Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Changing Your Mind: Never an Easy Process

2013 12 25
London, ON Canada

Here I sit before a nice gas fireplace, my tummy filled adequately with the best of all possible Christmas meals.  The comfort and sense of well being is enhanced by the collateral sounds of a successful family get together; my wife finishing up the cleaning of the house after dinner and the children and in laws all typing madly away at their laptops.

How easy it was to put ourselves here.  Once we understood.

On November 20, 2013 Connie and I left Santa Cruz de Tenerife headed for North America on our beloved sailboat Meredith.  Plan was to land in the Caribbean in time to be home for Christmas.  That plan did not succeed.

Our weather forecast was best described as indifferent and unfortunately it played out badly.  For the first eight days we had wind for only 36 hours.  Virtual calm held the remaining 156 hours in a narcotic pall.  After 8 days our progress was but 500 miles; on one of those days our distance made good was a mere seven nautical miles. 

Our eighth day began, as every day began, with the download of a new 8 day GRIB weather  forecast.  Reviewing the forecast  brought no warm comfy feeling.   Wind was indeed to come but from the wrong direction.  A lot of wind and no way to avoid the consequences.

Consequences we knew were not life threatening but did involve our struggling to make adequate headway and the struggle was maintained only with a tremendous outlay of physical exertion both from handling the boat in high wind and seas and in handling the rough motion created by that wind and those seas.   Checking our calendar it was clear that we would not be anywhere near the Caribbean in time to arrange a flight to Canada for Christmas.

While the implications of the weather forecast were clear it still took the remainder of a daylight day, granted only seven or eight hours at this time of year, to understand that not making it home for Christmas was unacceptable to us.  The thought process was fettered by native stubbornness.  We do not quit.

This time however it was vastly more important to us to be home for Christmas than to get across the Atlantic so we turned about.  It seems odd to us now that it took almost eight hours for us to see what was completely obvious.  In fairness we both did see it at different times during the day but we just never held the same view at the same time.  

During the day of dithering we did not make much forward way.  Day eight produced the same light winds we had enjoyed for much of the previous seven.

Once we both admitted to ourselves that we must abandon our plan it did not take long to act.  We swung the boat around and headed for the island of Tenerife.

As so often happens nature weighed in and commented on the correctness of what we were doing.  Concomitant with our turning about the wind picked up.  In minutes the daylong calm picked up to blow 15 then 20 then 25 and finally 30 on our stern.  This wind was on our stern but had we not turned about that wind would have been on our nose.  So too would the wind driven waves that quickly rose to accompany the wind.

It was bizarre.  After eight days sitting motionless on a dead ocean we were now furling our headsail, dropping our main and finally putting a reef in the staysail.  Once again we were a sailboat and a pretty lively one at that.

in the end we needed only four days to retrace the five hundred miles back to Tenerife.  We arrived in rain and fog with the wind still blowing twenty plus on our stern.  We were met on the docks by friends Stephen and Nancy Carlman from the Canadian yacht Fairwyn.  Life was good again.

In one day we had arranged long term stay at the marina and our flight home was booked.  We enjoyed a few days of cafe life and exploring the island of Tenerife.   Nancy and Stephen were stalwarts and a mainstay of our short sojourn in the Canaries.

 Later, we were party to a Ham Radio conversation in which our decision to return was discussed.  No one knew we were the people who had turned back.  The group agreed that what had befallen us was "tragic".  This determination was a bit shocking to us.  It seemed more comedy than tragedy to us and really the whole thing fell under the category of good decision making in our books.  

Good decisions are not without costs; they are good in spite of them.  We may be slow but we have few regrets.