Week II - The thick middle & getting real
03 April 2016 | Crossing the ITCZ to The Marquesas Islands
As I think about any large undertaking that expands over several weeks or months, e.g. projects, papers, weight-loss , the middle seems the most challenging for me. The beginnings bring up various emotions, but always generate some sort of heightened energy. The end - most often, but not always - brings relief. Leaving us with the middle. The middle is often where I get stuck - where I lose steam. Reality has set in - and has taken my naïve energy with it. If I stick with it, the middle is also when I learn the most about myself. Which brings me to the 2nd week of our 24 (ish)-day passage to French Polynesia.
Week deux: days 8-14.
We spent a good deal of this week talking (fantasizing maybe) about making landfall. With an anticipated 24-day voyage, we hit the ½ way mark late this week. We still have a long way to go, and I think we really needed to look forward to something. Honestly, we're a bit worn down right now; we'll be fine, but we're tired. Once we got wind (back on day 5), our days sailing have been great. And, to date, once evening rolls around, the seas get very choppy - not unsafe, just very uncomfortable. Consequently, with a tough sleep schedule under the best of circumstances, the "rolliness" makes it hard to sleep. So, in a word, we're tired.
We've had some very challenging moments out here. We're really learning how to depend/trust one another, even when each of us might be feeling fearful, tired, hungry or stressed. We are taking good care of ourselves/each other: eating well, napping during the day, swapping night wathes if one person has more energy than the other, and talking on the radio with fellow cruisers every day. I've learned so much about sailing; I'm slowly gaining confidence in my abilities as a sailor and partner to Rob.
Our own version of Finding Nemo. We've caught three yellow-fin tuna to date - pan seared, sushi, ceviche - they were so delicious! We've also had three lures bitten off completely (it might be just as well that we didn't catch those). One evening I was in the cockpit and watched as Rob was reeling in the line for the night. As he pulled the line on deck, the confused expression on his face was priceless. What's wrong here? Where is the lure? He says, "Honey, someone ate your lure." LOL.
We've had dozens of visits from dolphins in the past months, but this one was extraordinary: 50 dolphins came to play with us one afternoon. The water - it is Cobalt blue and SO clear, we can see them swimming below the surface - even up to 50 feet off the side of the boat. They swam, chased, jumped, and just hung out, for at least 45 minutes. Note to self: need to get GoPro mounted on the bow of the boat!
How wet is really, really wet? After spending nearly the entire day furling and unfurling the headsail to prepare for ½-dozen squalls, we were pooped. Rob was napping and I saw what looked like a big one about a mile out. After 4 prior downpours, our clothes were drenched. As he got up, he said, "I'll just put my wet underwear back on and I'll be up." LOL. So we proceeded to furl in the headsail, sit in the cockpit (sun awning above), in our already wet clothes and wait. And boy did it rain - we just got pummeled. I got the giggles - and well, it was great to laugh.
Do fish really fly? The 2nd week of our adventure ended on a high note - thank goodness. After two weeks of sailing predominately west, in "confused" seas, we finally got to turn south. We now had the wind off our beam and the ocean swells behind us - pushing us along. It was also literally the first night that we had good winds and calm seas. I was so excited to actually be able to sleep without the boat twisting and turning, the contents creaking and rattling.
As 2a.m. rolled around and my watch ended, I was downright excited about sleeping. Rob took over and down I went. Literally, just as I fell asleep Rob woke me - "I need you to come up." We spent the next 3 hours maneuvering around squalls. It was pitch black- no moon, no stars. That is the strangest experience - sailing along in 15 -25 knots of wind, seas rushing around you, and you can't see a bloody thing! I digress. We could see these masses on the radar - and see where they were heading - so, in the dead of night, we tacked (moved the sails to the other side of the boat) and headed 60 degrees in the other direction.
After successfully evading these squalls, it was 5:30a.m. Rob went to lay down for an hour while I stood watch. I'm standing at the helm watching the radar when I feel something hit me. I see what looks like paper ruffling on the bench so I grab it (didn't want it to go into the water). I'll be damned if it isn't a flying fish (about 4 inches long). I put my sleeve over my hand and managed to grab him and throw him back in the water. We see thousands of these little guys flying just over the surface of the water. They often end up on our deck in the morning. How the heck did he get all the way into our cockpit?
Somewhere over the rainbow. Now that we have fewer days in front of us than behind us, we're beginning to fantasize about arriving at the anchorage in Hiva Oa. I've told Rob, I don't want to move Athanor anywhere for at least a week! I want to hike. Our fruits and veggies are just about gone - save for the cabbage - and we can't wait to visit a local market.
Our next big goal. The Equator! By Saturday (4/2) we will be entering the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone). In short, it is a band of squirrely weather (mostly zero wind) between 5 degrees and 2 degrees north of the equator. One of the reasons we sailed so far west is to give us some flexibility on where we cross the equator. Our goal is to find a spot to cross that has the greatest wind. If it interests you at all, you can look it up online and see how the ITCZ shifts all the time. Fingers crossed, we'll cross the equator on Tuesday next week. We'll be sure to take a picture of our GPS showing all zeros!
Susan & Rob