Christmas at Sea
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.
They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.
All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.
We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.
They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
'All hands to loose top gallant sails,' I heard the captain call.
'By the Lord, she'll never stand it,' our first mate, Jackson, cried.
… 'It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,' he replied.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.
And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.
~-Robert Louis Stevenson
Wind: WSW Average 11.5 kts, gust 16
Current: ebb North Hill 1425
Start: west of GLP 24
Course 4, s/f-WMK-s/f, 1.1 at 255
Race Length: 4.3 nm
Crew: Adam, Brian, Dan & RW
We had a descent start near the committee boat slightly ahead of Jolly Mon with Merganser to our lee, though JM had a bit more speed on at the gun. Eventually as Jolly Mon began stretching out to windward of us, we took a port tack to get out of their exhaust.
Instead of a short port tack for clear air we chose to continue for a while. Shortly thereafter Jolly Mon tacked to cover us, and after extending a good bit Cosmic tacked to cover JM. Our rounding & hoist was smooth with a jibe to port a couple of minutes later.
Cosmic & Jolly Mon rounded the leeward mark well ahead and continued out on port. Our windward douse was smooth a little short of the mark, with a good roundup to port in a lot of traffic, so we chose for a short starboard for clear air but again continued out on the clearing tack rather than return to our previous tack.
Cosmic & Jolly Mon extended far enough on port to weather west of Seaflower on a long starboard to the windward mark. We benefited somewhat in the current lee on the east side of Seaflower and had a good set at the rounding of the mark, with a jibe to port sooner this time. I don’t believe we could have done anything significantly different either downwind; maybe jibed sooner to port on the first.
Left side favored on the first upwind, though the right appeared favored on the second evidently from the performance of the leaders. On the downwind, we failed to discuss our strategy for the next upwind. We should be much more hesitant about continuing on the clearing tack without very good cause.
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