On passage from Kauai to Oregon
20 July 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
Several people commented that my last post, about our last weeks in Hawaii, seemed to be all about provisioning. I went back and looked at it, and they're right! We did lots of fun things in Hawaii, but there's no doubt my focus was on provisioning. Now that focus proves its merit. We're in the middle of day 14 of the passage, with 4-5 more days to go, and we still have fresh fruit and vegetables. That's all the more amazing, because most of my supplies came from Honolulu and are now about 20 days old - and that's counting from when I bought them! I've been able to keep some of these things in the refrigerator, but many, not. Yesterday I got out a cabbage purchased in Honolulu's Chinatown, grown in Hawaii, and never refrigerated. We experienced 80-85 degree heat for the first half of the passage, so I was really expecting the worst. Previous passages have yielded slimy green-grey messes when the brown paper around a cabbage is opened at this stage. But this Hawaiian cabbage had only a few brown marks around its outer leaves, and the base was doing its best to grow new roots (a few compact but feathery fronds).
Cooking, of course, is a neurotic, athletic experience, capable of producing full-blown hysteria. The first few days of the passage, we were close to the wind, on a starboard tack, so all liquid spills flowed either into the refrigerator/freezer, or under the cabinet. In the second half of the passage, we're heeled in the other direction (although not so dramatically), so spilled liquids aren't such a problem (except that managing any liquid in a seaway is, per se, a problem), but now if the cabinet doors are open, everything wants to fall out. Especially the salt and pepper grinders, which have that oh-so-elegant, but oh-so-top-heavy, tall thin shape.
Despite all the difficulties, menu planning and cooking are my primary creative outlets during passages. I've written before how the days have a sameness about them, and they stretch backwards and forwards in a seemingly unending procession. When lying in my bunk, or bundled up on watch, I think about what I could cook, what vegetables are about to spoil, what everyone would like, and what the wind and wave conditions might be at the cooking hour. The ocean tends to kick up (for its own perverse unknowable reasons) just before dinner. Our friends on Kasala call it the cocktail hour crush. I also have to fit the cooking schedule into my watch schedule and Craig's radio schedule. Too many times, I've had dinner ready at exactly the moment Craig is ready to report our position to the Pacific Seafarer's Net. (That's the information which appears at www.navshare.com - among other places -- and which you can see on a daily basis). (Thank you, Mark, for creating and maintaining that website!) Other times, the meal is hot and ready when we need to shorten sail (make the sails smaller because of increasing winds). But all and all, Mark and Craig report that they like what I'm cooking, and I think they're glad to have me doing it. Craig pitches in with a meal once in awhile when I'm desperate, and Mark cheerfully washes the dishes.
Most recently, our dinners have included tamale pie, fresh-baked pizza, beef stew, macaroni & cheese casserole and spaghetti a la carbonara. That last item was one Craig chose to make on a particularly rocky and rolly evening, and involves more than one liquid: boiling spaghetti - to be somehow drained into a colander above a pitching sink - and beaten eggs, to be tossed into the hot spaghetti along with chopped parsley, grated cheese, and bits of garlic-sauteed turkey ham. The end result was very successful, although the stove, counters, and rug - not to mention the expletives heard from the galley - evidenced some difficulties in making it all come together.
We're now four days away from Astoria. Every time we make a log entry, we've started adding the words: "___ nm to Astoria." The current figure, as of this moment is 528 nautical miles. That means we will likely arrive next Sunday, July 24, a passage of 18 days. It all depends on the wind and the current. We expect mild winds, with sometimes not quite enough wind to make our maximum desirable speed (about 7.5 knots). For a couple of hours each day, we turn on the engine, usually out of gear, to make electricity and hot water, and occasionally, when the wind falls short, in gear, to propel us a bit faster.
We're currently at latitude 46 degrees, heading more or less due east toward the mouth of the Columbia River. We know we're approaching the Pacific Northwest, because it's getting downright cold, especially at night. For the first half of the passage, we were still wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts during the day, and adding a light jacket at night. Now we're all bundled up, looking for more warm clothes that have not been compromised by a salt water dousing, a pernicious leak into the clothing locker, or just general marine air dampness. When I'm on watch at night, I'm wearing four layers - long underwear, fleece (x2) and foul weather gear. During the day, I'll settle for three! Maybe our blood has been thinned by being in the tropics for nearly a year. But Mark, who came to Hawaii only three weeks ago from Portland, also is feeling the cold. There's no sun - or maybe just an hour in mid-afternoon - so I assume we're seeing coastal fog, even though still about 500 miles out. Or maybe this is just a wretched summer in the Northwest, and those usual, lovely, six weeks of sunshine haven't yet arrived. I have this picture in my mind of how we'll motor up the Columbia River in bright hot sun, digging for those shorts and sleeveless shirts. We shall see.