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Story by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tales


© 1993 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


Above me the masthead tri-color sways in rhythm to the seas, scribing an arc from Orion's Belt halfway to Pleiades. The Canary Islands aren't yet a hundred miles astern. Three thousand nautical miles ahead, across the Atlantic Ocean, lie the West Indies, and Sparrow seems to know it. Wing & wing, she spreads her sails in silhouette against the night sky and, like her namesake, she flies! Six and seven knots before the prevailing northeasterly, the breeze a paradigm and promise of the true trade winds farther south. Now this is sailing!

Suddenly we're among friends. Dolphins appear all around us, one of them announcing the nocturnal visit with a loud belly flop alongside the cockpit. Because the sea here is alive with bio-phosphorescence, the dolphins are made luminous - greenish-white wraiths streaking beneath the ebony surface, leaving sparkling trails like comets' tails as long as the boat. Several dart forward to surf the submarine pressure wave created by Sparrow’s fast forward motion, dazzling in their speed and grace.

Now all's quiet aboard, aside from the creak of a sheet block and the whoosh of the bow wave. Alone on watch, I revel in the solitude. Indeed, I often cruise single-handed, though more by accident than inclination. However, for this trans-Atlantic passage I have crew, recruited from the docks of Gran Canaria. Both are asleep belowdecks. Hamish, a 29-year-old New Zealander and a toolmaker by trade, knows his way around the deck of a sailboat and has a penchant for fixing things. The young English woman, Kate, has sailed less but she learns fast. Kate says wonderfully British things like, "Would you fancy a cuppa' tea?" the last word stretched into three syllables by her singsong pronunciation.

Our company is completed by La Rosa Española de Sevilla, my little Spanish terrier, curled up in the quarter berth. Rosa and I found each other on the streets of Seville more than two years ago. Since then she has sailed with me to Turkey and back. She probably doesn't realize it yet, but this crossing is to be her longest non-stop passage ever and, at its conclusion, her first taste of the tropics. For me, it'll be a homecoming.

I wasn't born in the tropics, but I've spent a lot of time there. For years I worked full time as a Caribbean charter and delivery skipper, and later I cruised around quite a bit with my own boats. "The Islands" became much more home to me than the northern climes of my childhood. 

But now I've been away nearly three years, voyaging in Europe and the Mediterranean. Since I left the tropical trade winds the sailing has been disappointing, so much so that I confess it has diminished my enthusiasm more than a little. Not for cruising, but certainly for cruising in bad weather. Blame it on too many gales, calms, cold fronts and headwinds.

There were hurricanes nipping at our heels as Sparrow and I departed Bermuda. We out-distanced them, but tropical storm Eduardo thrashed us soundly off the Azores, and my crew jumped ship as soon as we got into port. Next, a damp, chilly winter living aboard in Spain cost me my fiancée.

Then, in the Mediterranean the sailors warned there's either no wind at all or way too much. It was a forecast that proved to be discouragingly accurate for the two summers I spent sailing there. This fall, almost all of the 2,000 nautical miles from Greece to Gibraltar was a cold, hard beat and my new mate decided the cruising life wasn't for her and flew home. I found an enthusiastic Dutch crew in Gibraltar, but a nasty winter gale off the Moroccan coast so terrified her that she abandoned ship at the first Canary Island airport. Weather weary and single-handed yet again, I was beginning to dream of moving into a cozy log cabin in the woods!

Ah, but tonight I'm homeward bound at last, running down the trades towards a distant tropical isle, and all my past tribulations fade in memory. Sensing my mood, Sparrow spurns her theoretical hull speed with a burst of 8 knots. Not bad for a small, laden cruiser!

A crescent moon has risen, canted now among the stars and a few cotton clouds. The wind's freshened a bit, but I'm not going to reef - not yet. This is just too wonderful! Tonight, after three years, I'm finally going home!

Tor Pinney
Aboard Sparrow
27º10'N x 17º14'W
15 January, 1993

~ End ~

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