LTY back "home" on our mooring ball in Majuro after a FABULOUS Valentines week away at what was essentially our own private atoll of islands up in Aur. Now back to internet connections, stores, groceries and 4 days of prepping the boat to leave her here while we fly back to Tulum to look after things there. Not sure when we'll be back here but it will be ASAP so we can get back to sailing off into more sunsets. More to follow as our adventures continue.
UPDATE: Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 Day #12 END of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 18:35 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: on mooring ball NE end inside of Majuro atoll Position: 07 06.522 N, 171 22.123 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) Wind: just a light breeze in the harbour Seas/Swell: flat Weather: scattered clouds in otherwise clear blue sky. Some storm clouds off to the far west as is typical here. Air temp: 92 F 33C Sea temp: 96 F 36 C Barometer: 1017nm BACK on the BALL in MAJURO! This is the final LTY Update for this passage from Vanuatu up to Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. I’ll start with a quick overview of the last part of the passage itself since the last update and then give you a bit of a synopsis of this new home base for Ruby, Learnativity and I for the next few months. Apologies for any confusion with the names as the atoll is called the Majuro Atoll and the capital city there is also called Majuro. The final night sail and morning ride into the Majuro atoll was a very boisterous one as Mother Nature decided to provide one last round of her many manifestations of her charms. Now that I was within 24 hours of arriving in Majuro I could do a better estimate of my arrival time and it worked out such that as long as I could keep up a fairly high average speed of 6.5 knots or more then I would be able to make it into the mooring field inside the Majuro atoll before the sun was too low in the sky. Otherwise I would have had to really slow down and time it to arrive a day later. Yesterday afternoon the winds had been cooperating direction wise and were back over to coming out of the NE at a reasonable velocity of about 8-15 knots but that was not going to be quite fast enough by sail alone to be sure to make it to Majuro in time so I added the motor to the equation and we motor sailed at a very good clip of 7.5 to 8 knots. That enabled me to put enough nautical miles in the bank that by 10pm I was able to turn off the motor and get back to the much preferred silence of sail alone. This worked out very well and I had a magical night sail with an almost following sea (was off the aft starboard quarter) that added to our speed and smooth ride. Just before dawn, Mother Nature decided it was time to throw one last storm at us and saved up her post powerful one of the trip for this last romp with winds up past 35 at times. Normally I might have spotted these on the Radar as I noted in a previous post but at night I have the Radar on time intervals to save power so it does a sweep every 15 minutes for 30 seconds, sounds the alarm if anything shows up within the alarm perimeter circle I’ve created which goes out about 10nm and then goes back to standby mode until the next cycle 15 minutes later. Of course all-knowing Ma Nature knows this obviously so she waited till the scan stopped and then threw the storm at is from out of the east and it hit before the 15 minute cycle was up and caught me unawares with all my sails up. Thirty five knots isn’t too severe or dangerous it just makes things a bit exciting with the boat heeled over at about 40 degrees such that the deck rails on the port side are running under the water and the rudder is not strong enough to counter the winds force to sail off the wind any further which is a bit of a safety feature in that the force of the wind tries to push the boat “to weather” as it is referred to which is into the wind more and more. This means that after the wind angle get past about 30-40 degrees (zero means coming directly at the bow) the sails start to “luff”, meaning that there isn’t enough wind coming across the inside surface so they start to flap more and more aggressively and the sheets (lines that control the clew or bottom rear corner of the sail) are whipping about like some super skinny snake having a very nasty epileptic seizure. Trust me when I tell you that you do NOT want to be hit by one of these otherwise benign lines as their speed incredible and leaves one heck of a mark on you. Fortunately one of the may modifications I made to Learnativity after I bought her was to redo all the running rigging (lines) such that they go through a series of pulleys on the deck that brings them back into either side of the cockpit such that I never need to leave the cockpit and can control every line from there. So I got a good workout putting the boat into the wind so I could furl in the genoa all the way and reduce the main sail enough to still help with forward speed and reduce the rolling in the building seas and then I added in the motor again so the propeller’s push could bring back better steering control and stability. If I wasn’t awake before I certainly was now as the rising sun slowly illuminated my dark and stormy world with every possible shade of grey. Once out of the storm the winds remained quite high blowing between 15-22 knots and had moved further south to be coming out of the east now which made for a faster point of sail and I was able to go back to sailing. The seas also moved back up to be out of the NE and had been whipped into quite a frenzy themselves with all that wind and what I assume must have been a long line of storms off to the east and so they were now very “square” meaning steep sided, over 3 meters and much shorter frequency of about 3 seconds between crests which resulted in a lot of rocking and rolling as we each one passed under us. These conditions continued all the way up to the NE corner of Majuro atoll where I turned west to sail along the north coast over to the only pass into the atoll which is about 10nm to the west which put me on the lee of the island from the wind and the seas and made for a nice smooth and now sunny last leg of the sail. Just enough time to get showered and shaved on the aft deck so that I would be all clean and presentable for my arrival. If you are a visual type or otherwise have been following these directions you can see that I had to make about a 25nm horizontal U turn to sail around the outside east end of the atoll, along the north coast, south through the pass and then head east to get over back over to the east end of the atoll but this time on the inside where the town of Majuro and the mooring field is located. At the break neck speeds you are starting to understand that I sail at, this means it took about four hours from making my turn at the outer NE corner till I was at the mooring ball in Majuro. As I sailed toward the mooring ball, and really all the time since arriving here, I’ve been aware of how strange it feels to be coming back to a place I recognize and know so well. As you long time readers will know I was her in Majuro the first time back in October 2010 and didn’t leave until May 2011 to head back down to Fiji where I spent most of the time since. This is the first time in the last five years of this grand sailing adventure that I’ve ever gone back to a place I’ve been to before and hence the very comforting and yet very new feelings. I had returned to Fiji as well but I went to all different spots and had a completely different set of experiences the two different seasons I was there. I was tied up to the mooring ball by just before 11am yesterday and spent the rest of the day and most of today doing all the necessary running around involved at the end of a passage to a new country. Checking in takes time as I have to go to four different offices spread out around the long skinny atoll (widest part outer shore to inner shore is less than 300 meters!), then getting a new SIM card and reactivating my cell phone, setting up a new WiFi account, groceries, laundry. I love the whole process it actually as it is all part of making the transition from being at sea and that rhythm of a longer passage I’ve described (ad nauseum no doubt!) and going through the time warp back to a shore based life again. It isn’t at all hectic, just keeps you busy the whole time, lots of walking from place to place which also feels good and in this case seeing all the familiar faces and places as well as noting some of the few changes since I left here back in May 2011. Both to get a well needed breather from all this and mostly to just sit and soak up my new surroundings I set up my “zero gravity” (reclining lounger) chair on the aft deck, fixed up some nummy appetizers of olives, fresh bread, 4 different cheeses, salami and poured myself my first glass of wine in two weeks. It is odd how much I like this place as it seems on the surface to be the opposite of what I usually look for in an anchorage. Majuro is a VERY busy port not only because it is the capital of the Marshall Islands but due to its strategic location in this part of the Pacific and most especially because it has become what is apparently