Friday, December 26, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 77 The Horse Latitudes.

Mother and calf swim beneath Shiriri.

If it was n`t for the enthusiastic reports from the Moonflights, who have reached Midway Island and are having a wonderful time helping to band albatross`legs and eating fresh fruit and vegetables, we would enjoy this area of gentle breezes more. "You must come and see!" they call, and we would like to except that we are three hundred miles west of Midway. With these calm seas we could motor nonstop for three days and be there. Of course we would use up a lot of fuel that we might need later and really the calendar tells us we must keep moving toward home. We settle to enjoying their radio reports and catch up on our sleep as we gently sail onward.

One very black night Heather calls the whole crew on deck. "I can hear breakers!" she says. This is enough to get us wide awake! We know that far off Midway is the closest land but still we can hear the steady splash of waves in a calm barely ruffled sea. We imagine an uncharted tip of a volcanic island until we realize that the sound is tracking from right to left ahead of us and it dawns on us that we are listening to a line of dolphins crossing our bows and leaping and splashing as they travel.

As we edge north we become caught up in the trailing fronts of low pressure cells that are tracking east farther north. We are sailing due east now to use these moderate winds and we hear from Moonflight that they have left Midway and will rendevous with us to hand over some fresh vegetables. One late afternoon we see them bouncing toward us and we heave-too as they drop their dinghy in the water and row over with a profusion of gifts. They have even remembered that I have a birthday coming up soon! We haven`t seen them for over a month and must look like a group of weird castaways grinning like mad with this human contact!

Besides our daily chats with Moonflight on the radio we have been keeping a radio schedule with Robbie, Anne`s friend in Australia. We begin to pick up a collection of eager listeners from all over the Pacific, some even acting as relays when direct contact is full of static. One evening we talk to our old friends Tom and Jodie and their girls on Flyer which is anchored at Jededia Island back home in the Strait of Georgia. One important contact we have maintained is with the Seafarers Net that keeps daily track of our progress and posts our position on the internet so friends and family can know where we are.

Now we have crossed the Date Line once more we feel almost close to home but keep sailing east at about 35 degrees north. We will start edging north-east again far north of Hawaii to sail around the top edge of the Pacific High and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Heather and Anne start complaining of being cold on watch at night: there is a distinct damp chill in the air. I point out that they are still in shorts and barefoot and that we are only going to get colder still. We dig into plastic bags of cool weather clothing that seem strangely bulky and so bothersome to put on. One misty day I can see whales leaping on the near horizon as I sit semi-asleep with the rest of the crew in the cockpit. Suddenly, only a quarter of a mile away, a long line of spray rises from the sea. I think dully, "more whales," and it is only some time later when Heather asks Anne, " What does a periscope look like?"that I rouse myself. Heather draws what she has seen over the other side of the boat a few minutes before. "Yep" says our navy girl, " that`s a submarine." We hear later that this big patch of ocean is a favourite training area and we guess they were practicing sneaking up on us. If only they had thought to surface and offer us some delicacies from their galley! We are losing weight even though we eat filling meals: the constant motion and sail handling is using up more protein than we are taking in and I especially am getting very skinny. The occasional fish we catch just does n`t provide enough and after my metabolism has used up all the fat available, it starts to consume solid flesh.

We see a lot of flotsam in this part of the Pacific. Bik lighters, fishing floats and bits of rope and nets lie in windrows on the surface. We also begin to see albatross and kittiwakes and one day a humpback whale cruises along beside us, leaves and is replaced by a mother and calf that dive beneath our boat. We are a little nervous but we have been so long at sea that we are sinking deeper and deeper into a sense of oneness with this oceanic world.

The little sea lion that swims over to us really does seem to be coming especially to say hello. Yes we are becoming a little weird by shoreside standards, but our impression is that we have been privileged to pass through a portal into a clear vision of the world. In a way we are no longer subservient to the Gods but now are seeing the world through their keen eyes. Considerations of life and death fade in importance because we now know that if we were killed out here we would simply remain in the eternal steady state that lies already folded tightly into this real world. This will always be the most valuable of gifts we gain from this time and yet the one that will be most difficult to touch again or communicate when we are absorbed once more into human society.

1 comment:

Joanna Montrichard said...

Thank you for this Bill, and all the other writings of the last year :) I don't quite know what to say, but it's been very inspiring reading this, just like it's often been so inspiring knowing you, and Heather, and I'm so glad you're putting your experience out there to such wonderful creative use *!*
Many blessings for the New Year and always,