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!


  1. It's all part of the dance--the beautiful, the exciting, the mundane, the effort. Excepting the "daily intimacies of family life" that cross the line into oversharing, sharing it all broadens and enriches the human experience for all of us. It's informative, inspiring, and sometimes simply entertaining to be able to look over my partner's shoulder and see we are not dancing alone.

  2. Hi Mike and family - We just spent time in French Guiana on our way to the Caribbean and we really like it, especially Devil's Island. If you don't hear from your friends, I'd still recommend a stop. We are sailing with three kid and I read a lot of blogs, but yours is by far the best. Thanks for sharing your version of the dance. I love it!

    Amy on SV Pelagic, now in Grendada