Polaris on the cap shroud

Virago Caribbean

In addition to being on the Navigator Publishing staff, Charlie Humphries is an avid sailor and frequently does deliveries with Richard and Carol Archer on board Virago, the 100-foot Swan they captain. He recently sailed as part of a crew of seven on a delivery from Antigua to Newport, Rhode Island. In this blog post he decribes a night watch offshore:

The moon has yet to rise and the night is dark which makes steering a course a bit challenging. There are so many stars in the sky, but it is still tough to judge which way the bow of boat is moving when you cannot see the horizon. The answer is to find a star to steer by. We are now headed nearly due north so dear Polaris (The North Star) is the brightest in the sky ahead. One simply positions the star in relation to part of the boat or rigging and keeps that relative position the same and voila you can steer a very good course without having to chase the numbers on the compass. I have just come off watch and used Polaris for the past three hours. I kept Polaris just to the right of the cap shroud (the wire/shroud that goes from boat to top of mast (also called the cap).

In addition to the northbound helmsman's friend Polaris, I also saw three brilliant shooting stars and picked out Mars, Venus and the instantly recognizable parallelogram of Orion. The moon should be rising soon but I will be sleeping. I go back on watch at 4:30 AM and will have the pleasure of steering though a sun rise, which is always a treat. We are anticipating another beautiful day. The wind velocity remains about the same 15 knots with gusts under some of the clouds to about 20. The wind has gone right (more southerly) so we are now broad reaching which makes steering a little more difficult but fun. Up in the light, down in the puffs. The boat is so powerful and fast and exciting to sail.

Life aboard ticks along in good fashion. Steer, keep watch, come off watch, rest, read, do a bit of work, eat, wash up, email loved ones, talk about the weather, look at charts and weather gribs, sleep a bit and start the process again.

The sailing past 40 hours plus has been tremendous. We will have another lovely day tomorrow then some stink (rain, squalls, lightning, wind from bad direction but not too strong) for 12 to 15 hours on Friday. It can not all be fun in the sun and lovely nights. The foul weather gear will be donned and we will be reminded of mother nature's indifference to our likes and dislikes.

At times boring, at times exhilarating, it is a simple and basic existence where weather rules and we do our jobs to keep the vessel and ourselves safe and moving in the right direction.

Richard and Carol are doing a marvelous job, spirits are high and we will have run off about 500 miles in 48 hours when I finish my next watch at 7:30 AM. Not too bad.

By Ocean Navigator