Thursday, February 15, 2007

As I was saying
(continued from yesterday)

The night swallowed up the freighter, and I continued east toward Michigan. Although a short journey, I was feeling the fatigue of many long nights at the hospital. This was not a good way to start a vacation. My enthusiasm had over come my judgment, and what I needed was sleep.

With my family asleep below, I did little mental exercises to stay "alert". There were few stars to see, just the red glow in the compass housing. I again played the game of where I would see the next light and when it would appear. As dawn approached, I predicted that I would see the fixed light on the Pentwater pier directly ahead, but only after seeing the light house on a prominence south of there. At the predicted time, a light swung around, but it was dead ahead and not off the starboard bow where the light house should have been. I checked and, unless the compass had developed a tendency to lie, I was on course. But, then, the light house couldn't be dead ahead. The light swung around again.

Okay, just assess things. Get the timing of the light and see which one on the chart matches up. First there was a 15 second pause between flashes, then a full minute. And, wait, it wasn't flashing. I could actually see it going around, from my left to right...odd. I closed with the coast, which ever coast it was. I knew the entire area was sandy and that I was unlikely to hit anything hard. The cockamamie patterns of lights continued, sometimes with a pause of minutes. Then, as first light appeared, I took up the binoculars and had myself a good laugh.

I was, in fact, dead on, and it was clear we would enter the break water with little or no adjustment of the helm. What had I been seeing? UFO? Hallucinations? No. You see, there is a road running east-west along the canal that leads into the harbor and, it seems, cars were driving along it to its end and then making a u turn. Their route took them straight toward us and, in turning, their headlights gave the appearance of a light house.

In each encounter (the boat and the cars), I had been right on course and where I was supposed to have been. But fatigue had turned this little 12 hour crossing into what, in retrospect, was a comedy of misperceptions. All I had to do was trust my instruments, in this case my compass (and I told this second part without digressing).

Paddle safe...

1 comment:

Michael said...

Great post, Dick! I've never made a long night passage, but have played in fog in the days before GPS off the coast of Maine. More than a bit un-nerving to say the least. I suppose these events are a good test of one's self-confidence. A person gains great insight into who and what they really are!