|Pulling Out the Stops|
Part 3: The sea and sky were black
By Tim Clark — July 2002
Even the most companionable seamen can grow reclusive and laconic when they have to withstand foul weather for a long while. But a good crew matches stoical endurance with light hearts when mild seas return. On the Nordhavn every interval of calm following a blow was an arrival at a milestone, determined arbitrarily by the capricious pattern of the weather yet greeted by the crew with high spirits and satisfaction.
No matter what the conditions, the four of us often crowded into the wheelhouse to banter, but time alone aboard a 40-footer primarily designed for two was surprisingly easy to come by. On nice days the cockpit was known as the Vanderbilt Deck, because anyone who unfolded a chair and sat there to read inevitably took on an air of gentility. Another man would often stretch out with a book or a laptop at one of the saloon settees, while, because of the watch rotation, a third was usually napping in a stateroom. The helmsman's best lure for company was the computer, where e-mails to wives and girlfriends could be cached for the twice-daily transmission by satellite.
But often enough, and especially at night, we stood our watches alone. My last night watch was southwest of Sardinia, in wide-open sea 100 miles short of Mallorca. In anticipation of our landfall the following day, we had already put up a Spanish courtesy flag. A few days earlier we'd passed close enough to towns on the Italian coast to see along streets that spilled down the hillsides. Not being able to stop caused heartache, and now the lowered Italian ensign folded on the wheelhouse table was like a token of regret. The chartplotter and radar were blank. The sea and sky were black. We could have been anywhere. I started scrolling through shortwave frequencies, idly searching for the BBC. Radio France Internationale, Radio Tunis, Voice of Greece... One by one the languages and music set alight points of reference in every direction surrounding our microscopic position in the center of the Mediterranean, "the sea at the center of the world." Finally I came upon precise, staccato, Castilian Spanish--Radio Exterior de Espana--and 91 nautical miles away, at 267 degrees magnetic, a beacon lit in Palma.
Pacific Asian Enterprises Phone: (949) 496-4848. Fax: (949) 240-2398. www.nordhavn.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.