“Towards Isla de Mujeres”

(originally published on Escape from Averageness in July 2011, under the same title;  republished here, as part of our retrospective Above Average: The Best of Escape from Averageness, 2009-2012)


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.  Checking the Windex at the masthead, she put the small LED beam on both sails, and studied the trim.

EFA - Isla de Mujeres Race

Extinguishing the light and standing up, she traveled the main to leeward, eased the mainsheet, and then eased the backstay.

“The pole needs to come back”, she said, as she went through her trim progression.  “The main needs some work.  Give me some ’vang.  Ease on the downhaul a bit.

“Yes, the cunningham is a clever pig”, she mused to herself.

“That’s good.  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;  whenever it was, it would just lock-in;  it could be steered – 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 mayhem of starts, the competency, speed, and decisiveness demanded by constant change.  She had raced all kinds of boats, from Olympic-class 470’s, to J-24’s, to the larger IOR-class boats like this one.

Racing or not, she loved sailing at night.  She loved sailing, period;  the equipment, the materials, the tinkering, the maintenance, the combination of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, the immense-yet-silent power of sail, the idea that you could get something this size moving through the water this fast, with nothing more than wind and Kevlar.

But, more than anything else, she loved the environment of sailing – 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 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, and, frankly, too disorienting.  On a clear night, she preferred to steer to the stars, with only an occasional reference to the heading on the compass.

Finding what she wanted, she settled in for her shift on the helm.

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 210 degrees towards Cabo de San Antonio, still two-days-sail away.  She remembered her dad’s description of the navigation of this race a generation before, dead reckoning on NOAA charts, Loran tables.

Now, it was all GPS.  But, the basics were the same:  SPYC, under the Skyway, Southwest Channel past Egmont, then the long sail southerly to the western tip of Cuba, turn right, across the channel between Cuba and Mexico (at times flowing almost three knots out of the Yucatan Deep), to Isla de Mujeres.

Definitely a current race.

She looked back up into the dark sky.  It always amazed her how many stars were visible at night, away from land.

They were like eyes.

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those 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 and indescribable beauty of this world, she reminded herself that the Lord of all creation . . . the Author of all that is good . . . the Lover of her soul . . . the One Who has pursued her through all space and time . . . was always looking right back at her.