REPORT - DAY 7
23 April 2010 | Underway from Mexico to Marquesas
Day 7 has begun well. When Adrienne came on watch, I had already reported in to the PacSea Net we were doing 6.8 knots with NNW winds of 15 knots. While I was off watch and asleep she adjusted the Monitor wind-vane to take us more away from the wind because it had clocked round to the North and NNE, taking us with it. The Monitor will steer in fixed relationship to the apparent wind, in other words the wind angle onto the boat, once set, won't change - so if the wind clocks round 30 degrees to the right the boat will follow. The home-built ketch Islander was once steered right up onto a beach in Africa while single-hander Pidgeon slept, because of this same fact.
She told me she had trimmed the sails, letting out the sheets, bringing us onto a broad reach. By the time I came on watch at 4 am local (US Mountain time!) it had backed and we were headed too far South, so I changed it back to a beam reach, Bluebottle touching 6.9 knots, course 242 degrees true.
On deck the wind is cool, the sea sounds are strong and constant, and the stars among the clouds - now the moon has gone - seem friendly guides to our passage to the Southwest. The wake flees away behind us, shedding miles, back into the darkness. For a long time I stand and watch, hanging on with two hands as she digs and sways. I remember Bernard Moitessier saying he could watch the sea for hours. On the starboard side - the windward side, and you might say the yang side - of our little ship we push water away, shove white foam back out at the sea, white foam pricked with stars of phosphorescence. The real stars look down kindly . To the North I see the Big Dipper - about to take a dip - as it appears to dive down into the sea. The Southern Cross, a friend since my boyhood, is not visible tonight on our left - but it shows earlier, even here in the Northern hemisphere, on clear nights. On the port side the wash is broader, quieter, the yin to the yang of the other. It sends a message whispered with each wave, out into the dark horizon, dark as a universe.
The sea could be seen as monotonous (you've seen one wave you've seen them all) but then you'd be missing the presence of the sea. In his book, Coasting, Jonathan Raban describes the sea in its many appearances with a writer's relish for contrast and metaphor. For him the sea can "turn to whipped cream" or look "like corduroy". Here are a couple of quotes from this delightful book:
"All morning the sea has been gray with rain under a sky so low that the masts of the boat have seemed to puncture the soft banks of cloud overhead. The water is listless, with just enough wind to make the wavelets peak and dribble down their fronts. Sails hang in loose bundles from their spars as the boat trudges on under engine, dragging its wake behind it like a long skirt. "
" . through the straights between Ulster and the mull of Galloway, to find every wave in the Irish Sea snarling and baring its teeth."
This morning, I notice how watching the waves alters the texture of time, changes the very perception of time, morphing it, the way music can.
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The boat steers herself all day.
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Now, approaching midnight, day 7, some more ...
During the daylight hours we simply hung on for a bumpy ride, navigating, adjusting course, putting a second reef in the main, cooking, eating, reading, listening to weather forecasts, reporting in on the radio nets. So wild and windy on deck and the waves look as though they will climb aboard, so we stay below, where the cabin is warmer, quieter, more like home. Little domestic chores take up our interest; Adrienne cleans up the inbox of our seagoing email program, Joe drills a hole and fits a pin to prevent the big drawer sliding out when the Bluebottle heels and rolls. (Sings: "I COULD BE HANDY MENDING A FUSE WHEN YOUR LIGHTS ARE GONE.") Every so often there is an enormous lurch. On one of these funfair rides, Adrienne was thrown clear up and off the settee - my, we laughed! (". WHEN I'M 64")
"JUST ORDINARY FOLKS - OUT ON THE HIGH SEAS"
PS Yesterday I reported Sailing Vessel Sea Flyer having rigging problems. Today he fitted a secondhand chainplate in place of the broken one, but another chainplate broke. Also another lower shroud broke, three out of four broken now. The mast still stands held up by a jury rig. He still holds back from declaring an emergency, or calling the Coast guard for assistance.