Monday, December 29, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 78. The Westerlies.

A freighter says hello.

Charlie`s Charts of Hawaii’ has urged us to arrive at this vacant spot on the sea`s surface. Boats headed home to North America from Hawaii must sail close hauled to this position where they can catch the enormous circle of winds that curve around the North Pacific High. We have used these same winds to sail down the coast of America and across the ocean on the way to the Marquesas. Now we plan to catch them again.
We have been sailing on and on and further north through fog that has made even our bedding wet and clammy. The low pressure systems arrive packed with more punch too as they roar eastward between us and the Aleutians every few days. It is so tiring and so annoying to be going in the right direction and be forced to deploy the drogue which slows us down even as it saves our bacon by keeping us safe and in control.

On the drogue again and again and again.

Moonflight is well ahead of us now but keeps precious contact. We make up riddles for them to solve by next day`s schedule. Once at the end of a session we are called by another voice: a crab fisherman in the Bering Sea who has been listening in. "What are you doing out there?" he wants to know. We are at a loss for a good answer. We wonder ourselves. Australia, so far back around the curve of half the world, keeps sending Robbie`s voice and we begin to know that home is ahead when we talk to Tofino Coastguard Radio one night. It seems another lifetime since we sailed along that west coast of Vancouver Island. It seem a lifetime we have been sailing out here.

NOAA weather Radio waits until we finally reach Charlie`s magic spot on the chart where we expect to jump on the wind escalator to home and then announces in it`s Darth Vader mechanical voice that the Pacific High has dissipated. DISSIPATED?? This means that we will be in the midst of these frontal systems all the way home! We shrug, we feel fated already and railing against the fates just uses up too much precious energy.

Albatross does fly by.

My birthday arrives in the last week of August in what we call Dad`s Birthday Storm. As the grey rain-swollen clouds rush overhead we decide to celebrate on another day. Heather steers and chats away to me as I hunch under the dodger. This scenario would once have seemed high drama to us but by now it is situation normal. In all this time we have never taken a green and frothy wave into the cockpit but as I watch the waves behind Heather I wonder if this could be the time..... The S.E. part of the front has passed and the strong Westerly gale is now forming a new set of waves that cross the previous ones. As they collide they cause great spouts of water to shoot up and collapse in foam. An albatross flies beside us and paddles it`s feet onto the water to help itself up the wave face. A kittiwake flutters nearby. Much as we mutter and mumble, this is an amazing place we are in, still a thousand miles from home.

Casual cockroach crunch.

We start counting down the last set of hundred mile segments even as Anne and I struggle with sail changes . One early morning we are hoisting the reefed Fores`l after yet another rough night when the VHF radio calls and off to leeward is a big freighter. He has seen our sail rise and drop again as we struggle with it and is checking to see that we are not in distress. Anne chats to him and as she does so a big cockroach scuttles across the seat beside her. There is no pause in the conversation as she picks up the daily journal and smashes it to oblivion! The freighter captain offers us any supplies we might need, a phone call to our relatives when he reaches Vancouver..... "Good old Yanks" we say as this thoughtful American vessel carries on with our no-thanks but thanks anyway. Despite a few close calls, we have been so fortunate to belong to this camaraderie of the sea.

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