guess the odds are in fact with us. I do not know what the odds might be but this isn't exactly the English Channel after all.
The fog bound coast of Newfoundland, the malevolent, malicious, treacherous Grand Banks. There was a time when I am sure I would have been on the constant alert for fishing boats, there was a time when this area would have been full of wonderful, shapely fast schooners, of the Blue Nose type. And around them would have been cavorting loosely like puppies playing around their contented mother a string of dories, each with a single man, a bronze faced, callused handed, brawny armed fisherman, his cod line jiggling over the side. Though the metaphor of puppies does not work. Puppies - playful, boisterous, naïve and unworldly - our fisherman is worldly hard bitten man - he has seen it all, hard times: hunger, danger, fear, and not his unfair share of death. This sea he worked and lived on, the waters above the Grand Banks which provided his livelihood - once rich in life beneath - its very existence which provided his livelihood was that which threatened his imminent demise.
And where is this grim faced man now? Where are his beautiful ships? Gone, gone with the inexorable march of time. I won't say progress. While the Enlightenment may have held fast to the idea of progress - that idea was killed by the 20th Century. But enough, change, it is enough. We move on. Now we have a sea raped by mechanical monstrosities - as wide as they are long - square bowed, no, wall bowed - a block of unadorned brick flats has as much beauty - not the light graceful forms of Conrad's era tugging impatiently at their berthing lines, wanting to get to sea, to spread their wings and fly before a vermillion sky. No these beasts are FUNCTIONAL. So damned good at what they do that there are no damned fish left. Oh well, it can't be helped. I don't believe in free will. Forces at work - around us, within us. We are no more capable of making a free choice as we are of choosing our parents. So on we go - racing forward to an unknown future - thank God it is unknown, otherwise what would be the point. Existence before essence, what rubbish! Essence co-evolved with existence. I am not a blank slate. Sartre was right, existentialism is for specialists and philosophers. Surrounded by fog I am, both literally and metaphorically. The universe is indeed a mystery and perhaps thus it should ever remain. Keep moving, keep flowing - pen along a line, starlight along a time, and is this how things work? Who knows? I am drifting into abstractions. Back on the planet earth my little boat continues to push forward with the wind in her sails. The wind is getting lighter now, the seas are calming down a bit. I shall probably take a reef out soon. Though the forecast for this afternoon is SW 20 knots - or is it? On the Banks the forecast is SW 10-15, which is pretty much what we have now.
Still I write until 12 - this is my exercise. At the stern the wind-vane waggles its vane, leaning to the left, bringing the boat back into the wind, countering the waves urge to push the bows off the wind, then as she comes up, the vane straightens, erect, the rudder comes amidships and we continue on for a short while until the next wave throws us off, so it is a continual waggle, back and forth, a waggling wind vane responding and in turn causing a so slightly waggling wake.
Five to 12, the alarm will go off shortly, then I must fill out the log, check our progress. It seems we are moving quite nicely so I am in two minds whether to shake out this reef. Will it help I wonder. It may just cause us to heel more, more leeway, and loss of VMG to where we want to go. VMG - velocity made good - there goes the bell - you are saved.
Its all fun.
What did I say - think less, sleep more! There is no help for some creatures. I do my best for skipper Bob, try to keep him focused, but he is what he is I s'pose.
Yesterday was horrible. Bounce, crash, bang! Getting any work done was almost impossible. Even my private study down aft was terrible. It is better now so I had best get back to it. Quiet, stationary, sunny bookstore windows - I will hold that in mind as I get back to it - Zzzzzzz.
All is well.