Daily Archives: April 5, 2014

So far, so very good

Truth be told I could’ve used a couple of days in Esmeralda or even Contadora but when Aeolus smiles down on you, one smiles back and says thank you…thank you very much. At the very least we’re like a watermellon seed between pursed lips being shot out of the gulf of Panama into the Pacific proper…which it turns out is green, nothing like the cobalt blue-gray of the Atlantic. Back lit, the waves of the Pacific turn pale green at the tips, like thick glass. We’ve been lucky with continuing good winds and very few dead areas, averaging well over six knots in an area known for the doldrums. Most unusal.

Even more unusual was a drama that played out over VHF radio which still has us spooked. Yesterday afternoon we started hearing alarming transmissions from what turned out to bhe a couple of large tankers calling all mariners to be on the lookout for an unspecified something in the water in an area approximately thirty miles to the north east of our position. What another conspiracy theory about that damn airliner? The captain that we could hear the best was Indian so he was kind of hard to understand but he seemed to be point man in the search. Finally we could hear words like sailboat-rescue-flares, and the names of two yachts that we were at anchor with in Contadora. This is not good. We knew they would be behind us to the north. We could hear tiny bits of transmissions but from what we’ve been able to piece together, we think they were taken off their boat in the dark, judging from the limited descriptions from the tankers. We might as well be on the moon for all the news we can
gather here. There are several SSB cruiser nets here in the Pacific but we cant seem to conjure them up on our radio, but we did conjure up a couple of spotted dolphins who spentfive minutes playing in EVs bow wave…nice for a change.

What a difference a day makes. As dawn broke, I was largely comatose when my watch alarm, an old car klaxon horn sound from my iPhone, went off. What, what, oh yeah, we,re at seaand I’ve got to get up and have a look around to make sure we’re not about to run into anything and still heading in the general direction of the Galapagos. this is something that goes on every twenty minutes or so all nighbt long. That’s when it happened, just a strange splash off the starboard aft quarter. I turned and saw a leaping dolphin heading for the bow. I hopped out of the cockpit and with age adjusted speed raced up the side deck to see dozens of dolphins frolicking in and out of both of our bows, a mere foot from my out stretched hand. Of course I didn’t have a camera and Marce was out cold catching up on her sleep down in our stateroom. I told them to standby for a minute and rushed down to wake her, I was afraid she would think it was an April fools day joke, grab a camera hoping that they had h
ung around. This was a first for us. They looked like a mixed bag of Common, White-sided, and Spotted, some quite large often turning to look at us as they swam between the bows. What a welcome.

The breeze continues to surprise and we couldn’t be happier as we approach the Galapagos. So far so very good.





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Life at sea

We knew from reading that this passage to the Galapagos is a challenging one, not for bad weather but for finding enough wind to get there without motoring a substantial part of the way. We’d been checking the GRIB files and ocean current maps and whatever other sources we could find only to see that there was fluky wind predicted for at least the next week. We’d told our Galapagos agent to expect us about the 15th of April but I got a list email Friday morning from a New Zealand weather router saying Saturday and Sunday would see steady winds at least until Isla Malpelo, then expect to motor pretty much the rest of the way to the Galapagos. I think he used the word “slingshot.” Sure enough, when we made the last minute decision to sail on by the nineteenth century submarine carcass on Isla San Telmo and take advantage of the glorious wind we skipped down the Gulf of Panama like nobody’s business. Until mid-afternoon Sunday, that is, when the wind dropped to nearly nothing and we rel
uctantly cranked up the port engine. I made fuel calculations to be sure we would reach our destination with what we had on board.

As Jack woke me for my watch at 1am Monday morning the wind came up again and we shut down the engine and scooted along again in perfect wind. What a bonus, we thought. Every hour we sail is an hour of diesel we save and an hour of peace and quiet over the grumble of the engine.

During the day I started to feel the familiar — but rare these days — beginnings of mal de mer and I took one half of a Non-Drowsy Formula Dramamine. I passed out almost immediately on the cockpit cushions and dreamed that the figure skater Michelle Kwan came to visit and brought me some makeup she thought I’d like and told me about her job at the State Department. Hours later I woke covered in drool and feeling completely doped up. Non-drowsy my ass.

We continued to enjoy favorable winds all day and I napped on and off while Jack held down the fort. Finally he needed to sleep and we started our night watches a little later than usual. Just after 8pm the wind died again and I called Jack up to help pull the sails in and get us set for motoring again. It was a beautiful night despite the engine and I watched Mars astern and saw a shooting star in the middle of the Milky Way. A gull kept circling us and I saw it as a flash of white, lit by our steaming light and stern navigation light as he glided past.

About an hour before change of watch the wind started to pick up but it was unsteady, moving back and forth behind us. We were rigged for the wind on the starboard quarter and it looked like this was going to stay on the port side and the mainsail was starting to fill, pulling against the preventer keeping it amidships. I crawled out on the starboard side deck and released the backstay then let the main boom out so the sail could fill.

At 2am I woke Jack and we turned the engine off. Ah, peace. We were running downwind on just the main at a comfortable speed. Later Jack rigged the jib for wing and wing and set the port backstay.

Just after 7am Jack called down, “Marce, Marce! There are about 20 dolphins in our bow wave!”

Dolphins! Dolphins are a common occurrence at sea for eveyone except us. We were wondering if EV had an odor or something because we never saw more than one or two at a time. I scrambled up on deck in my underwear and there they were, so many of them, swimming back and forth ahead of us and leaping into the air. We watched in delight for about ten minutes until they swam away. What a treat!

It’s now Tuesday. We’ve come about 430 miles, not quite halfway, and only run the engine for 17 hours total so far. Not bad for a sail through the doldrums. I sent an email via HAM radio to our agent in the Galapagos to say we’d be arriving about ten days sooner than planned. No problem, he wrote back. Excellent! Things are going our way.

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