I am up early and prepare for the voyage. I put on sunscreen, put on my hat, put water beer, suchi, onigiri into the icebox and clamber into Dileas. I both forgot my camera and to bring sunscreen. Turquoise lagoon, deep blue sea beyond the reef, sky er blue but not so blue as the sea beyond the reef, sun a mixture of pale yellow and white but imbued with much power. The sea is warm, the air is hot and there is a gentle wind coming offshore.
This is what I have been waiting for! In how many long meetings has my mind strayed to what I am doing now? I haul up the mainsail and jib and let go from the mooring and turn so the wind fills the sails. This is a very magical moment as from flapping of sail and instability of boat, motion begins. The moment a sail fills and the boat takes life and knifes across the lagoon under perfect control, is so beautiful it stops my breath. Over the reef we go and at the junction, I hang right to go north on East China Sea Highway 1. There is no traffic.
The wind freshens and we charge along with Dileas throwing up noble pure white spray from her bows.We heel and I get scared as it has been sometime since I sailed in earnest. I decide to go about just for the sake of it. I let go the jib sheet, push the rudder over and move to pull in the other jib sheet but of course it has become entangled with boarding ladder. The boom is lashing back and forward until a gust of wind catches the sail and throws it over my head. Now the sail is pushing the boat over in the direction that my huge bulk is sitting on. The other side of the boat rises up, water starts to pour in on my side, sail clatter, sheets fly, all is lost. Well, not really but it was hairy for a while. When I had got everything back under control I realize that the beautiful hat, which I bought in San Francisco and of which I had since become very fond, had grabbed this opportunity to escape and was now trying to find its way home.
On I go and before I know it I have made the island I am to invade. The landing beach is however hidden behind various reefs and the wind is coming directly towards me. Much tacking and manoeuvring is necessary before, feeling very proud of myself, I drop anchor in one of the most beautiful places in the world around here.
As soon as you stop sailing on the wild and wistful ocean you realize that it is very hot. My nose fries and I flop over the side into the world of fish. I check my anchorage and feel bad. No matter where you drop the anchor, there is coral and the chain is bound to do some damage. I promise to slaughter a young bull in penitence and set off snorkelling. Amazing scenes that you will not see as my underwater camera is on my desk at home. I rise to the surface and hear a stalwart fisherman bellowing at me. I turn my head to see Dileas drifting out toward China. Holy Cow!
I set off swimming after her. Luckily I have fins but even so, by the time I catch up to her I have almost lost the will to live through old man exhaustion. I had assumed that the anchor rope had been cut by coral abrasion but it turns out that the rope was fine but the knot attaching the rope to the chain had come undone. This difficult to fathom as I have been tying bowlines since Mr Pritchard taught them to me whilst oiling my body for photographs. Just goes to show that when boating, something will always go wrong.
On my way home with badly rigged reef in mainsail
Time has come to set off home. I reef the mainsail, unnecessarily it turns out, elegantly lift the anchor and experience the same thrill as the wind transforms Dileas into a thoroughbred. We slice off over the reef into deep water. The wind has kindly changed direction and all the way back we are on a broad reach, a very comfortable way to sail. We surf over the waves that are now going in the same direction as us. I twice silently creep up on turtles. The second is snoozing with her back to me and does not see me until she is amidships or like level with the boat. Oh Okinawa! Her escape is of course delayed by the flying fish that always get in the way.
I get home in no time but just keep going down to Cape Zampa, another couple of miles down the coast. I check on the Black Browed Terns and then turn around to beat back to the bonny anchorage outside my house. All goes well until I get very close to the mooring. It is so shallow that I have to raise the center board. In so doing I drift hopelessly in the very light wind. I have to go about and come in on a different angle. After a couple attempts I pick out the mooring and we are home again without ever having used the motor. Hooray.
This is what I have been waiting for. Eheu!
Tomorrow is typhoon time. Never a dull moment.
Pritchard – there’s a memory! Love the British sea-side head apparel – shame about the hat. Sounds like a decent sort of fun. Enjoy the day off – presumably in the sheiling!