Friday 7 December 2012

ARC Day Nine

The half-moon lies contentedly on its back, arms crossed, a gentle smile spread across its face. Stars gather around it in perfect formation, each one placed delicately by the illustrator’s brush. Shooting stars, hurled by a slingshot deep in space, soar briefly across the sky, then dwindle and fade as they burn up in the thick night air. White wispy clouds, illuminated by the stars, hang on the horizon in comical shapes which slowly distort and reform into mythical creatures silhouetted against the night sky. The sea is liquid glass, pulsing gently as the swell rolls quietly by. A boat glides over the sea, her sails gleaming in the moonlight, leaving a trail of glowing white phosphorescence in her wake.

The scene is from a child’s nursery book, yet we are mid Atlantic at three in the morning and I am spellbound.  The constellation of the plough, normally below the horizon, rears up on its haunches to point at Polaris, twinkling faintly from the north and each time I look up to seek inspiration, another star flies obligingly overhead, willing me to convey the beauty of this scene which few ever witness. 

The only sound to disturb my star gazing is the mechanical throb of the engine. Yesterday morning the wind finally died and we have motored for the past eighteen hours. On our chart plotter we slide past Northern Child, a fellow ARC yacht adhering strictly to the rules of the racing division, making two knots of boat speed as they ghost through the night. It is easy to forget that only a day ago we were surging down big Atlantic rollers under sail at ten knots.  For me this is the fascination of sailing. Whether it is racing across the oceans in high seas, pottering around the Tuscan islands with friends, or sitting on the mill pond that is the Atlantic Ocean tonight, I love the multi-faceted nature of sailing with its endless opportunities for adventure.

We aren’t sure what tomorrow will bring. The forecasters tell us that the trade winds will start to build from the north east giving us good conditions for the final eight hundred miles to St Lucia. In the absence of the wind, we spent yesterday afternoon at play. With the sails furled, the engine off and Juno almost motionless, we trailed a line off the back of the boat with a fender tied to the end and the crew went swimming in the sea, about four miles deep and a thousand miles from the nearest land, with me firmly at the helm, not truly relaxed until they were all back on board. Talk over dinner has become more expansive as life ashore becomes more distant, freeing our minds to explore matters philosophical. I am pleased that a common sentiment is that the time is passing too quickly and that all too soon this adventure will be over – until the next one.


  1. Just about to get into my big metal bird to fly over you!

  2. Lying on the sofa with both feet out of action and swathed in bandages, but have been completely transported and am particularly jealous of your account of the night sky! Have a wonderful rest of the trip and hope all continues to go well.
    Lots of love Kerry xx