Dawn Over The Arabian Sea

"I'm up!" I shout through the hatch. It is 03:00 hours.

"Nothing much happening," says the skipper as he climbs down the companionway. "Keep a 360-degree lookout, stay in the cockpit and come and get me if you are worried about anything." The usual mantra.

He yawns and disappears into the comfort of our cabin. I heat up a bowl of noodles, waiting for my night vision to kick in. I check the radar and scan the electronic navigation aids before heading up. The cockpit is a cosy place illuminated only by the dimmed dashboard lights: wind direction, boat speed and compass. Scattered around are cushions, biscuits, binoculars, head torches and a guide book to India. Stars litter the sky. I settle in for the next few hours.

At first I am on full alert, scanning for lights and hazards. I conscientiously clamber up and down the companionway, checking the radar and our position. The boat creaks as the rigging does its job. The sails are taut in the warm, steady breeze. Even at this hour the air of the Arabian Sea is hot. I start to relax. I take off my T-shirt and sit in my swimsuit I am already barefoot and enjoy the feel of the warm wind softly brushing my skin.

I lie back and look up. There is no moon. We have sailed far enough south to see Scorpius crawling across the sky in its dazzling entirety, home to my favourite star, the fiery red Antares, "rival of Mars." Beautiful. A small shooting star switches on and off for a second: blink and you'd miss it. I make a wish. The night folds itself around me.

I catch myself nodding off. I stand and stretch, scrutinising the darkness. Nothing. I look over the side and watch the phosphorescence, startling against the black water. The yacht's wake is a stream of brilliant tiny galaxies mimicking the sky.

At six there is an imperceptible change. I strain my eyes as I peer eastwards; the sky is paler. With the first of the sun's rays I feel a kind of primeval relief. Weak light slowly reclaims the horizon, with sky and ocean no longer an indistinguishable blackness. The world emerges from shades of grey to bursts of Turneresque pinks and oranges. Dolphins, already on the hunt, come to play in the waves formed by the boat. Ignoring my orders, I walk to the bow, calling to them. They look at me as they jump and dance; happiness incarnate. This is living.

Later on there is movement below and a furry blur rushes up on deck. Our cat, locked in at night, blinks at the sun and begins her morning preening ritual.

"Kettle's on!" shouts the skipper. Another day begins.

L Cleere

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