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A personal,
and therefore biased,
account of two weeks aboard a sailboat

©2005 by Susan Cramer Peter


A long long time ago, something very bad happened to me, but it wasn’t ok to talk about it. I knew it would make many people feel very bad, so I didn’t.

For 10 years I said nothing, and when I did, my story was not believed by the few I told. Maybe because I had not spoken up ten years earlier.

I kept a journal while on my sailboat trip to record events and my personal reactions to them. This is my personal view of what happened; you should expect my journal to be quite different than someone else’s account of the same events.

This was an exciting, sometimes terrifying experience. Because it happened in a setting that most people will never experience, and partly because friends asked me in advance to "tell them all about what it is like on a sailboat at sea" I have transcribed this account for public viewing.

It will make some people feel bad. I am sorry. I could have left out the imperfections, but it would have been a less interesting story. And it wouldn’t have been MY story of what happened to ME.

All crew names were changed to "protect the innocent." This account was not written to be an accusation, or to cast blame. I have no desire to hurt anybody. I am thankful to be alive and without the help of every person on board this little sailboat, I would not be alive today.

Thursday, August 4
Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

It is 7 am and I am sitting on the aft deck. Everyone else is asleep. As I sit here under a broken cloud cover with some impressive rocky green cliffs behind me, I can see "Pride of America" docked a few hundred yards away. In the 1960’s, when air travel became affordable and trains became only for the fearful, common wisdom was that passenger liners would never be seen again. Too expensive. For some they are affordable again; I see 6 decks plus. There will be four of us guiding this sailboat home to Portland. The Captain is in his late sixties, Jessica is twenty-one and Rob, her boyfriend is in his late thirties. For those of you who don't know me, I am fifty-eight.

Later in the day

We drove up the west coast to Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" they call it. Drove to the viewpoint at Koke’e State Park, and then hiked another mile or so along this ridge to see down into the top end of Waimea Canyon to the right, and down into the palisades of the NaPali coast on the left.

While at the first viewpoint we saw what Captain called frigate birds. He seemed to know quite a bit about them. Talked about seeing them many miles out to sea as the sailboat approached the island. They are beautiful, white, delicate, with long exotic tails. Other tourists listened to his story and added the name to their notes. An hour later, in the little museum along this road, we saw various representations of frigate birds and tropic birds. At the viewpoint we had seen many beautiful white tropic birds, not the black or gray frigate birds. Joe and I noted this, but the Captain said nothing as we all stood in front of the display. I have occasionally made this kind of error when identifying plants for people and I know how bad I feel when I find out later I’ve mistakenly misinformed someone. Apparently Captain was so embarrassed he couldn’t bring himself to say anything even to us.

Friday, August 5

We drove up the east coast to Haena Beach and the trailhead to the Napali Coast hike that Dave and Sarah Lowry did a few years back. Anna Lee, a crew member who is flying home, and Joe and I went snorkeling. It seems that of all the roads on Kauai, only the road to the Lihue airport has multiple lanes. Everything else is two-lane roads, which is nice. The last few miles to Haena is simpler – the several bridges crossing streams are one lane and this slows the traffic in a pleasant way.

We drove through Honalee, home of Puff the Magic Dragon and his friend Jackie Paper. We stopped at a beautiful beach park in one town that has a large concrete fishing and swimming pier. The far end is enlarged and has a roof, and also good ladders and platforms for the several children enjoying the deep clear water.

Saturday, August 6

The Captain took Anna Lee to the airport for her morning flight home. Jessica moved into the bow berth Anna Lee had been occupying. For these few days that Joe is here with me, he and I are converting the four-person dining table into a double bed at night. The bench across the aisle from it, normally Jessica and Rob’s, and soon to be mine, is unused. For our convenience, Jessica has been sleeping under a tarp on the cabin roof; Rob has been on the Big Island taking a class about volcanoes. He is a scientist who teaches in a community college. That is how they met a few years ago.

Joe and I went to nearby Poipu Beach which is lined with high rise condominiums and hotels. We snorkeled some, but the water was kind of rough. Had a parrot fish bite my gloved thumb. He was looking for food; they have "sharp pointy lips" as Arlo Guthrie says of birds, and it was rather disconcerting.

