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Lunarcy and symphony…

I was in two minds whether to split my journey to Oeiras, near Lisbon, in two. Eventually after a heated debate with the crew – and some quite robust words – I decided that discretion was the better part etc. and I would break the passage up at Peniche.

Leaving Figueiro was the the usual cross current panic. I did of course make it look like I was in full and complete control. Who would care at 0800 UTC on a grey Wednesday morning. It was 2100 by the time I got to Peniche. There was a large swell running in towards the coast and it was absolutely black. The start of the longest lunar month and a New Moon. For those who were not paying attention to Patrick Moore, a New Moon is in fact virtually invisible. That’s right, a black Moon, in a black sky. I began to hear Morgan Freeman asking me in that chocolate caliente voice why I “had” to go into a tiny crowded marina in the pitch black?; why did I “have” to stumble around putting out ropes and fenders while the boat behaved like a merry-go-round horse?…why indeed. I thanked God and decided to turn back out to sea and carry on through the night to Oeiras. I reefed the main, took in the genoa and thought if I could just go slowly I could miss the lobster pots and avoid fishing boats with minimal effort.

Night Sky 14 Oct - 3

Within about an hour the sea was subdued to a flat calm. Occasionally, the breath of a sleeping Neptune rippled the surface. A light mist materialised as the temperature dropped and above the mist an inky black sky glittering with stars. I just stood gawping. Not caring to keep a look out. If this vision; this enormous creation was the last thing I saw it would be a fitting last scene. I looked around to check out my knowledge of constellations – its a fruitless but necessary game to play.  The sea was lit not by moonlight, but by starlight. The light of Sirius, the dog star, hanging off Orion’s belt. I was making way, very slowly, due South, with the brilliant light of Sirius in the South East lighting up the sea to my left, while to my right it was just black on black. My speed had dropped to 0.7 of a knot. But due to the current I was actually drifting in the right direction and thankfully not towards the coast which was conveniently flood lit by starlight. I decided I would just let it be. Why not spend the night right here? – Morgan agreed with me.

I start my routine that I had last used crossing Biscay. Radar on; AIS on; collision alarms on; iPhone stopwatch set for 30 mins. I go below and microwave one of the boxes of “mince surprise” that I had made and stored in the little freezer. Every time the stopwatch sounds its 30min warning, I pop my head up outside to look around. For the first few hours, I find myself going up, and staying in the cockpit, gently breathing the cold misty air, listening to the silence. Perhaps it is the sound of clapping as a Gannet, disturbed by the boat, runs along the water trying to reach take off speed. Perhaps it is the splashing of a thousand fins as a entire shoal of fish come cascading past the hull, silhouetted in starlight and sea spray when they leap for joy, as they evade the fishing boats some miles away on the horizon. Or simply, it is the sense of privilege that overwhelms me. I have a front row seat to the magnificent creation that is our beautiful planet floating, as am I, through the infinity of space. I dare not take my eyes off the scenery or the cast. I hold my breath, imagining a celestial oboe and heavenly baritone combine to underscore this perfect symphony.

The occasional fishing boat comes by, but not too close. The radar and AIS confirm another sailing boat virtually stationary about 1/2 mile away. I snooze in bed in the aft cabin, keeping to my 30min routine. It’s surprisingly easy.

4 comments to Lunarcy and symphony…

  • John

    Once, during an exceptionally clear sky, I pointed out Orion to a very elderly lady I knew (I`m talking about an octogenarian+, NOT my own trouble and strife!). She responded by falling backwards off the front door step…… some people can take the romance out of anything……..

  • Gary

    Experiences like that are what we remember on quiet nights when we think back on our lives and hope it was all worthwhile.Mind you keep that fly spray handy,those little bleeders have no poetry in their soul and can spoil even the most transcendental moments

  • That’s sounds like a perfectly idyllic experience, i am soo jealous. Oh and by the way, I hope you catch a fish supper soon xx

  • Stuart

    Don’t be turning into Ben Gunn!
    I didn’t know that Morgan knows much about sailing either.

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