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Moving Again, but to where?

June 28, 2012

Day 7

Local Noon Position (12:55pm Hawaii Standard Time):
By GPS: 35.55.088N by 163.25.569W
By Sextant: 34.56.3N by 163.26W

Course: 5 degrees true
Speed: 5.5 knots most of day
Wind: 10 SW first half, 12 – 15 W second half
Sea: 2 – 4 feet
Sky: 80 to 100%
Bar: 1031 falling
Air Temp (in the cabin): 74 degrees
Water Temp: 70.1 degrees
Sails: All plain sail. Wind abeam till noon. Now one reef in all sails, close hauled.

Since last noon: 80
Total for passage: 856
Daily average: 122

Debris: Not much change. Less small stuff, more big stuff, but still not a lot of anything.

Ships and other piloted vessels: None.

Birds: In the morning a Black Footed Albatross, then a Layson’s, then a Blackfooted all headed west and each within earshot of the other. Rare gull type bird, all brown, including feet and beak–one of the dark Petrels? Beginning to see what I think is Wilson’s Storm Petrel more frequently: small bird, quick flyer, white patch on rump. Still unsure of ID however. My bird guide has a way of reassuring me that whatever I think the bird may be, it may be, or it may not.


Quiet night. Slow sailing, but gentle, even progress on a calm sea. So still as almost to be at anchor, and yet Murre glided along at 3 and 4 knots as I slept. Waking in the early morning, I realized I’d missed the alarm and had stayed down for more than three hours in one go. I can’t tell if this should worry me. This is my first passage with radar, which is designed to see what I can’t, whether ship or upended fishing boat. So why not get a full night’s sleep? Somehow that seems imprudent as a practice. But three hours by accident I’ll accept.

Wind in the SW today. Murre took it as easy, full-sail sailing while I did chores. A little more calking. Some cleaning. Debris watch. Sun sights. Fish prep.

The meat of the big Marlin I caught has been in the fridge. Couldn’t face it so close to the slaughter. But today I dug it out, all 10 pounds or more. Cooked off half and cut for drying the other half. And ate a goodly portion as sushi while at the task. The drying bits I dipped in soy sauce and placed on trays, and have been nibbling at them all afternoon. Nothing more than a day had changed living flesh into meat, a living thing in its own right into delicious food.

Radio reception was poor this morning, and I missed grabbing my weather chart. This allowed me to remain all day in a fantasy that this growing westerly wind is good for me. Clearly I’m at the top of the high–don’t need a forecast to know that.* And I do want to go west. But not too early.

But the weather chart, once received, painted a troubling picture. The high moves back up a tad tomorrow. My wind goes from west to northwest, while the southerlies I need in order to get cleanly above 40N are several hundred miles off toward Japan. I may have committed a grave error in not going VERY far west while I had the chance. I cannot beat all the way to Alaska, after all.

The disjunct between daily life aboard ship and the broader view of the world on a weather chart can be boggling. Rationally I know the ocean I inhabit is a vast piece of water. But I can’t see more than four miles in any one direction. The horizon may be limitless, but it approaches and fades with equal haste, and always there is more of it, so that in fact my world feels quite small. A corollary is airplane travel where too the sky is vast, but your world from seat 26A feels contained as you peer out at continents.

This is part of the charm–access to big things in small bites. Though moving constantly, you always have the sense of being off in a private corner where life can be absorbed at your own pace, say, at a small desk near the window at the Library of Congress. Here you can linger, fingering at leisure through a sea of books.

Then the weather chart opens on your laptop, and the tiny icon of your boat on the big, trackless ocean explodes any sense of privacy, ownership, security, safety, play. The world is not cuddly after all. LOWS are forming near Japan with your name on them. The HIGH you should use as a conveyor belt to the north has been reversed. There’s a typhoon in the west, and a tropical storm in the east. Even the California coast is gale-wracked and unfit for boats like yours. There was this window of opportunity for sliding up to Alaska. That was last Wednesday, but you were too far south dawdling over tsunami debris. Now you can’t get there from here. You can’t get anywhere you want to go.

Then again, it’s just a forecast. The weather you have today was not in the forecast two days ago. Things could be rosy tomorrow, the arctic tern still calling your name. Reef down and hope.


*If you are trying to round or run from a large weather feature, a HIGH or a LOW, for example, you need to know where its center is in relation to your boat. A quick way to ascertain this is to stand on deck with your back to the wind. If you are working a HIGH as I am now, raise your right arm away from you at a 90 degree angle to the wind. Today my wind is west. I stand on deck, back to wind, and raise my right arm–it points south. Which is, in fact, where the HIGH’S center is at moment. Wind rotates clockwise around a HIGH, counterclockwise around a LOW, so for LOWS, use the other arm.

  1. June 28, 2012 6:23 pm

    Randall Thank you so much for being so literate and sharing details which bring the adventure alive and allows your audience a share in the adventure.Thanks to your generoisity armchair sailers are able to join you for the trip. Please keep us posted.

  2. Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
    June 29, 2012 5:34 am

    In the northern hemisphere, that is.

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