My First Night Shift at the Helm

When I was just a beginner sailor, I joined a group of enthusiasts taking a course in sailing in the Adriatic. After a detailed briefing with our instructor, an old seafarer with around the world sailing experience under his belt, we took provisions and made a schedule of duties.

The first two days, I was in charge of navigation and mapping out the chart, as well as helping out with the food – mainly during daytime and evening. The third day of our remote islands sailing trip, I was supposed to take over the helm and do the night shift from Mljet to Palagruža. I was so excited to have a chance to steer the sailing boat towards the remotest Croatian island! The night was bright and clear, with fair and favorable wind. The perfect conditions for a smooth and safe sailing…

As soon as we took off, I received the heading and memorized the bearings, pertaining to some lighthouses. I was so delighted with a clear view of the stars on the horizon, contemplating about the beauty and greatness of nature. From time to time, I would take a look on my bearings, making sure that all the lighthouses were at positions they were supposed to be.

Most of the time, I was confident that everything is OK and that every crew member enjoyed the trip as much as I did. All of a sudden, this romantic atmosphere was interrupted by the loud voice of our instructor who got up to the deck, cursing and shouting things that are not to be repeated here. He started with the navigator, but soon accused me of going off our scheduled route. After listening for a while to the old seafarer’s curses and getting red in the face, I realized that the distant red lights I had thought to be lighthouses were in fact navigational lights of a Turkish tanker sailing the international waters of East Adriatic

I wish you a calm sea, a fine wind and a strong mast!

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