1993 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
27º10'N x 17º14'W
15 January, 1993
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