the larges tuna center in the world. From what I’ve heard this has come about in the past few years since Pago Pago in American Samoa has been severely reduced in its tuna fishing activities. This was apparently one of those unintended consequences of US President Obama’s enforcement of the US federal minimum wage laws which American Samoa (the only US soil south of the equator for you data junkies) was required to enforce and put the costs of labour too high for most of the tuna companies apparently. Whatever the reason I am literally surrounded by a very large fleet of both the huge tuna net fishing boats and their even more hugey “mother lode ships” which transport the tuna and other fish from here to the final destinations which are mostly in Asia, though now apparently much also goes to North America and elsewhere. As you can perhaps imagine (I’ll post some pictures in the next few days as I’ve got the bandwidth of higher speed internet as of today) this means there is a lot of traffic with these boats coming and going, sliding up alongside the mother ships to transfer all their catch and regular runs of their extremely high power net setting boats which they use here in port to transport crew back and forth ashore just south of where I’m sitting. Sounds like the antithesis of those deserted islands and bays I’m usually in and where I’m the only boat in the bay, and it is of course the exact opposite with a cacophony of noises, smells, movement. But I LOVE it! I wouldn’t want to have it full time or even much of the time to be sure, but last night as I sat out on the aft deck, with such a serenely still boat under me and my eyes and my ears soaked up all these new sensations I found it to be yet another symphonic experience. I’m really getting quite good at this “being present in the present” and so as I sat there last night, watching the sun go down creating a spectacular inferno behind the clouds off to the west and bathed the whole scene in intense reds and orange light which slowly faded into dark, I went through that transition such that I was not an observer but was part of this whole scene and sudden new world around me. A short digression (gee what a surprise Wayne!), I was reminded of something the brilliant mind of Rudy Rucker dreamed up in his truly magnificent futuristic trilogy book which he called “puddling”. In the book this was a drug that enabled two (or more I guess) lovers to have what I would describe as the ultimate intimate experience where their bodies would essentially melt such that all their individual cells could mix and mingle together for a time and then their bodies would slowly return to their more solid form. I thought it was a truly brilliant idea (typical of Rudy) and quite plausible to me at some point in the future as it really would be about the most intimate loving experience you could have. As I hope (?) you can guess, I thought about this as I “puddled” with this new world of sight, sounds and feelings all around became one with it all. Part of what and why I love this so much is that it is all so very mechanical and purposeful and I find a great beauty in all that. Keep in mind that I’ve been “mechanically minded” since almost birth and have a deep appreciation for almost anything mechanical, things that work, that do something useful, the design and craftsmanship involved in doing this very very well and so on. It led me to follow one of my career paths to become a teacher at high school and university for automotive, metal work, cabinetry and draughting as well as a life full of avocations and pursuit of my curiosity that led me to be a mechanic, hot rodder, motorcycle builder, welder, sculptor and so on. With this context then you can perhaps understand my deep appreciation for all these ships and machines surrounding me and making up this new world I had just melted into. The tuna fishing net boats (sorry not yet sure their proper name) are the most magnificent machines. They remind me of sharks both visually and for their efficiency. I’ll take and post some pictures shortly but try to picture this in your mind for now: A large long sleek steel hull, about 200 to 300 feet long and with a very steep curved slope of the bow out of the water and up to a very severe point where it meets the deck and in profile resembled the nose of a shark. It helps too that they are all painted white or bright blue so more shark like again. Above the water and further aft they remind me of sea urchins as they are bristling with long skinny spines sticking out which are all the many booms and cranes to lift and manoeuver their nets and cargo. Mid ship there is a large thick column that rises over 100 feet straight up with a set of three large cylindrical observation points, the uppermost of which is a closed in “crow’s nest” the roof of which is also bristling with antenna, radar domes and light towers. On the very very end of the stern there is a huge 50-70 foot net setting boat that looks like it has been run at high speed straight onto the main ship sitting at about a 20 degree angle with its large bow up against a mound of black netting that is about 50 feet high. Upon closer inspection you can see lots of movement on the boat of what look like large ants but are in reality the crew, mostly all from countries in the Indo Asia region, who are scurrying about taking on supplies, moving their precious cargo onto the mother ship they are lashed alongside of and all the many other duties required to keep in the care and feeding such a “shark”. And that’s just the visual part. All my other senses are being equally treated to a symphony of new inputs with the intoxicating (to me at least) smells of fish, salt, nets and diesel fumes wafting through the air. Kinetically I can literally feel these boats with the thrumming of their engines and props coming straight through my steel hull, up to the deck and through my chair and feet. It sends the mental movies being created by the powerful simulation software in my brain into overdrive and the net effect is truly like one of “puddling” as I melt into this scene. Well, I shan’t babble on any longer, you get the point I’m sure (like ten minutes ago!) that I was captivated and captured by this whole scene and feeling so much at “home” with it all. As I described in one of my previous updates I am so very much a “journey person” but as usual with me this is very metaphoric and my whole life to date has been a continuum of journeys as I go from one great destination to the next. As I hope my attempt to articulate my experience last night now that I’ve arrived at this latest “destination” demonstrates, I simply start a new “journey” each time I arrive at one of my next destination and thus as I hope you can understand better now I really do feel like I am on a journey that never ends because one simply “melts” into the next. OK, the sun has set some time ago as I was typing this up, in another blaze of fiery I might add and I’ve typed away long enough or more to the point you’ve read quite enough for one sitting I’m sure, so I’ll stop. Suffice it to say that I have arrived at my next great destination and the next great journey has already begun. I am also FINALLY back in some decently hot and humid weather again as this body of mine simply does not like anything colder than 30 degrees (90F) at night and 35 or so during the days which is what I’m back to here in Majuro. This past year was unseasonably “cold” (everything is relative) in Fiji and in Vanuatu so I (and Ruby) will take a few days to acclimate to our new surroundings and climate but this is where we are the most comfortable and are enjoying every moment of the transition into this latest new home base of ours. We will be enjoying life here for almost two weeks until the 26th when Ruby and I fly back to Canada and the US for some other great adventures spending time with dear friends and family in BC, California and Florida for the months of November and December and then return to Learnativity at New Years. Right now I’ve got my flights set up so I actually “miss” New Years due to flights that cross the international date line such that I leave on the 30th of December and arrive on the 2nd of January! How cool is that?! As usual I have no plans just lots of “intentions” as to where we will sail to next but right now some of the places I hear calling my name in the wind include the outlying Marshall Islands to the north including a trip to Bikini Island to experience that huge “blue hole” created by the big US nuclear bomb blast over 50 years ago and then perhaps wandering and wondering my way west through the islands of Micronesia over towards the Philippines and then maybe down into the many spots that make up the eastern ends of Indonesia. Only time will tell and once again you can join us vicariously via the LTY blog updates. I certainly hope you will and truly thank an appreciate you for coming along on this latest on. I’ll post some updates and some pictures during the next two weeks here in Majuro to give you a better sense of this amazing spot on the planet. But for tonight, and for this latest passage, I’m done! Hope you’ve enjoyed it almost as much as I have and thanks again for your part in making it such a great adventure and experience. Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog
UPDATE: Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 Day #11 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 17:35 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: about 100nm SSE of Majuro Position: 03 20.232 N, 171 54.542 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 7.6 kts (motor sailing) (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 348 degrees (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 12kts SE Seas/Swell: 1m @ 6 seconds ESE Weather: Completely overcast and rainy Air temp: 89 F 31C Sea temp: 96 F 36 C Barometer: 1017nm LIVING INSIDE a COSMIC ACCORDION One of the things I enjoy the most about this life is how it is so filled with contrasts. I’ve been reminded of that in the past 24 hours as that’s what the sailing and the weather have been like. I left you last night just as the sun was setting and I had successfully reeled in that perfect sized (for me) tuna. He was about 50cm/18 inches long and yielded six very good sized meals for me, one of which I had last night and was DELICIOUS! The night sail that followed was a calm and as peaceful as can be. Not as much wind as I’d like, down around 10 knots or so, but enough to keep me moving along at about 5 knots most of the time on very smooth waters and gentle swell out of the SE. The moon rises of late have been quite spectacular as the dark amber moon beams play hide and seek through the tangle of low scattered clouds on the horizon. Last night’s sky had very large clear black expanses interspersed between equally large patches of cloud. The clear spots were so dense with stars it was as if they had all rushed over from their usual locations in order to shine through for me and were shining exceptionally brightly to compete with the brilliant moonbeams which were dancing across the water illuminating a path upon the seas straight to Learnativity and I. I enjoyed this spectacle throughout the night’s sails and watched the transformation as the clear spaces shrank with each passing hour until by first light the whole sky was filled in and there were ominous mushroom shaped storm clouds rising from every point of the compass of the endless horizons surrounding me. With so many storms in all directions the winds were constantly changing and I soon had to abandon sailing and motor in order to maintain headway. For the first few hours I was able to strategically steer a course to weave my way through the slots between adjacent cells but by mid-morning the even these spaces closed in and we were engulfed within a very large line of storms. Mid-afternoon I had passed through the storm front and emerged into what feels like a large dome of overcast skies with fairly constant drizzle and relatively high seas which continue to be the conditions as I type this out. What I was struck by in the past 24 hours as I’ve gone through all these transitions is the mind boggling range of scope and scale of the world I’m a part of. Last night I experienced the infinitely large end of the scale it was so clear and dark and you couldn’t tell where the star filled sky stopped and the star reflecting seas began, and where it felt like there was no bottom to that inky black ocean below and felt like I was looking out into infinity as I gazed up at the galaxies and stars filling the jet black skies above. Yet this afternoon when the storms closed in and the combination of dark super saturated clouds and torrential rains reduced my whole visible world shrank to the size of a small circle just a few feet from the edge of the boat. Then I would sail out into an open patch and my world would now zoom back up to infinitely large only to shrink back down to almost nothing within minutes of the next storm coming through. With all these dramatic expansions and contractions in scope and scale happening within minutes and being repeated several times in a single 24 hour day I felt like I was living inside on some kind of cosmic accordion. And as my world conflated to be even more liquid than ever with the combination of humidity, wet clouds, downpours and the ocean surrounding me I am also struck by my growing profundity of cosmic facts such as how are more molecules in a glass full of water than there are stars in the cosmos and yet at the same time 99.999% of all that water and other mass is made up of the “nothing” of seemingly empty space between each electron, proton and neutron. So my day has been spent being entertained and awed by the experiential music of this cosmic accordion symphony that has been playing in the concert hall created between the infinitesimally small and the infinitely huge. I hope that with examples like this you can understand why I refer to my life as one of constant AWE: Adventure, Wonder and Excitement. This experience also provided me with more examples of what I commented on in a previous post about how our incredible brains create what I think can best be described as the most incredible simulation of what we understand to be the world around us. Our eyeballs are but one relatively small source of the input which feeds this simulation and we don’t see with our eyes so much as we do with our mind’s eye. One example of this in my case is the way I use Radar to help me construct the simulated model in my head of the world around me. You may be familiar with this from the sources you consult on the web or newspapers or nightly weather TV reports when you look at the Radar and satellite views of the world around you. In my case I have Radar on the boat and in addition to the more obvious use (to many) for seeing other ships in the area, I actually use the Radar more often as a way to “see” the weather around me. As my four kilowatt radome scans a much larger circle than I can see, especially when my world gets small in the midst of a storm, it shows me the shape, size, location and movement of each of the storm cells. This is all presented to me as if I am floating a mile or two up in the air looking down with Learnativity at the center of this sweeping circle and when I feed this into my mental model of my world at that moment I am able to “see” this much more extensive 3D space I’m sailing in. Today was also filled with lots more learning as I figured out the trajectory of each of these storm cells by factoring in such things as the vectors of my speed and direction with that of the storm cell and then add to this the circular rotation of the winds which surround each storm cell using all this to chart out my trajectory through them and know which direction the wind was going to be coming from at any given point as it swirls around me. Since crossing the equator I had to do a mental flip as well that reminded me of how I have to invert my thinking when I’m driving a car in a country that drives on the opposite side of the road from the last one you left. With the many different countries which have colonized the different countries here in the South Pacific the side of the road you drive on often changes from one to the next so Fiji was on the right hand side having been British and Vanuatu was on the left having been French. In my case today I had to switch my thinking to remember that winds rotate clockwise around these storm cells now that I’m in the Northern hemisphere and this enables me to know which direction the winds will clock around me as I sail through a storm cell. Wind direction is rather critical information for a sailboat and sailor as you might imagine! ;) OK, class, that’s your classes for today, you’re free to go now! I’m happy to report that as I look up ahead here just before sunset I can see the vertical bands of clouds breaking up to the north so hopefully first light tomorrow will show have me sailing into the day accompanied by the rapidly expanding phase of the cosmic accordion. My instruments also tell me that I am now about eighty eight nautical smiles from the outer east end of Majuro atoll and so as long as I can maintain the good speeds of late I should be able to make it to the mooring field in good light tomorrow afternoon. If you happen to check on a map or satellite photos of this area you will see that the Majuro atoll is a large east/west stretching elliptical coral atoll with just one pass in located a bit west of the middle of the northern coast. Even though I am only 88nm away from the outer eastern tip of Majuro atoll and that will put me within a nautical mile or so of the mooring field which is just off the capital city of Majuro, I have to get INSIDE the atoll first. The only pass into the atoll is located a bit west of the midpoint of the northern coast so I have to make a large U turn up around the outer east end of the atoll, along the northern coast, through the pass and back inside east end and pick up a mooring ball. This U turn is almost 25 nautical miles which will take me over four hours to traverse so I need to keep my speed up in order to cover the total distance and be able to safely navigate my way to the mooring ball before the light fades too much. The end of a passage is usually a bit busy with checking in and other duties but I’ll at least send out a short note to let you know when Learnativity is safely tied up to our new home base for a few months.
