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!

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