A Woman's Place
04 March 2014 | Coco Bandero, Guna Yala, Panama
Dennis has left for a week in Maine. He has been part of an annual Men's Ski Weekend tradition, with the same great friends, for over 30 years. I believe he has only missed three of their gatherings, two since we've been on the boat. These friendships are golden, important to him, so he is making an extra effort this year to attend.
While I miss Dennis, I am embracing the solitude. Dawn here is so quiet and peaceful, awakening all my senses. There is a comforting sound of the distant rumble of waves. Gentle breezes blow, cooling my welcoming body, the boat gently rocks and I think of Mother Ocean. At night the sky appears endless, with more stars and bright planets then I notice back home. One night I saw the brightest meteor I have ever seen; a bright golden ball falling through the sky. Nature's beauty surrounds me. I am at peace.
There are many things to do while minding a boat alone. I have made
a checklist to keep track of the readings and subtle changes Centime may experience. My list looks like a marina work order: Check start battery - 12.45 volts; Check house bank - 12.7; Check amps -63, I will run the motor today; Check bilge -0 overnight but 8 for the week - I must keep a close eye on this; Check barometer 1035 and steady; Anchor light - off; Generator - not today; Watermaker - ran yesterday, I'll wait until Tuesday to run her again; AIS working; No GPS showing on the charts - how do I get it back?
Centime is a complex piece of machinery. As I go through the list it begins to dawn on me how much I have learned. This brings a smile to my face. This week I am the skipper, reliant on no one but myself. All is well. My confidence is growing.
With only one person on the boat the power and water consumption are much lower. To me that means I don't have to run the generator, or listen to it as often. It also means I can use a bit more fresh water, indulging just a bit longer in my all too skimpy showers. And, I can spread out in my cramped bed space. Yes, I do miss Dennis tremendously, yet a week without him is definitely okay.
After three and a half days alone, my girlfriend Lucinda arrives from Maine. While I am hesitant to give up my solitude, I am anxious to see her and try a sail with her. I have never skippered Centime without Dennis. This will be a challenge, and I'm excited to try. I have spent the past few weeks practicing, mostly trying to perfect my anchoring techniques, raising and lowering sails, and creating and uploading routes to the chart plotter in the cockpit. Of course I have sailed for thousands of miles, but I have never been solely responsible for Centime.
I awake early on Saturday morning. Lucinda is already up. I find that on the boat I often wake with the light of dawn and settle into nature's rhythms. We get the boat ready: check the oil, batten down the hatches and ports, check the route and chart plotter, get the anchor controls ready. I give Lucinda a quick lesson on driving the boat towards the anchor, using the gear shifter and avoiding the boat alarm which goes off when the anchor windless doesn't have enough juice.
Then we're off, without a hitch! The anchor is up. Lucinda has done a fabulous job. I take the helm and swerve us though a busy anchoring field of about 30 boats avoiding hulls, ulu canoes, swimmers and reefs, and head Centime to the open sea. I slow the boat and head her into the wind to raise the genoa and there surrounding Centime are about 10 dolphins. We ghost along with them. They are not as rambunctious as usual so I suspect they are resting a bit. It is a beautiful site, a good omen. I love the sea.
I have set the sails and we are flying along beautifully. We are sailing. Lucinda is smiling. Life is good. We sail 16 nautical miles to Esnadup, my favorite place to lie in the hammock. All goes smoothly.
Two days later we sail to Coco Bandero. Lucinda sings the song, "I am women," and we both laugh. Another day goes by and we sail back to Nuinudup. My confidence soars. I am now ready to commit to going through the canal next season and sailing to the Galapagos, and perhaps beyond. I am grateful and exhilarated.