Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Most Accessible Adventure

Tomorrow it will be three weeks since we set out on this crossing. Alisa and I have naturally been thinking a bit about stories of our sailing friends' various passages, or the passages of friends of friends, or just passage stories that we've heard. The farther away the stories get from our ability to verify them, the better they are, not surprisingly.

At this point in our sailing career we've made a lot of passages ourselves, of course, and we are well enmeshed in this odd community of people who cross oceans in their own boats, often time after time. And it strikes me that there is no grander adventure that is accessible to the average person than this.

During this past season in French Polynesia, we came up with the outline of a route that would get us back to Alaska. Not too quickly, mind, as that route began with us sailing away from Alaska, and towards Patagonia. But we had an idea of what the end game might look like for closing out this endless tour of the Pacific that has occupied our last seven and a half years.

But yesterday Alisa said something along the lines of how we shouldn't assume we know what route we'll actually take. Who knows - Cuba is suddenly allowed to us, and I have great memories of traveling there with a friend in my pre-sailing days. "Maybe we'll sail to Cuba," I said.

"Yeah," said Alisa. "Or maybe we'll sail to South Africa and Madagascar and on to Oz. "We could."

So I guess the big-picture dreaminess has taken root on this passage. After three weeks out of sight of land we are far enough removed from anything that passes as normal life that we might be allowed a little "what-if" daydreaming. And although we have started to think about working our way back to the Great Land, we are both happy enough in this life to imagine wanting to keep going, life fundamentals and the funding of my science work allowing.

Meanwhile, we crossed paths with a small ship today. They weren't running AIS, which is unusual for a ship of any sort, and I'm not sure that they weren't a Chilean Armada vessel, as far off of the Chilean coast as we still are. A couple of attempts on the VHF in English got no response, so I got my first chance on this trip to try out some radio Spanish, which went as well as I could hope.

And since that moment of excitement, we've been dealing with fairly confounding conditions - light wind, and also quite variable wind, which is very unusual for offshore sailing, plus swell from two bad directions - straight from the beam and also on the bow. So the motion has been awkward, and we find ourselves banging along at 7 knots for a while, and then the sails slamming around in no wind not too long after. We made good traveling out of it for most of the day, but just now I've given up in the face of steadily declining winds. So we're now motoring on the fumes of our keel tank (there are two inches in the port tank to get us into Valdivia) and with any luck the spinnaker will see us through whatever light winds await us tomorrow.

Well less than 500 miles to go now. It's getting pretty cold - I'm still going barefoot on deck, but Eric has taken to putting on his Alaska-ready "goat-roper" hat and fingerless gloves and declaring, "Now I'm ready for Patagonia!"

Unless this light wind sticks around too long, we have a reasonable chance of a Chilean Christmas.

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