When next I looked at the Texas Tower I saw the three white domes standing high above the horizon on long stilted legs -a mirage. I had a fascinating view through my binoculars of the sun setting. Because of the mirage, it looked like an untidy heap of red-hot metal dumped on the horizon. Gradually it flattened and widened and as it disappeared I was able to see the famous green flash magnified seven times.
Next day the American coast was undoubtedly close.
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I was surrounded by fishing launches, with high latticed towers, and as many as five men standing on them, one above the other, watching with fanatic intentness for signs of fish. This was my first day without bread, for I found my last loaf too mouldy to eat. At 7.45 in the evening I had my first sight of land for thirty-two days – Block Island.
That night I was sailing fast along the coast of Long Island, a few miles off shore. By midnight I was pushing my eyelids up to keep awake, and the frustrated longing to sleep was painful. The wind was slowly veering and heading me in towards the land and I dared not risk sleeping. Forty-five minutes after midnight the other tack, off-shore, had become equally good. I tacked, and as I was now headed out to sea in the direction of the Bahamas I immediately flopped into my bunk and went to sleep. At 5.25 in the morning I woke and rolled my eye to the telltale compass beside my berth. What I saw was the letter N, for North. It meant that I was headed right for Long Island. I was out of my bunk and into the cockpit in record time. Day was breaking, and there was land dead ahead, but still 2 miles ahead, thank God. The wind had continued to veer through the night, and Gipsy Moth, keeping her same course relative to the wind, had veered with it, until she was pointing dead ashore. After I had calmed down, I pondered on why I had woken up then instead of thirty minutes later. I believe that the instinct for danger is latent in man, and becomes active as the senses sharpen during a long period alone. I believe that it was this same instinct which woke me when I was near the fishing steamer on the Grand Banks.
Later the wind backed, but not enough for me to clear the south coast of Long Island, and I was making short tacks off shore each time I sailed in too close to the beach. I was looking at the damsels sunbathing on the beach when I was intrigued to see a large Stars and Stripes run up the flagpole of a beach house. Not realising, as an ignorant Englishman, that 4 July was Independence Day, I wondered if they were taking Gipsy Moth with her White Ensign flying for a British invasion.
At last I reached a point where Gipsy Moth would just clear the gently curving coast at the south end of Long Island. I studied the chart to make sure there were no obstructions ahead, and then set about preparing lunch before having a nap. By the grace of God I popped my head up through the hatch for a look round, and found that Gipsy Moth was headed for the middle of a great long line of poles emerging from the sea at all angles, and stretching half a mile off shore. When I came close I found that they were linked together by heavy cables, and had big nets suspended from them, which were presumably used as fish ponds. Had I relied on the chart I should have charged right into the middle of them.