Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 36. Ghost Ship.

                                 The Encounter.

Wonderful, splendid, uplifting! Ah yes, the ITCZ is all those things, especially the uplifting bit with all this rising air and the accompanying clouds, and we are ready for a change. We have yet to fully learn to be cautious about what we wish for! The boats we speak to every day are arriving in the Marquesas Islands one after another. Moonlighter describes coasting along beside high green volcanic cliffs as they arrive at Hive Oa and here we are with a thousand miles yet to go: but it is only a thousand miles (so has our distance scale expanded) and now we count down in hundred mile plots on the chart ( at last we are on a chart of the South Pacific).

The boats ahead of us have named this southern boundary of the ITCZ, Squall Alley and it gives us plenty of those, but there are also splendid days and nights of moderate winds in which we can get some serious shut eye and meals are only somewhat difficult to prepare. The ice boxes are now empty and some stores are getting low. Heather has the messy job of cleaning out the bucket with the last layer of smelly broken eggs. We pack on sail when the winds go light and carry more sail at night. An ordinary cloud that then hits us with forty knots is a wake up call as we struggle to get sail down, and once the sheet of Reddy, our mainstaysail/drifter, lifts me off my feet and almost overboard in a gust as I bring it down. Reddy has turned out to be our champion sail in light wind conditions: big and light and high up and guaranteed to liven up any dull sailing day.

One night I am on watch after sunset and small puffy trade wind clouds are crossing Shiriri`s path as she reaches south under full sail. Things are so peaceful that I revel in my watch. Watching the stars, the moonlit seascape, my mind slips into reverie. Below, in the after cabin, I can see the brass lights glowing as Heather and Anne read their books. Suddenly a blur of shadow pulls my attention back to the bow and there is a large square-rigged sailing ship right before the bowsprit! She is running before the wind. Her square sails practically overhang my little schooner. Time stands still. Figures on deck turn towards me. The ship sweeps past and in another blink of an eye dissolves into mist and moonlight and a dark shadow cast below on the seas surface. The hair is still standing up on my neck!

Was this an hallucination? Conventional wisdom would have it so and indeed we have been experiencing strange urgent voices calling to us as we sleep below decks and have seen sails on the horizon which then became the flash of a breaking wave. Nothing like this splendid sight however! In this world where the sensory input is still foreign to our land trained senses, our minds are creating interesting scenarios. Or have I opened to a vision of the world, of reality, that slides over and beyond our conventional understanding of time and space? Weird though it may seem, out here, that seems the most likely interpretation.

Journal .
Day 29. This morning at 8AM I shut down the engine. We seem to have made it to the SE trades. Bigger seas, smaller puffy clouds and a stronger steadier wind. We cross our fingers!!

Put the red drifter up this morning. Four and a half knots. Considering we probably have a pretty foul bottom, this is moving!

Day 30.
A fine brisk SE wind, whitecaps. We bounce and heave along. Another squall to windward.

Heather was so tired in her last night`s watch that she repeatedly fell asleep. Literally fell over sideways while standing at the wheel and bruised herself - several times! Ah, the cruising life!

Day 31.
A very nice day. No squalls. 10 to 15 Knots SE wind. 237 miles to go to waypoint off Hiva Oa.

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