Night Demons

Night demons haunt the night watch at the helm

When the weather is fine, there are some great aspects of night sailing. A sky full of stars, the gentle motion of the boat, and if you’re lucky, bioluminescence forming tiny galaxies of light in the wash of the wake. Peaceful solitude whilst nature powers your journey.

However, even on these nights, I often receive unwanted visitors. When I’m sitting in the dark, alone at the helm, they come when I’m at my weakest. When I’m tired and cold and wishing I could sleep.

One may appear gradually, almost imperceptibly, a tiny seed of thought somewhere in my weary mind. It may be a criticism of a recent event or decision, or maybe one from long ago. A nagging reminder of something, nearly forgotten, stirred up to torment. ‘Didn’t handle that too well, did you?’ ‘Was that the best you could do?’

Or perhaps the visitor will be shame; a painful judgment of actions past that weighs like a sodden overcoat. ‘How do you think they felt after what you did?’ ‘That wasn’t you finest hour, was it?’

Maybe the demon will see fit to comment on the present. That nagging voice that says ‘What the hell are you doing with your life?’

Or a niggling worry about the passing of time. ‘You won’t be able to do this forever, you know.’ ‘You’re only going to get less fit and less able.’ ‘One day you’re not going to be able to live the life you want.’

These thoughts and worries may sound illogical or harshly self-critical, but in the dead of night they loom large in the darkness and threaten to overwhelm.

During night watches I scan the eastern horizon for the first light of dawn. The demons are creatures of the night, and with the coming of the day they fade. They don’t entirely disappear, but the warmth and light of day bring the strength to control them.

Dawn pushes the night demons away
Dawn at last

Maybe sometime in the future the night demons will stop coming. Until then, I won’t look forward to those long dark hours at the helm.

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