Sunday, August 7

Captain and Jessica picked up Rob at the airport this morning. Joe and I packed up his (and my extra) stuff for him to take home. I moved my things into the bins beneath the mid-ship berth that Jessica vacated yesterday.

In mid afternoon we drove part way up the east coast to the Fern Grotto, a tourist trap of standard quality. After dinner Captain dropped Joe and I off at the airport. Joe was able to catch an earlier flight than scheduled and so we said goodbye and I walked back towards the Nawiliwili boat basin. I called Kimmy, Mary, Marilyn, etc. on my cell as I walked, but only got to talk to Kim. Night fell as I walked the two miles plus, so I called Captain on my cell phone and he came to pick me up. Finding my way back, in the dark, in this not-totally familiar place that has no sidewalks seemed like an unnecessary risk.

Hard to say goodbye to everyone. I know I am most likely to survive the trip, just like most days anywhere are likely to be survivable, but it IS a big ocean and will be a long time. This is a test.

Note: As I type this up three weeks later I can hardly believe I wrote or believed something so stupid. I guess I wanted to see if I could do something really hard. By my own definition, I failed.

Monday, August 8

This was our original sail date; delayed because it was so difficult to get the satellite phone mailed here to Hawaii. We went grocery shopping and I paid for $309 worth at a grocery store, and $110 at another. Captain paid for soda and beer at Walmart. Prices are far higher here. Hardly anything is produced locally, but is shipped in with resultant high prices: ie. Milk is $7.98 a gallon. I did find some locally grown and packaged peanuts. Confusion about returning the rental car; they knew Joe and I have always intended to pay for this, but now we will have to reimburse Captain later.

Jessica and I had some extra time alone this afternoon. I'd been reviewing something in the Skipper Saver booklet and the subject of knots came up. There are a handful of basic knots illustrated and we started talking about them. One of my favorite knots has always been the sheepshank; my big brother the Boy Scout taught me this clever and easy knot when I was maybe 8 years old. It is not particularly nautical, but I used it once when roofing a house. It wasn't in the booklet. As I started to teach it, her questions led me to understand maybe we should cover the bowline and sheet bend which are in the book. She was happy to learn the bowline when I used the tree, rabbit hole and rabbit story to teach it. It is a dandy knot and an effective way to learn it. Then she said what she'd like help with was a square knot. I taught it and the granny for comparison. This was enough for one day; We saved the double half hitch and sheetbend for another day. [Which never came. I was disappointed to find the standard cleat hitch is not used on this boat, and is not acceptable; we just wrap the line in a circle around and around the cleat.]

Tuesday, August 9
Day 1

All of us put our scopolamine patches on this morning; we forgot to do it last night. We left the dock about 10:30 am. This tricky maneuver of departure, slipping away from the slip, went very well. Captain had been concerned; it is apparently common to have the wind or currents push the boat into other vessels or the pilings. We had a hand (and good advice) from a couple of locals.

Out of the boat basin we set sail and shortly after we passed the breakwater I was seasick. No big surprise. I had a bonine (sweet little pink pill) and crackers and soda water. Jessica sweetly fixed me an ice cube pack to go around my neck and I laid in my berth and made a few more phone calls which was good distraction.

I was feeling much better by evening and spent a few hours in the cockpit with Captain watching Kauai recede. It was still there at sundown. And I was thus able to use my cell phone to talk to Joe and then Carolyn.

Wednesday, August 10
Day 2
4:30 pm:

I’m writing these last few pages at 16:30 today.

The big news for me is the amount of motion. Last evening as we flew along at 7.5 knots the rolling and pitching was truly extreme. Dangerous maybe, the way the boat falls with such an impact into each trough.

We are headed north and will remain so for a week or more. We are headed into the waves, at a 45° angle off our starboard bow. [drawing here -- sorry, there are several little hen-scratch drawings in my journal you by necessity will be missing out on] These waves are large rolling swells, rarely capping. Last night they were large, 6 feet plus, but today they are more gentle and smaller, 4 feet maybe, and we are traveling more like 5 knots so it is less rough.

