Yesterday evening was full of flurry.
Initially drifting along with a boom and jib slapping, we suddenly came across quite the headwind. I puckered my toes and sheeted in the winches hard and we started flying along northwest. Within five minutes it left as suddenly as it came.
Rather predictably, then came the soaking rain and dead calms.
At this point I investigated for the lingering smell of diesel that had been lurking around my cabin for the last twenty four hours. I lifted the wooden engine cover to find the top of the engine covered with a suspicious fluid that felt and tasted vaguely like diesel. I turned over the engine and was presented with a pretty geyser of fuel spraying out of the line running between the lifter pump and second pass fuel filter. I adjusted the hose and tightened a clamp, which removed said fountain. Happily I didn’t need to bleed the system, fuel was getting out, but air wasn’t getting in!
The clouds eventually quieted and we were presented with a lightish tailwind. I wasn’t prepared to spend fifteen minutes setting up a poled out jib for uncertain winds, so I just ran with a main and preventer.
Fortunately I didn’t, as a few minutes later, we had headwinds, this time with rain. I adjusted the sails and dried off in the cabin while making some tea. Just in time for the tail winds; back to main and preventer.
Rinse and repeat.
By 11pm I decided to that it was sleep o’clock, so I set my alarm for an hour and shut my eyes.
Surprisingly, at midnight, one, and two, we were still jogging along in front of an unchanging tail wind. I think I then went to sleep while thinking about what a good idea it would be to set my alarm for the 4th time. We had made a respectable 20 miles at this point.
I awoke at half past five to find that we were now headed south. Not exactly the right direction.
I looked at the log on the chart plotter to find that the wind had changed a few minutes after I went to sleep for the final time. Three hours of southwardness. To add injury to insult, in these three hours, we had made a grand total of 20 miles south. An average of seven knots and I was back where I started.
I drew upon every gram of patience that sailing an ocean naturally gives a man, and flicked her around into a nasty chop and fifteen knots of wind.
I must digress here to talk about the doldrums.
The impression I had formed of the doldrums prior to this trip was one of dead flat seas, baking sun and occasional rain squalls bringing gale force winds. My two or three days in the doldrums are of a limited sample size I admit, but I experienced none of these.
Between the latitudes of 6°30′ and 8°30′ (120 miles) I did not see the sun. I think I forgot that it was possible for blue skies to exist. Instead there was a Mordor-esque foul greyness that suggested doom and foreboding. I wouldn’t use the word overcast, that would be too kind. At any point in time, there would be multiple projections out of these skies dipping down to the horizon. The colour could be anywhere on a gradient between grey, purple and death.
These of course are the squalls. These could be divided into two classes and I never got the hang of predicting which was which, not that it really mattered. Type one would suck every breath of wind in the universe into a mysterious ether and give you plenty of rain without movement. Type two would give less rain but more wind, usually just before and after it hit you. Curiously the wind never got strong enough to feel like I needed to reef
As for the flat seas….
With so many individual weather systems at all points of the compass, confusion was the result. The swell would come at you from all directions regardless of local wind direction. Hence I didn’t get lines of swell like in any decent God-fearing ocean. Instead I got individual hills randomly traversing the sea.
Whenever I would get a stronger wind, waves resulting from the wind would kick up against the hills, creating a nasty chop.
So, after flicking the boat around into the wind, I battled a chop for ninety minutes. Lots of hobby horsing; not much forward movement. To be fair, I was averaging four knots, but I should have been doing six or seven knots in that wind.
Then the wind dropped.
I once read in a book that the average tertiary educated adult has a most fantastic number words in his vocabulary. I forget specifics, but thousands upon thousands anyway. The eight years of my youth spent in the hallowed halls of our illustrious institutions was to nought as I could find no adequate words to describe the state of my soul to the universe at large.
So I sat there in silence, rocking in the swell. A passing dolphin could be forgiven for remarking: “Look at that man having a pleasurable sail with his peaceful mood”. However, if he had been able to examine the recesses of my soul, he would have found nothing but bitter gall.
At this point I muttered what could be loosely translated as “tranquillity be darned” and started the engine. I sat there grimly at the tiller for the next seven hours. The wind would, on occasion, gently flitter at my cheek, but I was not to be seduced. I was going to power my way out of these doldrums if I had to stop and drill for oil myself.
After an hour, I could see a well demarcated line of blue stretched low across the horizon in front of me. I fixed my eyes on it, as a man dying of thirst might look at an oasis on the horizon, and continued.
Many hours later I had blue skies above me with lovely angelic fluffy white clouds. Then I had sun. Then I had a light steady wind from the north west.
The sails went up and tranquillity returned.
Much of the pleasure in life seems to pertain to juxtaposition. Consider a cold ice block on a hot day. I think the rest of the day contrasted well with the night and morning.
I have in the eye of my mind an image of the perfect evening. Mostly involving sunset, breeze, ocean horizon, cheese, wine, and good company. You can’t have it all, but today’s evening was pretty close.
Perpetual Succour slid along in the water effortlessly at 5 knots with minimal heel on a mostly flat sea. There was a heartwarming glow as the sun flittered between the low layers of intricately shaped clouds. Each transmitting the rays at a slightly different shade until you start to wonder if the spectrum of possible colours is infinite. The heat and humidity of the day replaced by a cool breeze. I don’t have wine, but I do have whisky. I don’t have cheese, but these days, I’m almost close enough to the source to taste it in my mouth!
Latitude: 8.836, Longitude: -123.889, Time: 05:15:52 13-06-2018 UTC