First-time offshore sailor

37’ 18N 11’ 35W
6 knots at 195

The Portuguese coast is surprisingly long, but the Tecla Nine are keeping on and making their way to its southern tip. From there, Tenerife. The temperature up on deck for the 8pm to midnight watch is mild, and the seasoned layers that served us well up until now have been discarded in our cabins in various states of disarray. 

We came up to find the mizzen and the staysail –  with us since Ullapool – taken down and furled by the previous watch. For now, the Tecla is a motor yacht with two big pieces of wood sticking out of its deck, and as far as motor yachts go: not the most efficient. But as she surfs the swell helmed by Natalia, who whispers ‘allez, mon petit’ to her every few minutes, you can feel her straining forward and on the lookout for sweet wind.

Motoring through the night leaves a little time for the more philosophical pursuits in life. Should future sailors find themselves similarly becalmed, they may well turn skyward – as we have.

Here are some thoughts and observations on the uses and utilities of the celestial bodies by a first-time offshore sailor, for when that time comes: 

1. Moon. Especially good for marking the passing of days, because you will most definitely lose track. We left Ullapool under a soft half moon, which quickly hardened to a dagger of a sickle before disappearing all together. This means we’ve been underway for at least a week. Right?

2. Stars. A grateful topic for first-time sailors. All starry-eyed, they will quickly veer into cliché (‘Will you just look at that night sky! We NEVER see this many stars at home. Aaaaaah, this is the real deal!). It is also a tried and tested way of tracking the weather. The stars going out slowly, one by one: storm clouds are moving in, get those oilskins on. A sudden increase in brightness and twinkle: better weather coming, or it’s already here. All the stars go dark, all at once: you need to get more sleep.

3. Sun. Big, bright orb in the sky, very rare. Expect a flurry of activity to accompany its appearance. Cabin closets are thrown open and all manner of wool items make their way onto deck, for airing and drying tucked under any line available. Beware of standing downwind from socks. Better to stand aft, where you’ll be enveloped by a haze of sunscreen while you listen to the stomping of bare feet on Tecla’s red deck. A plop as someone sits down behind you. Then, the crack-fizzzz as they open an ice cold beer. Beware: this celestial body often inspires tall stories and slightly delusional smiles on the faces of even the most weather-hardened sailors.

Midnight’s almost here, time for the next watch to take over. A quick last peek at the stars (‘But really, Orion’s NEVER this bright at home’), then off to bed for dreaming whatever real offshore sailors dream about. 

All is well, Steph

One Response to “First-time offshore sailor

  • Michael Wright
    3 months ago

    Looks beautiful and nice to have the warmer weather off Portugal.
    Has Jorn yet posted the video he kindly made Nuuk to Reykjavik? It would be lovely to see it….thank you.

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