SpinSheet Magazine August 0820

Page 50

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No Need To Invite Drama Onboard A

nyone who has ever steered an overpowered vessel through high winds or awoken to a dragging anchor knows that Mother Nature tolerates neither fools nor frauds, that there is rarely room on a boat for those who bring with them a thirst for extra excitement. A little drama will always find its way into your journey—there really is no need to extend it an invitation. One summer’s night a few years back found me underway and dozing peacefully belowdecks aboard Ave Del Mar, my 1967 Rawson cutter, when I felt her heel hard in a gust of wind. My friend Larry was at the helm as we exited the Nicolas Channel north of Cuba, sailing toward the Florida Keys after a fun-filled stop in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Larry knew that with the helm came both the responsibility and the authority for decisions about sail state and course, but as the boat’s captain and owner, I maintained ultimate accountability, so I snapped awake and checked in. “You want a hand out there?” I asked, my head poking through the companionway. Larry mumbled a “yes,” so I dragged on a pair of shorts and snaked my way out into the dark of the cockpit. Ribbons of cool air sliced through the humid still of the night, and smudges of black dotted the horizon. “I felt that 50 August 2020 SpinSheet.com

By John Herlig

##S/v Earthling as seen from the cockpit of Ave Del Mar in Port Antonio, Jamaica.

one,” I said, stating the obvious. “What do we have?” Larry shook his head toward the night. “These squalls came up out of nowhere. I don’t think we’re overpowered now, but we could be if one of them comes our way.” We were sailing under a doublereefed main and a nearly full genoa, a common, conservative practice for overnights on my boat. Night watches are

no time for stumbling around on deck in increasing winds. I like it boring. I reef before dark. Together we furled the jib. I switched the radar on to see if I could track the more active of the storm cells, hoping we could carve a path that would avoid the worst they had to offer. Ave plunged on through the night. Rains kaleidoscopically blossomed and faded. For the remainder of our trip Larry and