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A Trade Wind Life – Updated!

May 19, 2011

Position: 01.08.22S by 131.58.44W
Course: 220t
Speed: 4.5 knots (over last 24 hours: we are bucking a one knot current) Wind: 7 gusting 10, SE
Wave: 2 – 4 SE
Sky: 30%
Temp: 78 degrees
Bar: 1013

88 miles since yesterday–our speed is returning; hope the wind holds. Would like to keep our average over 100 miles a day–current daily average, 104 miles per day.

A ship on the move is a happy ship, and the wind that came up yesterday evening has held at between 6 and 10 knots SE. Murre is under all plain sail taking the breeze on the beam or sometimes a bit forward.  It’s too early to call this the SE trades, but that’s what they feel like.

A course of 218 true will carry us directly to Hiva Oa, and I fiddle and fiddle with the the wind vane, correcting a pinch here and a pinch there until Molly must think me demented.

But beyond the fiddling, I am unnecessary crew.  Murre has it, and if the wind remains even, she will quickly grind out our remaining 645 miles to the Marquesas.

So, with nothing better to do, I spent the morning studying the birds.  We’re in a new hemisphere for sure and a new avisphere for some.  Albatross, for example, don’t typically cross the windless doldrums.  Given the absence of what was once numerous–the Mottled Petral–I’d guess they don’t either.  But this morning’s bird, the Storm Petrel, is the one I’m working.  I’m now fairly certain I’m seeing a different species.  Above the equator, this tiny bird flew like a bat or a pigeon–acrobatic, erratic, three dimensional flight.  Leaches Storm Petrel.  This morning’s petrel is similar in color–black with tan carpal bars and a white rump–but the rump is more white and the flight is noticeably even with brief moments of straight soaring at water top.  Of the twenty species, I’ve got it down to two: Wedge Rumped or Wilson’s.  It’s all in the legs–do they stick out beyond the tail or not.  But no bird has got that close yet.

That was over coffee.

After a breakfast of cheesy eggs with the last of the wrinkled poblanos, I dived into Cunliffe’s CELESTIAL NAVIGATION.  It’s time to learn this again, and if Murre is in the trades, I’ll have time.  But either the eggs and cheese were past their prime or deducing a body’s Local Hour Angle from Greenwich Hour Angle and an imagined longitude–four times quickly, east and west–is the brain twister it seems.  Either way I got a bit queasy.  It’s sentences like this–“The declination of his zenith is the same as his latitude”–that convince one it’s time to take a turn on deck.

There are four of us, four other known boats wending their way slowly south as wind will allow–the last of the season’s much larger fleet.  We check in each evening on a Single Sideband channel 8 Alpha at 0130 gmt and into a loose organization called the Puddle Jump Net(work).  The net is hosted by a boat named Don Quixote and a woman named Toast.  I didn’t ask, another boat did.

I thought at first she was being clever or self deprecating or maybe it was a name of a different nationality, like the woman I once met whose name was TeaPie–how lovely and exotic, I thought, except that she was Korean and it was spelled TiPai (still lovely).  But no, it’s Toast, and she anticipated our confusion by saying, “I spell–Tango-Oscar-Alpha-Stingray-Tango, Toast.”  I’m very excited to meet this person.  I’ve heard of a boy named Sue, but never a woman named Toast.

Leading the pack down at 06 south is a boat named QA.  Aboard QA is a cruising couple who departed Cabo San Lucas for their third run to the South Pacific and home to Australia, but off the Revillagigedo Islands, 300 miles southwest of Baja, QA ran into a storm whose lightening knocked out the electrical system.  No batteries, no engine.  And this is one of the lightest wind years on record.  QA has been on passage 44 days as of today.  Nearly half of those days have been drift days.

Next is a boat named Chantey, about 80 miles southwest of Murre, and behind us another 100 miles is a boat named Columbine.  Columbine will cross the line tonight.  Murre is the smallest and Columbine has been eating up the miles that separate us since her departure.

I may well win the dubious distinction of being the last boat in, but not if I can help it.

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