Feb. 18, 2011-Remembering the Indian Ocean
This Indian Ocean passage had been going on for a couple of weeks and was nowhere near over. Each morning, as we came on deck for our watches, we surveyed the sea around us and saw the waves extending all the way to the horizon, topped with white foam and blown by the never-ending trade winds and it was hard to fathom the vastness of the ocean. The scene never changed day after day.
And it wasn’t easy sailing.
One morning, the duration of the passage having started to weigh on me, I went onto the very bow with a book and my music player thinking I could relax and pass some time, but I couldn’t relax and I didn’t stay long; the noise and motion and tension of our progress through the water was simply too intense up there and it soon drove me off.
We were flying across the ocean with the great pressing power of the Southeast Trades coming constantly from behind and huge white topped swells from the south passing endlessly under our keel. The stern would rise on the front of the swell until we were pointed straight down into the trough, then, as the wave lifted us, slide forward with a roar until the crest passed beneath and the bow, 10 feet in the air, and I with it, pointed skyward, poised for the next drop into the trough and the next mad surge down the next front, nearly burying itself again, then rise up and repeat that process on the next wave, and the next, and the next; carrying us forward at a mad and unrelenting pace with every line and spar and square foot of the hull straining and each of us in the crew feeling it all and hearing it all and wishing it would ease off a bit.
But it didn’t.
I could have slowed down too, but I didn't. We were making good time and we had a long way to go and I pressed onward. There is something that drives me to put miles on each day.
The waves were at an angle and they threw us to the side and the wind vane, half a step behind and working overtime to keep up, yanked hard on the tiller on each wave. At the extreme forward end the swerving of the boat was exaggerated and threatened to toss me off into the sea, or maybe the rudder would simply lose it’s grip and we would spin out of control, as we certainly must if ever we got a bit too far off course, into the wild flapping frenzy and chaos of a round up and knock down, crashed onto our side in the boiling sea, spilling the air from our sails and maybe spilling ourselves too. God only knows what damage we’d suffer in that event. It was a fine edge we walked and the disaster was always close by and we knew it. I dreaded it. If it happened while I was on the bow…I couldn’t imagine it.
I gathered my belongings and made my way back to the cockpit. There was no relief from this passage other than achieving the destination, and that was a week away.
It's not surprising that this image of our Indian Ocean crossing is the one which sticks in my mind but the funny thing is, as terrible and stressful as it was at the time and still is when I remember it, the memory compels me and makes me think about the next one. I want to put myself out there again.
Why I don’t know.
Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in October 2010
Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Mauritius