Well, that’s it, I am in home waters again and a winter of sailing aboard Pandora’s finis. Pandora’s voyage down the east Coast, to the Bahamas, around much of the coast of Cuba, back to Florida and then to CT is said and done and she’s tied up at the Essex Yacht Club for a day or two. And speaking of Cuba, which I have in nauseating detail for months now, if you haven’t noticed. Did you know that you can fit all of the islands in the ENTIRE Caribbean into Cuba and that island is still bigger? It’s huge, nearly 600 miles long and Brenda and I sailed the entire length of it and then some. You go girl!!!
I’d have to check my log but I believe that the trip put about 4,000 miles on Pandora this season. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, another lifetime though, when it would have taken me several years to make that sort of distance. Such is the grey and colorless life of the retired.
Anyway, it was some winter afloat but it’s done. This is the sight that greeted me as I passed the light at the entrance of the CT River yesterday afternoon as if to say “welcome home Pandora”. She too (if lighthouses are feminine) is showing a bit of wear and tear, just like me, Brenda and Pandora after a winter on the move. She still looks great, present company included. I think it’s safe to say that a trip like ours (Brenda’s and mine) was a lot like life in general. There are times when you say “pinch me, I must be dreaming, but in a good way” and there are others when something more akin to “I want to be home in my own bed. Waaaaaa!!!!” And sometimes, when cruising on a small boat, it really seems that the latter wins the day.
So, if you followed my, sort of, daily posts from Pandora’s passage from Florida back to CT over the last week, you got a taste of what passage making can be like. That run had something for everybody including the sort of moments that everybody should experience along with the sort of moments that everybody spends their lives trying to avoid. You know the “into every life a little rain must fall” things?
With so many experiences to recall from the winter and the monotony that comes along with a long passage, I began to feel like “OK, let’s get this over with” as we were near the Hudson Canyon, about 100 miles southwest of Montauk. And, by this point, my thoughts were turning to “just how long is the grass in my lawn?” with the experiences of the winter fading into memory.
So, get this! We were motoring along over an ocean so calm that it looked more like a windless August afternoon in western Long Island Sound than the “big bad ocean” that we had experienced just the day before.
I had decided to take advantage of the calm conditions to make a nice dinner of roasted pork tenderloin and a salad with some of Brenda’s great “Home afloat” made dressing. Me, Dave and Chris had just finished a nice cold beer and dinner and we were congratulating ourselves about what a great passage we had together when a few hundred yards off I spotted a humpback whale. I couldn’t believe it. Sure, we had seen our share of wildlife on this trip, including distant sightings of other whales and I close, if all to brief, encounter with a pilot whale, but I had not seen a humpback whale since our years cruising in Maine and NEVER had I seen one this close up.
I slowed Pandora and turned her around and headed back for a closer look. We could see that “she” and I’ll call her that because something that beautiful has to be a woman. And don’t get into the whole “Bob, it takes two to tango” and make more whales. Just go with me on this for now…
Anyway, as we approached her, and she was going nowhere fast, just lounging on the surface blowing bubbles. I cut the engine and let Pandora’s momentum carry us near. Then a lazy wave to Pandora as though to suggest “come hither”.She started toward us. Yikes! She’s huge and nearly as long as Pandora.“Calm down Bob, it’s fine.” Let’s all take a deep breath. The moment was absolutely still except the loud rush of air of her breathing. I can tell you that she was all alone with the “whole breathing thing” as Pandora’s crew wasn’t taking a single breath lest we spoil the moment. Showing her stuff, warts and all. What a sight. And just so, so close.So, after perhaps 15 minutes… And it felt like an hour as we gawked in wonder at the sight. She headed slowly off, literally into the sunset.Her tail gracefully and with complete silence…Slipped under the oil calm surface…And, she was gone…“Holy S%$#. Did you see that Chris, Dave?” Yes we did…
Dave, as I wrote in a recent post, had remarked that perhaps the best reason to make a passage like we did on Pandora, is to be able to have experiences that most will never see and I think it’s safe to say that seeing this whale, this amazing creature, is a perfect example of why I love being on the water.
And, the next time I find myself thinking “This totally sucks” when we are being pounded by a squall, I’ll have to remind myself of this amazing moment and remember that in life, when you come down to it, you just never know what lies ahead. And I for one, intend to make the most of it. So far, so good. Wow!
As I reflect on the experiences of our months afloat this winter, this brief encounter, in the company of one of God’s most amazing creatures, is a fitting end to a remarkable journey. And the next time you find yourself wondering “Are we there yet”, think again, as you may have already arrived.
There’s so much more to tell, and like it or not, I’ll be droning on and on about much more in coming posts, but perhaps I’ll just leave it there for now.
A fitting end to an amazing journey.But stay tuned. There’s much more to come, much more.
Next winter? The eastern Caribbean. Now that should be a trip.
Time to cut the lawn.
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