Friday, April 12, 2013

The Crossing to the South Pacific, Part 2

Crossing to the South Pacific, Part 2

Ding, ding......ding, ding......ding, ding.....ding. It's morning and the ships clock has just rang 7:30 am, which means it's time for me to go to bed (and wake Brett). But before I can find the sweet release of sleep, there is work to be done.

It's been a particularly terrible night - one of the worst we've had out here. The seas were highly confused and there were very light winds, so we were motoring. Motoring in confused seas means you are like a cork bobbing in the ocean because there is no sail area to provide drive through the waves. I imagine it's fairly similar to being in a giant washing machine. Since we were in the heart of the ITCZ, we also experienced several squalls, where the wind speed would go from nothing to 20 knots in about 5 minutes with heavy rains drenching everything in the cockpit (as it was raining sideways), all of which would last about 25 minutes and then we would be back to nothing again.

With this crazy bobbing cork action it's pretty impossible to sleep, so we were both exhausted when the clock signalled the watch change. Around 6am the winds had filled in and become steady again, and while I was delighted that the wind had returned, I just wanted to sit down and cry. I can't describe how tired and defeated you are after that kind of night - just completely wrung out. And even something small like putting up the sails, which has long since become routine, seems absolutely overwhelming.

But we got through it, and then I went to bed. And lo and behold - I slept! The deep sleep you can only achieve when the boat is well balanced and the seas are mild, and you are completely done in. Three blissful hours of sleep. When I woke the sun was bright in the sky, the cockpit was dry and my husband was smiling at me. It was a new day - and a great one at that. We had mild seas (long swells all from the same direction) and the wind was absolutely PERFECT! Not too strong, not too light.....just right. At the end of the day, after running our genniker for most of the day, we made the right decision and brought it down right before the winds kicked up. It was like magic - the perfect day.

The dichotomy of emotions you go through out here is truly incredible. Change is constant - nothing stays perfect (or terrible) for long, so you are in a constant state of flux. While one night can be so bad you think you'll never get through it, the next can be one of the best you've had. There is no dependable reality - you just have to take what Mother Nature has decided to dole out at any given moment.

Not being able to control my environment has made this trip one of the hardest things I have ever done. Because we are stuck. There is no getting off this ride. We are thousands of miles from anything and quitting is not an option. So you get through the tough times. Because you have to. You find that little bit of strength that you didn't know you had left and you put it to use. Then you get some sleep and pray for a better day tomorrow - and sometimes you get it. And when you wake up and the sun is shining and the waves are nice and the wind is perfect, you are glad to be here in this moment.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Crossing to the South Pacific, Part 1

Crossing to the South Pacific, Part 1

Tonight, Brett and I decided we were crazy. It was about 3am and we were in between watch schedules, having just completely pulled in the headsail and de-powered the main. The winds were up in the low 20's and the seas were getting pretty big. With just a reefed mainsail, we were still doing 7.8 knots over ground, so it's a rock'n night. We are sitting in the cockpit trying to cool off, talking about how crazy the last couple of nights have been (lots of late night sail changes). I looked at Brett and said, "You know what? WE are crazy!" (i.e. crazy to be sailing our boat almost 3000 miles across absolute nothingness instead of staying safely put at home). He said, "You're right, we could be home sleeping in our comfy bed, after a night of watching TV and/or drinking too much wine with our friends." There was a pause and then we looked at each other and laughed - thinking the same thing. We might be crazy, but it's good crazy! We were up in the middle of the night - looking at more stars than you can possibly imagine, sailing like a bat out of hell in the middle of nowhere! If that's not living life to it's fullest I'm not sure what is.

The trip thus far has not been easy. We've had maybe two days (out of 8) that I would term "fairly comfortable", but most days the boat is being tossed about in some pretty confused waves. I keep thinking, how can the waves be so confused when there is nothing around us for a 1000 miles, but there it is. Those long period waves we'd dreamed about - still a pretty rare thing. But it's amazing what you can get used to out here. Needing to hold on to something for EVERY step you take 24/7 is a constant reality. And I've never been so glad to have cooked the majority of our dinners prior to our departure as there is NO WAY I could be cooking in these seas.

As of right this minute, we've traveled 1143 nautical miles with really variable wind speeds. Some days it blows just 7-12 knots and we'll run the gennaker all day (those are the good days). Other nights (like tonight) it blows 19-24 with big waves, and we run with a reefed main and nothing else. I've come to learn that one thing you can definitely depend on is that the wind will kick up at night - usually sometime between 10pm to 2am. Which means that a lot of our sail changes have been taking place in the middle of the the dark. I'll admit it's been scary at times, but I'm getting used to it and the two of us are becoming a very well oiled machine, making the changes as if we'd been doing it for a lifetime.

It's hard right now to imagine that I'm only 1/3 of the way through this "experience of a lifetime" - this crossing of the South Pacific. That we likely have two more WEEKS of this to "look forward to". To say I will be happy to get to the other side is the understatement of a lifetime. But at the same time I am trying hard to take this experience in and live each moment of it. This is not something that very many people do, with an average of just 150 boats making the journey each year. We are a very small group. So I want to remember this journey, the good along with the bad.

This morning (one of the bad moments), I had to just yell really loudly about how much that moment sucked (another sail change and feeling exhausted from the lack of sleep). It was amazing how much better it made me feel to do a little yelling. Later (after some sleep), Brett and I were laughing over it and joking around with each other. Happy. That's the good stuff - simple, but GOOD. I guess you can't really have one without the other to help you recognize when it's good.

Here's to hoping there will be more good than bad over the next two weeks!

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