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A Toast to Science, Three Cheers the Dancing Wave

June 30, 2012

Day 9

Local Noon Position (12:52pm Hawaii Standard Time):
By GPS: missing, busy
By Sextant: 39.26.5N by 162.04W

Course: 10 – 20 degrees true, depending on wind
Speed: 1 – 5 knots. Slow until noon, better after
Wind: 2 WSW first half, 8 WSW second half
Sea: 2 to 4 feet
Sky: 100% cloud in morning; 50% cloud in afternoon.
Bar: 1034, little change
Air Temp (in the cabin): 68 degrees
Water Temp: 63.9 degrees
Sails: All plain sail. Wind on beam most of afternoon. Nice gentle run.

Since last noon: 99
Total for passage: 1080
Daily average: 120

Debris: Concrete Dock early in the morning.

Ships and other piloted vessels: None.

Birds: Again more Layson’s than Blackfooted Albatross; I’d say two to one. Many Wilson’s Storm Petrels. A few small Gadfly Petrels, no ID worked up yet, but this is a new one. Two small Terns, one sitting on the dock and another sitting on a large, very rusty, very fouled propane tank we passed today. Maybe arctic Terns, but their black cap had a white center.


We stayed close hauled all night and the sea continued to shove us around unduly. I slept propped up against a lee bulkhead by pillows and dressed in my foul weather gear, partly to be ready for a dash on deck if conditions required and partly because I’m beginning to feel the cold. I’ve gotten the sleeping bag out. I had it draped over my foulies. I was not too hot.

Wind began to ease by 2am. My sleepy response to this kindness was to unroll the jib, but I didn’t touch the double reefed main, which could wait till morning. And by morning wind was a whisper. Murre made two knots in the wrong direction when I came on deck, easily corrected.

Daylight showed night had delivered up San Francisco style fog, but this the low-to-the-water and drizzly kind. And very like San Francisco, much of it burned away with the sun. By 9am it was clear enough that I could see we were about to collide with a concrete dock.

A very good friend of mine has recently complained that the passage reports of this crossing tend to be overburdened with itemizations of marine debris. He prefers entries where the author is enthralled with his aquatic surroundings and uses weighty, complex and sometimes mixed metaphors to prove it.

But how many words are there for the color blue, as in the sapphire sea, or white, as in it cottony cloud? I don’t know, but I think I’ve used them.

So on the one hand, all this debris-finding has served as lexigraphic relief for this author. It’s like always having Ranch dressing on your salad and then one week, nothing but Thousand Island. Even if you don’t like Thousand Island, it’s nice to have a change.

More importantly, however, has been the citizen science aspect. As a child I was a fan of the exploits of Captain James T. Kirk; just so, as an adult I am an admirer of the explorations of Captain James Cook. (It was no accident that Rodenberry named the ship in his series the Enterprise or that he inserted the ring of Cook in Kirk.) In both these tales, one fiction and one not, the objective of the exploration is learning. For some reason, piracy and plunder never caught hold of my young mind so much as discovery of a new world.

The connection here is a bit thin, I grant. But to me, helping to gather deep ocean information for a group of scientists in Hawaii who rarely leave the office and likely blanch at the thought of a small boat cruise excites me. It gives the cruise purpose. And it’s fun.

But I must say that a close encounter with a concrete dock some 2000 miles from the closest marina has led me to reconsider. In fact, after today I’m in favor of defunding these scientists and having all the artifacts whose location they so dearly wish to know shot immediately to the bottom.

The hour that changed my attitude went like this.

I look up from my cup of coffee. A few hundred yards ahead, a large object. I change course, but only slightly, to intercept (“only slightly” does not register until later). It’s a six foot by four foot piece of concrete, heavily encrusted with barnacles but floating two feet above the water. We are moving so slowly and have so little steerage, I have trouble not colliding with it. I take a few photos but want more (for science, remember). I tack back. Another near miss. That we were going so slowly we could have collided with the Empire State Building without sustaining damage misses the point.

Moments later I see a bag made of woven plastic, like the kind rice comes in, with Japanese script across the top. Though I have seen many, I have yet to collect (for science) a clearly Japanese, clearly domestic item. I reach for it with the boat hook. Miss. I tack back. I lean way out.

I fall off the boat.

There are but two rules to a successful ocean crossing. One, keep the boat moving; two, stay onboard. Of the two, the latter is winner. By a large margin.

I did not let go of the boat. I only went in up to my hips. And the boat was moving at all of one knot. But its the kind of maneuver that takes a whack at your self-confidence and gets you called Jonah by other, more practical-minded sea-folk–of whom I used to think I was one. And possibly worst, the dunking soaked the fleece pants and shirt I was wearing. Without enough fresh water to rinse them in, they will be damp the rest of the voyage.

So a toast to science as we wave it good-bye and three cheers for the complex metaphor about growling, frothing, barrel-chested waves.


  1. Unintended permalink
    June 30, 2012 2:24 pm

    Ripping good yarn. I’ve been told that theory can be harmful to practitioners! Here’s to stayin’ dry, Jonah. The professors will get their tenure regardless.

  2. Cap'n Crunch permalink
    June 30, 2012 3:36 pm

    A scientific question: In this process of demarinerization (and soggy remarinerization) were you able to discover what makes concrete float? All my concrete sinks. What am I doing wrong?

    • July 1, 2012 8:04 am

      Cap’n Crunch. Unfortunately when Randall is at sea he’s unable to reply to specific posts. I’ll add your question to my daily communication and I’ll see if he writes about it. He’ll be sure to answer when he hits Alaska. J

  3. Elvis permalink
    June 30, 2012 3:42 pm

    “Captain Reeves has left the boat.”
    Luck for him, his fleece pants float.

  4. Quintus permalink
    July 1, 2012 4:24 am

    Randall Reeves, a sailor, he;
    Saw concrete float upon the sea.
    Ran in to the concrete, twice,
    Then overboard for a bag of rice.

  5. Quintus permalink
    July 1, 2012 4:42 am

    Climbed back aboard his ocean perch,
    And quoth: “A pox on sea research.”


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