Friday, September 30, 2016

52 Days/I Know the Size of the Sea

I won't die without knowing how big the sea is.

It is exactly the size of the human heart.

We sailed across the breadth and half the length of the Atlantic. Day after day, week after week, wave after wave, green flash after green flash. As fast as the wind cared to carry us.

You take on a challenge that big with your family for company and only your own skills and wherewhithal to rely on and you'll know - the world is all the stage our ambition needs. Impossibly big, but within the reach of our most serious efforts. Those most serious efforts that carry us into joy.

That life our family made for those weeks, in the odd confines of the boat. Where we lived overarched by the endless sky, while able to walk only twenty steps in one direction.

Look at that life now! It was as big as the world.

We left South Africa on August 3. We arrived in Curaçao on September 24. That makes 52 days on passage, counting the three days each that we spent in St. Helena, Ascension, and Grenada.

As always, land life has caught up with us in port, and the dream that was our life at sea fades into disbelief. We know it happened, and I look back at my journal and marvel at the scratchings there. What thoughts were occupying me, and how do I make sense of them now?

Could it really have been that good? That's the question that always stays with Alisa and me.

It used to be that we would have to put to sea again to find out.

But now we've been doing this for enough years to know.

It was.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


I've come up with a new theory of being useful I said to Alisa in Grenada.

Do tell her eyebrows said. The shape of her mouth spoke more about reservation, about declining to commit until the joke revealed itself.

It's this I said. You know how you're useful every day all the day long? Another meal another round of laundry another homeschool lesson plan prepared delivered re-delivered as necessary until the sullen target grudgingly admits understanding?

OK, out with it said the tilt of her chin.

Me, not so much. But! I figure if I'm really really useful every now and then it might balance things out ok. Like once every month or so. Then I'll be worth keeping around.

I considered myself to be speaking from an irreproachable position of usefulness. The gearbox had to be changed. The temperature in the engine room - 50°C if an inch, my boardies soaked like a hippo's undergarments, a puddle of salty Mike sweat appearing on any surface I touched - be damned. The self-inflicted two beers after a long passage migraine - that be damned too. Any doubts about a job I'd not done before which involved pushing the propeller shaft out of the boat far enough to wriggle the old gearbox out and the new gearbox in - banish them! It was time to act. I was the man to do it.

I bravely faced the conundrum of every cotton-headed dreamer who is persistent enough in his dreams to actually buy an actual boat and cast off the lines and travel the oceans far and farther. It was time to banish dreaminess and imitate a practical sort of bloke who never let a dream occupy his skull, awake or if preferable not even asleep. It was certainly time to forget that I had a PhD, or at least take solace in the fact that it's only an Australian PhD. It was time to be Useful.

Into the breach went our Useful dreamer. Fan shifted from forward head to engine room where it might circulate enough air to make mammalian life possible for the duration. A moment taken to reflect on the days when this might count as a boat job completed in itself.

Then a deep breath and in a rush exhaust mixer off coupling between gearbox and shaft uncoupled stuffing boxed slacked propeller shaft levered outwards cable and mount removed from gearbox plate mounting the gearbox to the engine unbolted what's that called? gearbox and plate *just* squeezed out new gearbox and plate slid into the not-so-gaping hole and bolted together in situ plate bolted to engine a long search for bolts just the right length to fit into the coupler and pull the propeller shaft back into place a long moment of doubt when the proper bolts were in place was the new coupler a lightly different size? coupler tightened down stuffing box tightened cable and mount replaced new gasket for the exhaust riser fabricated who knew there was a layer of steel mesh in the middle of that stuff? riser bolted back into place fire it up.

It didn't work.

Our friend Leiv's gearbox which he had kindly given in the Falklands was the veteran of an engine room fire and looked it. Before the fire, he warned us, it had already been worn of bearing and leaky of seal.

This "new" gearbox would go into gear where our old one had not. But the screaming metal-on-metal noise that came from below decks when it was put into gear could not be stood.

A long fault-finding process followed. Luckily the sudden demise of the water pump bearings, simultaneous to the gear box problems, was ruled out before I swapped that too.

Finally after too many false leads to recount, I found the problem. Our shift lever had stopped shifting properly.

There had been nothing wrong with the gearbox at all.

I had carefully ruled out any problems with the cable when we first started having troubles with the gearbox on passage. Obviously my ruling-out skills need work.

