Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Trust your instruments
I really learned the meaning of that statement while breaking the sound barrier in an inverted dive in an F-105. (I was in the back seat...but I digress) had started to roll the plane, but flew into a cloud before completing the maneuver. I took my eyes off the false horizon and came out of the cloud upside down and heading toward the ground. Disoriented, I pulled back on the stick which only caused the plane to go into a steeper drive and the pilot to break into uncontrollable laughter. In any event, something just as confussing happened on Lake Michigan:
I had started out tired, and that was a mistake. The idea was to leave Milwaukee around sunset so that the Michigan coast would be reached in early light. I was at the helm of my 42-foot Hans Christian cutter with the family asleep below, and I judged we were about half way along our 85 mile long rhumb line. As a way to keep me alert, I estimated how long it would be until I picked up the light at the entrance to Pentwater. I decided I had about 5 hours until the light would appear right over there. That's when a light rotated...right over there. That wasn't possible.
I took out the binoculars and was amazed to discover a city just off my starboard bow. The "lighthouse" came around again. Consulting the charts, I calculated that I was in the middle of the lake and, in any event, there was no light house with the characteristics or timing of this one. How could I be so off course? And where the hell was I? I remembered the sage advise heading this post and tried not to panic. I was tired and thought that I might be hallucinating. The light went around again. Then I felt a strange vibration in my chest and throughout the hull. I took up the binoculars once again.
To make a long story annoying, I can tell you that it turned out to be a monstrous Canadian ore boat, and we were on a collision course. The captain, apparently seeing me on radar and unable to pick up my small navigation lights (bless my radar reflector up in the rigging), was spinning his search light around to make his presence known to the blip on the radar.
I jumped below to the control panel and flipped my spreader lights on and off to illuminate my sails, the returned to the wheel and made a clear turn to starboard to allow the ship to pass ahead of me and to make my intentions clear. Then I sat in awe as this city-sized monster passed in the night. Her deck aglow, men were at work...some riding bicycles to traverse the length of the boat.
My calculations and dead reckoning had been right on, but the test of my beliefs was not yet over....(cont'd tomorrow).
Paddle safe...

1 comment:

Michael said...

Ya! I love serialized adventure blogs!

I've just started reading 'An Emarrassment of Mangos', an account of a Toronto couple's trip on a 42 footer to the Caribean and back, so night sailing is on my desk at the moment!