Saturday, November 16, 2013

An Elation Not To Be Trusted

Boat, meet ocean
Where to begin?

Perhaps that afternoon about seven days into the trip.

Our sleep schedules were, as usual, complete wrecks on this passage.  We covered the nights by trading off two three-hour watches and two two-hour watches, and attempted, with more or less success, to make up the lost sleep with daytime naps.  The hour after my afternoon nap was often the low point of my day, as my vital force, grumpy over being put to hard use, would refuse to resume a diurnal energy level and would instead mope on about the uncomfortable motion of the boat.  On this particular day, it was worse than usual.  I suspected a developing migraine.  Foolish me, I had let myself run low on the rescue med while we in the tropics - to the point where I had only one of those magic migraine-cancelling wafers left when we set out from Fiji.

And that one got used on day four.

On this later afternoon, when I was ruing my empty medicine chest and wondering if I was about to suffer, the weather wasn't bad.  No gales were in the offing.  But we were sailing into 20 or 25 knot winds, and three meter swells.  The boat was fine, but it was a loud, occasionally violent ride.

And I had my revelation - I didn't want to be in that setting with my kids, wondering if I was going to be able to look after things.  Long-time readers will recognize the situation.

In my sulu at the start of the trip, waiting for the customs officer to arrive and clear us out of Fiji.

As it was, everything came fine.  I took another nap.  The threat of a migraine passed.  We finished what ended up being a fairly tough passage for a boat with young kids - nine and a half days, the last eight of them traveling into headwinds.  And we came out smiling on the other end.

Alisa, doing acrobatics in the galley.  It's hard to get a picture of what life on a heeling boat at sea feels like.  But the braced leg and galley strap give some idea.  Note also the Galactic attitude towards changing your pants at sea, even after they've got salt stains on the bum.  Why bother?
Elias called it the best passage ever.  Eric excitedly told his grandmother over the phone from New Zealand - JoJo, I didn't throw up on the passage!  And I found myself agreeing with Elias.  It wasn't a really tough passage (again, no gales), but it wasn't a cake walk.  And the boat and the boys and ourselves took it all in stride.  And that made it seem pretty special when it was all over.  I found myself dancing down below yesterday morning while we were waiting for the New Zealand Customs official to check us in (though I wasn't wearing a sulu this time).  It was an old feeling, that elation that had 45-year-old me dancing all by myself to Burning Spear, the over-the-top exhilaration that comes at the end of a adventure that had its doubtful moments, but turned out fine.

Watching the waves
That post-adventure elation is always suspect, of course.  Once the passage, or the mountain climb, or whatever, is done, all the hard bits disappear from the victor's version of history.  So planning what you might get up to some day in the mountains, or on your boat, isn't something that you should do in the after-adventure glow.

But, nonetheless, we are planning, and feeling the next version of the dream taking on the shape of real-life undertaking.  For months at least, and maybe years, we've been wondering if we'd get up the energy to sail to Patagonia.  And after this passage, it's starting to look like we might, assuming that my income from science allows us to keep going.  That would have us sailing east from New Zealand at the end of the Austral summer, towards French Polynesia and Chile and the Falklands and whatever else might await beyond.

The inevitable fish pictures.  Boy's second tuna (above)
and a wahoo (left)


And the mahi mahi.  See how quickly he loses his beautiful colors of life (left) once he's dead (right).  You can watch it happening and know that the struggle is done.  I think Alisa told me it took two hours to get this fish on board.  Those are cookie-cutter shark bites in the right-hand picture.  It strikes me that we belong to that subset of marine biologists who do not mind fishing in the right circumstances.  We don't fish coral reefs though - I can only think of one place where we've ever eaten a coral reef fish that we caught ourselves.

Wahoo and chips for dinner

We haven't really officially decided to head for Patagonia.  But we're talking about everything that we'll want to do to the boat this summer to get ready, so without making the decision official we find ourselves starting to come to terms with that old process of bringing a dream to life, of leaving behind the perfect world of the dream and coming to grips with what the limits of time and money will allow you in terms of preparation.

So that's what we're looking forward to at this point.  And, meanwhile, we have an entire New Zealand summer to enjoy.  We keep hearing such good things about Nelson, on the South Island...

Victory breakfast, at the Quarantine dock
Quarantine dock, Opua


  1. Excellent fish Elias! Glad you arrived safe and sound! Enjoy NZ, look forward to seeing you again...somewhere.

    1. Hey Heather! Yep, will look forward to seeing you guys somewhere, sometime. If nothing else, we'll now look at superyachts with more interest, wondering if you one of you might be on board...

  2. Kia ora, and well done Galactic - again! Very glad to learn you have made it to NZ where, if you are patient, the sun will shine and the sea will become warm enough to swim in. Supposedly you can tell how good the fishing will be this summer by how well the Christmas trees (pohutakawa) flower. Dance away, and enjoy your freshly-laundered clothes. Something surreal about reading your blog in Venice, with church bells chiming, but your vivid writing takes us to sea with you. Thank you!

    1. ah, the pohutakawa trees! That's the kind of inside dope on NZ that we are sorely lacking. We'll see what we can pick up this time around...