White flecked water surged from midway under her hull to be deflected away in an outward 'V'; the grey waves delicately topped with lacy swirls that coalesced and receded in a silvery wake rolled beneath her flattened hull. Beneath these slate grey waves, centreboard and sharply pointed bow, cut through the surface layers, adding a musical sound track of hisses and gurgles to the embroidery above. The rhythmic rise and fall as hull lifted over waves and leather clad spars creaked and squealed against mast were the final percussion to her melodic symphony. Arwen was moving, a slight leeward tilt, her sails full, a steady 4.5 knots.
Her rhythm and soundscape can induce a hypnotic tranquility, both a blessing and a curse. They can induce a sense of calm, peace and serenity into which the unwary can fall, soothed, carefree; a timeless period of relaxation and spiritual inner ease. Slumbering in tranquility lowers a sailors alertness to the real dangers, the rising winds, the unexpected gusts swooping down from unseen valleys hidden by headlands to slam into hull and sails like a giant unseen malevolent hand; the rocky outcrops marked by wasp like cardinal marks, their bells and horns unheeded by the stupefied.
As early morning stretched towards midday, that lull was a real danger. Arwen sped along at a consistent 4.5 knots, powered by the steady NNW breezes. It was too easy to cleat the main-sheet, set the tiller tamer and trim the sails so that she sailed herself on a steady course; to lie back against the coaming, feet on the thwart opposite and survey out to far horizons where grey sky and sea meet; to ponder on the meaning of life and one's place in the great multiverse.
But on this day, her skipper was alert to these traps. He knew the coast, those swooping winds, the reversing deadly headland currents. And although he thought about reefing, he didn't; for the winds were steady and the gusts easy to spot as they scudded across wave tops darkening the sea and wrinkling its surface. And so he attentively trimmed sails, kept hand loosely on tiller and main-sheet and scanned the windward horizons. His eyes flickered a regular course - luff, leech telltales, course ahead, compass, windward horizon. His body astutely tuned itself to the changing motions of sea and wind.
He never did master the sail trimming bit. He never does! The physics and mechanics of which string does what to which part of a sail confuse his brain. But he catches the gusts well, his compass course remained true and his pilotage ETA's along the coastal checkpoints were pretty much bang on.
On this day, he was happy to settle for that.
Well it looks like it will be a life long learning curve, one he will never quite seem to master! And, shock, horror, he's pretty relaxed about that too!