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Life on the Tilt

May 14, 2011

Position: 03.18.990N by 130.28.187W
Course: 180t
Speed: 5 knots
Wind, 7 knots SE
Sea: 2 feet, SE
Cloud: 50% to 10%
Bar: 1010

101 miles again…not fast, but steady.

Wind softened last evening or I fancied it did and just as the sun was setting I swapped out the large genoa for the working jib. A messy job–sail canvas everywhere and I spend the majority of my time attempting to untangle myself from my own safety harness. But once done, the difference is immediately felt–a steadier, effortless pulling and we point higher with more speed.

We remain on the tilt, close hauled, as I write and have been so now for the better part of two days, heading as close to due south as wind will allow. Wind is steady from the SE at between 5 and 10 knots depending on the time of day or our position relative to an approaching rain squall or other reasons I do not comprehend.

And it doesn’t matter because we have wind. I am now well below the stormy north edge of the ITCZ; I am now well into the area where the doldrums should be, and they are not here. They have been blown away.

These trade-like winds are not the SE trades, however. My weather files show that those lie at 0N, have more east in them and are another 10 knots stronger. These are not the trades, which means they could vanish as quickly as they’ve arisen, but for the moment we are driving them for what they are worth.

There is almost no bird life here. A shearwater, chocolate brown all over except for a white underbody, that my book fails to note. One tropic bird, first in days. One pair of storm petrels. Could it be that birds instinctively avoid the doldrums?

And flying fish have returned. After seeing so many so consistently for so many days, it was a surprise to note no flying fish whatever two days ago. Murre’s decks were clean in the morning and not a single fish was seen all day. I assumed the water temperature had warmed too much for their liking. But yesterday they returned–they are fewer in number by half and their flying skill is terrible. They jump from the water and immediately take a nose dive or flip over and fall back or fail to leave the surface at all. It’s comic. Am I sailing through the flying fish nursery or is this another species still evolving into flight?



We have been at sea two weeks as of yesterday. During this time we have covered 1700 miles of ocean under sail and are averaging 118 miles a day. Hiva Oa is approximately 900 miles south west.

Food: It is now easier to name the fresh foods that have survived rather than those I’m out of. Several pablano chilies remain–I’ve purposefully left them for last because unlike bell peppers, pablanos don’t rot, they wizen. Two apples. One cabbage–hairy, but it will be fine a few leaves down–am saving it to go with the bag of potatoes at some later date. Amazingly a couple tomatoes are still edible. And I have a bag of onions and a bag of oranges and nearly all the eggs–almost three dozen. Canned and dried foods have become my main source, but I’ve barely made a dent in the first locker. Cooking continues to a least desirable chore, especially of late as the whole boat is on the tilt, requiring one hold on with three hands and chop onions with one. Turn away for one minute and everything is on the floor. And the pressure cooker continues to be the most valuable purchase; am on my third pot of lentils and savoring them.

Water: Have increased intake to three liters a day because of an increase in temperature, especially in the cabin, which is poorly ventilated. The cabin is 80 degrees now, always, and I sweat profusely.

Physical Health: The little toe is still swollen and pink and soar but less so on all counts. The shoulder has not been a problem since last writing, not because its healed but because I’ve somehow learned not to pull it in the wrong way. I’ve not been counting my sleep hours, but am getting plenty: I usually start my sleep cycle at 9 in the evening and end with dawn.

Attitude: I am weary of the constant motion and the pace–the need to keep moving–and think fondly now of that afternoon Murre and I were becalmed. Can we throw the anchor over and relax for a bit? And I tend to get frustrated at little things: Molly can’t hold a course today or the onions keep rolling off the counter and onto the floor or… Beyond that I’m pleased with or progress and am still finding my surroundings beautiful to behold.

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