Dreams at Sea

At sea I remember my dreams; at home I rarely do. Awakened frequently by a new sound or unexpected movement of the boat, I pop to attention with a dream still running in my head. I have to; my world floats just above the surface.

On a recent delivery from Charleston, South Carolina, to Tortola, BVI—eight days, but it felt more like sixteen—we pounded east and then south through the Bermuda Triangle in a relentless watch pattern of four hours on, eight off. Rough conditions, an unfamiliar boat, two other guys I barely knew (they turned out to be consummate professionals). At the end of a watch I’d duck below to dry off and attempt to snatch some sleep.

It’s 0300. I’m off watch. The stove is banging against the hull, echoing like a hammer on a piece of metal. The genoa luffs as the Beneteau 40 rounds up, then heels over as the jib catches the breeze again. After three days of this, fatigue knocks me out like a concussion, and I finally drift off for an hour or two. Then it’s all hands on deck again. I was just dreaming about having a cocktail at Salty Mike’s; it was ladies’ night, and I remember every detail. Crisis over, I head belowdecks and try to tune back in.

A boat delivery isn’t always fun. We have a schedule, and that means going fast within the safety constraints of the boat, the crew, and the sea conditions. Sailing most of the time with a double-reefed main and jib in 25 knots of wind, we average 165 miles a day. Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve spent years of my life planning and preparing for this sort of adventure, and now I feel that I’m experiencing the best of life’s challenges: I get to sail a brand-new boat 1,600 miles with little more than two tacks.

This I didn’t dream: sunsets and moon rises; bioluminescence in our wake; a moonbeam lighting our way; Venus shining bright in the eastern sky; a 6-foot blue marlin, caught and released. Sailing at night, in complete darkness, the boat bombing into the abyss with only the GPS as a guide—it’s one eerie feeling I will never forget.

I remembered my dreams: family and friends and loves lost. And I was living the dream now.

Dave Welch, a new father, has new dreams now. He crossed the Atlantic with his brother, SAIL writer Dan, and Dan’s wife, Liz, on Daq’ Attack.

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