Wednesday, December 17, 2014

41=?ISO-8859-1?Q?=B0?= S(mooth)

Consider our situation. The three bits of land that are closest to us - Easter Island/Rapa Nui, the Juan Fernandez Islands and mainland Chile - are all more than 1,000 sea miles away. Any designs we may have had on a fast passage have been smothered by the area of high pressure that is slooooowly making its way over our position. The last time we took any diesel fuel aboard was in May, in Opua, New Zealand. Since then we've put 7,950 miles on the log(!), and the tanks are far too empty for us to blithely motor through the calms. Instead we've been living under the spinnaker, which we much prefer to motoring anyway.

Sometimes the chute pulls bravely and we make a fortune (6 knots in the right direction!) out of little breeze. Other times are like what we have now - not quite enough wind to keep the spinnaker full, and we're making less than three knots heading a little north of east, which will tend to carry us deeper into the high.

When we do motor we keep the RPMs very low - just enough to move us at four knots or so - and as a result we sip at the fuel. But even so, we might only have 24 hours of motoring left to us, so making even imperfect progress under spinnaker welcome. But then the wind drops to the point where the chute starts flapping against the rig, and we have to consider the cost in terms of wear to the sail, or, much worse, the risk of a tear if the delicate fabric finds a sharp edge somewhere in all the fittings on the mast.

So that's the game now - we consider the tradeoff between declining fuel and risk to the sail, and Alisa and I have had the chute up and down a score of times since the high caught us three or four days ago.

Early on in the passage we just set the sails and then held on while we ripped along. But this slower, more considered progress that we've been making lately has brought it home to me - this really is an adventure! No matter how many people who have done the trip before, no matter how commodotizied and normalized the activity might seem to us, it really is a big deal, sailing to South America with the family, across the bleedin' Pacific Ocean and all. And then, when we get across this vast ocean, there is all of the unknown wonder that awaits us in Patagonia.

No wonder full-time sailors so famously have a hard time of it when they swallow the anchor and retire to life ashore. Most other ways of living would seem a bit pedestrian after this.

Meanwhile, the conditions during these days of slow sailing have been delightfully tranquil. It's sunny, and after weeks of weather that spanned the gamut from drizzly to rainy, we have been lounging around in shorts. There is a three-meter or so swell rolling under us from the distant Southern Ocean. But the period of the swell is so long that we barely feel the motion. We just sit in the cockpit and watch the hills of water rolling up to us, and consider the strange sight of our stern rising to meet them, again and again. Two sunsets ago we watched one of the best green flashes we have yet seen. The sun looks bigger on this horizon than it does in the tropics, and the flash seemed to last much longer, perhaps because of the oblique angle at which the sun sets down here. A few breathless seconds after the first flash, we rose on the swell and saw a repeat performance.

Three to four weeks - that's a lot of time to spend on just getting to the next place. But right now, there's nowhere we'd rather be.

1 comment:

  1. A Double Green Flash? You, Sir and Madam, have won the Game. ;-)