Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Is This One That We Won't Want To End?

Seven-year-old Eric to me the other day, in conversation: "Dad, when you're sailing, it's like you're smiling and frowning at the same time."

So...that's me saved the trouble of writing the next book!

It is indeed like smiling and frowning at the same time, this business of sailing the world with my family.

On one hand, the highs are Olympian - the sun-drenched, champagne-sailing, endless days with nothing but the clouds and the birds and the horizon and ourselves for company.

And even the everyday, less-than-peak moments make me smile. Like when I realize how many hours a day I manage to spend with my children on average through the year.

And yes, there are the frowns. For anyone who thinks that we take unreasonable risks by taking children on ocean crossings: believe me, you haven't even begun to consider the risks in the depth that Alisa and I have considered them. We've lived those risks, really, for the last decade - evaluating them, and evaluating our ability to evaluate them, and coming to grips with our own set of best practices for managing them. I don't know how Alisa feels about it, but it's enough to keep a furrow on my brow at sea. And also enough to set me into a flurry of parental over-reaction when the boys do something boyish like mucking around on our steep companionway ladder.

Besides those big-picture frowns, there is also that everyday background frown that comes from sharing space with Eric when he just needs to get off the boat and go for a run already, and I just need to catch up on my fractured sleep.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that my own personal sailing frown/smile equation balances out at just this side of rapture. Chucking it all to set out while our oldest son was still too young to walk turned out to be the most worthwhile hare-brained undertaking that I can imagine.

And so now, as we return to the Rock (Kodiak's nickname for itself) from whence we set out, I have found myself wondering if we'll pull a Moitessier. Will we reach one of those blissful end-of-passage states that we sometimes achieve and decide to just keep sailing until we find ourselves anchored once again off the Iluka pub?

Don't bet on it. We are the do what we set out to do crowd, Alisa and I, and in this instance we set our minds on what we might rediscover in the place we used to call home.

Meanwhile, here's some of the more quotidian details of the passage as it stands...

We showered in the sun on the back deck yesterday, and spent today in thermals and rain gear, even though we are still south of the latitude of San Francisco. Just now we're trying to keep a low from running us over, and then we hope to harvest a day or two more of southerly winds from that system, keeping us pumping along in more or less the right direction. It's been a fiddly passage, as befits one mostly outside of the trades. I feel like I'm forever trying to eke a few more degrees out of whatever setup we're using, trying to fall off or come up just a bit more without poling out the jib or taking the pole down or gybing. We have spent barely any time at all aiming right at Kodiak, and are meandering back and forth across the North Pacific in more or less the right direction.

And, our real news: for several days now we've been seeing albatross. Mostly black-footed, and a few Laysan.

We do love the tropics, but those oceans where the albatross roam might be our true home.

~~
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

With the Flow

From Kona, on the leeward side of the Big Island of Hawai'i, northbound boats are faced with the surprisingly not-straightforward task of reconnecting with the open ocean.

In one sense, we were on the open Pacific as soon as we left Honokohau Harbor. But we were also on the leeward side of the chain, and had to somehow get ourselves back to the windward side, where the tradewinds blow.

We didn't even think of heading south around the Big Island. That would involve miles and miles of travel straight into the trades.

Likewise the 'Alenuihaha Channel, which funnels the trades between the Big Island and Maui. We were content to just get ourselves into the tail end of that one and race downwind along the middle of the main island chain - past Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lana'i and Moloka'i.

The place names are surely one of the delights of this American Polynesia.

On our first night out I pointed the bow up towards the Kaiwi Channel, between Moloka'i and Oahu. On the midnight watch change a calmer head prevailed and we fell off to pass Oahu to starboard.

So we got to see the towers of Waikiki in the night. Where we saw rivers of lava pouring down the hills when we first made landfall on the Big Island at the end of the passage from Panama, on Oahu we saw rivers of street lights pouring down the hills in the night.

During the day I had the very pleasant experience of recognizing the towers in Makaha where my grandparents had a condo for years and years. A picture of my beloved grandfather from that place rides above the chart table on Galactic - him in 1980s leisure wear, feet up, out on the lanai, a tumbler of scotch and ice in his cupped hands, his ever-recognizable smile anchoring the picture. Neat in a closing the circle kind of way to sail by that spot all these years later, with one great-grandson he never knew, and another with whom he shared the briefest spark of mutual regard.

And thence through the very tame Kauai Channel, and to the tradewinds one last time on this voyage. All this mucking around on the leeward side taking us more or less no closer to Kodiak, as Elias was not ashamed to point out to me.

Once we found the trades they were fresh, and blowing dead from the east. So we fell off to the north-northwest, being completely unwilling to take fresh trades forward of the beam. From the beginning we have always seen travel under sail as a process of working with what the ocean presents us, rather than bending wind and wave to our will. I suppose all sailors look at it that way. And only a landlubber would expect that a boat could travel dead north on an easterly while beam reaching. Your apparent wind, which is the sum of the true wind and the boat's motion through the atmosphere, bends ineluctably towards the bow, and demands a falling off away from the wind in the interest of comfort and sanity.

So. That's us still, sailing north-northwest, and not much towards Kodiak, which lies just east of north from us.

With luck, though, we will describe a beautiful sinuous track back to our home port, as the winds begin to bend southerly around the North Pacific high, and we then pick up the westerlies of the mid latitudes.

Alisa began this passage quite sick, with a cold that flared up into fever and sore throat. I began severely sleep deprived by my final push to meet science work obligations. And so poor Elias, who is desperately keen to wet some of his new lures from the Big Island, has had to hold off on the fishing, as neither parent has been up to gaffing and cleaning in these fresh trades. When he did get lines into the water briefly he came within an inch of catching a petrel, and had to hurriedly pull out.

And now, the sun is rising with low clouds heavy with rain all around us. We are completely alone, as alone as you ever are on a small boat on this big big ocean, and completely reliant on ourselves to get where we are going.

Is it a wonder that land life might seem stale?

~~
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Symmetry

So...to bed late and up early. That certainly doesn't change.

One difference from a very big day almost 10 years ago is that now we use our internet connection to get a final hi-def weather download onboard before we go.

But aside from that little detail, and bigger details like having a crew of four instead of three, I am very struck by the symmetry of this moment and its bookend.

The prospect of sailing to Alaska is nearly as exciting as the prospect of sailing to Australia.


