11/20/2012, Golden Gate Bridge
At 5pm sharp yesterday Pandion sailed under the Golden Gate, wrapping up our 13-day passage from Hawaii and our 13,000 mile voyage. Karen, Lola and Sage were atop the bridge waving a welcome and in a couple hours we were enjoying a traditional post-sailing dinner at Brennan's.
How can one sum up the year we had; can't really. Wonderful, hard, exciting, tedious; life really, perhaps turned up a touch by more newness than usual. Mainly, for me, about the time together, the hard stuff and the exciting. Lying seasick in the pilothouse staring across at also-sick Sage, giving each other encouraging grim grins. Sitting in a cave 100 feet underwater with Sage and Lola, watching the current rip by and hundreds of silver-gray sharks swim feet from our faces. Guzzling coconuts with Lola as Sage tosses more down from the tree above. Lola and I becoming a competent, capable sailing team. Getting our minds blown by the fireworks of Namena coral.
It'll be interesting to see how re-entry feels and how our lives change for the voyage we've shared. Simplicity and time with friends certainly feel like top priorities at this point.
We're sure grateful to have had such an experience. And more so, to have such a home and community to return to.
ETA GGB 5-6pm local. :)
I know you've been waiting and waiting for BLOG updates. This is a quickie from me, Lola.
Pandion is bouncing and flying along heading home. No updates from Lorca because they've been getting hammered by a series of lows that have passed close by (one they went right on through as it was dissipating) and the passage the last several days has been difficult at best. But, they're safe and Pandion, per usual, is a beast of a machine and is taking good care of them in the dreadful conditions. The worst was sustained 40 knot winds for many hours with gusts into the 50s,, rain and lightning close to the boat. (again...ugh) They fore-reached through the night, remarkably, continuing to make 5 knots all night long. Next morning things moderated slightly and they were on there way again absolutely flying. They're making good time but they're pretty uncomfortable. I am in twice daily contact with them and am helping them with weather twice a day but I look at weather obsessively all day long searching for little changes that can mean the low is turning into a big nasty. So far, so good.
I've been slowly readjusting to life on land which has been a very mixed bag. Happy to see my peeps, really happy to see Sage back at the Dojo and back with her friends. Very, very sweet, indeed. Can I just say again how much we love LOVE LOVE Practical Martial Arts? It's the best dojo EVER. I'm really enjoying all this time I get with Karen, my mother-in-law - we rarely get big chunks of time like this. It's really nice. Sage will go upstairs sometimes and I hear them chittering and tittering (because I'm downstairs looking obsessively at the weather) and it's a sweet sound. I'm so SO happy to get to see my DAWG, the best puppy on the planet ever. He gave me the cold shoulder when we first got back - but after a few hours forgave me for leaving him.
If I haven't seen you, it's not because I don't want to - I've been running around like a lunatic getting Sage to all her places and, I've also been hiding a little bit because I'm feeling really, REALLY overwhelmed. And, I've never been so cold in all my life. I packed really poorly for our return and had almost NO cold-weather clothing. But I did have a nice big stack of tank tops. (??? WTF???) And some Sandals. Silly. For the first few days, the temperature had dropped madly and the only time I was warm was when I was driving Karen's car around with the heater full blast and every scrap of clothing on. Ahhhh.... I've been sleeping with an electric blanket on high, two sythetic comforters, a down comforter, a bed spread and a thick sheet. Ridiculous!
Lorca will be home soon, but not sure when it's all weather dependent. They're safe and getting closer every day so keep putting that good weather juju out there for them! If you comment on the BLOG here, I can forward them comments which often cheers them up. More later...
Dawn found us 600miles WSW of the Golden Gate, close-reaching at 9 kts in 30 kts wind. We've been pushing hard in the biggest sustained winds of the trip for what seems like forever. Winds in the 30s for days, a few hours in the high 40s to 50. Big seas. A lot of water under our keel and a fair amount over the deck, sometimes the pilothouse. Pandion sailing like she's on a rail, albeit sometimes the rail of a rollercoaster. And sometimes slamming an odd wall of water so hard it seems of cement, the whole boat shuddering and whoever is napping tossed awake, whitewater exploding through the air.
Turning East after leaving the trades we motored across the foot of a high, then came upon the edge of a big low we've been chasing now for days. The gribs keep saying it will move East and dissipate soon, the winds decline. Well, maybe tomorrow. Well, maybe the next day. Each time we come on watch it's the same; still windy, still rough.
In our slack days we crossed what must be the fabled Pacific Gyre; instead of plastic trash once a week we'd see a half-dozen pieces at any one time; buckets, styrofoam, shopping bags. We stopped one day in investigate a new vibration and I dove on the prop, pulling off a helmet-sized piece of fishnet. Around me in the water column were countless tiny flecks of plastic, little inanimate jellies in a post-apocalyptic sea.
The skies have been gorgeous, big billowy clouds and rainbows at funny angles. We've had a few squalls reminiscent of the SPCZ at night; big, black, 50-kt winds and lightning 3 seconds away. Mostly the squalls are OK though; we avoid them when we can and muscle through the rest, sometimes leaping up to free the mainsheet and depower until things calm down.
