Another Beautiful Day on the Pacific
As I sit and write this we are sailing at 6.5 knots in exactly the right direction. The seas are flat, the sky clear, and the temperature perfectly comfortable for shorts and a t-shirt. Today is another beautiful day in the long string of warm, clear, gentle days that we have enjoyed on this passage. I will be sure to keep this passage in mind the next time I am freezing my butt off, beating against an uncomfortable chop, and wondering why I go cruising at all. At least for me, those days are much more numerous than the nice ones when I look back at the days that I have spent on the water in my lifetime. In fact, this entire passage has been made up of “ten percent” days–those really nice ones that convince me that it isn’t completely crazy to keep going back out to sea. I am pretty sure at this point that a full ninety percent of the time that I am sailing the weather is contrary, dreary, or uncomfortable for one reason or another, including flat calms and wilting heat. This is probably not everyone’s experience, but I have spent a lot of time sailing out of season, on the shoulders of the good seasons, and in places where the weather just isn’t going to be ideal the majority of the time. Why do I do that? I am not quite sure myself. It ensures plenty of room in the anchorages that I visit, at least. I guess if I were seeking comfort I would have kept my full-time job and cushy sofa rather than trading them for uncertain income and a thin piece of foam set on plywood sheltered by a leaky deck. Even on the best of days out here I can’t leave my cup of tea unsupervised if I h ave set it on a on a flat surface and I probably have not enjoyed the luxury of a shower in recent memory. Back to how things are out here on S/V Starlight, currently two hundred miles from Nuku Hiva, I am very happy with the speed that we have made on this leg so far. We have done as well as I could have expected for this boat, especially loaded the way she is. Nobody has been seasick, and everyone has enjoyed the freedom from frequent sail trimming and reefing. Except for rolling in a little of the genoa a couple of times to keep it from slatting, and occasionally making a small tweak here and there, we haven’t made any sail changes since leaving the Galapagos.
The Final Thousand Miles
Well, don’t pull out the “Mission Accomplished” banner yet. I just mean that we are down to only a thousand miles between us and our next intended port of call. That is still quite a few miles to go, but it doesn’t feel like all that much after just a couple of weeks ago looking out at three thousand miles of water separating us from our next stop. Things have been going very well so far. The strategy of staying at this low latitude has kept the wind at a good angle for the most part, and we have been making pretty good time as well. The boat is holding together too, with no real problems to report at this time. Several days ago, while checking the rig over, I discovered a long pan-head machine screw in the mainsail cover. It never gives me a warm feeling to find bits of hardware that have fallen off the boat, but I could immediately rule it out as one of the more critical parts of the rig. I dropped it in my pocket and figured the solution to this little puzzle would eventually come to me. A while later, I was looking up at the main, checking for chafe, when I noticed three batten tension adjusting screws had backed themselves halfway out of the end fittings. Aha. Mystery solved. Ido and I took the main down, replaced the screw from my pocket that had luckily dropped neatly into the mainsail cover from forty feet up, and tightened the other adjusting screws. We also found that one of the bolts holding one of the universal joint together on one of the batten cars had disappeared, leaving the batten free f rom the car that holds it to the mast. We replaced the missing bolt with a cotter pin and checked all the others for tightness. All else in order, we re-hoisted the main and were again on our way. The wind has been almost always between 10 and 20 knots on his leg, the weather mostly fine, and temperatures warm, but comfortable. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions and I think that everyone aboard knows that the comfortable ease of the past couple thousand miles will be remembered fondly for years to come. Here’s hoping the last third of the passage is even close to being as nice as things have been to this point.
By tomorrow morning, if all continues to go well, we will cross the halfway point of our passage to the Marquesas. We are 10 days and almost 1,500 miles out from our last port. We have been sailing a route closer to the equator than the rhumb line, or shortest distance between ports, to take advantage of the slightly stronger favorable current here and also the fact that the wind is closer to abeam. The last detail is important because this boat has only working sails and does not even carry a whisker or spinnaker pole for downwind work, which makes sailing on any course deeper than a broad reach a slow, noisy proposition as the sails slat and bang with each passing wave. We have the mainsail cranked down tight with a preventer, but there is little to be done for the genoa once it is blanketed by the mainsail, save for furling it. The engine mounts are still holding together. The cause of the extra vibration that I had mentioned in my last post was due to the boat owner starting and running the engine in reverse when charging the batteries. Because of friction in the shift cable, he was having a difficult time finding neutral, an easy mistake to make. I showed him how to double-check for neutral before starting, so hopefully the problem is solved. We caught a nice mahi mahi several days ago, so everyone has been eating plenty of fish. We just finished up the last of it yesterday, so the fishing lines can go back in again. I don’t like to risk catching more than we can eat, to avoid needless waste. Hopefully we will get a quick strike again when we want one. When I threw the lure in the last time, the fish was on before I could let out ten meters of line. That certainly made it easier reeling him in, which I especially appreciated due to the fact that we have only hand lines aboard. Landing the fish on the swim platform was very easy and made me think about how much more difficult it would be to haul a fish up onto my own boat. I have no alternative but to land fish in the cockpit or on the side deck. It is encouraging to see the little string of “X”‘s, our noon positions, keep stretching farther westward across the chart…