Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sailing to Cleveland

The other times that we've sailed into French Polynesia were different.

Those other times, we were coming downwind through the tropics to a tropical landfall. For days as we watched the GPS count down the miles to our landfall, we sported around deck in our swimsuits and dumped buckets of seawater on each other's heads to cool off.

This time, we are coming upwind through a broad band of disturbed weather, fleeing a gale that had blocked our way further south, in the thirties south latitude, where winter has begun. The sky has been leaden for weeks, and though we are all the way up to 20° South, we continue to wear full raingear on deck, bare feet our only concession to the fact that we are in the tropics. Every hatch and portlight and dorade has been sealed up since we left New Zealand, and the inside of the boat is fetid with Essence of Family in Small Space, mixed with Sticky Crust of Salt From Sodden Raingear. If you squinted your eyes and looked at the sky and sea around us, you might be forgiven for thinking we were sailing into Cleveland, Ohio ("The Mistake on the Lake") rather than the Tuamotus.

Cracking your ribs on passage turns out to be antithetical to writing on the blog, and to any other sort of productive thought. On passages in the past I've worked on scientific papers and filled pages in a journal. On this one I've managed only enough energy to read (free tip - don't waste your money on East of Eden, get your hands on the American Library collection of Nabokov instead). The rest of the family is passing the time as well - paper airplanes, coloring sessions, and long spells of reading aloud. An excerpt of Steinbeck's The Red Pony, red aloud from a collection of animal stories, suddenly brought back the entire novel from my memory, a book I likely read 35 years ago, and had no recollection of ever holding in my hands. That brought forth all sorts of other books that we need to read to Elias - Watership Down! A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court!

And there were others, but I forgot to write them down.

This is the 21st day of the passage. The boys are doing admirably, though I have been concerned at times that they might be wising up on us. For a while Elias realized that his bunk up forward is the worst place on the bunk to sleep, and he came back to the saloon to claim the choicest bunk on the boat, the downwind settee in the saloon. Eric told us yesterday that he doesn't like sailing (though he hasn't been seasick in a week) and would prefer to be at anchor. Toughen up, lad! I didn't make the Pacific this wide. We are only a few days out at this point, but we won't tell them that, for fear of the end-of-passage impatience from the junior crew that would suddenly overwhelm us. Instead, I hope to present them with the sight of land, a fait accompli, and transition directly to them badgering us to get ashore immediately.

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