LTY UPDATE: Monday, October 8th, 2012 Day #10 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 17:20 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: about 250nm SSE of Majuro Position: 03 20.232 N, 171 54.542 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 4.8 kts (under sail) (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 001 degrees (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 8kts ENEE Seas/Swell: 1m @ 6 seconds SE Weather: Skies mostly clear overhead with scattered clouds throughout Air temp: 90 F 32C Sea temp: 96 F 36 C Barometer: 1017nm BUSY NIGHT of CHANGE; FULL DAY of CONSISTENT BLISS For today’s update I think I’ll give you a break from my more philosophical ramblings and my entertaining rides on my favorite steed called “Tangent” and just give you the sailing update for the past 24 hours. I do hope you enjoy the dual track narratives I tend to keep in these updates covering both my experiences in the physical world of this sailing passage and the more metaphysical world in my ADD riddled little head. Not that you get much say in the matter though and I can’t really write any other way. Unfortunately for you there is a LOT more where this all came from and I'm generating more every day! I DO really appreciate you putting up with all my siliness and endless loops of tangent rides and appreciate you joining me on this adventure. I should also add that I am always EXTREMELY appreciative of any and all feedback you can send me whenever you have some comments on these postings at to when they really hit the mark or miss badly for you as I’m I do struggle with my writing and can use all the help I can get to continue (I hope) to improve. In any case I’ll just cover the sailing narrative for today. After a night of constant change I’ve had a consistently wonderful day of sailing. Just after dark and sending off the update last night the wind suddenly turned 180 from south to north and picked up with a vengeance to 30 knots at times. Due in large part I’m sure of the large storm cell off to the NE but the first time it had this sudden and complete wind shift. Other than surprising it wasn’t too difficult to sail through it without too much difficulty other than the fact that I was trying to get the diesel generator started at the time this hit and discovered that the injectors were not injecting. So with the winds howling outside and doing my best to ride the wind line of about 50 degrees to keep us heading through the path of least resistance through the storm I was going back and forth to the engine room to fix the injectors and get the generator started. I needed the generator because we have not been getting enough sun and wind the past few days to keep the house batteries charged up and the voltage was dropping down below 12 volts and starting to affect my navigation instruments and other systems on board. I need to replace all these house batteries when I get to Majuro and am down to only four of the eight 6v “golf cart” batteries that make up the house bank so there isn’t much reserve capacity in these ones that are left. Won’t be a problem with the multifarious means of producing electricity I have and we’ll make it to Majuro just fine but I did need to get that generator working to get through the relatively heavy electrical demands I have at night with all the various navigation equipment I run at night such as Radar that gets added on top of the regular loads of fridge, lights, etc. So I earned my keep last night as Captain, mechanic, electrician and as my Dad used to say “Chief cook and bottle washer” and was very much like he also used to say “Busier than a one armed (wall)paper hanger”. Once on the other side of this latest trough of storms and with the generator now running fine, things were much calmer and in fact too calm as there was very little wind and it was right on my nose out of the NNE so I needed to start up the “iron gunny” (genoa) as a boat’s engine is sometimes referred to. As always Learnativity handled it all in stride and we motored our way very smoothly through the night making great progress north. By about 4am the wind had clocked around to the east as hoped and there looked to be just barely enough wind to probably sail with so it was up with the full main and genoa, off with the engine, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh and we were off like a herd of turtles at a break blistering three knots. I’m in no hurry though and the seas were now as flat as they’ve been the whole trip so it was back to that magic carpet ride where we seem to just silently slide on top of the water in spite of our size and weight. Made for a very serene welcoming of first light this morning which was a bit more subdued than yesterday’s brilliant cataract of sunbeams but no less wonderful or appreciated. The sun continued to burn off what clouds remained and we’ve had a very bright hot day of smooth sailing ever since. Shortly after getting going this morning, with the winds being so low I decided to try flying the spinnaker. Spinnakers are most often used for downwind sailing when the wind is aft of the beam (perpendicular to the boat) and so this was pretty much opposite conditions as I was sailing as upwind as possible and riding the edge of the wind angle of about 50 degrees over my starboard bow to keep on our course north. However with the winds being so low, about 3-5 knots I figured it was safe and a good learning experience to give it a try. Worked very well once I got her hoisted and flying although with the spinnaker flying way out to port side I had to counter correct by putting the boat on a heading much more to starboard, but again with such light winds it wasn’t much strain on sails, rigging or rudder. All in all it worked very well and I flew the spinnaker for the better part of the day until the winds started to get up over 14 knots apparent (as felt by the sail) and that’s about as high as I like to let it go. So it was down with the spinnaker and up with the Genoa and we’ve been enjoying a much flatter (not heeled over so much) sail for the past few hours and should continue to overnight. That’s the synopsis of my last 24 hours and it looks like more clear sailing for tonight. No visible storms ahead or on Radar and conditions continue to be just wonderful with about 10 knots of wind out of the ENE which is just enough to let me continue to ride that 50-60 degree apparent wind angle and stay on course for Majuro. Given the forecast wind changes for the next few days the course I’m on will take me in a long gradual arc where I’m at about 5 degrees east of north right now on heading 005 and will very slowly start reducing this to head a bit more west as we go north and sail around the west side of Majuro atoll to reach the only pass which is up on the north side. That’s about 250 nm from where I am now so my previous ETA of sometime Wednesday still looks about right. Just keep in mind that I’m on the other side of the dateline from most of you reading this so that is Tuesday for you and about two days from now. As I type that out to you I start to get a bit of that melancholy feeling that hits me every time with the sadness of knowing the passage is coming to an end. I’m sure I’ve covered it in WAY more detail and length than you’d like but I do LOVE these passages with the whole new existence you have and where everything just flows together into a continuum of moments in time. Largely due I think to me being such a journey person and I get the same kind of feeling every time I’m on a longer international flight and it is coming to an end. Something about being in motion and on a journey from my last great destination to the next that just makes me feel so alive and happy that I’m a bit sad to see each journey end. However as you’ve figured out by now, my life is really just one big nonstop journey as each destination simply presents me with a new set of opportunities to continue my voyage in life so it is all good. Night for now. WAIT! ........................ What's that noise?? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Hey! We've got a fish on the line! Hang on for a minute............................. Gee, guess what, I actually caught a fish and got him all onboard this time. Another beautiful blue tuna (not sure of the proper name, I'll look it up later) and have just finished converting him into six excellent meals; four 3cm thick steaks and two large fillets. All but one are now full wrapped and sealed and in the freezer for some future dinners. mmmmmmm sashimi doesn't get too much fresher than what I'm about to have tonight! Wayne