I greased and cajoled and adjusted and got the shift lever working again. We went into gear, forward and reverse, with a minimum of squeal. The decision was made to press on for Curaçao.

Considering the fix to the shift lever to be temporary and to have only a finite number of successful shifts left in it, we sailed off the hook in Grenada with the engine running but out of gear.

And that went very well.
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Opportunity Cost

One of the upsides of our stop in Grenada was meeting the like-minded crew of "Pelagic", people with whom we share some Alaska connections.

In conversation, Amy of Pelagic commented how an economist friend of theirs is horrified at the way they have gone sailing, and therefore foregone three of their "prime earning years". The opportunity costs! Unfathomable!

Alisa had the ready reply that perhaps that's why, while it seems impossible to get together any collection of traveling sailors that doesn't include an engineer or three, we have yet to knowingly meet an economist afloat.

Finally, it's been discovered! A class of people less romantic than the engineers! (My colleague and a reader of the blog, Alan Haynie, excepted, I am sure.)

Me, I'm more vulnerable to that talk of opportunity costs. I have this memory of the staff at a very good chandlery in San Diego that I cannot shake. The place seemed to be run entirely by people who had buggered off in their prime to go sailing, and were now passing their sixties working retail for none too high a wage, I imagine. I will admit to the occasional middle-of-the-night fear over the past nine years that that not be us.

And there is another sort of opportunity cost involved in a trip long enough to be measured in the lifetimes of our children. That's the what-might-have-been scenario that imagines us putting all the immense time and effort that has gone into the business of sailing across oceans into some other endeavor. While we've been servicing winches and slapping on bottom paint my sister has built a practice as a pediatrician and my brother in law has made himself a successful career in academia. Maybe we could have done something more concrete with our energies.

I think this is a big hurdle for a lot of people who consider the sailing life. We know people who could afford to take it on, and would like to, but I suspect are unwilling to make the commitment to giving up other endeavors in their lives.

You can only sit in one chair at a time, as the saying goes. And the sailing life, more than most, rewards the quality of being all-in.

(I might have some recourse to argument on this point, since I am the only full-time yachtie whom you will ever meet who completed a PhD while crossing oceans. Ironically, I likely wouldn't have done that if we'd stayed ashore.)

Ultimately, though, I think this "lost opportunity of endeavor" that is presented by the decision to go to a-rovin' on the oceans is a weak argument for your better sort of yachtie. There is a class of people, even in this post-post-modern age where screen time stands in for life experience, who believe that human endeavor is best measured at the scale of oceans, and in the experience of self reliance. For these people, going to sea isn't such a choice as a burning desire, to be realised if it at all can be. "The oceans are wide, but my ship is up to the task, and who knows what adventures I'll meet on the far shore?" If that idea doesn't at least occasionally strike you as enough meaning for life, if the rising tide and steady glass don't quicken your breath and make you long for the feeling of decks coming to life beneath your feet, well! Then why in the world are you reading this blog, anyway?

And it's those same people who feel that pull of an active and questing life, who know in their marrow that living for at least a few years in a way that relies on sinew of arm and speed of wits is to know what it was to really live when life's end comes, who have the most irrefutable answer to the economists' "lost opportunity cost".

To whit: what a circumscribed view of life, to see our arc of existence as nothing more than an economic endeavor! The real opportunity is to go sailing now, while you still can. Go while you and your kid are still able to have a civil conversation. Go while you still have enough adventurous spirit of youth that you might consider some daunting itinerary of remote navigation and decide you just might be up to it. Go, above all, while you're still hale and hearty. Regret what you did, and not what you left undone.

(I wonder if that's how the staff at that chandlery in San Diego see things?)

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Monday, September 19, 2016


We played a more traditional game with our approach to Grenada. Would the wind qet us there in daylight?

The night before the wind was a whisper and I was fatalistic. What would be, etc. Then the day a perfect palace of light - the tropical sun's thousand-fold brilliance, making objects either glow or burning them back to some essence that can't be revealed by more temperate light. The only "object" around us the occasional ship. Everything else being either ethereal - the towering thunderheads of squally weather brewing - or liquid - the marble-blue sea.

Not wanting to either glow or be burned back to our essence, we Galactics huddled in the shade.

A squall came sweeping through at lunch time. Here's us, half a jib and no main, making 8 knots. Nothing could be finer.

And then after the squall, the wind settled in to do its tradewind business. We boomed along, Grenada firmly in the bag.