This is sort of like being on the train; it feels rougher when you’re walking around or standing trying to do something. But no train ride was ever like this! If standing, you have to hold on to two solid things at every moment because the motion is far more varied and extreme than a train. Not just side-to-side roll, but front-to-back pitch. And these actions all literally pitch you across the room and up against the next solid surface. And back again to another one, and then again, and again. If sitting, you still have to hold onto something solid with one hand or you get pitched. Windows have to be kept closed or spray comes in and gets bedding, computers, etc. wet. So inside the cabin it is hot and stuffy, and the head is foul too which adds to the bad air. The processor which Captain thought he had fixed, is apparently not working.

In the meantime, the bowl of hot soup slides across the counter and spills into the food cupboard, the juice bottle flies off my berth to under the table, then to the galleyway; the small navigation tools (pencils, compass, etc.) shoot from their shelf to under the stove only to disperse from there -- some under the ladder, some to Captain’s pile of personal belongings alongside his berth.

And then we also have the third dimension of up and down. The fourth dimension: Time. This is normal. I can expect it to continue like this, unabated for four weeks. Jessica and the Captain tell me this simultaneously, cheerfully.

My berth has a wooden railing to keep me in it. I could have placed it high, so the top of the 7-inch rail would have been 8 inches above my mattress, but it seems too late for that now. The irregular and extreme movement make such a task seem impossible. So it is in its lower position: the top of it about two inches above my mattress and heap of belongings. This way it is only difficult to get out of bed; the other way would be much worse.

I spent the night wedged up hard against this railing. It formed a little V with the berth and I slept in it. Or not. It occurred to me that this is "life on the edge." [drawing] I tried to jam various bags and pieces of clothing between the board and my various body parts so it wouldn’t hurt so much. My spine was most painful. I kept trying to find a second stable something to jam myself against, or hook myself to, in order to relieve some pressure and find comfort. A bit of padding on the board would help in a couple of ways: it would be more like the mattress it is functioning as; and would make entry and exit passage more comfortable, less scraping on my thighs.

Today the seas are much calmer and we are traveling at 5 knots, so everyone’s falls are less frequent. Yesterday I slammed my head hard against the bathroom cupboards; today my toe jammed hard against the center post in the galley. As I was dressing this morning and tried to stand, I was slammed against the wall I was facing, and then back to my sharp-edged berth. Jessica asked if I was having trouble. I said "no, I always get dressed like this."

So today I rearranged my mattress and supplemental foam pads to create a nest against the hull wall and away from the wooden rail. [drawing] We’ll see how it works.

A Note Added Later

It didn’t work. Within a day or so I discarded the extra foam pads and kept just a single small throw pillow to place under my legs when sliding out over the railing. Since the bins below my bed housed most of the canned fruit punch and sodas, my sleeping pad and belongings were lifted daily to access them. These cans, and more stored under the dinette benches and in the dry bilge, were not secured. This aspect bothered me throughout the trip. It seemed like there should be bolts on these wood topped stowage bins to keep the canned goods under control in case of extreme tilts or capsizing. I feared them all crashing on top of us as we tried to exit the boat in an emergency.

8 pm

It is shortly past dinner and sunset. There is some faint glow still in the western sky to my right and the boat’s rear (aft?) running light illuminates the far rail antennas and anchor and some sort of round radar-looking thing. And our U-shaped man overboard life ring. I am standing (sitting) watch 6-9 pm tonight (1800 to 2100 hours). The crescent moon and two planets make a fine shine across the water. Venus and Jupiter I suppose.

Now the water is almost flat; rarely a smack of bow on water. Swells are from the NE still, most of them about 1 foot high, and we are running our auxiliary engine to generate electric power mostly. Captain says it doesn’t add much to our forward motion, if at all. Both main and jib sails are up, unchanged from yesterday; some reefing in the main. I have been reading since before noon. "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown.