For the last few days we've been graced with an albatross. I've always admired the flying of boobies but the albatross takes things up a notch. Wingspan greater than my reach. Watched it soar for a quarter hour, inches to feet off the waves, never flapping once.
Bittersweet. Great giving Pandion her legs, letting her run for days. Home getting palpably closer now, five days, then four, maybe three soon. If conditions hold. Glad to have John along, pleasant company, a capable sailor now familiar enough with Pandion's peculiarities to do most things singlehanded on watch. Sick of feeling always about to puke, forcing food down when I can. Sick of being always drugged, mind-numbing doses of phenergan on board, the foul taste of dilantin in my spit. Missing family a lot.
If the winds are kind and the predicted giant swell is from the NW or below there is a good chance we'll be home on the 20th, though those are big IFs, nothing certain out here. Lola's been busy starting up our shore-life; marina slip, insurance, cars, cell phones. She's been watching the weather closely and giving us more detailed predictions than we have radio-access to, a huge help.
Back topsides, to watch the big ocean go endlessly by. Sea, wind, clouds, sky.
Bashing upwind today. This morning we furled the jib and fore-reached for a while so I could check the sail locker (happily dry). Amazing contrast in motion; from bronco to towncar. Underway again we tucked in double-reefs and furled the genoa to 100%, just in time for the wind to pick up. Was feeling better this AM but pounding into disturbed 3m seas with 30-35kts apparent fixed that. We were rail-down despite water ballast, doing a sustained 10kts upwind, sailing hard like we used to in Argo before we knew how to reef. We have an old picture of Pandion ocean- racing with a giant spinnaker, launching her front 1/3 off a wave. A few times today we had the same thing, a good quarter airborn. Pandion felt young again but I felt older each time we landed so we finally bore off and depowered the main a bit. When I designed her rigging I sized the shrouds to handle 3x a knockdown load under ballast so we have a huge safety margin, but still. Upwind in these seas you can have great speed, good pointing or something like comfort. Not all three.
Reading, when I can, William Gibson, a new author to me. Just finished Pattern Recognition. Makes me think of the semiotics majors at Brown, all in black and pale and always smoking and using big words no one else understood. But any book with important places for Curta calculators and apophenia has my approval. Now reading another of his; good but not as. A couple days more North and then we'll probably try and slip between Highs and head East. Unless the gribs change, which they do.
We're about 190 miles North of Hilo, making good way under a sky alternating with puffy tradewind clouds and rainbow-bottomed squalls. Left Hilo 25 hours ago. Hard departure. Day started at 03:45 when port security advised us the fuel truck from Hawaii Petroleum had arrived (having clearly taken my request for 'first thing in the morning' seriously). Driver would not bring truck along strip near where boats moor so Lola, John and I spend 45 minutes hauling anchor and lining her over parallel to the quay to where the hose would reach. Only to be told that HP had not obtained permission to fuel that night and, per the at-home nightshift harbor supervisor, would have to come back after 8am. Unable to get back to sleep, I got the calls from security and HP at 7:45, saying I had to talk to the harbormaster. Who, it turned out, would not be in because election day is a holiday. Finally getting permission from the day supervisor, the day driver for HP happily pulled right up to dockside and fuelled us up. I was surprised at how little diesel we'd used; about 1 gal/hr at a mix of 2000 and 2500rpm, about half what I'd expected. I think if the wind dies and the seas flattened we could probably motor 100 miles/day from Hawaii to California and nearly back. After fueling and packing we loaded Lola, Sage and their bags into the rowing dink and I ferried them ashore. Hard to say goodbye; longest we'll all have ever been apart. And doesn't feel right, breaking up the team on the eve of the big game. But it may be a tough passage, and I wouldn't wish what we may encounter on anyone, particularly them. And Sage is VERY excited to see all her friends again. So now we're underway and making good progress. It's the first time we've really used Pandion's water ballast and it seems to really help her performance. I'd only half-filled the tanks (500 gal), wanting to save weight, but of course this is the perfect amount to shift all into the windward tank. We get about 6-8 degrees of righting moment and are probably sailing close to a knot faster upwind. Which means, of course, a less comfortable motion. My dilantin isn't doing it's miracle-drug thing so even with phenergan on top I'm sick. Thankfully John is doing fine, and although he's a lot to learn about Pandion's systems before being able to really sail her he has a good set of eyes for watch and can prepare meals and dodge squalls. Lola has always over-provisioned for any trip we take (daysails included) but I think this time she also channeled her worry for us and angst at not coming along into her shopping. We briefly debated turning right for the South Pacific rather than Left towards home on exiting Radio Bay, as we've food aboard for another 6 months at least. Couple more days of Northing before we turn East. Gribs have been changing daily; yesterday looked perfect all the way home, today shows a big low pressure system scouring down 10 days from now. Too far out to worry but we'll keep an eye on it. Hoping for sea legs, -Lorca