SpinSheet Magazine June 2020

Page 43

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Sail for 20 Hours and Aim for the Cliff By John Herlig

##Local fishermen in Île a Vache,


Two buddy boats make a nerve-rattling entrance at night into Haiti.


he anchorage had been a good stop. I was in south Man Of War Bay on the west side of Great Inagua Island in the Bahamas, where Ave Del Mar and her buddy boat, Still Free, a Compass 30, had enjoyed protection from those trade winds that whistle in from the east. Their captains had enjoyed a good night’s sleep while en route to Haiti. First light found me busied with my departure, with oatmeal and coffee and the straightening and stowing that has to happen for a comfortable day. The last of the morning dishes were done and stowed, and the tanbark main was high on the mast as the anchor came up, hand over hand, pulling out of the soft sand with a silent sigh that I could feel through the chain. I was underway again and underway is always good, but it comes to me hand-in-hand with a nervous anticipation that hangs in the air like a sniff of lavender on a morning walk. Every departure should be this way, I reminded myself. Complacency

gets no berth on my boat. Nerves mean I am alive, thinking. On task. I had to make about four miles of west-southwest progress to reach my mark at 73°44’ where I would bear south and sail off for the great unknown of western Hispaniola. Ave was unhappy with our start as we rolled through an awkward swell under a quiet morning breeze that found itself dead on her stern. Every passing wave swung us like a metronome. The genoa filled with a snap one minute only to fall limp or attempt an unassisted gybe the next, so I made my way forward and wrestled the whisker pole into place, none happier with the boat’s motion but much relieved at the taming of the sail. I leaned back against the high combing of the cockpit and braced myself first this way and then that as Man Of War Bay fell all too slowly away.

The morning winds gradually built, but I was resigned to the likelihood of another slow, clumsy sail as the early morning crept along. When we finally hit our waypoint I pushed the tiller to starboard. Suddenly Ave sprang to life like a startled thoroughbred, picking up speed and sending the leeward toe rail down for a saltwater rinse. The whisker pole returned to its lashings on the deck with the swell comfortably on our port quarter, and life turned on a dime. We were sailing. We were passagemaking. We were headed for Haiti at breakneck speed. Glory sailed with me that day as mile after mile of southward progress sliced effortlessly past the hull. Behind me, my Uruguayan friend Aldo on Still SpinSheet.com June 2020 43