Earlier today, when the waves were still rough and perhaps 3 feet high, I looked out the window just in time to see a flying fish. It didn’t just glide; it actually flew! It jumped from the water, traveling up and over the next wave crest, then down into the trough, and again up and over the crest of yet another wave. I was amazed. I hadn’t expected this. But to my further amazement it kept going. Like a well-thrown stone skipping on still water, except that he wasn’t re-entering the water, just swooping down into each trough, and then flying up and over each succeeding wave crest. From my low vantage point I counted at least 6 waves he flew over, maybe a hundred yards, before he disappeared from my view.

8:30 pm

A half hour to go on this watch.

Captain can’t get the new computer to work like he wants. Nor apparently the old? Possibly due to spray coming in through the window on the new one. Problems with the single side band (short wave?) radio also. Batteries are dead apparently. I offered some of mine, but he needs eight and so I needed to charge some. I got help plugging my charger into the correct outlet. A few minutes later he came up to me with the batteries in hand, gruffly telling me I had put them in backwards and had ruined them. "See. They’re warm." He said. I explained what Joe had already told him, that it was a fast charger and they are supposed to get warm. He watched me reinstall them in the charger, carefully turning each battery to verify I hadn’t installed them "wrong" again. We then used them in the radio and they worked fine.

Tuesday morning before we left Nawiliwili harbor I called Ron and Momie. Ron was on his way to coffee in old town Bandon and we talked briefly of his two Atlantic crossings via freighters in 1965 (?). Momie said "Susan, you do the most wonderful things." A compliment.

Everyone is in bed asleep right now.

Early on this trip, though not this day [If not this day, then when? This is only Day Two. I suspect each day, broken into pieces as they are with watches, might seem to be two.] I complimented Jessica on her pretty sarong with the Celtic knot batik design. It was in passing, other things were happening too. She looked me in the eye and became very serious and very apologetic for what she was about to say. She didn’t mean it personally or negatively, so I wasn’t to take it wrong, but it is a very important issue with her she said.

I thought she was going to correct me for using "sarong" when the Hawaiian word for this garment starts with an "m" I think. Conscious of this even as I had used the word sarong, I had decided to take a chance and offer the compliment anyway, since I wasn’t all that sure it had been purchased, or made, in Hawaii. She went on in this vein long enough for me to puzzle just what offense I had made that was serious enough to warrant this lecture I was about to get in front of Captain and Rob. All other conversation or activity stopped for this "lesson." It had to be far more serious than the misuse of "sarong."

It was. I had just pronounced Celtic with a soft c instead of a hard c (Keltic). "The only time the word is ever pronounced that way is when discussing the Celtics basketball team, so perhaps you’re confusing the two." My polite and complete response was that I believe it is only in recent decades that anyone (in America at least) has commonly used the hard C for Celtic. And I assured her I would NEVER refer to a basketball team, or any other professional sports team, out loud, or even in my mind because such things are so far outside my realm of interest. Captain and Rob looked on, apparently amused at this interchange.

A few hours later I followed up with an apology, "it is simply that I learned it wrong to begin with and don’t always remember to be politically correct. Though I do know the preferred pronunciation." Unfortunately pride got the better of me and I went on to say that since the Celtic people came from Germany, it was a wonder how the English ever came to spell it with a soft C if it had always been pronounced with a hard C, since in our common usage the following letter defines the proper pronunciation of the preceding c: ie. cr = kr sound, ca = ka, ci = si. And I mentioned that there are many international cities we don’t commonly pronounce "correctly" or at least the way the locals do: Pari, Wein, Roma, Napoli, etc. I smiled. I did not say I hoped this would be an adequate explanation to perhaps calm her responses to other such gross pronunciation errors as she might hear in the future. Maybe instead it will alert her to other grave injustices warranting her attention.

Thursday, August 11
Day 3
6:30 am, on watch

We are becalmed – or almost. Rob, whom I relieved, says we are traveling about 3 knots. A flying fish came aboard last night and he’s saving it for Jessica’s "dead thing" collection. It is about 4 inches long. This is the size they typically see. In Nawiliwili I saw one that had lodged in the cockpit earlier on the trip and dried there.

