Saturday, 26 July 2014

Head to Wind

'Head to Wind' is the least favoured point of sail ... and after a brief reprieve of two days when we were able to make repairs, we're BACK ... only we've switched from being on Starboard tack (wind on the left) to Port tack. Those of our friends who have been aboard will recognize that we're now finding it marginally more easy to cook safely (galley angle downwards towards the sea) whereas it's impossible to drain the shower. Of course, it would be extremely hazardous to attempt a shower - we would be bruised all over (that is - more than we already are)

Our two days of calm were quite lovely. I don't know if you can tell from Larry's sunset photo that the ocean felt and appeared as smooth as oil. We seemed to pass through a 'portal'. On one side, we wore shorts and bare feet and drank ice water. Here on this side I'm wearing full woolies, my Norwegian sweater and a toque (the Canadian equivalent of a navy cap). Several events flowed into each other ... we lost the trade winds, the temperature made a large diminuendo down to 11 degrees C, and we stopped seeing flying fish. As the waters calmed we started noticing 'By - the - wind Sailors' looking much like bubbles escaped from plastic packaging. We recognized them from our earlier trips through these waters - they're a type of jellyfish - the formal name is Vilella Vilella. A blue-coloured oval-shaped mantle clings to the sea protecting the important bits (hydroids complete with gonads) underneath. This arrangement is topped by a triangular-shaped 'sail' which allows it to move pelagically (that is - carried by the waves) over the sea. They will sting if you get one attached to your skin, and they leave a purple circular imprint if they dry on the deck. On one of our trips through these waters they started coming in exponentially greater crowds until they covered the sea as far as we could see. According to our book 'Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates' they're "usually less than 6 cm long" so that is a lot of stinging cells! They started to diminish, and just as suddenly as they'd appeared, they were gone. Where to? It's another mystery.

You may wonder why I'm reading about our little neighbours here at sea instead of the usual mysteries, spy fiction and women's books. Well ... my Kindle reader died this morning. This is unfortunate since I'd purchased numbers of new books especially for this trip.

I do have a number of print books I recommend: several about Hawaii and Alaska ... Buddy gave me 'The True Story of Kaluaikoolau' by Piilani ... it's a sad tale ... as is 'A Divided Forest (by Doris Chapin Bailey) about Alaskan native people. 'Libby ... the Alaskan Diaries and Letters of Libby Beaman, 1879-80' tells about the first white woman to live up there. 'The Orchardist' by Amanda Coplin is a reconstruction of what life might have been like in 19thC Washington State fruit-farming territory. 'Measuring America' by Andro linklater describes the surveying of land to prepare legal title. It highlights the seedy business of illegal land-grabbing and how enormous fortunes were made by stealing from the native tribes and parcelling off the land. My respect for John Marshall (Chief Justice for 35 years and biographer of George Washington) vanished when I found that he sided in favor of people like Phillip Morris (tobacco) when the land-grabbing was disputed in court. If you're interested in Darwin, overwhelming proof that evolution is still underway is provided in Jonathan Weiner's book 'The Beak of the Finch'. Prepare yourself ... there's more sad news for our species as you near the end of the book. Good news in 'Wild Trees' by Richard Preston ... more species are still being discovered up in the crowns of lofty redwoods. We both enjoyed re-reading 'Two Years Before the Mast' (Richard Henry Dana Jr) having travelled along the California coast. It's a great book for sailors or for those who want to know more about the sea and the by-gone traditions of sailing vessels.

Speaking of failures, one of our halyards failed while we were labouring under the heavy seas on Starboard tack. Gratifyingly, it 'failed to fail' in the usual manner of failures at sea (which is invariably at the worst possible time). The genoa sail halyard (used to pull the sail up) wore through near the top and we didn't notice until a short bit of rope showed itself by flopping down next to the mast. Much of it was left uselessly but safely encased in a few rolls of the sail. We had to wait for calm, and then take the whole large sail out of its track in the roller furler. Larry attached a different rope to it and I fed the sail back into the furler while he winched the new rope back down inside the mast. The sail was then furled in readiness for the winds' return.

I made black bean soup yesterday to combat the cold. Fortunately the Kindle still worked as my recipe in 'Pressure Cooking for Dummies' is now lost.

Today it's Larry's turn to cook and he always makes gratifyingly wonderful meals under difficult conditions. I hope that your summer is not too cold, and not too hot ... just perfect!

The going is rough - you would laugh to see my posture as I attempt to write this.

At 7/26/2014 01:48 (utc) our position was 48°04.60'N 163°28.82'W

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