Sunday, March 26, 2006

23 Days at Sea

Here is a brief recap of 23 days at sea, 2000 miles travelled (if you are a sailor you will note that this is poor progress, even with four days at anchor at the beautiful Isla del Coco, Costa Rica):
Day 1 (2-26)- The jellyfish bloom and the whales are jumping as we left Zihua harbor. A gorgeous day to be sailing with favorable winds and 6 plus knots per hour. We switch to Greenwich mean time and celebrate my birthday five hours early. Tom gives Jack and me watch assignments: 4 hour shifts during the day, 2-3 hour shifts at night, rotating every 3 days. Each cooks dinner every 3 days. Land disappears after 8 hours.
Day 2 - No wind. Hot. In the middle of the night a Mexican Navy boat approaches, radios, and boards us. They are courteous and leave after taking a bunch of information. We guess they are looking for drug runners.
Day 3 - No wind. Hot. To save fuel we are motoring just 6 hours a day and ghost along the rest of the time. The Navy returns once again at midnight, but this time they dont board. Nature sightings: booby birds, sea turtles and plastic garbage. Night watches are my favorite time - no blazing sun, quiet, stars, phosporescence.
Day 4 - Hot, dead calm.
Day 5 - Hot, no wind. Lots and lots and lots of dolphins.
Day 6 - Wind arrives. Hooray.
Day 7 - Wind builds and we are needing to beat into it. This means the boat is heeled and the ports need to be closed so water doesnt get in the cabin. Specifically, it is hot and stifling inside the cabin. Jack gets seasick. We barely manage to have canned soup for supper in covered mugs and it still gets all over us. Nerves are frayed.
Day 8 - The wind eases a bit. We have a burst of energy once we can move about and use it to clean and eat well.
Day 9 - I wake to the sound of water coming into the open ports . The winds built big time, and once again we were trying to head into it, and bumping and grinding miserably into the waves. Even so, we were losing ground to our destination. I cant do a thing down below. Tom makes pancakes under heroic conditions.
Day 10 - We ease off the wind a bit to give ourselves and the boat a break. The winds build again. We have our third big spill in the cabin - this time it is Wesson oil. Yuk. And the head is broken and the salon cushions are wet. We have been blown 200 miles off course to Cocos and we think we will pass on it. The weather has changed, no more of the clear blue Mexican Riviera. It is muggy and cloudy, and we are now in the ICTZ - International Convergence Zone - which is characterized by little wind (also known as the doldrums, a band just north of the equator), and squalls. None of us have experienced a squall before. I am thinking of thunder and lighting and hope I dont see it.
Day 11 - There is light wind. The highlight was our first squall. Buckets and buckets of rain in 30 minutes - enought that we take showers in it. No thunder or lightning,
Day 12 - Tom recalculates our fuel situation and feels we need more to get to Ecuador. We do a lot of research and hashing it over and decide to head to the Cocos where there is a ranger station and a fishing fleet and dive boats - which the winds have been pushing us towards since yesterday afternoon.
Day 13 - Onto the Cocos with the engine. At 7 pm a huge electrical storm begins and it does not abate at all for four hours. Fortunately it is high up in the sky, but it moves from the east to the west to right on top of us and is still going at 3 am when I take watch. We heave to, about 12 miles from Cocos, to await the dawn.
Day 14 - We approach Cocos, arriving at 8 am to a glorious gorgeous little harbor nestled between high green cliffs and waterfalls. The air is fragrant. There are big fish, sharks actually, swimming around us. The ranger and his sidekick, a Scottish young woman who is teaching the officials English, board, stamp our passports for Costa Rica and do the other formalities including the exchange of a substantial amount of money to just anchor there. It rains and we rest on the boat all day.
Day 15 - We hike all over the island. The volunteers at the second ranger station feed us lunch. It is incredibly hot and muggy but beautiful. Really beautiful. We take our first shower - cold - at the ranger station. But since you have to swim to get to the dinghy to get to the boat, it just doesnt do it.
Day 16 - The rangers cant sell us fuel but they give us a crown of bananas and some undefinable fruit to take with us. Tom goes to the other harbor to arrange for fuel from the dive boat there and ends up attending to a fisherman who has dislocated his jaw. 500 miles and 36 hours from medical attention, Tom{s emergency medical training is very helpful, saving the fish boat and the crew from a trip back to land. They give us a bunch of fuel for free.
Day 17 - Snorkeling is incredible, especially for Tom who is comfortable doing it. I give it a try, it is amazing just to look down.
Day 18 - Off to Ecuador, 594 miles away. We are motorsailing and making good time.
Day 19 - More motorsailing and more ripe bananas than you can imagine. A big squall comes up, we almost lose the wind vane in it - but dont.
Day 20. There is 2.2 knot current going against us, trying to send us north and west instead of south and east. With the engine going, we are making 3.3 knots, about half of what we should be doing. There is good wind but when we just sail we barely make 1 knot. We have left the ICTZ - the sky is clear and it feels a little cooler.
Day 21 - The current thankfully abates but there is wind in our face so we are heeled over. But making adequate progress.
Day 22 - We cross the equator at 9:30 am. Tom dresses up as Neptune rising from the sea (pretty good job) and squirts Jack and me with beer and cuts off some of our hair. These are old maritime traditions, he tells us. It is the first time for all of us, in a boat, that is.
Day 23 - We run into fishing long lines about 60 miles off the Ecuador coast, as expected, with a panga shooing us off in the dark. We maintain double watches until it seems like there arent any more. By afternoon we see land and the beginnings of Bahia Santa Elena. As the sun sets we enter the harbor. It is very big, with modern white apartment buildings on one end, fishing fleets at anchor, and oil tankers anchored off the oil refinery. We have to anchor for the night and wait for customs, immigration, etc. clearance in the morning. We made it.
And to answer your burning question: yes, I enjoyed it.

6 Comments:

Blogger Lindsay said...

Old maritime tradition, eh? Looking forward to seeing the new haircut!!! Ha ha!!! I've really enjoyed reading your blog! Just wanted to say hi!

Lindsay

5:34 PM  
Blogger Rolando said...

What a great story. We're all wondering what you were feeling as you were undergoing all these experiences. We're so glad you are safe and enjoying the adventure!

Roland

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