He said he was seeing about 3 shooting stars per minute and that there should be more tonight. Our field (ocean?) of view is a circle about 5 miles in diameter; 2.5 miles to each horizon. Clouds are so few there are none overhead, one long dark stratus to the SE. Scattered white cumulus from there 270° to the blinding sun rising in the NE. The sails are slack and luffing. It feels like we are sitting still. I detect a breeze on my face though and expect the wind will rise with the sun.

7:45 am:

When I checked the speed a little while ago, after a trip to the head, it was 2.5 knots. We cannot see the GPS calculated speed from the cockpit.

When I woke up very early this morning, after sleeping well, I saw the low and rounded corners of the cabin ceiling and thought I was at home in my own cozy little low-ceilinged bedroom.

It is 17:45 GMT (dinner time in London). We are traveling at 2.0 knots. The sun is well up, 30° above the horizon maybe, and the wind has not improved.

10am almost

Sea is calm. I took a photo a while ago. If it got any smoother we could ice skate on it. We’re looking for "cats paws," dark patches that look slightly shredded where the water’s surface has been torn by a touch of wind.

Another gooney bird. Or albatross. Captain says they are the same thing. After his mistaking tropicbirds for frigate birds, I am skeptical of his bird identification. He says Hawaii has no sea gulls, and I can’t remember seeing any at the museums we went to. But with birds named gooney and booby, which are sometimes alternate common names, or nicknames, and other birds like albatross and frigate, names with literary standing and significance, and then sheerwater which is such a descriptive name, though of many different species, I am reluctant to take his word, nor interested therefore in trying to learn any of them. I remember watching a movie in grade school, a short documentary about gooney or booby birds on Midway Island perhaps. A clumsy bird on land, but magnificent in the air.

At any rate, we’ve seen birds every day, mostly skimming low over the water to grab fish. Sheerwaters I am told do the same, but have a different flight pattern. None of these dive like the California cormorants or anhingas of Florida.

Below are two conversations with Rob that I noted down a couple days after the fact, rather than at the time. I inserted them both here; I know they happened in the first couple of days of the voyage while he was still talking about his volcano class.

I believe Rob teaches geology. He has been talking a little bit about his volcano class with the others and as the subject of air pollution came up I asked about the current science on global warming, as he, a scientist sees it. He says it is all a scam. The idea of Global Warming is so frightening to people, when what is really coming is an ice age. More importantly, it is all just part of the regular cycle and everyone who studies this stuff knows that. That humans can have no impact on these natural fluctuations; our pollution is so small compared with what the big volcanoes spew into the atmosphere.

He has just returned from a volcano class; I am happy to let him voice what he has recently heard, his opinions, whatever. He is so condescending. I want him to know that I am aware of our position (in time) in regards to the coming ice age and that a forecast of a frigid future following this dramatic warming is widely known. But I say it sweet. Honest.

"Well," he says, a little surprised, "if you know that, you would have to be getting your information from scientists."

I said, "Yes. That is where I get my science information. Scientists. Who else would I listen to for scientific information? Rush Limbaugh?" I let the last two words trail off. I belatedly decided it wasn’t necessary and may have been a red flag. It can be hard to be humble.

A short interaction; I am disappointed. It does conflict with what I have studied and recent scientific lectures I’ve attended. Not the ice age part; that’s old news. Just the human contribution part. I thought that was well established. Now I will have to review the topic again to see if I’ve missed some new research, new discoveries. There was something about the way it was delivered though that makes me suspicious.

Recorded here, another short conversation I recorded only a few days after it had happened, but again, possibly an important illustration. I know it happened in the first two days of the trip and not at the same time as the conversation above, but possibly on the same day:

Again, I did not bring up the subject of ozone, but when someone else did, I joined in. I asked Rob, who was already dispersing scientific information, about his knowledge of the ozone layer. He has quick answers. The hole over the South Pole is a totaly natural phenomena, probably the natural result of earth’s magnetic field which is after all responsible for the collection of ozone to begin with. And that it wouldn’t surprise him at all that, if anybody ever decided to look, they would find that there was an extra large cushion of ozone piled up over the North Pole, the result of the positive North Pole magnetic forces. "But of course," he says, "nobody knows what the ozone layer looks like up at the North Pole, because no body has ever looked." He says scientists have never studied it because they don’t want to spoil their theories about human-caused damage to the ozone layer.