Monday, June 12, 2017

A Month in Hawai'i


"We just spent a month in Hawai'i," said Alisa. "I think we'll look back at that and be blown away."

And so it is with this nautical existence of ours.

I tend to cast a gimlet eye on sailors' easy talk about "freedom".

But having discretionary time in such quantities that we can spend a month in a place like Kona, meeting the locals and getting a taste of the life, while we're also working on making little contributions to our understanding of the North Pacific (me), or making very big contributions to the education of the next generation (Alisa)...well. That's the thing right there, isn't it?

But this time in Hawai'i has come to an end. Elias has raised the Blue Peter (below), that age-old signal of a ship about to put to sea.

And...I'm feeling the moment. Tomorrow when we wake, we will set sail for Alaska.


This picture and and the one at the top - our good friend Jamie, a long-time Kona connoisseur, turned us onto this great walk south from Honokohau Harbor. It was good fun to discover something like this just off the boat at the very end of our stay.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Restrained Pessimism

Today, Saturday the 10th of June, was at one time the target that we set as the very latest day we might depart on the Kona-Kodiak rally.

As it turns out, we're now hoping that we'll actually leave at dawn on Monday the 12th.

There is a wonderful bit of symmetry here.

Summer solstice, June the 21st, 2007, was at one time the target date that we set as the very latest day we might leave Kodiak to begin this trip. We actually limped out of town on June the 23rd.

Leaving port always turns out to be a deal for us. In those early days we pointed to a crew member in diapers as our ready-made excuse. These days we point to my science work load.
Who's the old guy fitting deadlights on Galactic?
I'm approaching this passage with what I call restrained pessimism.

I figure there's an even chance that we'll hit a gale up north. So I'm fitting deadlights, those extra-strong polycarbonate outer window that protect our portlights. We'll leave with the trysail bent to the mast and lashed in place, the naval pipe plugged with plumber's putty, etc., etc. We always figure that the best time to prepare for bad weather is when we're still in port.

But I won't go all out and attach the series drogue to the stern cleats and lash it to the deck in its bag, ready to deploy at any moment. That sort of preparation is fine for New Zealand-Chile or South Georgia-South Africa, but it is summer in this hemisphere after all, and I don't foresee things getting so nautical that we actually have to resort to the drogue.

So, you see: restrained pessimism.

And, more than anything, I'm struck by what a different crew it is that is eyeing this last homeward passage. Early on in our trip, the idea of a gale at sea made my knees weak. Now, we just think in terms of trips that fall along a continuum of easy to less so. We'll set out from Hawai'i and see what we get. I'm reminded of an account I read by a 19th century inhabitant of the northwest Alaskan Arctic, writing about his Inupiat companions' attitude towards the hazards of winter. They understood better than anyone the dangers of winter weather, he wrote, but they evinced no concern over them.

I think that we might have earned just ever so small a modicum of that attitude when it comes to long passages outside of the tradewind belt.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

To Poncet

Long-time readers (my favorite people!) will remember the idyllic Christmas that Galactic enjoyed at our friend Leiv Poncet's family island-farm in the Falklands two and a half years ago.

Left to right: Galactic, Leiv's Peregrine, and the family boat, Damien II
Beaver Island is a very beautiful place (above). And it is an even more practical place (below).
Inside the Beaver Island shed
Leiv's family have been keeping Southern Ocean working boats going for decades, and they are the kind of people who can turn their hands to anything. During our visit we gained a tremendous respect for Leiv's practical skills, and it didn't hurt my estimation of him when he expressed his very laissez-faire attitude towards marine engineering ("Regular engine maintenance is a waste of time.").

What a breath of fresh air from the de rigueur anal-retentiveness about maintenance that American yachties so often take as a given. Leiv has a great let's-get-this-boat-ready-for-the-charter-season attitude that has seen him across a lot of oceans. As is ever the case with a sailor, the proof is in the miles he has sailed.

So recently, Alisa and I hit upon the perfect way to distill our appreciation of that wonderful combination of vast ability and relaxed approach.

To whit, we coined a commemorative, eponymous verb: "to Poncet".

Alisa, in the act of Ponceting the main
To Poncet a job is very akin to the "get 'er done" of the American male vernacular, but, well..."get 'er done" somehow doesn't translate to solo Southern Ocean circumnavigations.

With the inaugural, one-boat version of the Kona to Kodiak rally just about to commence, we've had a few jobs to knock off. And...well...the bloom is well off the frantic pre-passage preparation routine. For once we just want to get the damn barky ready and go to sea without any bashed knuckles and late nights.

So, "Poncet it!" has been our rallying cry.

When we got the main down on the deck to attend to its rotten luff, I was at first dour about our chances. I figured the best we could do would be to patch it, nurse it up to Kodiak, and then ship it off to a sailmaker in Seattle over the winter.

But then we got into the job, and got into the spirit of Ponceting it - get it fixed, don't sweat the details, and move on with life.

And...it's a very liberating attitude. After a couple days of working together on the project, we realized that we were doing a fine job. We don't need no stinkin' sailmaker. Give us a floor large enough to lay out the sail this next winter, instead of our cramped foredeck, and we'll be able to finish the job proper.

So here we are...ten years into the life, and just reaching the point where we're really ready to go off and sail the world in our own boat.

Post-Poncet

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sailors' Delight


You know a passage is coming up when I start posting pictures of the weather forecast.
We just got a call from a friend in Kodiak, asking when we might be setting out from Hawai'i on this final leg of our trip, and would we be interested in a party when we arrive. (Thanks, Debra!)

In a way that's the first tangible (is a call tangible?) sign of our fairly imminent arrival.

I'm sure that I'll get excited when the time comes. But right now Kodiak still seems too far away to get worked up over.

What I am excited about - in a very visceral way - is the forecast that I looked at this morning (above). The classic summer North Pacific pattern seems to be setting up, at least for a day. That circle in the isobars at the middle of the basin is the North Pacific High, and the circle around western Alaska is the Aleutian Low. And it's pretty easy to imagine how the winds those two pressure centers are spinning up might waft a boat every so delightfully from Kona to Kodiak.

After what has been, by any reasonable measure, a lot of passagemaking over the last decade, I find that I get this nearly sensual anticipation over the possibility of a good one.

We'll see what transpires.

Alisa had the sewing machine out to work on the sails and whipped out this holder for Elias' trolling lures at the end of the day. The lures were given to Elias by a very kind local fisherman in the sport charter trade. (Thanks, Sean!)

Stainless, or, A Parent's Progress


So this was our sole crew - Elias James Abookire Litzow - exactly three days after we left Kodiak and began this decadal Odyssey of ours.

At that time, Alisa and I were simultaneously learning to be parents and full-time sailors. We were drinking from the fire hose, every day, all day long. We marveled at all the discretionary time that sailors with all-adult crews had to enjoy.

And, when I was feeling expansive, I would ridicule those no-child sailors of our acquaintance.

"All the time in the world," I would say to Alisa. "And what do they do with it? They polish their stainless!" (Pause for horrified look.) "And then they complain about how busy they are!"

Coming from a robust working port like Kodiak (484 million pounds of fish across the dock in 2014), it was easy to pick out the sillier foibles of the yachtie world. And taking the time to polish the stainless steel on a boat that spent its whole life in salt water was very high on my personal list, indeed.


Can you see where this is going?

The picture above is our younger crew, Eric Leo Abookire Litzow, just this Sunday.

School was off. He had the whole day open for himself. Parental opinion was that he was doing a very poor job of filling it.

The kids on yacht Pelagic, who just pulled in from Nuku Hiva, were inconveniently off touring Volcanoes National Park. Eric didn't want to go off the boat and play. He did want to take every chance to pick a fight with his brother and make us all miserable.

It didn't take too long for the light bulb to go on over my head. After Eric pulled one too many outrageous provocations on his older brother, Elias was set loose to go to the beach by himself while Eric was set down in front of our acres of dull stainless with a tube of polish and two rags. (One for applying the polish, the other for buffing it out.)

After all, a boat should look its best, right? And who wouldn't want polished stainless when the labor isn't their own?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Stop and Think

What sailors really think about - the weather. In this case, the weather between Hawai'i and "home".
It doesn't look uncomplicated!
After a visit back to the mainland US to catch up with our families, we are now very happily ensconced once again on the mothership.

One more big ole jump across the blue marble and we expect to be back "home" to Kodiak, that delightfully real commercial fishing town that our boys know not at all and that we know only through ten years of selective memory retention.

(How "delightfully real" is Kodiak as a commercial fishing port? I just looked at the numbers. For 2014, the weight of landings in Kodiak was 35 times the weight of landings for the entire nation of Australia.)

That arrival back at our starting point remains firmly abstract to me. I'll believe it when I see the green hills of Kodiak off our bow.

What's not so abstract is the way that we are engaging with the future that we hope to build for ourselves there.

For me, that means the endless quest for the scientist's Beast Glatisant, or "research funding", and the resulting fascination with the Beast's fewmets, or Requests for Proposals, Proposal Reviews, and Panel Decisions. (Yes, I have recently read The Once and Future King to my boys.)

And for both Alisa and me, that means another attempted act of transference, as we look to work that magic trick of bringing a dream to life. In this case, it is that long-standing dream of ours that goes something like this: "Hey, we're two marine biologists who have a boat of our own. Surely there is a worthwhile research project out there that we are uniquely suited to pursue?"

No mean feat, bringing a dream to life. Especially when that dream requires outside funding. But, given our track record in the living-the-dream department, I wouldn't bet against us. We're focusing the dream idea on the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Seas in the Alaskan Arctic. Stay tuned.

But as our entanglements with land life grow, I can feel the capacity for thought and reflection, one of the treasures of the sailing life, slipping away from us.

Any transition from a ten-year sailing trip back to a more settled existence is bound to entail some pretty big jumps in perspective and moments of cognitive dissonance.

But we have the unique "good fortune" of looking to plug back into our far corner of the US just as that country is going through a time that most politely might be described as "uniquely interesting". On top of the normal personal transition ahead of us, there are larger historical questions at play, some of them existential, that are so difficult to answer in the flash of the moment. (Mad props to you, George Orwell, for so often correctly calling the big historical questions of your time.)

As that transition gets closer, I only hope we keep some of that big-horizon perspective that comes to people who sail the world in their own boats.
School daze - Eric takes a spelling test, Elias yawns.
After 10 years on the Pacific Seafarers' ham net, we finally met longtime net control and former  yachtie Randy, KH6RC. And, incredibly kindly, he gave Elias all of his old pelagic trolling lures and a rod and reel. Very happy kid there.
The latest issue of Cruising World.
The Galactics love national parks! And, like all true westerners, we love public lands in general. It's those people Back East (Wyoming, thinking of you!) who want to lock them up in private ownership.

Kilauea Iki. This was a lake of lava in 1959. We visited on a drizzly cold morning and saw exactly one other party of tourists on the whole four mile walk.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Our Feet

Transient dock, Honokohau Harbor
Just a note to say that we have absolutely landed on our feet in Hawai'i.

The Mothership is in a transient slip that is operated by the State of Hawai'i and costs us all of $8 USD a day. Granted that we had to bring our own yacht, but aside from that I can't imagine a better deal for a waterfront holiday home in Hawai'i.

There is a little beach on one side of the marina, and a bigger beach on the other side, liberally sprinkled with basking green turtles, that is a part of a National Historical Park.

We have had a series of great interactions with very friendly locals - people coming down to the boat with produce from their gardens, or offering us rides, or just to chat.

It's been a great place to make our first tentative dip into the home country.

Now if we could only figure out that pesky detail of foreign interference in our elections...


Saturday, May 6, 2017

All Done But One

Sunrise at sea - my favorite moment of the day
We arrived at Honokohau, Hawai'i, two days ago. One of the two transient berths was blessedly vacant, which gives us a guaranteed place to moor the barky during our entire stay in these islands, that, as blessed as they may be in other regards, are cursed in terms of decent harbors.

And, no small thing, after all those miles of open open ocean travel (our GPS showed 4,919 from Panama City), the close maneuvering to come to rest, Tahiti moored and snuggled next to the other transient yacht in the harbor, went completely smoothly.

We have cleared Customs, which was an astonishingly easy process. A local ex-sailor and ham who gave us extensive help in figuring out the logistics of our stay while we were still on passage has met us at the dock and very very very kindly spent an afternoon driving us around to grocery store and various internet providers. (Thanks, Drifter!) 

And, courtesy of the good people on the Pacific Seafarer's Net who clued us in to the fact that lava is currently flowing into the sea on the south coast of the Big Island, we had the most spectacular landfall imaginable. We detoured to the lava entry point and were greeted by the sight of the massive steam plume as we closed the island at dusk, and then the even more impressive violence of Pele's/Vulcan's river of molten rock flowing down the mountain slope, clearly visible from sea after dark, and the incredible fiery violence of the lava cascading into the ocean, just off our starboard beam.

Now that's the way to arrive in Polynesia.

Alisa was very keen to make landfall at that spot, as any rational person would be. I, on the other hand, was concerned about the implications for our chances of making the harbor in daylight the following day. We made it fine, of course, and I got a valuable lesson, all these years in, of the value of making detours.

For, after all, what is this sailing life of ours, if not a decade-long detour?

We've made our initial accommodation with land life, US-style, in the form of a long afternoon (thanks, Drifter!) spent in the AT&T and Verizon shops, trying to come to terms with the rapacious entities that plug us all in to the post-fact world. 

When Elias complained about how long it was all taking, Alisa and I were notably unsympathetic. "Welcome to land life," we told him. "It's only going to get worse from here."

Is that the correct message to convey?

And, in the grocery store, I had my own moment of homecoming. There in the cooler were long racks of American beer. We had finally, after all our wanderings, arrived at a port where I could just walk into a store and buy a 12-pack of Lagunitas IPA. 

Which I did, of course. But not after taking a moment to go misty-eyed, standing there in the refrigerated beer aisle, considering this physical manifestation, right there before me, of just how good the world can be.

So that's us. Back in the USA.

The crew working together to handline in a mahi mahi

The mahi mahi were small, but they came in dead after being dragged along at 8+ knots, and so could be quickly filleted without long consideration of whether they should be kept or not. Elias is holding his custom-made spoon that was the demise of many of our piscine dinners

Long passages - the untold story. (When fresh supplies run low.)

Passing the hours, and the days

Lunch time, day 29: boat salad, fresh from the can

Watching the miles go by

Alisa's birthday. She is overjoyed because she has guessed Elias' gift before even opening it

A new frying pan! OK, all you landlubber married fellas - you show me the look of joy on the face of your wife of 16 years' standing when a new frying pan is her big birthday gift

The retired frying pan was given a burial at sea - as respectful as it was immediate. RIP, old friend

How the years go by - Elias wasn't lighting Alisa's birthday cakes when we set out. I love his tongue sticking out with concentration

Sailors, brothers

The lava steam plume at landfall

Self-portrait as we prepare to splice the mainbrace, safely and happily in port, Honokohau

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gluttony, Sloth, and Serenity

The last time we spotted another vessel on this passage was about two weeks ago. That was a tuna seiner, 40 days at sea, who kindly came up on the VHF to ask if we needed anything.

We didn't note the event in the log, so I'm not sure exactly how long ago that was. But in the two weeks or so since, Alisa and I have faithfully kept watch around the clock, with regular short-term assistance from the boys during daylight hours.

That watchkeeping has taken its toll. We have passed much of the trip in an addled, sleep-deprived state. We might have reasonably turned on the radar alarm and the AIS alarm and both o fus gone to sleep at some point, content in the safety of those two electronic eyes and the extremely low chances of crossing paths with anything. But though we've done that in the past, Alisa and I now like to keep watch even in the loneliest stretches of the ocean, for reasons that we can't fully articulate.

Our sleep-deprived state gives a funny cast to the vast amounts of spare time that we have available to us on this month-long sail. We have plenty of time during which we might "do" something, but not the mental powers to concentrate to good effect. The fractured sleep schedules and endlessly distracting motion of the sea see to that. So, will we or no, we tend towards the blissed-out, doped-out, Moitissie-ed-out state of just being.

That blissed out state doesn't make for an any more active existence. Whatever reservoir of self discipline I may have access to does not cover willful physical exercise at sea. I have sat on this trip enough that I want to sit no more in life. That and ritual snacking on my first watch of the night feel to have set my health index back a few notches over the last four weeks/4,000+ miles. Elias has been growing a little paunch before my eyes. I am filled with resolve for the active life when my feet once again encounter the earth.

Our concerns have been filled a bit with the logistical concerns of our impending stay in Hawai'i. Where to come to land, where to leave the barky when we venture back to the mainland for family events, whether we can haul out; the when where who and how of the fixes that we will need to make before setting off for Kodiak.

That buzz of practical concerns is always on a sailor's mind, I suppose, especially when a fairly brief interlude between long passages is planned. But for all that we have bought ourselves a tremendous amount of mental space on this passage, whether we always want it or no. To have "unplugged" ourselves from the noise and dross of the connected, post-Enlightenment, post-fact world, for four whole weeks! The magnitude of this gift will become clear to us once we reach land, and all this time on the endless blue fades suddenly to a dream.

We are less than 90 miles from the Big Island, and have hopes of spying its 4000 m of relief before the day is far gone.
~~
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cakewalk Into Town

Two days out of Honokohau, we find ourselves effortlessly in just the right position.

Two highs are squashed together to the north of Hawai'i, with the front between the two angling down to the south and promising unsettled weather ahead of us. But we're in the clear air just behind the front, enjoying tradewind sailing, and look to arrive at Hawai'i after the inclement weather has left the islands.

Any number of our landfalls over the years have seen me doing the maths on the speed that we need to maintain over the final couple of days to avoid arriving in the middle of the night, and then tweaking the sails fruitlessly as we fail to maintain that speed.

On this well-earned landfall the opposite situation seems to hold. We have been effortlessly making between 7 and 8 knots, well above the average needed to get us to harbor in daylight hours in two days' time. (Everything going to plan!)

We are so happy with our pace that we are even detouring to the southeastern coast of Hawai'i to chase up a rumor of lava flowing to the sea that might be viewable from sea.

Yesterday was Eric's 7th birthday, a much-anticipated event, I can assure you. Alisa brought her festivity-making magic to bear, with special meals and a Minecraft-themed cake. His delight at the day was complete, his youth and innocence still adequate to the simple pleasure of, for instance, waking up in the morning to find the area under the dodger already decorated for his big day. His eyes were shining with joy all day long, and he assured us at bedtime that it was his favorite birthday ever.

The books and other gifts that he received have made a pleasant set of new diversions just as we are passing the one month at sea mark, and all the old books and toys are prone to going a bit flat. And the day of celebration was a welcome change for all of us, now that the days all seem so alike.

Tomorrow is Alisa's birthday, these days coming in twos for the Galactics. We blokes have promised her a day free of galley duty, and I have been regaling her with descriptions of the canned hot dog curry over ramen noodles that we will produce, among other gastronomic delights.

I trust that she, too, will be happy to have a birthday at sea.
~~
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

25

Twenty-five days out now, our longest time ever at sea.

We're at the point where the days blow by us without our hardly noticing. First we wake up, then suddenly it's time for dinner and night watch. The days pour through our fingers...like water. But we seem to barely get closer to Hawai'i. More than a thousand miles to go still.

Luckily our boys are old hands at this. They may get a little hyper at the end of the day, but they don't bug us with questions about how much longer it will take. When they do give into curiosity and make tentative openings along those lines, trying to see if I'll be forthcoming about when we might make landfall, I fall back on the vagueness that has gotten me this far as a combo captain/father.

More than a week, I say. And that's all I'll commit to.

Elias had the spot of the day today. He was at the rail, taking a leak, when his exclamations of wonder roused the rest of us from our blue sky reveries.

A pod of long-finned pilot whales had materialized just next to the boat. Close, but if Elias hadn't been at the rail it seems we might have sailed right by them, oblivious.

What a sense of wonder they gave us, these 20 foot long sleek black cetaceans that punctuated the endless expanse of waves and paid us no mind.

Whatever follies might be playing out in the world ashore, I can confirm that pilot whales still roam the wild plains of the eastern tropical Pacific. Which I find very reassuring.

Elias also plucked another mahi mahi out of the sea today, which gave us all a chance to be filled with a sense of wonder at Alisa's curried fish soup.

I've finished a draft of a science paper on this trip. Anyone who has tried to write a science paper while at sea on a family yacht can tell you what a very bad idea it is. The work gets done very inefficiently, and the experience of the passage suffers somewhat from too much frowning screen time after midnight.

I have also, and this is much more in the spirit of making long passages, discovered Jorge Luis Borges. I picked up a new translation of his Collected Fictions on a recent trip to America, just the sort of spur of the moment purchase at a bookstore that educated people used to make before You Tube was invented. I've finally cracked the book open on this trip, and what a pleasure it is to fill that particular void in my experience of the world and finally read Borges.

He has a particular gift for the aphorism. I plan to start my next scientific talk by quoting this one:

"You will reply that reality has not the slightest obligation to be interesting. I will reply in turn that reality may get along without that obligation, but hypotheses may not."

And, more simply, and very much to the heart of someone who, in the company of his children, watches schools of flying fish exploding from the sapphire water all day long, each lonely fish held aloft on wings that look like nets of diamonds:

"In this world, beauty is so common."
~~
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Monday, April 24, 2017

Around South America

Looking at our logbook, I see that today we crossed our outbound track from San Diego, back in 2011.

So, in a veeerrrry roundabout way that involved a year in Tasmania, we have now completed the circumnavigation of the South American continent.

While we've sailed around a lot, I find that we haven't actually sailed right around many things. New Zealand comes to mind, and what a satisfying trip that was. I hope that we're lucky enough to eventually sail around North America as well, some day.

This sailing life. It looks hard to give up.

Meanwhile, our fondest wishes for the day did come true. Elias and Eric did pull another mahi mahi out of the water, just in time for dinner, making it a 2-mahi mahi meal day.

And, sad note. A weld on the quadrant of the Cape Horn windvane gave up with an heroic clang an hour ago, and part of the quadrant fell into the bilge.

The wind vane had been doing such stellar service on this passage. Now we are without its services until we can get the quadrant welded back together.

Hope that autopilot is feeling well rested and ready to steer us for the next 11 days or so...
~~
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Champagne

We're now 21 days into this penultimate passage.

Twenty-one days in, and still about 1800 miles to go by the shortest route. Our previous record of 24 days at sea will be blasted far into second best, no matter what happens.

There has been ample time for everything in these 21 days. Ample time for sweating, early on, and wishing for wind. Now, at the dizzying heights of 12° North latitude, we find it so cool that the blokes sometimes wear shirts at dinner time; jackets have even made an appearance in the depths of night watch.

The time has also been ample for considering the limits to the more boosterish views that you hear expressed about the delights of raising children afloat. News flash: it isn't always idyllic. Eric, poor bloke, has struggled to find his footing for much of this passage. He hasn't fought seasickness at all - he has come far in that regard, at least on a flat sea.

But, trapped like this on the boat for day after long day, he has struggled at times with some of the worst impulses of a six-year-old. When he is alone with Alisa or me he is a delight, but as soon as his brother is around he tends to devolve into fighting and teasing and baby talk. And...we're on passage, so he is by force always around his brother.

Alisa, and especially I, sleep deprived as we are, tend to be short of the patience that an energetic six year old stuck on a boat for three weeks demands.

Looking through old pictures the other night, I was reminded that Galactic is the only home that Eric has really known. Most of the time we wouldn't trade these years of raising a young family at sea for anything; but there are long moments, like a weeks-long passage when one of your kid isn't being his angelic self, when the delight can be hard to find.

Life at sea is just normal life in that regard.

Meanwhile, though, we are well into the champagne sailing. Blue blue sea, sparkling white caps, and steady winds. I occasionally look at the weather forecast out of boredom more than anything else. In the trades as we are there is little to look for except more of the same.

Elias caught us a mahi mahi for our lunch today. Two others were thrown back for being too small, and two others got off. I wonder if he'll bring the sixth one aboard for our dinner?
~~
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Privilege

I spent yesterday morning on the bow, sewing the ripped seam in our jib.

I had the most spectacular show of pelagic biology to divert me while I plied the needle.

Little tuna were pursuing flying fish, the momentum of their pursuit occasionally sending the tuna skyrocketing high out of the water.

The flying fish, meanwhile, were loth to take to the air to escape the tuna for the threat of the birds overhead. Frigate birds and masked and red-footed boobies followed along just above the tuna. When the flying fish, in extremis, took to the air, they were likely to be plucked out of it by a hungry bird.

All this was playing out all around us, often less than a boat length away as our bow cut through the sapphire water and I sewed and sewed.

It's easy to get caught up in what the world used to be, and isn't any more. I happened to read a scientific paper the other day that estimated the population of yellowfin tuna in this part of the eastern tropical Pacific at about 20% of pre-fishing levels.

But one of the great delights of travel is reveling in what a wonderful place this world continues to be. Like the place that puts on such show of open ocean life and death, such an arresting tableau of blue marble biology, that I didn't even think to mention the 40 dolphins that also milled around the boat for a long moment.
~~
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Rip

When we bought Galactic in 2011 we mounted a GPS unit in the cockpit and the odometer on it said 0 nautical miles when we set out from the marina in Alameda, California where we fitted out.

The same odometer reads just at this moment 46,242 nautical miles. The big majority of those miles have been sailed under main and jib.

So that main and that jib are starting to feel a little creaky.

We blew a luff grommet out of the main yesterday, high up on the sail, above the third reef, so we couldn't set even a reefed main until it was fixed.

In South Africa where sails are a good deal we decided not to replace the main. We're still fine with that decision, but keeping this old main going is going to involve a little extra work.

After finding the rip we pulled the main down and unrolled a little more jib to keep us moving.

And that's when we saw that a seam at the head of that sail had come adrift.

We rolled the jib up again to take the load off the failing seam. It was a squally rainy day, unsuitable for a 5200 patch, my go-to approach for at-sea sail fixes. So we settled back to wait for dry weather while we lazed along at 4.5 knots under half a jib alone.

It's a funny thing. When the boat is, well, crippled isn't the right word, let's say "challenged", far far from land, that's when a passage really comes to life. Before you set out, the true nature of the passage isn't apparent. You can plan your best route for the forecasted winds and make a best guess at how many days a trip will take, but when that unexpected thing happens, like both your main and jib ripping at once, that's when the passage declares itself. That's when you find out exactly what kind of ride you bought a ticket for. And, that's when, if you fancy yourself an ocean sailor, you get the chance to see if you're right.

The squalls had moved on by dinner time and after slooowly cogitating through the possible patching approaches open to me, a process enabled by the memory of all the not-so-good patches that I've made in the past, I started gluing away on night watch.

I was finished by 0130. In the morning I sewed up various bits of hardware that needed re-attaching, and Elias and Alisa and I bent the sail back on the mast.

We do have a new South African jib aboard, so we're not too stressed about the state of our old trusty that is currently flying. With any luck we'll get that on deck tomorrow morning, and a few hours of hand stitching should set us right.

That sounds easier than changing sails just now.

So that's us. Panama City 2,000 miles away over the stern, and Kona 2,700 miles in front of the bow. And with any luck, this passage has done all the declaring that it has to do

~~
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

She Knows Me

One thing about life on a traveling boat with your family - the stresses and vicissitudes of the sea leave you nowhere to hide. Whatever good points might recommend you, and whatever character flaws you are carrying through life, are both completely obvious, to everyone.

On my good points this narrative is largely silent.

But long-term readers will recognize one of my salient flaws: an incomplete approach to the business of marine engineering.

You will protest that being less than handy is not actually a character flaw. And in the lubber world, where there is always someone else to help you with the practical matters of life, you would be right.

But in the life afloat, having less than stellar practical skills is a very serious moral shortcoming indeed.

Now, I get by. To paraphrase a performance review that Miles Smeeton received during the war, I excel at fixing boat problems that I never should have allowed to develop in the first place.

And if you take into account that I have a PhD (from Australia, but still), then I am a very handy wrench-turner indeed.

Unfortunately, my practical skills are not judged in the context of my peers in the egghead world. Reminiscent of Woody Allen ("She was a whore at the table and a lady in bed"), I write a scientific paper like a diesel mechanic might, and I change injectors like a tenured professor.

And my peers in the sailing world set a very very high standard when it comes to making things work. We know any number of people who can weld up a new cabin heater, or replace their centerboard with a custom-made fixed keel, and have.

And while we've watched all of these exquisitely practical people making their seagoing homes hum, Alisa has gotten used to the business of shopping out little jobs that I will never get done - this bent hinge, that rusty second hand child's bike, the busted gudgeon and pintle set on the ever-delicate Walker Bay dinghy.

I can claim the time demands of my science life, and do. But doing so will not change the fact that we set out from Panama with a busted whisker pole, a nifty extendable affair that no longer extends.

In its current collapsed state we can only pole out a deeply-reefed jib. And thus we have been sailing, day after day on this light-wind passage, dead downwind with a jib sized for a gale. Our alternate-universe Galactic, the one that set out with a skookum pole, is a day ahead of us at least.

Alisa has not complained. She has not made the slightest play towards blame or shame. She has not even hinted at the possibility of interviewing relief skippers.

What she has done, that endlessly optimistic believer in the salvageable nature of her better half that she is, is she has started a job list for fixes and improvements that we might accomplish on the boat while in Hawai'i.

The top item on that list is "spi pole".

Even after all these years afloat, she looks to a brighter future.

You could sail the world without my wife. But I wouldn't recommend it.
~~
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Boobie of Doom

Elias, our fishing master, is naturally, given his upbringing as the son of an ex seabird biologist, very concerned to run a bycatch-free operation.

The other day, we caught a red-footed boobie.

We usually watch any boobies carefully and quickly pull in the lines if they show interest in our lures. But this one gave us little chance. Before we knew it, he was on the water and pecking at our lure.

I hauled him in hand over hand (he had bitten at our hand line). It turned out that he was hooked through the lower mandible. It was a "clean" wound, though a bit bloody, and after some quick work with the needle nose pliers the bird was back in the water. I'm hopeful that he will recover pretty easily from the experience.

What hasn't recovered is our fishing effort. We are now extra-loth to leave the lines out without carefully attending them. And where we were towing a phalanx of offerings - two handlines, the rod, and two "exciter bird" teasers - now we put out a much less ambitious set. Just the one handline, or two at the most. I'm not quite sure what Elias' reasoning is for favoring the handlines over the rod, but I trust him.

Whatever else this passage might offer, it doesn't look to be rich in fish dinners.
~~
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Friday, April 14, 2017

Water

We carry about 600 liters of the stuff, which has been easily enough for our longest passages in the past.

On the 21-day trip from South Georgia we washed dishes in fresh and took minimal care with our consumption, but arrived in Cape Town with enough water left for days and days of dockside use, which allowed us to live off the delightful Grytviken water and saved us from the less delightful Cape Town version.

So we've never really worried about drinking water on passage.

This passage, it is apparent, is a little different.

We are now 12 days in, and Hawai'i is still more than 3,000 miles away. It has been above 30° C / 90° F throughout, and the sweat pours off us, day and night.

So naturally we have been drinking water pretty freely. This didn't worry us, but we did take more than normal precautions. I fossicked around in the plumbing parts locker and came up with the pieces to re-plumb the salt water tap at the galley sink, which I years ago disconnected, so that we (she) could wash the dishes in salt.

As I said, we weren't worried. But there is a long long stretch of empty ocean ahead of us, and we imposed pretty draconian limits on wash water that were a bit hard to take for our constantly sweating bodies.

And then, a couple days ago, something odd happened.

The port tank, which we have been using almost exclusively so far, was feeling funny at the foot pump when we drew water. This is often the first sign that the tank is getting low.

And the fridge pump, which uses drinking water as a coolant, was getting air when pumping from the same tank. (!)

Oddly, there was also some water in the container that the overflow hose for the port tank flows into. This normally happens only when the tank is overfilled when we're taking water.

So, something of an open ocean plumbing mystery. Add to that the combination of a fail-dangerous setup and human error early on in the trip that saw some water mistakenly pumped from our starboard tank into the then-full port tank, into the overflow hose, and thence into the bilge.

We thought that only about 10 liters were lost in that incident. But we weren't entirely sure that it wasn't much more. Because - admission - we don't have a way to see how full the tanks are. I hold that people who are going to sea only when they're ready never leave, while nearly everyone who is actually sailing the oceans of the world is doing so with a boat suffering some shortcoming that really should have been addressed before they set off.

On Galactic, that shortcoming might be our inability to gauge the tanks.

So, with the port tank looking like it might be running low well less than half way into the passage, mental alarm bells started going off.

I plotted the distances to ports in Mexico where we might top up. They were blessedly close - less than 300 miles - and the winds wouldn't make it tough to get there.

Elias started asking me what we would do if we ran out of water. We hadn't shared any of our concern with him, but all of our admonitions about being careful with water had made things clear enough. It's hard to hide things from your kids on a boat.

I answered that we always had the emergency 80 liters in jugs on deck, which we could ration severely and stretch a long long way.

He asked what I meant by ration, and then he asked what we would do if those ran out.

I had thought this through, of course, and told him how we would try to distill sea water on the galley stove. But I also stressed that it was vanishingly unlikely we would get to that point.

That night, after the boys were in bed and Alisa was on the HF, checking in with the Pacific Seafarer's Net, I bit the bullet and opened the inspection hatches for both tanks.

The port tank was surprisingly full. Clogged filters explained the funny foot pump feel and the fridge pump sucking air. And Alisa pointed out that the vicious roll we had suffered through on a windless night might have been enough to slosh water out of the overflow hose.

The starboard tank was almost completely full.

So...we're set. At this rate I wonder if we couldn't go 45 days or even 50, which is quite a long way for four people to stretch 600 liters.

We celebrated with bucket showers and a freshwater rinse for all hands. The boys were ecstatic at the treat.

It was quite a relief to look in those tanks and see how well we're doing, and I have resolved to get sight glasses plumbed into the tanks so we can see how full they are.

But through all this, neither Alisa nor I have ever felt tempted by the idea of an onboard watermaker. As long as our backs are up to hauling jerry jugs now and again, a watermaker is beyond our personal line in the sand of unreasonable onboard cost and complexity, an expression of the attitude that every problem in the life afloat has a technological solution which we are happy to sneer at for now.

As I was writing this, a squall passed overhead. We set the smaller of our two raincatchers and filled the kettle. And, more importantly, the whole crew mustered on deck naked and felt the shivery joy of cold freshwater running over our salt-itching bodies.

And that might be a little moment of passagemaking delight that stays with us for a long time.
~~
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Friday, April 7, 2017

3,951

Yeah, that would be us. Six days into the trip, and 3,951 miles still to go.

This is going to be our longest-ever by far.

Flew the chute today, after we caught the marlin.

Let the marlin go, with a streamer of monofilament hanging from the hook in its mouth. Sometimes I think that our fishing efforts are largely a way of putting plastic into the ocean.

Elias was so pleased with the experience of getting the marlin alongside and then releasing it. He has more or less completely taken over fishing responsibilities from me, and he caught the thing on a handline that he set up by himself.

Not bad for a 10-year-old, I suppose. But very much the norm for a yachtie kid.

He was also so pleased about how he and I worked together to get the beastie alongside without the benefit of a reel. Afterwards he commented several times to me about what a good team we are.

I wonder if he can see the approaching day when he is more competent at some practical things than I am. Can he smell the equality of standing that would imply between us?

Meanwhile, if you're interested, I believe that our position is being posted to the YOTREPS web site. Search for Galactic, or KL2DM.

~~
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Isla del NoNo

Greetings from the big big Pacific.

The wind speed has gone less than. Not a zephyr disturbs our sweaty daydreams. Thirty five C/94 F in the cabin just now, an hour past noon.

All going well, we will in a few weeks cross our outbound track from San Diego and thus complete our circumnavigation of South America.

And what an odd continental circumnavigation it will be. All the way around, and we only visited one South American nation - Chile.

Our mates on Mollymawk, who have mastered the slow-travel pace, spending YEARS in Brazil and Uruguay and Argentina and Chile along the way, would doubtless be aghast.

But everyone finds their own speed. That's one of the joys in this life afloat - how many ways there are to do it.

Still, though we do love that part of sailing that involves busting out the big miles, lately it seems that we have been passing up more than we would have liked. All that time in Panama, for example, and we still never birded the Pipeline Road, we never visited Boquete or any other place in the mountains.

So, when an idle glance at the plotter the other day showed Isla del Coco only a few hundred miles off our track, interest was kindled on the part of the Captain and the Morale Officer.

Let's go to Coco! we thought. When are we coming this way again, after all? It's a place that you can likely get to only with your own boat, which are widely known to be the very best places in the world. And Coco can stand in for Tristan de Cunha and the Galapagos and Lord Howe and Easter and Pitcairn and all the other wonderful places that we have somehow missed visiting along the way.

A quick note to our indefatigable agent ashore (thanks, mom!) requested the background info that more organized yachties would have likely have looked up before going to sea, when they were writing up their passage plan...or whatever it is that those people do.

The answer that came back was a bubble-burster. No vessels allowed from foreign ports (Coco is Costa Rican), permit required, must be applied for at least 15 days in advance with notarized forms, etc. etc.

No Coco for us.

Hawai'i or bust.

