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Easy Day

July 10, 2012

July 9

Day 19

Noon Position,
GPS: 54.49.25N by 142.57.33W
Sextant: 54.50.6N by 142.56W (only had pm longitude shot; so longitude iffy, though nicely on the mark)

Course: 57 degrees true
Speed: 4 knots most of day; closer to 6 know as wind increases Wind: 8 SW all day; in the evening 10 – 12 SW
Sea: 2 – 4 feet
Sky: Mixed sun, mostly sun until 3pm; then cloud; then heavy rain; now only high cloud Bar: 102-0
Air Temp (in the cabin): 48 degrees
Water Temp: 45.6 degrees
Sails: Been running dead downwind most of day, at first with jib and mizzen; now with jib and reefed main (reef only because sail tends to get stuck) on track when in full position.

Since last noon: 107
Total for passage: 2107
Daily average: 116
Miles to Sitka: 277

Debris: Two logs, one a near miss and one a miss only because I diverted course, both telephone pole sized.

Ships and other piloted vessels: None.

Birds: One Black Footed Albatross flew close to Murre then landed in light airs nearby. Did this twice. A sign we are getting close to typical commercial fishing grounds? Puffins are now common, though I don’t know which species; none close enough to see but white belly, black chin strap and disk-like colored beak. Another scoter-like bird–all black in flight with redish beak. Two skua species visited today, the Arctic Skua, a chunky bird, dark, with hawk-like tan and brown striping and two tiny points protruding from its tail I took to be its toes, but which turn out to be the beginnings of a short streamer tail. So this bird was a young one. Then in the afternoon a group of four Long Tailed Skua. On approach I took them to be terns: a lithe bird, long, thin wings, thin body compared to the Arctic. Gray above, black head, white-ish below, but most distinctive is the very long twin streamer tails which two of the four had. Both skuas were curious about Murre, not because they were friendly, but because they were hoping she was edible.


Wind became light after dark. By midnight the hateful low cloud and rain had moved past us, and from the hatch I could see stars through a layer of high cirrus. Dimly they flickered as though the clouds were made of ice. I reckoned I had not seen stars in well over a week and thought for a moment to stay and admire them. It passed quickly, this thought. I moved to the task at hand, throwing Murre to wing and wing on the weak SW winds, for the night I hoped, and dived with a shiver back into my sleeping bag.

The slatting of sails woke me at three. Wind had diminished further, but the day was already bright. I dressed, made good the sails, and stayed on deck to enjoy a sky outlined in billowy cloud. I almost made coffee, but instead again retreated to the warmth of the sleeping bag, this time until eight.

The day was as beautiful as its predecessor had been foul. For long periods we sailed slowly under full, juicy, uninterrupted sun. The sea returned to its familiar, sapphire blue as if putting on a favorite shirt; small waves collapsed into giggles of dentine white. Cloud castles moved in like giant chess pieces, but somehow failed to steel the show. As a place, the sky was busy, innovative, cooperative, complex, fun to watch. It even delivered a modicum of heat down to the sea-bound.

Seizing opportunity, I draped Murre in wet towels, fleeces, socks, jackets, for drying. And the sleeping bag was drug into the open air as a relief from the stale smell of its occupant. I opened ports and hatches. I cooked up some *fresh* water and washed head and face. I shot the sun, a clear orb on a distinct horizon, and got results approaching precision. Then I lounged on deck and listened to the solar panels hum in rejoicing at having something to do. Murre, jib poled out to port, main to starboard, bubbled along. It was a happy ship.

Rain returned in the afternoon, the approach of its black cloud like an alien invasion. Then a heavy downpour that moved off an hour later leaving a mixed sky. Wind increasing, the barometer dropping slowly. A reminder: we are not there yet.

A reminder that the race is on. For the last several days a powerful low has been minding its own business up in the Bering Sea, twirling tightly, becoming deeper. The last two lows we’ve skirted, partly by luck and partly by design, have been small, neither deeper that 1010mb. This one is already 990mb and today it jumps the Aleutian chain, beginning its swoop eastward toward the mainland. Winds are already 25 to 30 knots, and the fetch of waves the whole gulf of Alaska. Murre and this low are pressing toward the same place. Who will arrive first? Will the sea deliver yet one more kick in the pants before we find safe haven?


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