There is this phenomenon in sailing that happens on just about your third day of an ocean crossing. The evening of day two you will usually be sitting, looking back at where land used to be, wondering just what the heck you were thinking when you decided to come out here in the first place. The boat’s rocking has become annoying, the meals are hard to fix, and the weather is cold and windy. You really start to have doubts about your sanity!
And then comes day three!
It is in about the third day when you enter “Cruise Mode.”
Cruise Mode is a state of mind not dissimilar to hibernation. All of a sudden everything kinda goes into its own time zone. The days actually seem to get a lot shorter. It is about here in a voyage where you start to adapt to the time schedule of a cruising vessel. You know, watch schedules, meals, stuff like that. It all starts to go into automation.
On the dawn of the third day you are usually thinking “What the heck was I thinking? It’s only been two days and we got another two weeks until we get back to land! Am I nuts?”
Then you awaken on day four. Magic has occurred! You sit up on your bunk, and all of a sudden the annoying rocking and rolling has turned into a comforting sway. You don’t even notice how your body adjusts to the swells and the heel of the boat. It seems natural.
You grab a cup out of the cupboard and pour a cup of coffee. The day before you spilled it because the %^$%$#!! boat wouldn’t stop moving! Now you just swing the cup to match the motion. You don’t even notice you are doing it.
As you leave the cabin and walk topside you hear a cheerful voice, “Good morning, sleep well?” The person on watch is glad to see you, because now they have someone to talk to after a few hours alone with their thoughts, enjoying the dawn.
After awhile you grab your book and stuff a beanbag chair against the mast, making a comfortable nest, and drop your body into it. Soon you are lost in the world of literature. Occasionally you’ll look over the top of your book, and just stare out across the blue water, letting your mind drift to a hundred pasts and a hundred planned futures.
Your reverie will then be broken by someone shouting at you to see if you’re hungry. It’ll take a few seconds for you to figure if it is supposed to be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Remembering it’s breakfast, you walk back to the cockpit, and enjoy the company of your crewmates, and some easy to prepare meal.
Soon, you’ll find yourself back in the beanbag, probably checking your eyelids for holes (sleeping!) when it’s time for your watch. After awhile you start looking forward to watch. Little rivalries develop, like seeing who will cover the most water during their watch, or what wildlife will be spotted. Whales, dolphins or sea birds, and of course, the real prize, when a fish is caught!
The days start to run together. Trying to remember when something happened on a crossing becomes a real game. Actually, trying to remember what day it is becomes tough. You know you are lost in Cruising Mode when you can’t remember what month it is. Then you have entered Nirvana, a true cruising paradise.
By the end of a crossing you can’t recall over half the days behind you. They just seem to run together. On this crossing to Hawaii (see story, page 38), as we entered Hawaiian waters we didn’t want to stop. We kept sailing for another 120 miles, past The Big Island, past the beautiful island of Maui and its old whaling capitol, Lahaina, and on into the channel between Maui and Molokai.
We sailed past the old wreck on the coast of the Island of Lanai, and felt the pull of the trades as we entered the Molokai channel.
Sailing on a downwind broad reach, we watched huge humpback whales jumping out of the water with what only can be pure joy of living. We wanted to do the same.
The truth of the matter is, you have to experience a little bit of hell to truly enjoy the bountiful gift of heaven. The trials and tribulations of a long voyage are directly balanced on the end of that voyage by the feeling of accomplishment that fills you.
You put the last sail tie on, pull the sail covers in place, and pull into the harbor that signifies the completion of your voyage. It is here that you will understand why sailors, for thousands of years, have left safe harbors,and challenged the sea!
Bob’s “Attitude” articles first appeared in Latitude and Attitudes magazine and can also be found in either The Sailing Life or Starboard Attitude books.