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The Great Wall

October 18, 2011

Day 20

Local Noon Position (1145):
By GPS: 17.15.21N by 150.47.90W
By Sextant: 17.16.7N by 150.46W
NOTE: Missed the morning shot due to cloud and rain and having to steer.

Course: 310 degrees true
Speed: 5.1 knots
Wind: 11 knots E
Sea: 1 – 6 feet NE Big rollers continue.
Sky: 70% occluded. Cells on both sides though clear directly above now. Bar: 1014
Temp: 77 degrees

Since last noon: 129
Total for passage: 2283
Daily average: 120
Miles to Hilo: 279


That great wall of cloud we had been tracking for two days dissipated in the night, I thought. The sky was dark and full of stars. I shot Vega, Deneb, and Fomalhaut and got, after considerable head scratching, reasonable results. I found Cassiopeia, that inverted, laddered triangle, the simple hook that is Ares, the cup of Perseus with Mirfak brightly in the middle. Deneb lead to Cygnus and Kochab to a confirmation of the North Star (Ursa Major being well below the horizon). It was a productive evening and I went to my bunk feeling satisfied. Each time I rose, new arrivals presented themselves, but I was too sleepy to greet any but Orion with confidence. And I smiled, looking forward, for the way was clear.

I rose with first light and the great wall of cloud had not dissipated, it had grown leviathan and we had approached. Somehow we had snuck up. Now it had the definition of a mountain, high, white elevation–I had to crane my neck to see the summit–and low curtains of lead pouring rain covered our way from horizon to horizon. I listened for thunder but heard none. Against this grayness, the black silhouette of a frigate bird flapped its paper wings to make distance between it and the great wall. Flap flap flap–awkward in a bird built for soaring–but it was desperate to flee. It was the only other creature. This did not fill me with confidence.

But our choices were to stop and wait or go, and one does not stop and wait for mountains that fill the horizon. So I made another cup of coffee, donned oilies, dropped the mizzen, and at 0800 we went. Inside was all rain. Winds jumped to 15 knots immediately, but not much more, and we frothed along for a time. Then they eased to almost nothing. Then rose again and then eased again so that I had to take the wheel from Molly before she ran us the other way. Rain gushed off the main boom but mostly missed the bucket I’d placed at the gooseneck for catchment. Fresh water poured off the edges of the upturned dinghy. It poured out of the scuppers. Then all the pouring stopped and there was silence. Between squalls the cloud ceiling vaulted like that of a cathedral. Then all closed in and another squall released. This was the pattern inside.

At noon we exited almost as abruptly as we had entered. The way ahead was not clear, but it was blue and white and there was no grey. And then I thought of the mountain more as a river of cloud and rain flowing west, and we had forded, swimming.

During the remainder of the day winds have been light, from the east, dead on starboard quarter, and it has been torture. We are so close to our goal and now our propulsion fails. It is like being on the last lap of a footrace you are winning only to look down and find your legs are in big pots of glue.

Worse by far is that Molly has spent the day a befuddled, blindfolded donkey. Our heading should be 302 degrees true for Hilo. Graciously I will settle for 300 degrees true. Molly can only give me 270 tending toward a jibe or 330 rounding up to a luff–each with the requisite whackity crash and bang of sails and blocks. No matter what I do. Mizzen up; mizzen down; mizzen in; mizzen out; main in; main out; vane adjusted; wheel adjusted. Each element played against the other results in the same–a prettily held course until I look away. Then we are charging off for god knows where.

To be fair, in quartering winds this light there is simply not enough feedback for Molly to get what’s going on. Several times true wind has been on the quarter, but apparent wind, well forward of the beam. And with the frequent wind accelerations/decelerations today, even I got confused.

This, however, has not prevented me from venting richly and at great length in Molly’s direction. Where I have acquired this vile temper I do not know, but I’m grateful for the lack of witnesses, because all day I have been a mother yelling at her young child in the park: “Why do you act like that?! What am I supposed to do with you?! WHAT THE F*** DO … YOU … WANT … FROM … ME?!


One Comment
  1. Gitano permalink
    November 8, 2011 10:46 pm

    We will be looking forward to your book when it gets published 🙂

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