I said, "Really? Nobody? Wow." I thought it strange that in 30 years nobody, not even the "skeptical opposition" had done any research there. And though I didn’t say anything like that, I suspect (no, I hope) Rob (the man who is teaching science to young people out there in community-college-land) pondered what he had just said enough to reconsider his words. At home now, I have verified that the US and UK have both done ozone layer research at the North Pole and it also seems to be thinning, though less dramatically. Apparently part of the "ozone depletion recipe" is super cold air; the South Pole has much more of this than the North Pole.

7:30 or 8 pm

After dinner we hooked a mahi mahi, a dolphin-fish. Captain threw out the line earlier in the day and Rob called me to come land it, since they had each landed one on the first part of the trip and that made this one mine. We had seen a small school of what they’d called mahi mahi earlier, three to six perhaps, traveling near the boat. Yellow tail fins, florescent blue lateral fins, dark bodies. The sea was glassy enough to take an excellent picture, but I didn’t have my camera on me and I knew there would not be time to go below to get it. This one on the hook looked different to me, and I said so, but I was not about to argue with the knowledgeable people on board. I gutted it and filleted it; then cut off its head, poking the eyes with the tip of the knife so it would sink rather than float when I tossed it back to the sea. Jessica put it in the bucket so it could soak in fresh water for an hour before refrigerating it.

It was beautiful and alive when I brought it aboard. Maybe 28-30 inches long, with olive green and yellow scales which seemed to come off with the least handling. Though by the time I held it down and Jessica beat it in the head with a winch ratchet it had had more than minor handling. It had a high hump of a forehead [drawing] and I could believe that it might be called a dolphin-fish, but it still looked much different than the ones I’d seen swimming earlier.

Now, well after sunset at about 8 pm we saw many mammalian dolphins (porpoises; porpi we call them on the boat) swimming alongside the s/v Blank, even under the bow. Captain said he could hear them from his bunk, talking to each other. I took a picture of the sunset and tried to get photos of the porpoises. I was the first one to spot them; I heard them exhaling through their blow-holes.

Friday, August 12
Day 4

Yesterday we saw two other interesting things floating on the water: a triangle of pizza at first glance, on closer inspection we determined it to be a wedge of quesadilla. And a black ball, or maybe head and shoulders, upright. Unlike the quesadilla which was within inches of our hull, this ball was some distance away – maybe a hundred feet? Distances are hard to judge out there. We did not attempt to circle around to identify it. If it was a person they were wearing a hooded wet suit.

This morning Captain saw a small plank of Styrofoam. Out at sea, beyond the 12 mile or 200 mile limits, it is legal to dump everything but plastic.

I was on watch last night from 9 until midnight, but was having such a good time I let Captain sleep until 1:15. During my watch I heard porpoises again, though porpoise aren’t the only creatures to blow when they surface. I found the big flashlight, but not in time to use it. I did have it in hand when the little glowing creatures went by. Captain describes them as "taking flash pictures of us" as we go by. An apt description. Holding the flashlight over the water causes their glow to disappear, but did enable me to see them in a different light. It looked like a mixture of sea jellies and the tiny flat fishes that look a lot like a striped silver dollar on edge. There even seemed to be some small angelfish.

And there were meteors too. Not a huge number like the 3 per minute Rob saw, (he has younger eyes)or the "far greater number: 10 per minute" he said we would see tonight, but these were not your typical "shooting star" that blinks on and off in an instant, traveling the shortest of distances. These tended to be BIG. If the small ones are each of piece of dust, these big ones had to be fist-sized meteors. I saw many travel a third to half the distance of heaven’s dome. Some went across, some down, leaving long glowing trails. The biggest, off to my right (starboard) fell so bright and vertically I expected to hear the splash.

When the captain came up we sat and enjoyed this star show together for a while. Knowing of the captain’s experience with celestial navigation, I had looked forward to learning the names of some more stars from him. As we sat there enjoying the night sky, I pointed out a variety of the stars and constellations I knew. I was hoping he would respond in kind, but he didn’t.

