Day 33 — Voyage to Nowhere — Storm Tactics
Day 33 — Voyage to Nowhere — Storm Tactics

Bill Peterson

CATEGORIES: Captain's Journal


Log Entry : 18 Apr, 2020

Captain’s Journal:

Well, it’s been about ten days since the last post and it seems the notion that people are getting antsy to get things back moving again has taken hold.  This is a thing that happens when you’ve hove to in a storm for a while. When it’s bad and you’re in the middle of the fury, you’re glad as hell for the respite you’ve gained with the tactic.  It’s really not great, but it’s way better than bashing downwind under bare poles in danger of broaching and losing the whole game in a rollover.   

So for this imaginary Coronavirus voyage to nowhere, I’m drawing a parallel to my once upon a time experience one long day and night, three hundred miles offshore between Virginia Beach and Bermuda, hove to in a small wooden boat.

What was coming was unknown

Like this virus, we had hints from the cloud formations and the barometer.  I think I mentioned earlier this adventure was sans any of the electronic devices and satellite weather information we have these days.  

But there wasn’t a clear-cut prediction of what we should get prepared for.  No chance to try any tactical course changes–like the virus it was going to be its own new thing when it arrived.  

It was night watch with increasing winds and overcast, dark as pitch and indistinguishable from infinity two feet beyond relative security of the cockpit.  And then the leading edge of something came with its gale force wind. Like the country and this unknown virus, we were in danger of being overpowered.

Sails have to come down. It was the first time in my young life that I came as close as I ever will to knowing what it feels like to leave this world for another and unknown world. That bowsprit with the hanked on jib may as well have been on Pluto for all the connection it had to my reality.  Crawling forward, feeling for hand holds into black eerie bucking chaos turns out to only be a prelude to the unearthly to come. Legs locked around bowsprit in the roaring black limbo of driving rain, battling the gale for possession of the flailing Dacron, the only blinded clue was the sensation of falling that you were about to be completely submerged. 

The battle and the dunking went on for about eighteen hours in limbo time, likely more like eighteen minutes in cockpit time.  I did not want to do it, nobody did, but it was a thing that had to happen or risk losing our little thirty foot world and all hands with it.  I think that’s something like how the world was feeling when COVID-19 came down on us. For me at least, staying the hell home is like that. It had to happen in that moment.

I think there are some people in this virus storm who can barely handle the confinement

“Osprey” ~ After the storm

So hove to we’re riding it out, a tiny wooden world in a boiling caldron of mountainous chaos amid an onslaught of wind and wave. 

I don’t know how hard it was blowing, but it was damn hard enough that I sat in the cockpit floor waist deep in seawater and tied myself to the mizzenmast. 

There was a real threat of being washed overboard but my main mission was to keep guard on one of the crew who was so weary of the storm and delusional from seasickness that he kept trying to come out of the cabin and crawl overboard. 

I think there are some people in this virus storm who can barely handle the confinement. The loneliness and anxiety are hardly bearable for them, and they’ll take their chances overboard if given a chance. I get it.  

Unless this virus is a hurricane and we’ve slipped into the calm of the eye waiting for back eye wall to throw us back into the soup, this will begin to pass.  So when and how do you get back under way becomes the new question; you’re not just going to sit hove to forever, you’d just drift nowhere and die when everything runs out. 

As the real voyage storm passes we’re anxious to get back underway, to regain control, to make miles good on course. But you don’t jump till it’s abated enough that your rig can handle it.  It doesn’t matter how bad you’d like to.

Captain Doug Pollard ~ Osprey

So it’s a judgment call based on the stoutness of the vessel and mood of the crew. You can remain hove to till it all calms down to daysail around the buoys weather.  But by then you’ve likely been swept miles off course. Nothing stays static at sea.   

So that’s where I think we are today, hoisting up a deep reefed main and storm jib for getting the country back underway and the maybe the crew has varying opinions about how much canvas to carry and when to set sail at all.  What’s over the next wave will be an unknown, and we will be changed some from the storm, but Bermuda is that-a-way and that’s why a ship needs the captain: one as good as ours aboard the little wooden “Osprey”.

This is post #6 of the ~ Voyage to Nowhere ~ series of musings that began with “Quarantine Flag Flying” on day 16 of the COVID-19 shelter in place shutdown. The idea went something like this: What if I decided to imagine that we are on a crossing, a voyage say, across the Atlantic or Pacific instead of a lockdown. Pretend the dock and the other seven boats aren’t even here and think of it as a metaphorical “Voyage to Nowhere.” Hmmm … 🙂

Postscript aboard Colony II:  We finished the season finale of our off world adventure with the Star Ship Discovery last night and pronounced it well worth the watching.  


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Traditional sailboat anchored during a dramatic golden and blue sunset in Abaco Bahamas. The sailing Ketch Colony II off Powell Cay


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