Sailing yachts never stop moving. EVER.
As I’m sitting here – while very securely anchored inside the San Juan harbour in Puerto Rico – Shang Du is gently rocking. It would have been nearly undetectable, if not for the ringer on our brass bell that is moving slightly to and fro.
When the movement is this slight, you can easily imagine yourself back on land and forget for a moment where you really are.
But….. only for a moment. That is all it takes for one motorboat to ‘rock your boat’ in their receding wake. This is nearly always unexpected and mostly unwelcome – especially if I was busy with some delicate operation like pouring oil into a bottle. Ask anyone in my family – It is not a pretty sight to see the Mom rocked like this.
While anchored, we have an ever-changing view out of our portholes. The wind is always shifting, even if it is predominantly from one direction. Shang Du is very sensitive to this change. She will always move until the wind is again on her nose. Next time that you see a flock of sailboats, notice how they are all facing the same way.
As Shang Du turns I can see the land moving past my porthole. For the first few months on the boat, this always gave me the heart-stopping feeling that the anchor was dragging. But, now that I’m an experienced sailor (1 ¼ years), I know that If you wait for a few moments, the scenery will come to a standstill and start slowly moving back.
Many times I have started cooking while absentmindedly watching something out of the porthole. As I turn to rinse my hands or just turn my back for a moment, the same porthole will have undergone a complete change of scenery. It used to disconcert me a bit, but now, like Shang Du, I just turn my nose in the right direction and slowly but surely re-orientate myself.
When we are not at anchor and we would like the miles to fly by, we cause Shang Du to do some deliberate movements. The ‘tilting to one side’ or the ‘tilting in all directions one after the other’ movements.
The ‘tilting to one side’ one is not so bad. It generally means that the wind is from the side and that Shang Du is leaning away from it. After a while we adjust quite nicely as we learn to do everything a little skewed. It does make a difference, though, what side we are leaning to. The refrigerator with its normal door is impossible to open when all the goodies are jammed up inside the door just eager for their liberation onto the tilted floor. We have done some amazing gymnastic feats here – with one child (or maybe more) ready to push stuff back, while the mom is frantically trying to remember where in the fridge the item we need is, before giving the signal.
The ‘tilting in all directions one after the other’ movement is really, REALLY hard. This happens in big swells, wind generally from behind. This was true of most of our crossing of the Atlantic. This is the kind of movement that causes one to be seasick for the first three days until you adjust. The movement where coffee and tea is made in the sink with the cups wedged with other stuff. Where it takes a five person team to get one cup of coffee safely up to the cockpit from the galley.
Where you quickly learn that something was not securely packed away because of the crashing noise coming from down below. Where you are always straining for that ONE big move when everyone has to cling on for dear life. When you try and sleep with your body aligned with the length of the boat, so that your bodily fluids only have to travel the short distance from side to side and not all the way from head to toe.
The best sailing movements, are – of course – in flat seas and strongish winds. Where we just seem to be effortlessly gliding along. The wind in our hair and the miles being eaten up quickly.
And then, the sheer stillness of a yacht at anchor after days of hard sailing……… mmmmmm, really good. We are always commenting on how things are not falling around any more.
One last thought on movement. At anchor, sailing boats do not ALWAYS lie in the same direction. When you find them all facing their own way, it could be due to a complete absence of wind or the fact that the underlying current is stronger than the prevalent wind. This is something to take into account when you choose an anchor spot. If another boat does not swing in the same way you do, you could swing right into them. Fortunately for us, Shang Du is a steel boat……..)