Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pleasure Cruise, Or, The Happy Middle

"Wow", said Alisa. "This is a pleasure cruise."

Jinx not, but she's right. Ever since the vomiting of the first two days was over, we've been enjoying great conditions on this longest passage of our lives. The sailing has been fast, the wind has been constant enough, and the swell has been loooow.

For more of the trip than not, Galactic has been moving faster than eight knots. And now that the wind has dropped a bit and we're reduced to seven and a half knots under full sail, the sea seems table-flat.

Of course we're not even half way there and it's far too early to gloat. In particular, some variety of Southern Ocean swell is bound to visit us sooner or later. But our decision to wait until December to make this crossing has certainly been vindicated thus far. This is the first passage in years for which we've used pilot charts to plan, and those graphical representations of average conditions in the world's oceans, month by month, promised a marked decline in the incidence of gales from November to December. So, at the cost of a shorter summer in Patagonia, that's why we chose to be on passage now.

It's not like a tradewind passage, with the wind blowing forever from one direction. Lows and highs swirl by us, shifting the direction of our wind gradually but persistently, day by day.

Instead of choosing a course and doggedly sticking to it, reefing and shaking out and changing the angle of sail to bend the wind to our will, I have mostly just adjusted our course as the wind shifted, keeping us within ten degrees of a beam reach throughout. This keeps the speed up and the traveling comfortable. And as a delightful by-product, the track that we've left across our computer screen's depiction of the southwest Pacific curves and swirls - we're swooping and dipping our way to Chile, we drop down towards the magical line of 40°S, then we back off to the north. It feels very non-Cartesian mind, it has a touch of that Moitessier creature-of-the-sea air about it, this little abnegation of our era's slavish observance of efficiency. We are sailing to Patagonia along the track that an albatross might follow. It probably isn't the fastest route, but it feels the best. And in spite of those meandering twists and turns, we have been logging days of 180 and 190 nautical miles, straight line distance, between our positions at consecutive noons.

So this is us in the happy middle. At noon today we were at 37° 07' S, 118° 19' W, heading south of east. We're at the longitude of L.A., and we'll be finished when we reach the longitude of Connecticut. Alisa is teaching Elias to knit. We're reading our way aloud through the Narnia series yet again. All of us are doing what we can to increase our grasp of Spanish vocabulary and grammar - reflexive verbs! The past tense! Days of the week! I am giving myself the great gift of time and concentration enough to read Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom!) for the first time in years. I've given a science paper a final edit and it is now ready to go to the journal (Progress in Oceanography) once we're in Chile. I also have printed off the manuscript that I've been working on this year to give it a critical read after using my energies elsewhere the last couple of months...though I'm not sure I should do that while reading Faulkner. Alisa promises that we'll be down to eating the cushions by the end of the trip. The boys are having long stretches of playing well together, feeding each other lines in their role playing of knights and fishermen.

This might be that old friend, the ineffable peace of the sea.

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