ithin the vastly simplified omain of a boat at sea at night, we’re treated to adven- tures, sensations, and secrets that relatively few people ever experience. Anyone who’s been aboard a boat underway, between dusk and awn, far from the lights and loom of modern life, knows that night crossings are one of the most delightful aspects of owning a boat. Even with the added skills and precautions neces- sary to enjoy it (see sidebar), a night crossing is one of those “life list” milestones that will not disappoint. Long-distance sailors have told us for cen- turies that night sailing is a playground of the mind, a place where imagination soars. Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the world in 1898, had his spectral Spanish pilot who came to him in the odd hours and con- W
versed on all manner of nautical
subjects and philosophy. Bernard
Moitessier, the beloved French
solo sailor and truth-seeker, wrote
beautifully about his apparitions.
Even the hardheaded contemporary British writer Jonathan
Raban reported internal “
discussions” with long-dead mentors
and relatives as he wandered the
darkened waters around Great
Britain in the 1980s.
You don’t need to be a well-known nautical writer or mystic
to encounter unexpected dreams,
memories, and reflections during
a night crossing. During my first
overnight sail down Long Island
Sound, alone at the helm for
hours at a time while my shipmates slept, I recalled long-forgotten conversations and events
in astonishingly minute detail.
Even with the lights of navigation aids and other vessels to
keep track of, my mind danced
to long-forgotten moments —