The intrepid, results-based consultant glanced at the compass in the binnacle. Easing herself to the leeward rail, she crouched behind the slot, between the spinnaker and the mainsail, and looked at the trim on both sails. Standing back up, she traveled the main to leeward, eased the mainsheet, and then eased the backstay.
“I need the pole back. I need a little more tension on the vang. I need some ease on the Cunningham”, she said.
“That’s perfect. Thank you.”
Slowly, the speed of the boat increased and its heel moved to a more optimal angle, as it came off the wind and settled into a power reach with the apparent wind slightly aft of beam. She heard the familiar squeegee of her Topsider as her left foot slid to the port cockpit wall to brace her stance. The balance of the boat, it seemed to her, was perfect, and whenever it was, it would just lock-in, and she could steer it – as big and powerful as it was – with just slight pressure on the wheel.
Like her dad, she loved offshore racing, the beauty of it, the danger of it, the moving chess match of strategy involving wind and current, the satisfaction of grinding infinitesimal increases in boat speed over time. She loved closed-course, too; the tactics, the geometry, the energy, the close-quarters, the competency, speed, and decisiveness demanded by constant change.
Racing or not, she loved sailing at night. She loved sailing, period; the equipment, the materials, the tinkering, the combination of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, the immense-yet-silent power of sail, the idea that you could get something this big and heavy moving through water this fast, with nothing more than wind and Kevlar.
But, more than anything else, she loved the environment, “creation recreation” – the sunrises, the sunsets, the salt spray, the remoteness, the vastness, the anchorages, the places only reachable by water, the sea life; the unique moments she had experienced, like being becalmed and swimming in water more than a mile deep, so clear that, from underwater, the hull of the boat seemed suspended in air.
Checking the heading on the compass once more, she looked up and searched the dark sky just to weather of the masthead. She found that constantly steering to a compass at night was too artificial, too consuming, too disorienting. She preferred to steer to the stars. Finding what she wanted, she settled in for her shift on the helm.
Sailing this far offshore, the loom from Sarasota was still faintly visible behind them, the loom from Ft. Myers and Naples more distantly visible to the south. She steered the course of 210 degrees towards Cabo San Antonio and the Yucatan Channel beyond, still two-days-sail away. She remembered her dad’s description of navigating this race a generation before, the dead reckoning on NOAA charts, the Loran tables. Nowadays, it was all GPS display. But, the basics never changed. Leave Tampa Bay, sail south until you hit Cuba, and turn right.
It always amazed her how many stars were visible at night, away from land.
They were like millions of eyes.
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (II Chronicles 16:9).
“The eyes of the Lord”, she thought to herself.
As she looked into the sky, and pondered the sheer majesty of all creation, the indescribable beauty of this world, it seemed to her that the Lord of that creation . . . the Author of all that is good . . . the Lover of her soul . . . was always looking right back at her.