But then! Who expected zephyrs by evening? The wind died and died as we closed the shore. The current that has been helping us along since before the equator did its final bit.

Through binoculars we marveled at the thickets of yachts crammed into every anchorage. We have heard about such things, of course, but never had seen the absolute numbers before on display.

As we made the final turn into our chosen bay the wind left us completely for a long long moment while the current kept rocking us along. If it stayed like that we dasn't approach the shore. The sun now was frankly closing the horizon.

The wind rallied, and just enough of a breeze saw us shooting in towards the floating condo field that is a Caribbean anchorage almost safe from hurricanes during the season. I laughed at the thought that a couple hours before we had been discussing whether we should sail in with one reef or two.

A quick assessment of the scene - look, there's a channel marked through the anchorage - look, there's some room behind that black hull just behind the cat - then a luff, followed by a tack and a short board and another luff and, "let it go now"!

Followed by the inevitable reply from crew to captain, that age-old response that is carven in the salt-stained oak of nautical tradition: "let it go now?"

"Yes, now!"

And, we cold-cocked it. Easiest thing in the world, really, if you're happy with the outermost spot in a very open bay. After we had settled down against the wind an attempt to set the anchor revealed that we now have neither forward gear nor reverse.

And so now we've crossed the Atlantic twice. In one year, mind, which makes 2016 a great capper to our year spent in the south. Twenty days out of Ascension, and 45 out of South Africa. Thirty-eight or 39 days at sea all up.

We had cheese and olives and drinks in the cockpit while a very spectacular sunset played itself out. I allowed myself a second beer, even though I knew the risk in terms of migraine, and sure enough paid the price this morning. If this were fiction I could be someone's uncle, exasperatingly predictable in their less respectable behaviors.

And now! Once more into the marine engineering breach, this time re. the gear box.

(Pelagic, if you see this and are nearby, we're the outermost boat in Prickly Bay. Would be great to meet you!)

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

By the Numbers/Is Life Better In Reverse?

I think it might be because of the way that my day job is so number-intensive, but I tend to be pretty relaxed about quantifying various aspects of our life afloat.

Our fuel consumption, in liters per hour? The size of our water tanks? Our average daily run?

These are numbers that most of our traveling tribe of global gallivants, our fellowship of cashed-up (or not) misfits, our fellow full-time sailors, that is, can readily rattle out. These are reasonably important numbers, after all, if you're gonna go a-cruisin'.

Of those three questions, I can only answer the middle with a rough sort of certitude. Six hundred liters, and no, we don't have any way of gauging them at sea. To the first question I can offer a dumb look, and to the last I can only say that we more or less guesstimate 150 nautical miles if we're doing something so gross as trying to plan a passage. But really we don't know. Most of the time, I don't even calculate our daily run. I think it might be that the little corner of my psyche that is given over to the poetic rebels at all the time that I put into the scientific endeavor, and that poetic crumb of me vigorously defends sailing as its turf.

Bugger off, it says to my over-developed science side. Who cares how many miles we made? We'll get there when we get there.

Recently, though, we have all been having fun at guessing the daily run. It's enjoyable when we're putting up numbers like we have been - a string of oddly regular 178-mile days, interrupted by an occasional 180. This in spite of light winds, and thanks to the booming current off the northeast corner of South America that our mate back in Tassie has kindly been steering us into thanks to the magic of online current mapping.

Here's a startling set of numbers. Looking at the chart to pass the nightwatch hours, I see that from our current position off the coast of Suriname, we're actually closer to Kodiak (5,550 nm) than to Hawaii (5,930). The magic of a spherical globe!

And, there's this number: 40,000. We've kept the odometer on our GPS running ever since we set out from Alameda on this boat, and we passed over that notable number a few days ago. That's a lotta saltwater, I can tell you.

Oh, and this numerical correction to my post about the equator. Alisa points out to me that we were in the Southern Hemisphere (bless it) for five years and change, not four.

And, finally, this number: in a bit more than a week Alisa and I will have been married for 15 years. Those of you who were there for the party will doubtless marvel at how quickly the time has gone since.

So that's life by the numbers. As for living in reverse, which is not the Galactic way, I can tell you, that is a bit of grudging acknowledgement of the fact that we are now without a operating gearbox, and cannot engage the motor in forward. I say our acknowledgement is grudging because, at least at sea, it's no consideration at all. Who cares about the bloody gearbox out here? True, its demise did lead us to forego a visit to French Guyana and our friends on Oberon. We sorely felt that missed visit with long-lost friends, but it's hard to stay down long when you're on passage.

