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On the Move Again

May 5, 2011

Position: 15.15.515N by 120.30.004W
Course: 235t
Speed: 5 knots
Wind: 8 knots, NNE
Sky: 0% occluded
Sea: Swell, 2 feet
Temp: 75%
Bar: 1014

98 miles since yesterday

Wind held at 8 knots out of the northeast all afternoon and Murre sailed with power under big genoa and billowing mizzen staysail until dark, when I pulled in the staysail and put us directly downwind, due southwest. I often run Murre a little more conservatively at night, this so I don’t have to worry about a jibe or other on-deck problems as I try to get some rest. But last night my tactic failed. Dead downwind under just the big headsail, Murre rolled beyond all imagining, and I barely slept at all.

I should not be surprised. Many a sailing author has commented how sweetly his craft wends her way downwind and under headsails alone–and how much she rolls for it. But must Murre attempt to take the prize in this category?

When lying on my back, I was flopped from one side of my single-wide bunk to the other. I tried wedging myself in with knees and shoulders, and while successful at stopping my own movement, it was too uncomfortable to allow sleep. I tried propping myself up with extra pillows, but this only moved my gyrations from a completely horizontal to a somewhat vertical position. Finally I lay back with one leg over the lee cloth and across the table the other against the bulkhead. I don’t know why, but this worked to secure my position in the bunk.

That was only one issue solved, however. When a boat rolls so extremely, everything inside that is not absolutely glued or screwed down shifts. The old cigar boxes in which I store fasteners slammed from one side of their shelf to the other; the dishes raced around the three inches clearance they have in their cubby, crashing about with childish glee. Worst if smallest was a tiny, metallic whirring inches from my head which finally resolved to be the metal ball inside a can of generic spray varnish–in my wrath, almost thrown overboard.

And then there was the deep thunking aft that sounded as if the engine was attempting an escape into the sea through the hull. A quick peak in the engine room showed this was not the case but revealed nothing else. Imagine, if you will, a grown man kneeling before his engine compartment in the dark and with both hands on the panels. His eyes are closed; his head is bent. He could be praying. In fact, he’s trying to see deep into the bowels of his ship through his palms. What’s happening down there? It didn’t work.

Finally I lifted the lid on the cockpit hatch and immediately saw that my two, five gallon jugs of spare diesel were knocking up against the hull on each roll.

Fixed that today.



Today at noon Murre and I passed our first week at sea. During this time we have covered over 800 miles of ocean, but are only 750 miles closer to our goal (our course has been far from straight). In miles, not necessarily in time, we have completed about one quarter of the passage.

Food: to date I have eaten almost none of the 90,000 calories in canned goods buried in various of Murre’s lockers. Aside from one can of lentils and another of beans and two of condensed milk, food consumed has been fresh, caught, or dried (one serving of rice and another of lentils in the pressure cooker). But fresh foods are running low. Fresh meats are gone, as are bananas and avocados. The bell peppers are looking ragged and a few of the tomatoes are black.

Water: My fresh water consumption rate has been low. Murre carries around 70 gallons of water distributed into two large tanks and several smaller ones. Of this each day I use two liters of clear water for drinking, another few cups for coffee, and that’s about it. All other water needs are handled via a saltwater tap into the galley, including water for cooking and cleaning (of dishes and me).

Health: Health is good, I think. The cold symptoms of the first two days are gone and appetite has mostly returned, though I am still eating quite a bit less than usual. My right little toe continues to heal from a very bad stubbing a few days prior to departure and it remains twice the size of its nearest neighbor and painful, but both skin wounds are now normal flesh. My right shoulder hurts terribly when my arm is bent back or above me; these symptoms were first noticed the day I left…of course.

Attitude: Also good. It is still too early in the passage to feel boredom–the newness of pretty much every experience cancels it out. And anything like loneliness is deferred by email contact with my wife and friends and these articles, and my radio conversations with Mexico based cruiser’s nets into which I check daily. In particular I’ve spoken with Rani and Chris on LADYBUG twice now (they are sailing in the northern Sea of Cortez) and have found that verbal contact quite pleasurable. It is easy to see, however, that the lack of quality sleep, being constantly on call, and the energy required to go about daily tasks in a tiny space that bucks like a wild horse will wear over time. I still frequently feel what H.W. Tilman calls the “salutary and humbling emotion of fear” especially as it relates to getting across the line safely and, much longer term, getting both Murre and myself home.


Wind has built to 10 knots out of the northeast this afternoon and we continue wing and wing, a delicate business on a wind vane and in a running sea, but beautiful and birdlike.

We saw our first Black-Footed Albatross today–magnificent animal and unmistakable as anything else given its 87 inch wingspan. But no tropic bird came calling, for which I am sad.

One Comment
  1. Sarah permalink
    May 6, 2011 2:34 am

    I do love your missives; thanks. I hope that sleep will be more plentiful & food more desirable during week 2. Both are necessary for health!
    It sound as if you may have broken your little toe, but there is no treatment for it so all will be well.
    Wee have had no rain since the end of Jan & everything is looking very crispy!
    I pray for fair weather & wind to your beem.
    Happy sailing
    Love you always & forever.SarahMa

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