The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South by Bruce Van Sant says never miss a sundowner, which means depart early, arrive early and have time to enjoy the sunset at your new destination, cold drink in hand.
From between 5pm and sunset time, most cruisers can be seen in their cockpits or on their decks, having a cold drink, some appetizers or an early supper, enjoying the cool of the evening and waiting for the sun to set. We listen for sunset times as it is a part of the daily forecast that is broadcast on the cruisers net. Usually our radio is set to the ship to ship channel so that you can hail other boats, but when you want to chat with someone or listen to the cruisers net, you change the channel on your radio. In Georgetown, the cruisers net is broadcast on channel 72 at 8am.
Most sunset times are around 7:30, although the times have been getting progressively later by a minute each night. Usually we have supper at 6, then the boys play for a little while, write in their journals, get ready for bed and then at 7:15 or so, everyone clambers into the cockpit and waits for the sun to go down. This is not always a calm and relaxing part of our day. The boys are usually climbing all over us or each other, swinging from things they shouldn’t be swinging from or chattering over each other so that we almost miss the sunset, but some evenings it is actually a nice family time.
Our friend Gaye gave us a little rule to help us decipher how much time is left until sunset. If you hold our your hand against the horizon, the width of each finger represents 15 minutes until the sun sets. Obviously this rule only works for the last hour and may be a little off depending on how chunky or slender your fingers are, but it seems to work as a general rule of thumb (Haha). Wayne says that this only works for up to two hours unless you have an unusual number of digits.
When the sun officially sets, Matthew blows his conch shell that Wayne made for him. We pass the shell around and everyone takes a turn. It is a small conch so it is a little difficult to get a nice tone out of it, but you purse your lips as if you are playing a trumpet and blast away. Our friends from Celebration have a big conch which is actually easier to blow and it makes this beautiful, low, mellow sound.
A couple of times the sun has flashed green just before it slips below the horizon which is known as a Green Flash. Conditions have to be just right in order for that to happen; a clear night and smooth seas, so we have only seen a few flashes.
After everyone blows on the conch, then we all go down below, read bedtime stories, say our prayers and tuck the boys into bed. It is a nice, sometimes relaxing way to end the day.