And we all seem to be thriving on this passage. Except occasionally for poor six-year-old Eric, who can't yet engage himself by reading for hours, and dearly wishes his ten-year-old brother, who can and does, would agree to play with him a lot more often.

But aside from that one little hiccup, we are thriving.

To whit: Alisa and I sat in the cockpit today, marveling that the sea could be so flat. We had honestly forgotten how gentle and easy tradewind miles can be.

Eric reeled in his first-ever tuna yesterday, a sardine-sized skipjack that did us well for lunch. You should have seen him, with the fighting belt strapped uselessly around his little waist. He was so pleased. And he is always so eager to see if a fish I am butchering is a male or female, and to see what's in its stomach. Definitely the child of biologists.

Elias, meanwhile, reeled in a blooody *marlin* the other day, with a little help from me. Needless to say, we released it. And the quiet smile that graced Elias' face for the rest of the day came from somewhere deep within.

Alisa occasionally mutters something along the lines of, "this is the best of life", or "I'm so happy".

The sea is blue, we are completely on our own and glad for it, and the days go so fast that it's hard to hold onto them.

Who could argue with her?
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Friday, September 9, 2016

An Awful Lot of a Good Thing

We left South Africa 37 days ago. Take away the three days we spent at St. Helena and three days at Ascension, and we've been at sea for a month.

I'm writing this as Galactic is making her way past the mouth of the Amazon River. True, we're more than 300 nautical miles off, but it is nonetheless legendary territory that we are transiting.

But, you'll notice that we aren't stopping.

The sad truth is that we spent too much time in South Africa. In our defense, there was the month(!) that we spent driving around South Africa and Namibia, which was a month of family time that will go a long way towards easing the memories of my old age. And there were bouts of science work that engaged my time and kept Galactic tied to the dock.

(Various efforts have been made with the best of intentions to somehow integrate science and religion. My recent thinking along these lines has been informed by Christopher Hitchins. Whatever he might have gotten wrong, he seems to have been spot-on about the various monotheisms. Buncha ideas scribbled down by illiterate goatherds in the desert, he would tell you. Their god never heard of microbes, nor of any beast that they hadn't seen with their own eyes. God is created in man's image, after all. Try integrating *that* with the 21st century understanding of the universe.

But! I have come to an almost fetishistic regard for the research work that has kept the voyages of Pelagic and Galactic going and going and going. I might make an altar in a corner of the saloon, under the diesel heater, come the next round of proposal writing, so that I can propitiate the responsible spirits. I may be retracing the natural history of religion here. Consilience achieved.)

But while the demands of wildlife viewing and making a living and spending time with simpático South Africans are the reasons why we stuck around, a sailor does have to occasionally be firm about these things. Time tide and cyclone season wait for no family sailboat. There are times in this life afloat when you simply have to put to sea, no matter the thousand niggling reasons why not that land always offers. We should have left a couple weeks earlier.

You see, we have something of an artificial deadline in hand. In the normal course of things we would just hang out in French Guiana and Suriname until the cyclone season was over, and then make our way up to the really excellent t-shirt stands of the Lesser Antilles in time for Christmas.

But I have various scientist tasks that will require my presence in the States in October and November. Alisa doesn't like to move the barky when I'm not aboard. So that means the boat has to be somewhere where we're quite sure it won't have to be moved when I pack my white lab coat and my tweed jacket with the elbow patches into my sailor's duffel and hop on a plane.

Now, it's gotten quite fashionable for yachts to hang out on the fringes of the hurricane zone, in Grenada. As a place to leave the family aboard sans captain/marine engineer/deck monkey, we aren't at all tempted. Ditto Trinidad. Enough South Africans warned us of dodgy travel conditions there for us to take notice. South Africa was about all the dodgy that we can handle for this ten-year stint.

So by the process of elimination, that leaves us moving all the way onwards to the Dutch Antilles. Completely out of the hurricane zone, and we get the impression that rape and muggings aren't as much a part of the tourist experience as they might be elsewhere. (Our rape and mugging risk tolerance is lower than just about anyone's whom we've met.)