LTY UPDATE: Sunday, October 7th, 2012 Day #9 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 17:00 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: about 380nm SSE of Majuro Position: 00 49.259 S, 171 08.006 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 6.3 kts (under sail) (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 011 degrees (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 14kts out of SSE Seas/Swell: 2.5m @ 6 seconds SE Weather: Skies closing in north and south with storm clouds Air temp: 90 F 32C Sea temp: 96 F 36 C Barometer: 1017nm SALUBRIOUSLY SUNNY SAILING Had a marvellous night sail where the boat just seemed to glide over the water. Winds were ideal at about 12-14 knots on my beam (perpendicular) so averaged 5+ knots the whole time often into the sixes with flat seas. And just to prove that 2am is not only the time when strange and “Interesting” things seem to happen out here at sea, it was also the time when we crossed the equator this morning! I think this is the sixth crossing for Ruby and I. For the last few years I have had this great urge to want to swim across the equator, but so far every time I’ve crossed it has been at night and that trend continued for our crossing this morning so the equatorial swim will have to wait till next time. However we did stop on the equator long enough to toast King Neptune, thank him for allowing us the great privilege of sharing his world and gave him a shot of rum from each point on the compass. I keep one bottle of wine that I’ve had since I started this grand adventure for just this purpose and a special ceramic shot glass that my amazing son Skyler got for me before the first crossing when he was onboard with me in Mexico. While neither of us cared much for it, both Ruby and I had the obligatory taste of rum ourselves and bid Neptune and the southern hemisphere a fond farewell and said hello to the northern hemisphere as we sailed across this imaginary line in the sea. A few hours later, morning dawned in spectacular fashion with no low lying clouds on the eastern horizon to block the full effect. As the sun rose it was like someone had installed a huge valve into an abyss of liquid light behind the sky and it was opening to a gaping size such that there was a horizontal cataract of liquid light energy pouring out. So I perched myself in my big comfy captain’s chair and let the light drench my welcoming body and boat in sunbeams as I basked in the balmy breezes. After watching for a while I just closed my eyes and enjoyed focussing (as best my ADD riddled little brain can) on all the audio and sensory input coursing through me. After this many days on a passage you really do become even more connected with the boat than usual as all the sounds and movements seem to be wired directly into my nervous system and I they run at the unconscious level like your breathing and heartbeat. I feel each small surge or slowing of the boat as I hear the wind pick up or drop off, each tug of the sails on their sheets, the complex movement of the boat through all 3 axis of motion (pitch, roll, yaw). All these multifarious inputs combine to give me a profundity of my world that is simultaneously very small and enormous. I’ve been fascinated by the world around me since I was a small boy and always loved the science and mechanics of things. I never thought of them as a professional calling, they were more special and private than that to me. I remember my excitement of receiving a full chemistry set when I was about 8 or 10 that had a microscope, glass slides, beakers, petri dishes and various instruments and tools for gathering interesting stuff and it was like I had walked through a wormhole into a whole new universe; the world of the microscopic. I think this was also much of the drive behind my pursuit of all things mechanical, taking them apart, fixing them, upgrading them and so on. Fast forwarding to a bit more recent times I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into the sciences the past few years and reading more and more on physics, cosmology, anthropology and much more. I’m mentioning this here (I usually have a point eventually) because one of the things I’ve been struck with as I learn more about what “we” are learning about how our brains and minds work, is that we don’t literally “see” anything. Unlike the way I recall being taught, our brains are NOT like a “projectionist” watching the movie created by what comes in through our eyes. Instead all that optical input is converted into electrical signals by the “rods and cones” in the back of our eye and sent to the most incredible simulation software engine there ever was and creates these amazing models of what we typically refer to as “reality”. There is simply too much information coming in to be able to process it all at once and so instead we create models that are more enduring and don’t need to be “refreshed” every instant so that we can instead focus on just the things that change or are new. What I’m trying to say, in my usual tortuous way, is that I’ve come to realize that we get the most out of what we see when we see with our minds rather than our eyes. This means that we can make these models so much richer by adding not just the visual information but also the other sensory data we gather AND best of all, our feelings. To me at least, with more and more practice, I am finding that I have these unbelievably rich models and simulations running in my head and more and more of the time everything just blends together such that I have no sensation of “looking” at something or feeling something and simply, profoundly and powerfully just is. Is my world, is me, is the present, past and future all happening at once. Well, I doubt this makes much sense to anyone other than me but I’m bringing it up here today as I reflected on my experiences today and was struck by how everything now just flows together to create what is SO well named; the PRESENT. What a gift to be given. Every day! Every nanosecond of every day! Perhaps this will also help you understand what I mean when I say that I am such a “journey person” as opposed to being a destination person. It isn’t that one is better than the other and be assured that I enjoy my destinations very much, but I can recall observing when I was very young that I was always the happiest when I was on a journey in the sense of making my way from the last great spot to the next. This was not only literally true in that I have done a LOT of travelling in my life, but more so it was an observation about how I think. It is why learning is a way of being for me because it is this never ending, constantly in motion journey. While not necessarily grammatically correct I realize, journey and learning are “verbs” to me. They are active, moving, changing, one transition after the next. Life, at least my life, is this fluid, dynamic, ever changing, always flowing thing for me. And I think it is for everyone else too. However we can often interrupt this flow, try to control it, compartmentalize and categorize it and I’ve found that this severely lessons the experience and causes such well-known situations as living in the past or the future and missing the present. As per John Lennon’s great line; “Live is what happens while we are busy making other plans.” More so for me the journey is simply called life and also goes by the name of the present. I’m doing my best to be more “present in the present” and “experience my experiences” a bit more fully every day. It is my fondest hope that if I am having ANY success in capturing and articulating some of my experiences in these postings, then you too are finding more and more ways to be present in your present and experience your experiences a bit more fully every day. Speaking of the present, the light is fading out here as the sun starts to set somewhere out there behind all the growing accumulation of clouds that have been growing all afternoon. After a gloriously sunny and clear morning I’ve sailed through two more lines of storms this afternoon and I suspect there is another one or two laying on my course northward here tonight. Nothing significant, just higher and changing winds and some rain for a bit and I often have to reef the sails a bit or change course to cross them in the shortest time and then continue north. The wind has been great all day and has now swung all the way round to the SSE as have the seas, so I’ve got both the wind and the seas behind me which makes for a very quiet sail as the latitude counter starts to go up now and we head for Majuro which is at about 7 degrees north. Less than four hundred nautical smiles to go now and if conditions continue to cooperate and our speed holds we should be anchored in Majuro on Wednesday sometime. However it goes you will be amongst the first to know and thanks again for joining me on this latest “journey”! Wayne
