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Night Sailing on Delfina

Updated: Dec 1, 2018

November 17, 2018


One more long run and we would make it to Fort Pierce. We left at 05:30 and the wind was blowing directly behind us at 10-15 kts. And so we motored, with the smell of diesel drifting into the cockpit. Seas were 7 feet and following. We had to hold on at every moment and brace ourselves to avoid being thrown around. We kept changing course slightly in search of a better angle across the waves, but we didn't want to lost too much time. Finally at 15:30, we went off course to 140 degrees so we could  pull out the jib and gain a modicum of stability. The east wind that had been forecasted never materialized. We listened to the rest of our book and to podcasts––"On the Wind"and “On Being."


We were determined to reach Fort Pierce by the following day. The night was long and uncomfortable, with rolling seas, and light winds behind us. We spotted a few dolphins, which always lift our spirits, and we sailed past miles long schools of purple jellyfish. After midnight, the wind finally moved to the east and quickly to the southeast, which allowed us to  put up sail. I slept for a long stretch, but lightly, as Christoph flattened the jib, and eventually furled it when the wind came around directly in front of us. I went up on deck sometime before 03:00, after we had passed Cape Canaveral, and Christoph went below to sleep.


I could see the cruise ship “Disney Dream” on AIS; it was on a course of 320 degrees heading toward Port Canaveral; we were heading straight south at 180 degrees.  The ship was causing along at 18 kts to our 7––it looked as if it would pass safely in front of us. Garish blue, red and white lights of the cruise ship came into sharper focus off the port bow. I stood at the helm, prepared to change course if necessary. I expected that the captain would hail me if he had any concern, but as a sailboat, it is incumbent on us to stay out of the way of any commercial traffic. “Disney Dream” moved across my bow at a distance of slightly more than a mile. Then I noticed the white steaming light of another cruise ship making its way towards Port Canaveral. It was the Enchantment, 1,000 feet long and motoring at 14 kts. Eventually, she passed behind me. I love having AIS!


Starlight shone through occasional breaks in the heavy cloud cover and moonlight reflected on the waves like long silver fish swimming below the surface. Watching the rise and fall of the sea is mesmerizing. I had spent the entire day staring at the tongues of building waves curling towards our gunwhales, bracing myself as they heaved and pitched Delfina with violent jerks. When sailing on a long haul, the power and beauty of the sea stun me into a settled silence. Christoph and I can sail for hours without exchanging a word,  completely attuned to the rhythm of the sea, and each other. Alone on deck, my harness clipped  into the cockpit sole, I feel safe, even with no land or other boat in sight. Sailing alone, I feel myself embraced by the natural world, belonging to it fully. 


As the lights of the channel receded, we were surrounded by sea on all sides. I studied the electronic charts from time to time, scanned the horizon for other vessels, and listened to Bach violin concertos. Christoph awoke before we reached the wide channel to Fort Pierce. The clouds became heavier, and a steady rain fell. With Christoph at the helm, and the rhythmic sound of rainfall, I wrapped myself in the sheets and slept for several more hours. 


We approached the channel at 09:00 and made our way in. In the shallower water, the Atlantic turned a shade of deep turquoise green and my hair frizzed in the humidity. We called the Fort Pierce City Marina, which had a fuel dock, but still considered the option of anchoring for easy departure the next day. We passed beneath the Fort Pierce bridge at low tide, noting 66 feet of clearance on the tide board––a piece of cake. We hailed the marina and tied up on its fuel dock. We took on 120 gallons of fuel, filling each of the 3 tanks. The marina could put us at the end of a dock so we could leave easily in the morning. We decided to stay; we could take showers and walk into town.


After salads at the harborside restaurant, Christoph was ready for a nap. I wanted to stretch my limbs and  feel the solidity of land beneath my legs, so I decided to walk through town and find a food market. 


Living aboard a boat requires a constant level of physical exertion. There is a lot of bracing, climbing and crouching––into and out of the cockpit, up and down the companionway, into and out of the dinghy; hoisting gear at every turn. We have electric winches for furling the sails, but Christoph likes to furl the jib by hand, which takes an enormous amount of strength. I like to make full use of my  yoga practice, as I move about. When I awaken, I lift my legs into a Happy Baby pose on our berth, roll onto all fours for cat and cow pose, arching and rounding my back. I push back into Child’s Pose. Holding onto the shrouds in calm water, I practice balancing poses, like Tree and Dancer. I squat in supported Malasana when I remove  lines and fenders from the deck lockers, and. stretch out along the cockpit seats for Pigeon Pose. Although I signed up for a free trial of YogaFlo, a website recommended by one of my yoga teachers in Lambertville, there hasn't been time for an extended session of yoga. Instead, I create my own version of boat yoga, which keeps me limber and in alignment.


I walked through town, and stopped in a cafe to ask directions to the nearest food market.  A server told me there was a Sav-A-Lot  about ½ mile away. I set off on Indian River Drive and spotted a woman in a blue polo shirt and white shorts, just ahead of me, walking along purposefully. I thought she might be a fellow boater, and quickened my pace to catch up.I asked her if she knew the way to the market. Sure enough, she was headed to Publix, about a mile away. I figured I would stick with the closer market.


As soon as I walked down the road away from the marina, I became confused about which way to turn. Was I supposed to cross the causeway bridge to Route 1? For some reason, I couldn’t get any of the GPS programs on my phone to work. I got back onto Indian River, and could see KelliAnn walking briskly along the waterside road, about 200 yards ahead of me, so I decided to follow her.


The walk  along the waterfront was lovely,the intracoastal shimmering on my left and stately waterfront homes on my right. There were no sidewalks, so I walked facing oncoming traffic, and stepped onto the rough St. Augustine grass along the roadside whenever cars passed. Every house had its own waterside dock, but it seemed that all of them had been destroyed during one hurricane or another; many were in the process of being rebuilt. I passed by the Old Fort park, the site of a burial mound that contained human and other remains of the Ais native people, who lived in this area between 1,000 and 500 years ago.





The Florida sun was hot; I had brought no water along, and could feel myself getting dehydrated. KelliAnne had disappeared from sight. I approached a gardener and asked him where to turn for the Publix, and he told me to take a right at the next intersection. Savannah Road wound through desolate, sandy and overgrown lots, traversed by two sets of train tracks. I wondered whether it was safe to be walking through here alone. Soon a car roared by, with three teenagers hanging out the windows.  One of them cursed me, but I was relieved that their car kept on going. I suddenly spotted a large turtle walking on the other side of the road in the opposite direction. For some reason, this sight made me grin and my anxiety melted away.


I came up to  a road construction crew and was told that Publix was up ahead on the right. I  turned onto busy Federal Highway, and passed all the usual chain stores. I finally caught up to KelliAnn at the entrance to the Publix, about ¼ mile further. She had no idea I had been following her, and felt terrible that she had led me on a two mile trek, because she had missed the turn. I offered to share an Uber back to the marina, but she preferred to walk.


I bought some food and took an Uber back to the marina. Christoph had cleaned the decks and Delfina sparkled. We made dinner as the sun set, sipping white wine as we devoured cod sautéed in butter and capers, with broccoli rabe that I had bought at the market. We were both physically exhausted, and soon after 8 o’clock, we decided to go to sleep. 

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