It’s the heart of summer. I say this as a big storm is set to hit. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds, bags of rain, huge waves. Half a hurricane. Oh well. Today is set to be a calm, clear day, the proverbial calm before the storm. What will we do with this time? Hedge up the sea defences? Hide the garden furniture? Nope. We’re going to the beach.
I guess it’s odd to be wary of the wind as a sailor. Still, the wind on land and at sea are two very different things. So they seem.
The wind at sea is a means of travel. Both necessary and desirable – strength and direction being it’s players. After being on Quest we all come back shouting. ‘Why do you shout so much?’ my aunt asked me once. Because. Of course! The wind is passing through us all the time.
When we’re at anchor, Quest points into it. When we’re sailing, she tries to swing into it – I never realised until we got her. Sailing is a constant negotiation of pulling the boat out of the wind to just the angle you need in the direction you want to go. All good in theory, right?
Then there all the nuances. When you sit for long periods sailing – and when I mean sailing, I mean putting the autopilot on and watching its ghostly hands steer – you are free to observe. To feel the wind. You tune into its very components: the subtle changes and small gusts. You’re there when the wind suddenly changes direction or a squall hits you like a clap of thunder. On land, you leave the house and maybe stop to feel the wind before you get in your car. At sea, you live by it.
I’ll never forget a boat called Hullabaloo. We first met them in the Cape Verde Islands. We were both about to cross the Atlantic and had to pull in because of a freak hurricane. Sailing down from the Canary Islands, we weren’t caught in the hurricane per se but felt its effects. The sea was huge for two days. The line on the horizon was dark blue even though we were sailing in sunshine.
Hullabaloo did the same thing and parked for a couple of days in Mindelo. A posh and cheery bunch they were. The husband remembered our names and kept repeating them in conversation. I’m embarrassed to not know his. I reckon I could recognise them though by their indomitable, mustn’t-grumble style. They were a good bunch to leave with at the same time, although they sped forward in their Oyster and disappeared. I think they were a couple of days faster than us, crossing the Atlantic in 12, rather than 14 days. We did have kids and a dog.
We saw them next in Antigua. We were both heading to Green Island, a cluster of reef on the eastern side of Antigua. Still learning the pattern of trade winds in the Caribbean Islands, when we got to Green Island we quickly learned – it’s windy on the eastern side. Luckily, reef separated us from the waves. We took refuge behind the island for shelter. Hullabaloo meanwhile anchored in the most exposed part.
I remember speaking to him. Wait – David! Haha! ‘Why are you anchoring out there, David?’
He turned to me. I’ll never forget. ‘I like the wind in my face,’ he said. It is a certain type of person. I swear.