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Difficult Day

July 8, 2012

July 8

Day 18

Noon Position,
GPS: 53.54.20N by 145.31.48W
Sextant: No sky.

Course: 55 degrees true
Speed: 6 knots
Wind: 15 – 17 SSW, then a period of 25 gusting 30 SSW
Sea: 3 – 8 feet
Sky: Very low cloud with rain, sometimes heavy, all day
Bar: 1021
Air Temp (in the cabin): 50 degrees (heater blaring)
Water Temp: 43.4 degrees
Sails: Various. Hanky sized jib when it was honking to double reefed main and hanky sized jib most of the afternoon.

Since last noon: 137
Total for passage: 2104
Daily average: 117
Miles to Sitka: 384

Debris: None.

Ships and other piloted vessels: Three in the night, including one called MASS PROSPERITY.

Birds: Several Black Footed Albatross, Fork Tailed Storm Petrel, Leaches Storm Petrel, Mottled Petrel. Expected all day to see a Mallard Duck or a Flamingo. None observed.


A poled out jib overnight provided a controlled, quiet ride, interrupted only by the passing of three ships. The alarm woke me each time to find the ship always ahead of us. So high? I would not have expected the great circle route to take ships up into the 50s of latitude. One was strangely named: MASS PROSPERITY. Almost radioed over for a lump of coal and a crust of bread.

Rain in the night, heavy at times, and this has continued into the day with the addition of a crazy-eyed, knee-jerk, fitful, often strong wind from the south.

Went on deck early, before coffee, in the rain to take down the pole and shake loose a reef. Worked for 45 minutes and when I came below felt wetness inside the foulie jacket. Damn thing has lost its water proof coating, I thought. In fact, I had failed to pull up the hood or tighten the gaskets around my wrists. Had seriously wetted top three layers of fleece. An unintelligent way to manage a much needed resource; i.e. warmth, especially in an environment where once wet, a thing is difficult dry. Upset with myself all day. Fleece hanging all over the cabin swinging wildly as we gyrate in the swell.

Before noon wind came on strong–25 with prolonged gusts to 30–and I was back on deck dropping the main as fast as I could. Left out only a handkerchief of a jib. Lasted two hours. The wind came up so quickly it caught even the ocean by surprise and with no big waves at the ready. And from where? The barometer has been hovering at 1020 for days. We are riding the bottom edge of a low, and possibly this edge is being pushed on by a high extending north. I have no other explanation for a steady bar associated with such variance in the wind.

Rain and low sky and crazy ass, up-down wind all afternoon. Have spent the day in the “conning tower” with frequent dashes to the wind vane for adjustments or forward to work sail. A lull. I think it’s all blown over. The sky lightens to a more playful shade of dull slate. Then it all comes down again; the rigging howls as we are hit by another squall, indistinguishable from the last. With nothing to judge our progress by (a cloud with edges, say), the waves can play tricks and for a time I seriously think we are sailing in circles. I must stare at the compass to be convinced otherwise.

Each day there is simply less here, here. The sky, a gauze, slowly lowers without being closer, the ice-blue sea is drained of color; rain pulls the vigor out of the waves; there are fewer and fewer birds. As time passes our view is reduced such that I think at some point we must simply run out of world. I will wake one morning and cloud will be at the spreaders; rain will hover above a flat sea. Murre’s bowsprit will have bumped into a great, high wall of ice, and inscribed there in some ancient script will be two simple words, THE END.

One Comment
  1. Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
    July 9, 2012 7:18 am

    Hang in there, Randall.

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