Saturday, May 20, 2006

May 19, at sea

We are almost 8 days out of the Galapagos and 12 sailing days out of Salinas. We are over half way from Salinas to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. Since leaving the Galapagos we have been averaging 180 miles a day in winds from 8 to 20 knots and seas from 4 to 10 feet. For the most part we have accomplished that on a beam reach, a fast point of sail. We are very happy with our progress. We are going 30 miles further in a day than I had hoped when planning the passage.

Tradewind sailing is such a joy after the relatively windless waters of Mexico. The wind blows constantly here, the seas are not too high, the skies are clear with puffy cumulus clouds around to make things scenic. The sunsets are, well, tropical. The temperature is moderate. I wear shorts and no shirt during the day and put on a shirt and a sweatshirt at night.

The Milky Way is spectacular in the Southern Hemisphere with the Southern Cross stuck in the middle of the river of stars. The slightest change in what the boat sounds like brings me to complete attention. I think that sounds often are the first signs of mechanical malfunction so I use them as indicators of possible problems.

The sounds of the water are forever changing, forever the same. There is the gurgle of water at the transom, interspersed with the rushing of water past the rudder as it turns the boat in reaction to a wave. There is the roar of the bow wave when we are going fast. When going slower it becomes more of a slushing sound. There is the sound, ever variable, of the ocean waves as they crest and break into whitecaps. It is a symphony that I have time to enjoy instead of rushing past.

The sea life has been sparse. After leaving the Galapagos we have seen some dolphins who come to the boat and swim in the bow wave. There is a small bird that flits along the waves. It seems to use so much energy that I can't imagine it finding enough food to sustain it. There are a couple other larger birds as well. This afternoon I saw one perched on a two liter plastic soda bottle floating in the water.

This evening two or three small whales, pilot whales perhaps, came to inspect the boat. They circled several times rushing past the boat. That put me on edge because there are reports of pilot whales in this area attacking boats and actually sinking them. And there are flying fish. Lots and lots of flying fish. Schools light out, surprised by the boat. They fly fifty or a hundred yards at times. They land on deck, in the cockpit. We find little squid on deck in the morning too, their big eyes staring and their ink leaving a temporary stain.

Mostly, life is happy one day to the next. We are sleeping well, eating like kings, indulging in the occasional mate or beer, reading, conversing and pinching ourselves to make sure we realize how extraordinary is this adventure. Goodbye to the western hemisphere.

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