So many things are lost when we busy ourselves with “civilized” lives on land; so many great, though simple, pleasures can be regained by spending time on the sea. There, we quickly shrink to humble proportions amidst greater forces: the wind, waves, and tides. On one magical overnight passage in the Caribbean, these elements harmonized, treating us to a memorable ride.
Having cruised our sloop Namani for several months among the Windward and Leeward Islands, my husband Markus and I were indeed aware of slower or faster passage times due to tidal effects as we island hopped. However, those trips all followed a rough north-south axis and the effect felt more like leeway than a tidal pull. Then, toward the end of the season, we turned Namani due west from Anguilla and followed the setting sun toward the Spanish Virgin Islands on the date of Markus’ birthday. And what a memorable birthday it was! Like a guest at a surprise party, the moon first hid below the eastern horizon. We revelled in our downwind sail, literally into the sunset, with a gentle, following sea. As the sun disappeared ahead, the full moon rose behind and started its gradual climb overhead. We thought our night passage couldn’t get more beautiful than that – until the moon reached its zenith and started its descent toward the western horizon. Without any change in the steady force 4 breeze, our speed began to inch up. Namani was being towed by the moon ahead. With few man-made distractions on this clear, perfect night, we imagined that we could directly feel the moon’s power, not as an abstract, but as a perceptible force. Namani glided gracefully to the west, the waves weaving her into a single, celestial tapestry with the stars arching across the sky.
Despite plans for alternating watches, we both remained awake throughout most of the night, sharing one of the great highlights of our year long cruise. With dawn, the moon continued its journey below our horizon while Culebra rose above it; there, we could drop anchor and savor the lingering taste of our night time feast of the senses. So much for the coffee mug I had given to Markus for his birthday! His best gift came from the moon: an awe-inspiring ride on the magic carpet of the sea.