So here I am once again sitting at the navstation typing away but this time I can easily use both hands. I don't have to grip the side of the desk to keep my seat through the sudden jerks and shifts, or fight the G-forces trying to pull me to the floor while struggling to maintain some level of coherent concentration amidst a maelstrom of activity as crew members come on and off watch then push past me to get to the head. In this quiet moment as I sit here all is stillness. I look up at the clock, It's almost five, it's the morning after our arrival. The crew are all sleeping, all of them, we are safely moored, nobody has to be on deck driving. We sailed into Falmouth Harbour like a triumphant Roman legion returning from battle with the taste of sweet victory fresh in our mouths. Our last day under sail, our final contest with wind and waves on this passage having been truly glorious. Earlier that morning, Giamma had been busy making his final calculations, it was his own personal challenge; improving his traditional seamanship skills. As he'd been doing the entire trip, working the numbers in painstakingly old school fashion, with pencil, compass, sextant, and paper chart. The work paid off, we sailed a perfect course right to the end.
Just after noon on our final day at sea, Andrea hooked onto a huge fish which in short order managed to cut his line and steal another one of his cherished lures. The excitement on deck was brief, I was sleeping below at the time, but when I emerged later the whole sorted event was immediately evident on Andrea's long sad face; dejected, he'd left his reel unrepaired and sitting tied in its holder; "we are too fast to fish..." We were just shy of eighty miles away from Antigua, Giamma assembled the crew on deck, and we gybed. With the change in direction, the mood on board lifted, we were almost there, we could all feel it. We had been sailing since we left Cabo Verde, we hadn't made way under engine for over two thousand miles, and we would keep sailing right to the last mile. The stopover in Cabo paid off, and with the Tradewinds in full play, we'd kept the mainsail reefed, but within thirty miles of our destination, the winds went soft so we hoisted the full main for the first time on this passage. Jonsi, who'd joined us in Lanzarote, looked up for the first time at the full main against its 39 meter mast, "Ah, ok then, I had been wondering why your mast was so tall and why the sail didn't reach the top!"
With our gybe and more sail, FG suddenly took off and we were flying again like an Italian bullet train. Then zing! I looked over to see Andrea had indeed reset his reel, and she was singing! We all knew whatever had caught up to us had to be fast, and it had to be big. Andrea, still smarting over the previous loss was certain this one would win as well but he none the less picked up the rod and began to fight. Giamma and crew quickly rounded us up into the wind, "He's taken too much line", Andrea said as he cranked away, "he is too far away". However it was soon apparent that Andrea was solidly hooked on to something very big indeed. Then, as he labored and strained to slowly bring the fish in closer, a flash of color streaked through the waves, there was no mistaking the bright glint of gold and teal green: Mahi. We all stopped breathing briefly as Pitiou jumped down onto the swim platform to help Andrea haul his well earned catch on deck: what indeed turned out to be a magnificent fish weighing nearly twenty kilos. Andrea triumphantly lifted his prize above his shoulders like a gladiator, gleefully grinning from ear to ear.
Giamma again took the helm, and for the next two and a half hours there was nothing in this world but the man, the sea, and the craft beneath his feet. A rare broad smile appeared as the wheel lightly danced through his fingers. We had winds 22-28 knots, huge swell, full sail and heeled hard...14, 15, 16, 17...our speeds just kept getting hotter and hotter but still Giamma's hands never changed, his grip never tightened, his long fingers floating delicately back and forth like a concert pianist's across the keys of his Steinway. His face was a portrait of both pure joy and supreme confidence. The setting sun painted the entire seen in gold, Giamma looked out to the horizon- "I see the land"..."Ho ho! Shouted Pitiou, "you know what that means? The first to spot land buys the first round!"
Entering the inlet under darkness, we weaved our way gingerly past the tall rocks that guard the entrance to Falmouth, through the crowd of anchored boats and channel markers to find Art waiting for us. He was standing at the farthest end of the peer waving a flashlight, he was absolutely ecstatic- "My boat! My crew! My captain! Hi honey!" We parked up stern-to next to SWS Blues. A very large motor yacht towered above us on the opposite side, she sparkled with a thousand lights, her numerous crew formally dressed in starched whites with gold epaulets, yet they all paused to watch us come in, one of the officers even came down to help us with ropes. Art called over to me, "How are you feeling? How was your trip?", I cheerfully answered, "Not bad, just a little 4500 mile sail from Palma, it was lovely!"
With the passerelle in place, Art stepped aboard and we promptly opened the first bottle of the evening. There were toasts, hugs, lots more hugs, lots of kisses, more toasts, then another bottle popped and dispatched, then we all went for sushi, where the chefs hauled out from the kitchen an enormous wooden boat filled with delectable goodies, a tropical feast fit for a triumphant legion just returned from the sea. With the last bits devoured, and yet another empty bottle floating lifeless in its ice bucket, the crew quietly drifted off to a nearby bar. Giamma, Art and I walked back to the boat and enjoyed one last toast from a bottle of fifteen year old rum I'd managed to squirrel away last season. A bottle that was onboard for last year's return from the Caribbean, remained hidden during the Med season, then completing its own circuit, it traveled with us on the passage home again. More hugs, another toast, but it was getting late so we said goodnight, Giamma paused to pull out his tobacco pouch, then he stepped ashore and strolled off into the darkness, the glowing tip of his cigarette following his stride as he took in the solitude, the quiet, the calm, the stillness.
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