It's a long way to go. And we now have plane tickets to honor, which given our endlessly contingent view on the question of how long it takes to get anywhere on a sailboat, must of necessity give us pause. So, even as we hear delightful things about Surniname and French Guiana via radio email, we resolve to keep moving. You can't do everything, we remind ourselves.

We did make contact with our friends on Oberon, our very oldest yachtie friends whom we haven't seen since Elias was in diapers. They are just south of Cayenne in French Guiana, and very conveniently located for a flying visit.

But! I put the engine in gear a few days ago and heard the most alarming noises from the gear box. A river entry and a narrow dredged channel might not be in the cards. I'll get brave enough to put the engine in gear again and we'll see where we're at. Where we're at might be sailing nonstop to our final destination. Which I make about 1,650 nautical miles from us. No problem. But it would end up being quite a long time spent at sea.

Luckily, this passage is right now living up to every wonderful expectation that I have developed over years of hearing other sailors' stories. A booming current (more on that another time), steady winds, good company, and all the fish we can eat.

All is well with us.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Imagine North

I imagine...being far out to sea on my family's floating home. We haven't seen land for days. More than a week.

There is no moon. Both kids are staying up late, not just the oldest, whose turn it is at "night watch" with his dad: a game of cards in the cockpit, a mug of hot chocolate, frequent attention to duty in the form of scanning for ships.

The kids have been looking forward to this moment of celebration. They have come to call it Equator Day.

The home we left all these years ago is in the far north. But really we have a home port not a home. And a home port demands only the most nominal allegiance. It is merely a place to be from, and the distance and duration of that "from" are immaterial, or all to the good.

So while our home port is in the far north, we've been in the southern hemisphere for four years and three months. The sailors' hemisphere. The half of the globe where the waves are free to run as long as they will.

In my imagination, the children have a dance party in the cabin as we approach the line. In my imagination, they dance to Icona Pop.

We realize that we have forgotten to pull in the fishing lines at sunset. On one I find a busted leader. On the other a chicken-sized yellowfin tuna that is a beast to reel in with the speed of the boat pulling against.

I imagine that as we cross the line I am on my knees on the side deck cutting the second fillet.

I imagine that after I have scrubbed the blood and gurry from the side deck my wife and I enjoy a tot of scotch. Neptune gets his first with a heartfelt imprecation for his continued blessing.

I imagine it is the third time we've sailed across the equator as a family. I imagine that I'm dreaming. With my eyes wide open.
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dancing on the Blue Marble

This is an experience that you would struggle to be cynical about.

What should we agree to call this shade of blue that surrounds Galactic, the same blue that dominates the view of the earth from space?

Miracle Blue, I think.

Very different from the turquoise shades that come springing alive from the surface of tropical atoll water over a sand bottom on a calm day. That kind of blue is splendid, though somewhat precious for being restricted to the vanishingly small extent of atolls on the surface of the globe.

This Miracle Blue that is all around us is also all around the earth, existing anywhere on the deep tropical ocean where the sun is shining. It is therefore an essential color, widespread enough to be a fundamental descriptor of this terraqueous home of ours. And a delight besides to stare at from the shade of our dodger as Galactic dances along.

The clouds around us are doing their best not to be outclassed, showing off that particular tradewind configuration of being fluffy on top with table-flat undersides that march off the curve of the earth as they retreat to the horizon.

We made 178 nautical miles, noon to noon, over the last 24 hours. Nothing world-beating. Just splendid sailing, comfortable enough in spite of the inevitable roll of being downwind in a breeze. Reefed main, rolled-up jib at about 100% of foretriangle area, which is all we can muster wing and wing with our collapsed whisker pole.

The flying fish have been generous with themselves, unwittingly. I hear them flapping on deck in the night and throw them back minus a handful of their scales but even so there were enough on deck this morning stiff and dead to justify the effort for lunch. Bony little things though. Unfortunately the great shearwaters are always around and take an unhealthy interest in our lures. We have a well-developed revulsion towards catching a bird and so have been laying off the tuna fishing.

The waves rear up behind us like hillsides leading to upland country where there might be something interesting to see. The waves collapse around us in flashes of white foam, like handkerchiefs waving from a cloud.

Last night, after a week or ten days without a ship, we had two of them. In the wee hours, and one of them quite close on an opposing and quickly converging course. I had stayed up too late and it was two in the morning and I couldn't make sense of it. I could see their red light which meant I was looking at their port side, but they seemed to be drawing away to our starboard side as they approached us. Our combined speed was quite high and I had that feeling of being in a quickly-changing situation that I didn't understand well enough not to do the wrong thing. As my family slept below.

