Loading Map

Friday, July 24, 2009

Passage Notes

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop because so far this passage has been nothing short of spectacular. We are traveling at average speeds beyond our wildest expectations, the weather has been fine, and to top it off Mother Nature put us in our own National Geographic wildlife show at the halfway point of our ocean crossing! Not only did the surfing pilot whales accompany us for over 24 hours, but they were joined occasionally by a dolphin we identified as the rough-toothed dolphin. And the day before the pilot whales appeared, before we saw the whale right next to the boat, I also saw a huge whale going in the opposite direction some distance away. From the length between the head and the dorsal fin, which is the only part of the body I could see, I want to say it was a blue whale but I can't be sure. Whatever it was, it was impressive and probably just as well that it took no interest in us. Chippy, our pilot whale, made me nervous because she swam so close to the aft quarter of the boat that I was afraid of one wrong move and she'd knock the self-steering paddle off the wind vane. It has a safety line to keep it attached to the boat, but what a pain it would be to get that back on again. Oh, and finally, after talking to my friend, Ruth on Mud Skipper, about whales on the radio yesterday afternoon, I came up on deck just in time to have John point out a sea turtle. What are the odds of us: a) passing right by a turtle out in the middle of the ocean, and b) being up on deck at precisely the right moment in which to see it?!!

Well, it wasn't "A Fish Flew Through the Porthole" (the title of a book about a crossing from San Francisco to the Marquesas by a friend of my mother's), but it could have been titled "A Fish Flew Down the Companionway Hatch" or "Night of the Flying Fish." The same night we were accompanied by pilot whales we were still sailing dead downwind with the jib poled out to port on the whisker pole, as we'd been doing all day. John was staking out his usual star gazing spot in the cockpit when he heard a loud bang and something went whizzing right by his head. His first thought was, "Holy sh*t, what just broke? Did a line part?" But he soon realized it was a flying fish flopping around next to him, and he tossed it overboard since it was too big to give to Ziggy. Soon after I came on watch at 10 PM I was staking out my usual spot on the settee down below and listening to an old broadcast of "60 Minutes" on the iPod when I heard a loud bang and something crashed to the floor at the bottom of the companionway steps. Ziggy was immediately on the flopping fish but I too threw that one overboard before cleaning up the slimy mess of scales on the wood floor. Not much later a third flying fish landed right in the cockpit again! This is the first time we've ever had them land on the boat while sailing down wind. I suspect Chippy thought we weren't getting enough to eat at the blistering pace we'd been setting, and so she sent some snacks our way.

I don't know where the time goes but it never seems like we have enough of it to do the things we want to. I concentrate most of my off watch time catching up on sleep and getting something to eat. Then there are the daily chores like sweeping the floors and cleaning the litter box for me, and wiping down the cockpit and walking the decks checking for signs of wear and tear for John. On odd numbered days of the month ("he's an odd egg" is how I remember it) I turn the egg crates over to keep the yolks from sticking to the shells. Most mornings I try to give Ziggy a good hour of play time now that he's up to it. He's a pretty young cat (two years old) to have so few outlets for letting off steam, so we run him around down below with his toys. I noticed a few days ago that the whiskers on one side of his face have started breaking off at the ends. We don't know if that's from stress or if he's sleeping on that side so much that they're getting damaged. There's coffee/tea to be made each morning; a breakfast of granola bars or hard-boiled egg or PBJ sandwiches; John usually cooks a hot meal in the middle of the day or we have sandwiches; and fruit, cheese and crackers or sandwiches or leftovers later in the day. John still has three radio nets taking up his time: the informal morning one with the boats out in front of us, the Pacific Passage net late in the afternoon (same group of boats plus any that might join us from the Galapagos), and the formal Pacific Seafarer's HAM net in the evening.

With any luck there's time left over to read during daylight hours (it's too hard for me to read by red lights - to protect our night vision - at night anymore) and listen to podcasts (we downloaded from the internet before leaving) at night. Speaking of reading, John's reaction to practically every book he reads (Me: "What did you think of it?") is, "It was okay." For the first time in ages he said (unsolicited), "This is a great book!" regarding the D'Orso Galapagos book I mentioned in a previous post. As for me, I can't bear to tear myself away from "The Bone People" by Keri Hulme which my mother gave me years ago and which I'm finally getting around to reading. This is a magical, mysterious, and moving book. It's probably a good thing I'm being forced to savor it in small bites because otherwise I'd sit down and devour it whole. So now you know why it's taken me this long to write a blog when I'd rather be reading!