Saturday, 6 June 2015

Doing the miles

It's a sparkling day. I'm mesmerised by the glinting 2 metre swells, the way their whitecaps spit in the wind, the way they lift the boat up and give her bum a little twist, maybe a spank, push her about a bit and then run right under her and away to the west in a fizz of foam. The sun is high in a near cloudless sky, and the night still six hours away.


And what a difference a night makes. That was written yesterday afternoon, when I was tanked up on a full five hours of sleep from the night before. This morning I'm more than a little dusty, as Claudia would say. That playful motion I described above is a fiend to sleep with, especially when your best lee berth is at the back of the boat. Bodies with more malleable biorhythms than mine aka Alex's are thrown out of whack by what in the parlance is called a "confused sea state". But one thing you can be sure of on the ocean is that nothing stays the same.

It seems to though. Day after day, mile after mile, Enki pushes along on a blessed beam reach, with the trimmer (looks a lot like the engineer, electrician and captain) balancing her genoa and mainsail for optimum performance (never less). He never tires of tweaking, but both of us are aware of how much less physical work there is in sailing a boat like ours compared to the days before furlers and electric winches. No hauling down sails and hanking on different ones to suit changing wind conditions, as you read of Frances Chichester doing on long hauls (he was about Alex's age at the time). Men of old. How did they do it?

We see only waves and clouds, moon, sun and stars. Ships pass rarely in the night or the day now. The dolphin nation which swam so thrillingly close to us a week ago was obviously on a mission. It might have migrated to the other hemisphere for all we know. The passenger birds have left us too, those big boobies which were the closest we came to Galapagos wildlife.

Oh, we still have flying fish. Legions of them. Yesterday one met an undignified death with his snout jammed in a deck drain, tail pointing to the sky. They are careless about how they die, these flashy critters. Their larger brethren not so. Without exception so far they have elected not to stick around on our hooks. Eight strikes, none to eat. Yet. You could say we are working on our technique. We've had long-distance tuition from the fishmeisters in Patagonia. Galactic has not one, not two but four fishing experts on board, and a plea for advice flushed out tips from three of them. Eric (aged 5) was asleep at the time their email was sent, but maybe we'll hear back from him later.

It's a long way to the Marquesas. Did I mention that already? I could say we've broken the back of it, and it'd be true but there are still about 1500 miles - sea miles - to go before we make landfall. The question is where? Those Polynesian names which all blend into one another at first glance are beginning to distinguish themselves. Fatu Hiva is the logical place to arrive because it's closest and upwind of all the other islands i.e if you don't stop now, you're unlikely to beat back on your tracks. It's also the most beautiful landfall in the world, according to old hands. But it's not a port of entry. What is a pathologically law-abiding person such as myself supposed to think about that? Should we risk all (well, the wrath of the gendarme on Hiva Oa, and maybe a fine) for an abiding memory of the Bay of Virgins? We have 9 or 10 days to make up our minds. It's not knife-edge, this existence.

That said, every day we are silently grateful for the continued fine performance of our boat which is humming across the blue desert at a very respectable speed. These past 24 hours the dial has often hovered around 8 knots and occasionally spiked at 9 knots. It's the current, stupid. People put serious technological grunt behind locating favourable ocean currents, but we're just going with the flow, and as luck would have it, the flow for the moment is going with us.

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