life after 50+

Published by dhoiland on

There is a place in the Kruger National Park in South Africa where one can sit and overlook the savanna. I do not remember exactly where in the park it is, but it is north. Further north than most tourists venture.

It is 200-300 meters above the savanna and it is a great vantage point. I have been there several times to savor the savanna.

It will not give you anything for free. You have the vantage point and the savanna at your feet, but it reveals itself only to the discerning participant. Yes, participant. Participant, not observer or tourist. Participant as the savanna transition from the heat of the day to nightfall. You have to get there some hours before sunset and sit.

First you listen with eyes closed. Listen to the sounds of the savanna as the heat of the day declines, the shadows stretch east and the sounds of the savanna change. You hear the wilder-beasts snort and getting nervous, the baboons quieting down from their endless fighting and seek seek for the few trees around, you hear herds of buffalo start to move to the waterholes and the zebras move closer together to give protection for the night. Protection in large numbers prevail.

Only after you have an image in your mind from the sounds, you pick up the binoculars with the speed of a tai chi practitioner. Gently clean the lenses, adjust focus and find a comfortable position to sit for a long time. To look and to savor more. Enhanced, refined and detailed, your vision enrich your hearing. As you look, you listen to the sounds from what you see. Now you see the wilder-beasts moving and the zebras closing rank.

As the sun gently set, you hear new sounds that guides your binoculars, and without any premonition other that previous experience – you hear the lions waking up. Soon the sun drops and you are back in the darkness relying on what you hear. If you then sit, what you hear is like flashes of light. A soundflash as a baboon still fight, a soundflash as wild boars scare the zebras and a soundflash if any of the big cats have a successful hunt. Then you remember Kruger closing time and hurries back to Olifant.

This was my reflection in the middle of Biscaya as the sun set on our third day out from Dublin. The boat had just been thrown 90 degrees out of course and I had to sit and steer for a while to get back in control. I find manual steering calm things down. Calms me, calms Theresa and Vetle that was trying to sleep and calms the boat. The B&G slapped a steady 55 knot in my face and the waves put salt on the lower shrouds 10 meters up the mast as I clipped my lifeline in and got ready for some hours of work. Steering in these conditions is Tai Chi and not really stressful. It is the art of tango with the wind, waves, sails and boat. Balance. Little little, nudging at the right time makes the boat ride the storm with the grace she was designed to.

Escape turned her stern to the waves and sped up. I played along and started to surf down the waves making sure we were not thrown off or crashed into the bottom of the trough. One cannot tango without hearing the music, so I pulled down my hood to hear the breaking waves and thus ‘see’ the waves behind me. That, together with the feedback from the steering was sufficient for me to guide Escape through the stormy waters.

Hun, why are we going to Kinsale?’, Theresa asked me. Our plan was to continue to Kinsale from Dublin but we had been struggelig with to find a weather window and favourable tides. It was obviously – in theory – to get a good angle on the wind going south to Cape Finisterre and beyond, but checking the navigator proved the question right. Why? Distance was pretty much the same, the head tidal current the same, so why not just go. The crossing from Dublin to Vigo (Bayona) is about 700 nm.

We found our weather window. There was a small low moving in from the Atlantic to Biscaya, but we planned to go north and west allowing the low to pass south and east of us. That would leave us with wind on our stern and a comfortable ride. Small became big and low pressure became low low. We hit it pretty much smack on.

Occasionally looking over my shoulder I was stunned with the beauty of the breaking Atlantic waves high above me. Some Escape gently rose above and put under her stern, but then there is the one that insist on breaking high above and fill your weather gear with water.

It is like time suspends and everything slow down like Keanu Reeves dodging bullets in The Matrix. That is when the Atlantic waves reveal it beauty to the discerning participant. Participant. Not observer or tourist.

You see the beautiful colours. First you see the deep Atlantic blue. It is different that any blue you have seen. And then, as the wave rise above you light changes and it turns gradually green until you can see the setting sun through the crust as the wave turn white. The green is only there for a second before it turn white and fills the boat with water. Warm Atlantic water.

The sun set, Biscaya turned dark and I plugged in my ipod that holds all my music. Steering with my legs while browsing what to put on. Hard Rock would be suitable, but I was not in the mood. Astor Piazzolla could do ‘Tango de amor’, but no. I found the ‘salsa’ and just let it play random. Marc Anthony came to the rescue ‘ valio la pena‘….. I put Monique to work, unclipped and went downstairs to have something to eat. I would still be a long ride.

After riding the low from east to west through the eye of the storm, we came out right. Escape is a gentile dancer, Theresa a trooper that do not give up easily and Vetle – he will get it. His eyes were glued to the window looking at the waves – ‘look at the waves papa‘. I did, with respect having learnt the diligence the ocean requires.

So, life after 50+ knots of wind is good. Escape can handle it. We can handle it. It is avoidable and we will continue to plan our crossings using the forecasts to have safe and comfortable crossings.

Categories: why