Physiology versus Pscychology - nearly to Fanning
16 October 2012 | The Great Pacific
With fewer than 90 miles to go to reach Fanning Atoll, Kiribati, I am finally starting to feel a sense of relief. Passage, for me, is always a HUGE struggle, and this is our second longest to date. I know there will be many sailors out there (and even more of you armchair types) who will say, "OMG, it's ONLY 12 days and in a luxurious boat, what could she possibly complain about???" But, we all have our own challenges and, passage is very hard for me, even when pretty ideal. This passage started out pretty awfully. Three days of sailing in the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) which would be more aptly named, "The Gates of Hell Zone." We had one nightmarish squall after another with winds up to 50 knots (for like an hour or two) and violent lightning and thunder. It was terrifying. Pandion and Lorca, per usual handled it all better than I. By day three I just wanted to turn back and go to Australia. I all but begged Lorca to turn back. Knowing I was drugged and fatigued and that he was right, we trudged on. Every little squall blip on radar at night would send me scurrying down to the aft cabin to wake him so that I wouldn't have to endure another terrifying squall alone. Poor guy. It finally dawned on me that the SPCZ is a different beast entirely from the ITCZ and your run-of-the-mill squalls that are frequently encountered in the South Pacific. Lesson learned: Never sail into the SPCZ. Ever. It sucks mightily.
The sailing since then has been pretty much ideal, today in particular. We've been blessed with a good Southerly wind pushing us directly toward Fanning. How lucky is that? We had envisioned burning a lot of fuel to get there against the equatorial current for three hundred miles. But we don't have to now! YAY! We've been able to sail most of the way here which has been lovely - mostly moderate winds and calm seas and just a couple of days of fresh winds with moderately rough seas. I'm back to dealing with squalls on my own and am working very hard on staying chipper while being a little uncomfortable all of the time. I seem to be loads better at this but am still not good at. The Girl, on the other hand, remains a remarkable soul. She's just as uncomfortable as we but remains a bright little spark on the boat and is a big reason for my ability to smile at any point in my day.
My physiology seems to be better upwind - I'm less physically uncomfortable, meaning less seasick (though I've had a few tough days) less pain from being stove-up and physically inactive and I've been dealing with the sleep deprivation a little better. But psychologically, I've been an absolute wreck. Lorca has been incredibly patient and kind and sweet while I try to sort out why I'm not dealing so well.
A note on seasickness meds - when we were in those horrible squalls, the seas were so rough and we were getting slapped all over the place. I had asked my physician to RX for me some Dexadrine to take with my promethazine on nights when I'd need more fortitude. ON the last night of our SPCZ sailing I took the "Navy Cocktail" which is dexadrine and phenergan. It's only the second time I've taken the combo and I gotta tell you - it works WONDERS. I had forgotten about my Asian constitution and took an entire 10 mg pill of dexadrine and it made me a little crazy so next time I'll take half. I was a little boder-collieish but...I could function and I really needed to be able to in the conditions we were in.
It was hard crossing the equator for me - not something I felt like celebrating. For me, it was saying goodbye to the South Pacific and I'm just not ready for the party to be over. I long to be at Fakarava, Suwarrow or Namena, my three favorite places on the planet. I long to be swinging quietly at anchor listening to sounds I won't hear again for a long time. I already miss the excitement of pulling into a new harbor not knowing which boats we'll see that we've met along the way; the joy of fresh produce and the feeling of the days being full of possibility. I guess maybe why the passage home has been tough for me, mentally, is because it's a closing to a year that I think will prove to be one of the most monumental of my life. On our last day in PagoPago, a sweet single-hander we met (in La Paz) named "Shane" who is on a boat called, "Clover" with is kitty, "Bear Cat" said to me, "So, you guys are headed home, eh?" And I burst into tears. I was SO EMBARRASSED! I apologized and said, yes and tried to change the subject but I'm certain he thinks I'm a total lunatic.
The North Pacific has welcomed us nicely with calm weather and gratefully, good wind to get us where we need to go! All you peeps out there praying for good winds THANK YOU! It's working!!) We've run the motor much less than expected for this leg which is good - it means fewer auditory hallucinations for me (bugle music and choral music - at least it's pleasant), smaller carbon footprint, and more fuel to help us get East after we leave Fanning. We'd love to get to 145 West before heading to Hilo but I don't think we can take it that long. If we continue to have good Southerlies after we leave Fanning then maybe we'll make the 900 miles to get to 145W. IF not, we'll try to turn up at 150W.
The next leg of our passage home will be 1500 to 1900 miles depending on how far East we make before turning toward Hilo. It will again be upwind with the stronger NE trades and the correlating seas to bash into. I'm guessing it will be rough enough that we'll need to slow the old girl down by reefing her sails in to make it more comfortable for us. She's like a racehorse chomping at the bit and we don't let her run because we get so darned uncomfortable bashing away . It's not good for her either - the standing rigging is new, yes, but it won't stay that way if we push her all the way home. So, likely a two week passage at best for us. Ugh. Sage will fly home from HI - she's SO OVER passage and I don't blame her. I wanted her to endure the first two legs home because, hard things have incredible value and when you live a charmed life, as she does, I think it's important to be proud of having accomplished something like this. She's adapted incredibly well and has inspired me to have a better attitude. I'm still working on it.
Next report: Fanning Atoll