One luxury of cruising in this part of the world is that islands are relatively close together making for nice 4, 6 or 8 hour day sails in between destinations. Sometimes, however, we choose to sail a little farther - skipping over an island here and there - for whatever reason, usually in the interest of time. This means making passages that are twelve hours or more. Sailing with an infant/toddler definitely makes long slogs more difficult so sometimes we elect to sail overnight in order to make it as uneventful as possible. The baby sleeps, Scott and I adopt a three hour watch schedule so that everyone gets some rest and we reach our destination in time to enjoy the next day (albeit a little groggy).
Beacause our last overnight passage was so freaking awful, we were not super stoked (and dare I say gun shy?) about doing it again. However, being the conservative sailors we are, we decided (if we can help it) never to do an overnight in forecasted winds over 15 knots (you can almost always bank on 5-10 more) because being in weather during the night, exhausted, and with a baby who is either cranky, seasick or full of energy is not fun. At all. This is supposed to be fun, so we try to make cruising and sailing as comfortable as possible - but that's us.
Anyway, the other night we motor sailed from Martinique to Les Saintes in forecasted winds of 10-12 knots. We estimated the passage would take us 12-15 hours depending (currents in this area, if you catch them in the wrong direction can wreak havoc on speed over ground) and so we raised anchor at 6pm, just before Isla's bedtime, to ensure a morning arrival. Not too early, not too late.
I love a calm and peaceful night passage. Unlike some boats, Scott and I do not watch movies, shows or nap while we are on watch. Scott, in fact, is not even super comfortable with me reading my Kindle when I am on watch (though I do from time to time) and considers it bad for night-vision and a distraction from the task at hand, which is sailing our boat. It is the watch person's responsibility to keep an eye out for things on and off the boat, tend to sails, monitor conditions and constantly cross-check our position on our paper charts to make sure we're not veering off-course (we rely heavily on autopilot if conditions allow). This forced solitude and quiet offers the mind free-range to roam and wander. You are alone with only your thoughts for three whole hours at time - a rarity in today's world where distraction is so plentiful. Imagine, sitting still for one hundred and eighty minutes (or more depending on your watch schedule) in pure darkness with no one to talk to and nothing to occupy your time... This is a night watch. To some it's boring, to some it's a meditation and for others it's full of fear and anxiety. For me it oscillates somewhere in the middle, depending on the conditions and my mood.
The other night, in order to help pass the time I dusted off my old iPod, popped in an ear bud (leaving one out to make sure to hear the sounds around us) and played the soundtrack of the original London Cast Recording of my favorite musical, Les Miserables. Because I know each song by heart and the story is as familiar to me as Cinderella, it was easy to follow and envision. I sang along into the night sky, even shed a few tears during the sad bits, and was almost lulled into a trance by the sparkling waves along our hull. It was such a great way to spend the time, watching falling stars, following the phosphorescence in the water, all while listening to a beautiful story set to song.
The whole thing took about two hours, leaving the last hour to reflect on my thoughts which hovered between the past, present and future. We're on the eve of major change over here what with the impending birth of our twins (currently 22+ weeks preggo over here!) and moving back to land to accommodate this great change, so it was a *particularly* poignant - almost spiritual - passage for me.
The fact that it was calm, uneventful and peaceful? Even better.
Tonight we set sail for Antigua. I'm hoping for a repeat performance.