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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