29 November 2005

Ghost Ship

Dawn is always eerie after an all night storm. Even eerier if you're working on very little sleep. And that's made much much creepier when a Ghost Ship is playing bagpipes a couple of hundred yards away.

Let me back up. We were off the coast of Ireland after about 10 days at sea. We had spent the night dodging ferries and assorted other ships while beating into 10 foot seas under a stormsail. Lightning had lit up the sky fairly regularly confirming the obvious...these were no ordinary ferries, they were killer ferries that wanted to run us down. We bear off, they bear off, collision course. What a nightmare.

We had big night-time storms on each of our three landfalls (Bermuda, Azores, Ireland). Somehow I was always finishing my watch when the all-hands-on-deck call came out, resulting in extra hours without sleep. The night we were approaching Ireland, I weasled my way into an hour's worth of sleep before coming back on deck at dawn.

As I climbed up the companionway, I heard the bagpipes. Everyone was in the cockpit, looking around in the fog to see where they were coming from. The haze and the still-large seas obscured the view. It was oddly quiet and calm so we had no idea how far the sound was travelling.

I think Susannah saw it first, a beat up schooner a couple of hundred yards away, seemingly drifting, with little sail up. The bagpipes faded in and out, in and out. We couldn't see anyone on deck but the wave action kept us from looking for too long. They were downwind of us so they could have been the source of the music, but I didn't see any ghosts in kilts or anything.

The winds slowly picked back up again and we started for Castletownsbere, the schooner disappearing into the distance. As we picked up speed, the bagpipes stopped, but not the speculation. Was that really a Ghost Ship? Weren't bagpipes Scottish? Why did they stop as we started moving faster, wouldn't a true Ghost Ship chase us down?

The answer was a lot simpler than those questions posed above. At a certain wind angle and speed, our emergency anchor on the pushpit made music. Like blowing into a coke bottle, the hollow tube caught the wind and played eerie bagpipe music for us. Maybe we were the Ghost Ship.

No comments: