Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Note on Passages

Alisa and I don't get many photos of each other when we're swapping out the watch in the middle of the night, one of us about to resume the battle against fatigue, the other about to give up the fight for a few hours.

Actually, we don't get any photos at those times.  So this is the best that I can do for a pictorial representation of fatigue on passage - me at dawn, after a night of two hours' sleep, and a long morning ahead of me until we tie up at the customs dock in Neiafu.

Another dawn, this one just outside of North Minerva.

Burning off energy at Minerva.

Very long-term followers of this blog will remember that, back in the Pelagic days, Alisa and I imitated singlehanders on passage.  We slept.  And we trusted the radar alarm to keep an eye out for other vessels.

But then, soon after we bought Galactic, the geriatric radar went the way of all expensive boat gadgets.  Without its electronic eye to sweep the seas for us, Alisa and I kept watch and watch, all the musty-eyed way across the Pacific.

And we've done the same since we left Tasmania - watch and watch across the Tasman, and down to the Aucklands, and now up to Tonga.

And we did it, not quite easily, since we have Elias and (especially) Eric to care for during the day, but easily enough.

But then this last passage came along - a fairly rough start, with a northerly swell working against the rowdy southeast wind on the back of a low.

I started off the passage tired from the typical rigmarole of getting the barky to sea, and I stayed up the majority of the first night.  And that pushed it too far.  I got a migraine, and spent the next 24 (?) hours alternately puking and collapsing in the fetal position.

Let me tell you, there's nothing like a migraine at sea.

And the thing is - having me down with a migraine just isn't cool, as Alaska Range mountain climbers used to say about situations that are unacceptably risky.  With me that incapacitated, we lose the ability to react adroitly to any time-critical situation that might come along.

And the conditions on this passage really were benign - what if we'd had the gale-force conditions that we'll expect on the trip back to En Zed?

And, you guessed it - for all that time that we stayed awake, for eight or nine nights, or whatever it was, we didn't see a single vessel at sea - neither by eye nor on the AIS screen.  That doesn't mean it's safe, necessarily, to fail to keep watch.  But it does give you an idea of how untrafficked big stretches of the ocean can be.

So all this, of course, got us wondering about the much bigger passages that we've thought of doing, and whether we might need to moderate our ambitions.  One thing is obvious - I have to manage migraines much better, and can't let myself succumb like that again.  And we've thought about getting another radar, and how that and the AIS might give us a fairly reasonable back-up if we decide to imitate singlehanders again, and sleep at sea.

But right now, I'm glad to report, the nitty-gritty of the passage has faded, as they do, and we're enjoying being in Tonga again.

Once more into the breach - heading out from Minerva.


  1. so how's that hope and change working out for you? Not very well for the folks back home. Worst. President. Ever

    1. courage means not commenting anonymously!