LTY UPDATE: Saturday, October 6th, 2012 Day #8 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 17:00 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: 940nm NNE of Luganville, Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu Distance to go Majuro: about 505nm Position: 00 49.259 S, 171 08.006 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 6.4 kts (under sail) (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 010 degrees (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 15kts out of SE Seas/Swell: 2.5m @ 6 seconds SE Weather: Mostly clear skies, small scattered cloud, not more storm clouds in sight Air temp: 92 F 33C Sea temp: 96 F 36 C Barometer: 1017nm RAINBOWS & TUNA As I commented previously, IMHO everything in life is relative and that means that we can only appreciate and know as much of the positive as we have of the negative. I think about it as plotting it out on a XY graph or oscilloscope screen for happiness and joy, and it seems to me that the number on the positive axis can only be as high as the number on the negative axis. Just one of my many weird thoughts and images. My point here being that thanks to having spent the past few days having to mostly motor through the dark and stormy SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) I was able to experience that frisson of joy when this morning the sun came up and treated me to a double rainbow and proceeded to burn off the rim of clouds around all horizons and overhead. By 8am it was a beautiful sunny day and I was enjoying it to the max. The only thing missing was wind! There had not been a breath of wind since we passed through the last storm cell in the wee hours this morning and so I was still having to motor rather than sail. Learnativity is purpose built for this though and so we were making great progress and able to point due north on a direct course to Majuro at about 6.4 knots. I’ll explain the details behind the title of today’s post in a pieces. Last night I as I would go out on deck to scan the horizon for the lights of any ships and to see the cloud and storm patterns around me I started to pick out the very faint glow of light coming off two spots down to the south west of me. These were just over the horizon and showed up as very faint light refracting off the cloud cover. This light was extremely faint and the kind that you can only see by NOT looking at it. I suspect most of you know what I’m talking about and I’ve long been fascinated by this phenomena that results from the way our eyes are constructed. As I understand it we have a “blind spot” right at the very spot where the light falls from whatever we are looking directly at because this is where the optic nerve is attached. We don’t normally noticed this because we have two eyes with a distance between them so we see a slightly different portions through each eye and most of all because we move our head and eyes rather constantly and our brains run all this data through our phenomenal simulation software to create the model of what we think we are seeing. I most often point this out to people as we are looking up at the starry starry night and you notice that if you pay attention to what is just off center of a star you are looking directly at you will see a LOT of other stars and that whole hazy light filled area of galaxies. If you’ve not tried this, check it out tonight or next time you can get a good view of a clear night sky. Ooops! I’ve been off riding my favorite horse “Tangent” haven’t I?! OK, meanwhile back on Learnativity last night I was using this same optical phenomena as I always do to scan the far night horizons. By “watching” what I’m seeing off to the side rather than what I’m looking directly at, I am able to catch very small faint bits of light and that’s how I picked up on these two faint bits of light radiating upward off to the SW. I knew that I am a LONG ways from any form of land so this could not be from an island, plus out here most islands don’t even have electricity or if they do it is a small generator they run for a few hours each day so they are hardly throwing up any amount of big lights into the sky! Had to be from a large ship, most likely part of the big tuna fishing fleet that is based out of Majuro. Couldn’t see them on radar yet of course because they were below the horizon, but eventually they did pop up over the horizon and I could then just make out the bright lights of these huge tuna (and other) net boats. If you go back and look at some of the photos from when I was in Majuro the first time back in Oct 2010 through May 2011 you will see some pictures of these boats when I had the opportunity to go onboard for a full tour. So I kept an eye on these all through the night and must have passed about six of them all together. This is surprisingly unusual from my sailing experience for the past five years as I’ve probably seen less than ten boats in that whole time other than when I get near a big port or marina. Mostly of course this is due to the fact that I’m taking the routes less travelled both by other cruisers and way off any commercial shipping or trade routes. The last one was early this morning just at sun rise and was quite spectacular and another part of today’s title. As I mentioned at the outset here, Mother Nature and Mr. Sun treated me to a double rainbow this morning as the sun was just starting his journey out of the watery eastern horizon. What I didn’t mention was that as I was out on deck enjoying that great sight one of these large tuna boats was heading south and was only about 4nm away from me. This one was gleaming white and the sun was like a spot light and all the booms and extensions bristling off the tuna boat were lit up like a sparkler on a birthday cake as it proceeded to pass right through the ends of both rainbows! It was a vision to behold and much better than any pot of gold for me! After taking it all in I did go get the camera and took a shot but not sure how well it will turn out. I’ll post it up on the LTY blog when I get to Majuro and have some bandwidth. After that great start to my day, it all continued to go well as I revelled in feeling the sun on my skin and all that Vitamin D and serotonin flowing through me. However still no wind to caress my skin and sails, literally not a breath. Not to worry, we motored merrily along in the still big seas which were running up to three meters out of the SE now. Then all of a sudden Mum Nature switched on the fan and we instantly had 15 knots of wind out of the SE. PERFECT! I had the main sail and genoa up in record time, once again enjoyed the felicity of the moment when you kill the diesel engines and are plunged into the serene sounds of sea and sails, and we are off like a rocket doing over six knots. Now that the wind was finally back to coming out of the SE I was able to maintain just the heading I wanted to aim for Majuro and we’ve been making great time all day. The final part of what’s behind today’s title is that I finally put a lure in the water to see if there were any tuna out there that the big nets missed. Sure enough a few hours later I heard that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz as the line peeled off the fishing reel. I let it run for a bit and was just about to put on some tension when it stopped and he was gone. I guess he was just taste testing my lure. About an hour later it happened again, this time I got to start reeling him in but again it soon stopped and he was gone. Oh well, I’m not dependent upon fish to eat as I’ve got a well-stocked freezer, but still …….. So Left the rod out and went back to reading, making notes and tending to boat work. Time for my afternoon shower and you guessed it, just as I was all lathered up out on the aft deck zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr went the rod and this guy was off to the races! Well, no time to rinse off, need to tend to this fish first so you can picture the scene; Learnativity sailing along full tilt, heeled over nicely in the 18 knot wind with me standing out on the aft deck on this glorious sunny day, wearing nothing but a whole lot of soap and shampoo and busy reeling in this fish. No, I do NOT have a picture of that, lucky you! He didn’t fight too much and I feel a bit bad for these guys as they end up just kind of planning the surface as I reel them in. Occasionally they manage to duck under the surface and try to make a run, but with the boat doing almost seven knots and me reeling them in, they end up on their side skipping over the surface of the water like a skim board. Not much fun when this is all happening with a big hook in your mouth I’m sure! So I get him up to the side of the boat and sure enough it is a beautiful blue tuna and as I bring him up out of the water the sun which is now low in the western sky hits him and just radiates the most wonderful rainbow spectrum of colours off his scales. Almost too beautiful to keep, but not quite as he was just the perfect size for me, about 50cm/20 inches. Tuna are quite different shape than most other fish it seems to me and have that thick barrel shape with a quadrant type of bone structure so there is a LOT of meat per inch. The challenge I usually have with fishing out here is that I catch fish that are too big for me to eat so I often have to let them go as I don’t want to waste too much. Even with the ability to freeze them, one this size creates at least eight to ten very full meals and lots of sashimi. Unfortunately I’m not much of a fisherman and so I have him hauled up out of the water just a foot or so out of the water with the reel in the rod holder so I can go grab my gaff which is on the other side (of course!) and my spritzer of alcohol to knock him out and bring him on board. I know, I know, stupid me! He of course is wriggling like mad and with his full weight no on the hook he manages to rip it out and I dash back to the rod to find that he’s gone and my lure is dangling in the wind! Drat! I was already tasting that sashimi! Oh well, I did feel pretty bad about catching such a beautiful creature and he will sure have a great story to tell his mates tonight! As you can see then, my day started and ended with rainbows of colour and tuna, hence the title of today’s post. Hope you enjoyed it! Right now the setting sun is coruscating off the swells of sea water off my port quarter and calling my name very loudly so I need to go attend to that important quotidian duty. Poor me. That’s all for tonight folks, back tomorrow with more and this time from the northern hemisphere as we will be crossing the equator in the wee hours this morning by the looks of our speed right now.
