Sailing in the Smoke

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Sailing in the Smoke

Postby GreenLake » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:58 pm

(This post is an adaptation of a story published in the "DaySailer Quarterly" the free newsletter for all of you who are DaySailer Association (DSA) members. Go on to register or to access your member benefits - note: forum and DSA site use separate registrations, although you may reuse user names or passwords if you wish, you must register separately for each).

Last spring and summer brought many changes to the way we sailed, or where, or with what crew. The weekly beer can regatta disappeared from the calendar. “Socially distanced” sailing meant doing the loop around a series of fixed marks and taking our own time. We learned to sail with masks.

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Sailing with mask
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That came in handy when the world erupted in flames. Well, not the places we sail, but other places, hundreds of miles distant. The smoke didn’t care. It came for us, settled like a gray dome everywhere.
It stole our horizons and hid the sun, but gave us eerie pink sunsets.

As we were to find out, the masks we had been wearing to protect us from the invisible virus proved woefully inadequate to deal with visible smoke. Masks used for painting and sanding did much better.

Equipped the best we could we drove to the launch on a nearby bay. Or, where we knew the bay used to be: there was still a shore, and a ramp, and parking, and water. But all around everything was swallowed up in the haze. Nothing on the horizon in any direction. On the beach a group of houses, flags flying, had acquired the same look of clearly defined varying depth as you normally see with distant mountain ranges.

As we set sail, the land disappeared behind us, getting milky faint until it disappeared and we found ourselves in the middle of a circle of water, our world having shrunk until it was contained in a uniformly gray dome, with a solitary bright spot where the sun used to be.

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Sailing in the smoke
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I don’t know who of you have seen or remember the movie “The Truman Show” where the entire world of Truman is encapsulated in a single sound stage. This was nature’s equivalent.

We had picked this day and this bay because the air quality values promised to be slightly better than at home the days before, and with the right mask it was fine to be outside.

Our splendid isolation was rudely interrupted by a whale breaching close to us. Always exciting when the size of the whale exceeds the size of your boat!

With moderate winds, we sailed on. With the smoke came a lack of thermals, so we never got a sea breeze. After a while there were ghostly hints of trees ahead in the distance. But which shore? We never found out, as the wind weakened the closer we got and wouldn’t let us sail the remaining distance

In the end, the dual cloth masks crew was wearing couldn't keep up and that meant we had to get back indoors, so we retraced our course by the compass. As the far shore dimmed, the beach around our launch ramp emerged, and with every tack, gained more contours and solidity.

All in all, a memorable adventure — even without the whale sighting!

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A gray whale - we think
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