So I woke Alisa for some quick help and there after the ship was two miles away we could see her starboard green light shining out from below the red. Maybe that's a combination I don't know, but it was too much for me for a while. No AIS signal from that ship or the one that followed an hour later.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

No News From Us/Dance Dance

The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews
Not to be born is the best for man
The second best is a formal order
The dance's pattern, dance while you can.
Dance, dance, for the figure is easy
The tune is catching and will not stop
Dance till the stars come down with the rafters
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.

-W.H. Auden, "Death's Echo"

I have been thinking occasionally and lately about the inadvisability of a "family sailing blog".

Not that I'm considering pulling the plug on Twice In A Lifetime. This has been the very delight of a pastime for me over the past nine years, the garden that I can tend who has neither patience nor earth for literal gardening.

I'm just thinking of how much of our time, both at sea and in port, devolves into the daily intimacies of family life lived in occasional isolation and permanently close association, and how this sort of living doesn't always necessarily make for newsworthy blog copy.

It might not be an accident that some of the most-read family sailing blogs appear to be written by people who got as far as a Caribbean marina, where they sit and blog authoritatively about the sailing life.

But, our news: We are sailing towards Brazil under jib alone. (Elias just spotted a storm petrel.) The main had a bad time yesterday and is therefore on deck just now. The grommet holding the luff to one of the mast cars ripped, and the 5200 that will hold on the elaborately-engineered repair will have to cure before the sail can again be set. One of the boxes that attach the battens to the mast cars also exploded, which made me very happy that in South Africa I finally bought three replacement boxes of a better design than the awful Schaefer boxes that came with the boat. We like the durability of a full-batten main, but when it's time to replace this sail a sailmaker will have to convince us that they have a better way to handle the luff attachments that give us chronic trouble.

While Elias and I were replacing the batten box the windvane decided that it had had enough. It's a model that is boldly warranted to last for a circumnavigation, but this is the second collapse that ours has suffered with far less use than that. I think Galactic might be a bit too big/too fast for the design. That would be a far harder at-sea fix than the main, as getting at the problem means standing on the jupe and pulling out little bits and bobs while the sea swirls around your hands. We'll trust the autopilot to see us through, though I hate burning diesel to make enough electricity to run it (the one of our two wind generators which has chronic problems is down again). And there is a persistent thumping noise from somewhere in the steering gear that led me to make an exploratory dive on the rudder in Ascension.

Oh, and the telescoping whisker pole that I've repaired in South Africa, St. Helena and Ascension? That made it through about two hours of use this time around before breaking again. I'm going to have to talk to Forespar when we reach the Caribbean.

So, there's that background noise of *stuff* in the sailing life. For a lot of sailors and a lot of sailing blogs, this nuts-and-bolts stuff is the foreground, it's the whole point of sailing. Me, I try everything that I can to ignore it all, even as it takes up half of my time and half of my thought. Dealing with the non-romantic reality of how things work is the price that you have to pay to go sailing, and anyone who voyages successfully in their own boat has become adept at it. But it isn't newsworthy, and it surely isn't anything to do with a dance.

That dance, something like that dance that Auden is referring to above, that's what I think of as motivating our favorites among the people we meet sharing this sailing with us.

That dance has more to do with marveling at sharks that were longer than our dinghy, hanging around the pier at Ascension Island.

It has to do with sailing long enough to learn that the western tropical South Atlantic is quite unreliable for green flash sunsets at wintertime, and surmising that the responsible haze might have something to do with the vast steaming bulk of Amazonia, over which the sun sets for us each evening.

It very much might have something to do with sailing across, and much of the length of, the South Atlantic Ocean for no other reason than the fact that you've wandered so far and so long that it lies between you and home, or wherever your home used to be.

So that's what we're about just now. We've left Ascension a few days ago and are bound for Curacao, a Dutch island just north of Venezuela and conveniently out of the hurricane zone. Shortest distance makes it about 3600 miles, and for various reasons that have nothing to do with sailing and everything to do with how we pay for it, we might have a go at doing the entire passage in one whack. Unless we can make contact with our oldest sailing friends of all, who we think are in French Guiana, and who we very much would like to see if we can raise them via email.

After all, they are dancing the same dance as us.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!