File Under “Irony”

18 June
On a 2-3am anchor watch. An anchor watch entails sitting around while everyone else sleeps, making sure the boat doesn’t drag its anchor and move on its own into a perilous situation. Sounds dreadfully dull and, if we’re being honest here, it’s all that and more. Except this anchor watch.

Anchored up in a bay called, I believe, Mannbåen, about 13 miles northeast of Bodo. We motored here yesterday after an invasion of nine guests (eight Scots who are members of a kayaking/outdoor group) and made this short jump in order to get out of town. And here in this small bay, at the base of a sheer cliff protecting our northern flank, looking east up a fjord with Yosemite-like peaks and cliffs lining either side, it was the right call.

Especially sitting here in the cockpit alone. The peace and quiet and solitude is exactly why I head into the outdoors, be it in a boat, on foot, on a plane or any other method. And this particular moment might just be the best moment I’ve had since I joined Polar Bear more than a month ago in England.

Just three hours ago I crawled into my bunk and amid the cacophony of 15 other people (especially a bunch of Scots on holiday who’ve been cooped up in planes for many hours) enclosed within the confines of a sailboat, plugged my noise-canceling headphones into my iPad and fired up an application, Ambient. I still have no idea when or why I downloaded the freebie app, but trying to fall asleep in that craziness made the benefits of an app that plays peaceful sounds of birdsong trilling alongside a running river painfully clear. The name of the program? Paradise.

The sounds were indeed peaceful, serene and (thankfully) sleep-inducing, but true paradise had arrived in the form of an hour-long watch, alone, with the midnight sun shining on the snow-dappled peaks and flanks of island mountains all around me and as far as the eye could see. The sound of the ankle-high waves 300 yards distant have replaced the recorded river and real birdsong cascades from the trees just beyond the shoreline. A whisper of breeze flowed past my earlobes, generating a pleasing whistle and a gull splashed in the inky-black water just feet away and looked at me as though expecting a handout. We shared the moment and he went off to more productive locations.

Paradise? No, it’s not on a digital tablet, thanks. I’ve found it in Alaska, in New England, the Rocky Mountains and countless other places. And now it’s all around me here in a Norwegian fjord at two in the morning.

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