If you’d asked me this question a few years ago, I’d have said the usual things: the dark, being alone, people who stare without blinking. You know, that sort of thing.
I’ve realised things have changed. My biggest fear now is the weather. This is not normally a land-based fear. Like I wouldn’t be sitting in the bungalow and worrying how windy an approaching squall was. I wouldn’t turn the radio off and get under the covers, or stare through the window with intense concentration. The neighbours might call someone.
There is nothing like sailing into a squall though. We have good radar – and it still doesn’t change anything. Except perhaps to enhance the inevitable. It’s 4 miles away, then 2 miles. Suddenly it’s in real time. The line of cloud, the sea colour turning from indigo to graphite grey. The Dorothy moment right before it hits; that the cloud is going to sweep us up and drag us into the tornado. Tap your shoes together. No place like home.
Dorothy isn’t wrong either – the wind does try to drag you in. We either move with it, trying to hold Quest at the same angle in relation to the wind, or we move away. The question of how strong the wind is before it hits, or how deep and long-lasting the squall is – well, we’re not that good. We’re still on guess.
I’m not normally the sort of person who sails their house into a storm just for laughs. I prefer a naturally secure spot. It’s in this Dorothy moment I berate myself. My inner dialogue goes something like this: ‘Your children are onboard for heaven’s sake. Are you crazy? And did you put the computers away properly?’
The moment affects us differently. I might fight the urge to squeeze under the cockpit table, but not everyone feels this way. Horatio for example, he loves it. He finds the squall thrilling. Lucky that. It’s in this moment that the Cap stands up. He takes the helm, peers at the sea and then at George’s control panel.
The girls have gone downstairs by now to avoid the rain. The cockpit cushions have been removed. We’ve usually furled the genoa in. All we have left is the hankie of main sail we fly as standard in these trade winds.. and increasingly our stay sail. This is our small middle sail that never used to point well, until we had it tightened in Martinique. Now it flies like a broomstick. It’s self-tacking too – with its own car, so you don’t have to worry about the unplanned tack or gybe.
That’s it. The boat’s ready. Kids are safe. Cap’s got it. What’s left? We have no control over the storm. The weather is going to do what it does. So open your eyes! I wish.