My birthday began shortly after midnight when Sonja woke me with the welcome news that the breeze had freshened at last, that we could raise sail again and silence the engine, whose reliable thump had propelled us since a passing rain shower had stolen the wind away a couple of hours earlier.
We had cleared the northeast cape of Tenerife and Gran Canaria was visible in the distance ahead, the light on La Isleta broadcasting its identity with the steady rhythm of three flashes, pause, fourth flash - every twenty seconds. A beautiful night of broken clouds, a mild northerly swell and a bright half moon shining on the water. There were dolphins about, coming now and then to dart back and forth across the bow before going on about their business.
While Sonja took her couple of hours of blissful repose in the warm bunk below, I looked out across the sea, noted a passing ship, marvelled at the stars, adjusted our course as the wind shifted, revelled in the singular peace of a night passage with the promise of reaching secure harbour before the dawn.
By the time I roused Sonja at half past two, the wind had picked up a little more and we were tearing along, closing the coast and tracking our way around the island to Las Palmas, careful to keep a couple of miles offshore and so avoid the hazards close in. Turning off the wind, we dropped the main sail and ran on under the genoa alone, searching eagerly amongst the myriad of lights on shore for those that would guide us into the harbour.
A little before five we glided silently past the mole and swiftly crossed the large commercial basin, thankful for the momentary lack of moving ships as we made our way into the anchorage, starting the engine and stowing the genoa as we did so.
By six, we were anchored, everything ship shape, the crew tucked in and well on the way to the land of Nod.
The day began again a little after ten, with a quick swim around the boat and a leisurely breakfast in the sun before inflating the canoe and paddling ashore to get showered, buy some food and see which of our friends we could track down in the marina.
Back on the boat in the late afternoon, I enjoyed a beer and a read in the sunny cockpit, followed by a prime dinner of chops fresh from the butcher with tatties and sweet tatties.
Evening drawing on, I went to the locker of sin for tobacco and whisky, grabbed the earphones, selected an album of Renaissance music, the pure and close vocal harmonies of which I have always found particularly moving, and settled to smoke a reflective cigar as the darkness gathered, sipping a precious dram from a bottle of rare old malt, given us as a wedding present by a dear great uncle nearly eleven years ago.
Fettler swung gently to and fro on her anchor, pointing me now to the city and its bustle, now across the anchorage, where I looked between the other boats to the light blinking green on the end of the harbour wall and the dark sea beyond. Now to a kayaker dashing through the gloaming, now to a cargo ship making her pondrous way into port. Jupiter and Venus appeared overhead before disappearing behind drifting cloud.
I thought on life. On the abiding mystery of it. The miraculous capacity for joy. The deep wells of sadness and suffering. The many places I've been. The many people I have known; those who to my sorrow I'll never see again, those I hope to see much more of.
Cigar finished, whisky drained, I go below to the warmth of the cabin, conclusions open. A fine birthday.