Now if only Elias would catch us a fish, already.

~~
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Right Turn, Marge

We left Panama three days ago, on April Fool's Day.

Rather than turning left for a fourth trip across the South Pacific (no one should be that lucky!) and a new life in Australia, we turned right and began the long trek back to Kodiak, from whence we set forth nearly a decade ago.

This is a sailing blog, not a current-events blog.

But it is apparent that we have timed our homecoming more spectacularly than most long-term sailors. That part of our journey that has us returning to the starting point, pondering the changes in ourselves and our old haunts, is bound to be caught up in the narrative of what is going on in the home country.

To whit, we don't have to wonder any more what America might look like as the wheels are coming off. Now we just have to wonder if that's the setting that we want our boys to be growing up in. Thus the left turn/right turn decision that I referenced above.

Which really wasn't much of a decision for us. We love Tasmania, and some bits of mainland Australia, but they aren't Alaska.

Alaska is that superlative which Alisa and I were both lucky enough to discover in our early twenties. It is the home where our hearts will ever dwell, and we are both ecstatic (is that the word?) at the chance of discovering it again through the eyes of these two remarkable boys of ours.

So we're sailing back to Alaska. But that doesn't mean that I am at all sanguine about the state of affairs in the home country. I've even been practicing a motto to sum up my thoughts:

Elect a pussy-grabber, regret at leisure!

Pretty good, no?

I'm concerned about all sorts of things about the current administration, and am particularly concerned about what happens when said pussy-grabber and the third-rate help he has attracted are faced with an actual crisis out there in the real world. Or, I might equally be concerned about how strong the temptation will soon be, for this group of people with such limited ability to inspect their own motives, to start a war and get everyone off their backs already.

So I've been seeing the current situation as a race between getting to a constitutional crisis and getting to a war. And I've been wondering what it means to have one of the parties in a two-party system so thoroughly co-opted by the tinfoil-hat crowd.

But...funny thing. Though my fingers obviously ran away with me just now as I started thinking and typing about what we are heading back to, out here in the wide wide eastern tropical Pacific the situation in the US seems pretty remote.

We have had almost no wind so far, and Alisa has been marveling over and over that such a vast expanse of water could be so flat.

Neither of us have been very tired, and we are keeping watch around the clock effortlessly. We play cards or chess with the boys, I have been reading the Lord of the Rings out loud, and I have hour after hour for concentrated science work, combining mindless tasks like making figures for a paper with long meditative wanderings through the thickets of ideas that will boil down into some small bolus of new knowledge that my colleagues and I can contribute to the human experiment.

And I have been reminded yet again how much I love the open ocean. There is something so wonderful about daring to make an ocean crossing in your own boat with your family for crew. The scale is sooo much greater than anything on a human scale. The solitude is so pure, and the moments of wonder and delight are so all-engrossing.

It certainly makes all the effort of the sailing life more than worth it. And it gives Alisa and me that greatest of luxury in this particular turning age of ours - the time to reflect, and the distance to step back, and a ready-made perspective of the horizon that endlessly encircles us, without the distracting concerns of quotidian life.

From this perspective, I can look at our future with anticipation, and at our present with satisfaction.

What more could anyone want?
~~
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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Who's the Fool?


Tomorrow, on April 1, we plan to finally set out from Panama.

At least it won't be a Friday.

We checked the wind forecast a month or so ago, and it looked quite good for our impending passage. Back then, you could pick up the trades quite close to the Central American coast.

But! There seems to have been a seasonal development. The North Pacific high has started moving poleward, I suppose, and the trades have followed it.

We're looking at hundreds and hundreds of miles of verrrry light winds - most often less than 5 knots - before we get to the trades.

We really hate motoring at sea, but it looks like we are going to suck it up for a motor-fest in the coming days...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

It Must Be Good

Great friends of ours recently bought their first cruising boat.

In the nautical world, this is recognized as a dark and lamentable turning point in anyone's life.


Just joking.
Sort of.


We spoke with these friends of ours - really some of the most remarkable, steadfast, and simpatico people we have met in our decade afloat - right in that awful extended moment when the depths of their predicament had become fully clear. (Drop us a line, guys! We want to know how it goes.)


Everything on their new boat boat seemed to broken. They were looking at that insurmountable job list that is a part of most stories of how someone acted on the dream and bought their own traveling boat. And, I think, they were trying to figure out if the lake of expense and angst that had suddenly opened at their feet, demanding to be swum, was really going to be worth it.


We talked with these friends, just when they were re-evaluating their view of the sailing life through the new prism of boat ownership. At one point, one of them asked me if I ever got off the boat.

"Sure," I said somewhat defensively. "I get off the boat."

We have just spent a couple weeks anchored in Las Perlas Islands in Panama, poised on the verge of our big jump to Hawai'i.

Granted, I have been pouring heart and soul and considerable time into the scientific research that keeps us going financially, so my time budget would not be representative for most yachties.

But still, a few days ago I looked at Alisa, wiped the dust from my brow, and said to her, "I had my answer wrong. I should have said, 'Get off the boat? Why would I ever want to get off the boat?'"

Because, when I haven't been trying to understand the ecological implications of sea surface temperature-sea level pressure coupling in the North Pacific, I have been pouring heart and soul and discretionary hours into projects like those illustrated above: fixing the wind generator (partly successful) and renewing the nonskid deck paint in crucial areas (generally regarded as a stunning boat maintenance coup).

Meanwhile, our transmission has developed a leak that seems to have eluded my first attempt at a fix. And our busted telescoping whisker pole seems likely to set out for Hawai'i in a still-busted state. This is a really classic boat problem - it was broken when we reached Cape Town, got fixed there, failed nearly immediately on the trip back across the Atlantic, got fixed again at Ascension Island, and then broke immediately again.



So this is us, a decade into the sailing life, on a well-used boat, which are generally less maintenance than the marina-sitters of the world. We're always fixing something.


And yet, for all that effort, we are all four of us completely enthralled with the sailing life. Consider the days we have just spent at Las Perlas, off a deserted beach, in waters thick with life, at a spot that you could only get to your own boat.

See the beach fire pic above from Las Perlas - I expect that our next beach fire will be in Alaska.  See the photos of Eric below, swinging from a halyard.



And see the happy family, very much together, very much in the same boat, below.


Buying your way into that kind of living with some boat maintenance...who wouldn't make that trade?

Brown pelican, catching dinner