We are OF the * * STARS * *
After leaving Puka Puka, we moved somewhat quickly through the atolls, sailing over a thousand miles in two months with only four stops. Going with the trades was blissful after all the upwind miles we’d previously covered.
We could have waited on the parts to fix the windvane or autopilot somewhere, but rather I proposed it might be interesting to steer full time, having (thankfully) never had to do it. And seeing as there were two of us to share helm duties, it would be much more feasible than when I was single-handing.
I noticed right away that an obligation to steer let me witness more of nature’s magic. It wasn’t as if I never stared at the sea and sky when the self-steering worked, but I could easily be distracted. Now I was glued to the wheel, and an active participant in the scene, as I surfed Swell down the following seas. The waves flowed past the rudder, pulling the wheel right or left. I gazed out at the ocean panorama: ever-changing, ever-wondrous.
Day or night, there were marvels of light to behold…At every incline of the sun, the rays played on the water in their own exceptional way. Sunrise and sunset usually stole the show, but mid-morning’s fresh light uplifted, high noon’s radiance overwhelmed, and mid-afternoon’s bending yellows soothed and foretold day’s end…
Dusk had it’s own charm, too. Shades of gray lined the sky from horizon to horizon, while new stars appeared gradually, as if coming on stage. And when the last remnant of the sun’s glow disappeared, perspective shifted…we were suddenly sailing through the Universe! From horizon to horizon the heavens blazed in all their glory…Perpetual, Supreme, Infinite…
I’d cover the GPS and practice steering by the stars, aligning them with the masthead or halyards. Hercules, Scorpio, or maybe the Pleiades…the chosen star cluster of the hour would hover around the mast as I pulled the wheel back and forth. Cloudy evenings made it more difficult, temporarily hiding the celestial chart. I’d maintain our angle to the wind, checking the compass every now and then…When the winds were light, I might lay back and steer with my feet a while to watch for shooting stars. And If fatigue got too distracting, I’d wake Raiarii and we’d switch for a while…
Despite being rather exhausted, I loved that being present at the wheel for so many hours acquainted me with new-found subtleties of the sea. Plus, I felt closer to Swell than I had in all the voyage. Nothing seemed more effective in learning her quirks, than holding the wheel and letting her tell me herself! Constantly applying my mind to sea, vessel, and sky 12 hours a day, I came to appreciate just how intimately and intuitively the ancient Polynesian navigators would have known their seas.
In the moments where no guidebook or Google or a GPS can tell us what to do, we must blur the lines that separate ‘Me’ from ‘That’. We must Feel as much as reason…Listen. Be Present and Ready…Open and Humble. For the Voice within speaks to all of us, though it’s sometimes hard to hear in our distracting modern world. Nevertheless, it’s always there waiting to remind us that We are of the Stars…
kathy sweeneyFebruary 2, 2013
my hat is off to you sweet girl! i did the run from santa barbara to the marquesas and tahiti in 1995, in charlie dewell’s book kowabunga! your journey brings me back to that magical time in space!~ i look forward to your updates. kathy
DianaFebruary 2, 2013
You beautiful soul.
Steph SingerFebruary 3, 2013
Thank you for this beautiful message xo
Hoges in WAFebruary 3, 2013
As clouds go, that first one is superb. The right-hander looks pretty good, too. Good to see you’re having fun.
JerryFebruary 4, 2013
Laying on your back to watch the stars as you steer? I’ve got to try that next time I’m off shore. One of the situations I want to experience is a flat sea, and cloud and moon less night in a dead calm, I’ll stop the boat, let the ripples subside and watch the boat float in a bowl of stars. They say the water reflects the stars so it looks like you are floating in space. That and moon shadows of the boat over the bottom.
EricFebruary 12, 2013
I think the line between “we” and “that” may be something which exists solely in the human mind. If nothing else, that line can disappear in the best times surfing, when we find a perfect harmony with all the elements. Thanks for reminding me
krafthausMarch 11, 2013
Thanks Lizzy for writing such beautiful words. I read them aloud to my wife as we were getting prepared for bed. The description was so vivid that we felt like we could see what you were describing. We love to sail even though we can only do it a couple weeks a year, but when we do, we truly enjoy the beauty of the Sea. Fair Winds!
SonyaMarch 12, 2013
Beautiful post! You revel in your “swell” life and you can feel it in the words you write, the photos you take.