LTY UPDATE: Friday, October 5th, 2012 Day #7 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 17:25 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: 858nm NNE of Luganville, Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu Distance to go Majuro: about 640nm Position: 03 19.400 S, 171 03.078 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 6.5 kts (motor sailing) (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 000 degrees (straight North) (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 0-5kts out of NNE Seas/Swell: 2m @ 7 seconds NE Weather: scattered cloud all around filling in more and more as the day progressed Air temp: 90 F 32C Sea temp: 96 F 36 C Barometer: 1017nm PLAYING CAT & MOUSE with SUNBEAMS Day #7 out here so first week done and less than a week to go I'd guess. Still too far away to be able to make any accurate ETA for Majuro but with about 640nm to go it should be about 4 to 6 days which would make it somewhere between Oct 10-13 is my best guesstimate. Weather is never too predictable and least of all in the band on either side of the equator as currents and winds all go through their transitions form southern to northern hemisphere with the Coriolis effect. In this part of the planet we have what is called the SPCZ or South Pacific Convergence Zone which is a band of weather that stretches out in a generally east west direction and tends to drive north and south of the equator as the seasons progress. Right now it is lying south of the equator from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon's out east past Tonga. I've making my way through it and its effects for the past few days and should be out of it by tomorrow I hope and find nice clear sunny weather, and some favorable winds up north of the equator. For your approximate reference I'm at 3 degrees south right now and Majuro is at 7 degrees north and there are 60 nautical miles between each degree of latitude. Soon Ruby and I will need to start readying ourselves for another equator crossing celebration and I'm hoping that will be during the day this time so we can enjoy it all the more. I think this is about the eighth crossing for her and I so we are well seasoned shellbacks as is the name for those sailors who have crossed the equator as opposed to the equator “virgins” known as Polliwogs. More on all that as we cross the equator in a few days. I’m also delighted to let you know that we made it out of all that dark and stormy weather of the past few days and in the wee hours of this morning the skies overhead gradually opened up with each nautical mile of ocean that slipped under the hull and let a still quite full moon and more and more of the millions of stars shine through. Mother Nature continued to show off again at first light this morning with what I found to be a game of cat & mouse between the early rising sunbeams as they escaped upward and the surround rim of billowing clouds. The clouds were filled in all the way down to the eastern horizon so the sun itself could not get through to signal sunrise, however this didn’t stop the radiating sunbeams from finding escape routes up and out over the tops of the clouds leaving their telltale bursts of rich pink and rose pastels coruscating from within the upper reaches of the whipped cream clouds. As I sat in awe and wonder of this magnificent show to signal the dawning of the new day, these pastel paint gun bursts of colours would move from one cloud to the next spread out from the far west side up to the north. Not sure how well I am painting this moving picture for you but what it reminded me of was that game most of you have played with a cat or dog where you put your hands under the sheets and wiggle your fingers and just as they pounce on this “mouse” you quickly move your hand away to some other spot and wiggle again. Ruby and I often play this game each morning as we wake up and that’s what I reminded of as I watched these early morning sunbeams fade in and out in bursts in one cloud and then do so again over in another one. I’m sure it was one of those “you had to be there” experiences but just wanted to share it with you. While the dark and stormy weather has been delightfully replaced by these fun and games of sun, clouds and blue sky, the wind has been lost in the process. I tried my best to squeeze some energy out of the wipers of wind that were blowing out of the north but they never made it up over about 8 knots and were 3-5 most of the time which just isn’t enough to move us forward with any speed at all when they are coming right at us. I did enjoy the first half of the day tweaking sails and making some forward movement but by 10am we were unable to maintain even 2 knots of speed and below that point I lose steerage as there isn’t enough water flowing over the rudder and so we just drift rather randomly about and the sails don’t appreciate that and let me know with all their slating and slapping of their sheets (ropes/lines). So I reluctantly fired up my trusty Cummins diesel and it was soon merrily thrumming away and pushing us north at over 6 knots without breaking a sweat. The seas have also reverted back to the shapes of gently rolling hills rather than steep sided mountains to the motion is now that soothing ride similar to what you’d experience in a car or motorcycle out on some great country roads in a hilly area. The sun is setting, though it is hard to tell just where or when as the clouds have been filling in more and more both on the horizons and overhead as the afternoon has worn on. Looks like we might get some rain during the night but it also may just skirt off to the west and we will slide through in the dry patches but that is all just random luck for the most part and does help to keep the decks and boat nice and clean and free from salt build up so it is all good no matter what happens. And with that I’m going to head down to the galley to fix up some dinner. Salad night tonight (I alternate with one dinner being a big salad and appetizers and the next being a more tradition dinner) so I’ve got some chopping and dicing to do. Thanks to having a great fridge and freezer on board, that is working very well after my last rebuild and servicing in Luganville, I still have a few more days’ worth of fresh veggies for salads such as lettuce, cucumbers, white radish, tomatoes, carrots and so on so I’m eating as well and as healthy as every out here. Night for now, be back with more tomorrow. Wayne
LTY UPDATE: Thursday, October 4th, 2012 Day #6 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 16:35 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: 722nm NNE of Luganville, Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu Distance to go Majuro: about 740nm Position: 05 07.631 S, 170 30.299 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 6.5 kts (motor sailing) (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 057 degrees (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 5-30 NNE Seas/Swell: 3m @ 4 seconds NE Weather: Dark and stormy with some clearing to the NW and SE Air temp: 86 F 30C Sea temp: 95.5 F 35.3 C Barometer: 1017nm SAILING on the FLIP SIDE of PARADISE It was a dark and stormy night and that’s not the opening line to my book! Still is very dark and storm and has been since I wrote you last night. Mother Nature just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t getting complacent with that boring perfect wind, sun and seas so she decided to serve up a very good batch of storms for me to enjoy. The weather hasn’t been anything special or dangerous, highest winds I’ve seen have been in the 40’s with lots of torrential driving rain but these only come in relatively short bursts as I pass through one of the storms. It is just such a sudden stark contrast to the past days of idyllic conditions so seems a bit more severe than it really is. The most uncomfortable part is that the seas have now flipped to be out of the NW now that I’m nearing the equator (5 degrees to go) and these storms have whipped them up so they are running about 3 meters high about 4 seconds apart and quite steep. I’m now on a heading of 55 degrees (NE) so the ride is a lot better and I’ll stay on this until the wind hopefully changes around as forecast sometime tonight to be out of the NE or East. I’ve had to run the engine for most of the time since these storms arrived as the wind gusts and changes direction too much and the seas are opposing me as well. However Learnativity is as good at motoring as at sailing as she was purpose built to be a motor sailor and so she is handling it all with her usual aplomb. And lest any of you are thinking it was all blue sky, crystal blue waters and sunshine paradise out here all the time and all I do is watch the sun rise and set, I had a wee bit of excitement last night when the fan belt that drives my main engine sea water pump broke. It was about 2am, as seems to always be the case and fortunately I have a flow meter alarm on this sea water system for my wet exhaust so I was able to shut the engine down quickly without any further harm. Just as I was gathering my tools and heading down to the engine room I heard the wind start to sing in the rigging and the drumming of the next downpour of rain so I had to dash up top and get the sails set to get us through this storm while the engine was down. Wasn’t too big a job to replace the fan belt but it did take some time as it the fan belt on the very inside so I had to remove the other main alternator with its two belts and my hydraulic pump drive to get at the water pump belt. Best of all though the engine room was doing its best to imitate a sauna for me with the high heat and humidity so I worked up a very good sweat in the process and Learnativity once again helped me to keep this girlish figure of mine as an extra benefit! The rest of the night and all of today has been pretty consistent as we move through one storm and on into the next. What I’ve really noticed today is how much this dark grey weather creates a feeling of being closed in and confined. When it is sunny and clear and you are out here completely surrounded by ocean and sky as far as you can see in all directions, I have such a feeling of enormity which simultaneously humbles me as to just what an infinitesimally small bit of stardust I am as well as the frisson of pure elation that I am part of it all. So when I now find myself enclosed within this cocoon of ominous dark grey blue clouds I am struck by how constrained and small it now feels. This whole spectrum of feelings and emotions is one of the great things about this life though. I’ve long believed that pretty much everything in life is relative and as such we can only know as much joy and greatness as we know deep sadness and pain. If it weren’t for experiences like this I would have so little appreciation of those previous days of sailing in that Birds in a Nest paradise. Being challenged and meeting those challenges is what enables me to experience that incredible felicity when I’m sitting out on the aft deck with Learnativity gently tugging at her anchor chain and watching yet another sun rise or set. All very salubrious for my soul and I’m sure each of you can relate to similar feelings. Well, it is getting much darker and ominous up ahead so I’ll stop for tonight and send this up to the satellites and on its way to you.
LTY UPDATE: Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 Day #5 of passage from Vanuatu to Marshall Islands LTY time: 19:05 (Marshall Islands time = UTC +12) Location: 600nm NNE of Luganville, Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu Distance to go Majuro: about 830nm Position: 06 32.267 S, 169 16.165 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map) SOG: 6.4 kts (SOG = Speed over Ground) COG: 037 degrees (COG = Course over Ground) Wind: 3-8 NNE Seas/Swell: 1m @ 6 seconds SE Weather: Sunny and clear skies with large fluffy clouds surrounding all horizons. Air temp: 90 F 32C Sea temp: 95.5 F 35.3 C Barometer: 1017nm CHASING the WIND on my MAGIC CARPET Another ideal day of sailing out here on the South Pacific. Conditions continue to be about the same with that “Birds in a Nest” type situation of clear skies above and fluffy clouds all around. The wind been doing as forecast and as typical for this part of the world by dropping off slowing and now starting to turn to the north as we start to leave the SE Trades behind and head for the equator and the northern hemisphere. Right now they are blowing out of the NE about 3-8 knots and I’m still able to keep them coming over my starboard bow (right side) but will soon need to tack over as I’m pointing more and more to the west and need to be going slightly to the east. Sail boats have a limit as to what angle they can sail upwind and on Learnativity this is about 50 degrees (head on would be zero) to be sailing efficiently. So I’ve got both the main and the genoa sheeting in tight or what is called “close hauled” sailing and I’m pinching the wind as close as I can to ride that 50 degree line for maximum boat speed and best heading. Earlier today I changed over my auto pilot from having it steer the boat to a given way point to now be in “wind vane” mode where it maintains a set wind angle, 50 degrees in my case. This means that as the wind shifts the boat will steer to keep the wind at the angle you specify and hence I’m very much “chasing the wind” today and letting Learnativity and the auto pilot determine the course. It is working out very well and the sailing has been very smooth as we rise up and down over the gentle hills of the SE swell that is now aft of our beam. As the wind has shifted gradually north throughout the day though, this means that we are pointing more and more north and now about NNW so I’m keeping an eye on these headings and will likely need to tack over to the east so I don’t lose the easting I’ve gained and can maintain a mostly northerly direction. I may need to do some motoring in the transition period there as either point of sail will be taking me either west or east and I want to go mostly north but the winds should clock back around to the South by tomorrow and I won’t be too far off course. Sailing really does feel like a magic carpet ride to me. Learnativity weighs over 33 tons and yet here I am in a relatively light breeze and we are silently sailing along at 3-5 knots! It is such a thrill to think that I’m doing what sailors have done for centuries of using the energy of the wind to take you where you want to go. Of course I’ve got the significant advantage of sails that allow me to sail up wind as they become wings or air foils that produce lift and pull rather than push us through the water. It isn’t that long ago that sailboats could only go downwind and that is where the “Trade Winds” get their name as all the trade ships that were carrying their cargo from supply to demand locations were following these routes dictated by where and when the wind blew. And I can’t imagine, though I try, what it must have been like for these sailors when they had almost no maps or charts at all and really no idea where they were until the invention of a clock that would work onboard that enabled them to take sightings of the stars of sun and figure out their longitude. Latitude was known early on and relatively easy to calculate as each line of latitude is the same distance from the next so once they could figure out the longitude they knew where they were! Now of course I’m out here sailing with incredibly detailed electronic (and some paper) charts, over 7 different GPS systems to pinpoint my exact location and so many other benefits. But, it is still just me and Mother Nature out here and it is still sailing on her winds and so I feel very much connected to both the human history and nature. For some reason today I had the urge to sit up on the bowsprit and just take it all in. So I perched myself up there such that I was the furthest thing forward and everything else was behind me and as usual it was a marvellous sensation. Feels so much like flying and you can’t see anything but water below, in front and around you. The scale of the watery world stretched out before me helps keep me humble and appreciative of being able to have these kind of experiences. For a planet that now has over seven billion people living on it, I’m certainly a very privileged person to be out here so very much by myself with not another soul or speck of land in sight of likely for hundreds of miles and even thousands in many directions. Once I had satisfied that urge for some forward flying I had the idea to try out the opposite so I climbed down onto the aft swim steps and sat there with my feet dangling in the 35C degree sea water as I looked out at the wake I was leaving behind and yet another unfathomable mass of ocean stretching out as far as my eyes could see. Like being up on the bow, there was no boat and nothing but water in my field of view and it only served to multiply my sense of the vastness of the ocean and get that thrill of being surrounded by nothing but ocean for every one of the 360 degrees of horizon surrounding me. OK, enough of my ramblings for tonight. The sun has set as I typed this up and there are some storm cells up ahead to the NNW that I need to try to skirt around so I’ll say good night for now and be back with more tomorrow. Thanks again for joining me on this adventure. Wayne