Mostly I’ve been reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. I was in fact pretty keyed up when I went to bed, so I did a little more reading, but then slept solidly until about 6 am.

An incident too painful to record at the time it happened.

Usually I did not read in bed, and when I did I always used my headlamp. With one exception. Which day the incident below happened I don’t remember. I couldn’t bring myself to write it down at the time.

We often seemed to have our third solar panel in the non-charging position, lest it get over-charged. I am happy to acknowledge all those interconnected batteries, solar cells, engine generator and a half dozen various knobs and switches somebody used to control them were a bit overwhelming to me. But if we were in constant danger of overcharging something, it looked like we must have a certain amount of excess electricity. The captain used the little cabin lights when he was down there. One night when my head-lamp batteries were dead it seemed like it would be ok for me to use the little cabin light next to my pillow. I never had strength to read more than a minute or two. It was just to turn off my brain. So I turned the light on. Big mistake.

Jessica was down the steps, hand on hips, in a flash. She had been on deck with the Captain. Now she was officiously explaining that as First Mate it was her responsibility to tell me how my inappropriate behavior was unbelievably selfish. I should be ashamed. That she was angry was apparent; simple words would have worked. I figured she was partly puffed up with her High Holy Officialness, and partly lacked social skills. In spite of my rationalization of her behavior, she did succeed in shaming me. Later I came to realize the anger must have been building from the beginning. Maybe from the Celtic incident. But this is not an adequate explanation. She was cheery and helpful with me almost a hundred percent of the time. We had several pleasant visits over the days as I listened to her sing, and discussed things with her. While Rob was taciturn in my presence most of the time, Jessica and the captain seemed to enjoy my company and conversation adequately and I certainly enjoyed theirs. Moments like the above left me shocked at the sudden sharp turns in her behavior.

Later in the day

After our first day of clipping the wave tops off at 7.5 knots and experiencing all that violent motion, I asked if this was how it would be all the way for the rest of this 3-4 week trip. The answer, simultaneously from Jessica and Captain was an emphatic YES! Of course that is not true, nor was it then. This 7.5 knot travel is the upper end of usual and 5 knots is typical. Motion in the cabin so violent as to be unsafe (in my opinion) happens at 7.5 knots, but at 5 knots is merely difficult. At 3 knots it is awkward; a nuisance. This on further reflection is not at all accurate. They may wish for 7.5 knots all the way and sometimes get it. Sometimes it might be even smooth sailing. Our travel during the gale was never smooth, almost always very rough, and was not fast either. Typically 3 knots I would guess.

We made our daily "noon report" call at 8 pm and I talked to Joe and Shippy. It was wonderful to hear their voices and Shippy’s excitement about the trip. This was my second call home.

Becalmed in the morning today at point 9 knots, we made pretty good time in the afternoon. At sunset though the winds disappeared and the sea flattened. By 9 pm the winds had become "variable" – blowing tiny gusts in randomly alternate directions. This produces "luffing" in the sails – loss of wind, sails go slack. And more disturbing: the mainsail filling with wind on one side, and then a moment later filling with wind on the opposite side. This creates a loud SMACK! of sail and the mast jerks with metalic clanging. It sounds hard on the sail fabric, not to say mast and lines. And it is stressful to hear every few seconds. I asked if maybe this was perhaps the kind of time when maybe the mainsail would be lowered, until more consistent wind was available. Then Captain and Jessica and Rob, who were all up on deck anyway, decided spontaneously to do just that. It is dark and I was told I will get to help with sails another time. I went to bed for the first half of my night’s sleep.

Saturday, August 13
Day 5

I stood midnight to 3 am watch today. My batteries are old in my head lamp but that didn’t stop me from traveling to Rome via Angels and Demons. Books make a fine distraction. Last thing a person needs in this situation is to think about the situation. How deep the water is, how dark the sky – the cresent moon set long ago, how small a piece I can see of this vast ocean, how far the distance to shore.

I slept until 7 am. The water, calm during my watch, has become low glassy swells again. The boat is going so slow Rob and I have each independently suggested getting out and pushing. After my watch, while Rob and Jessica were sleeping, I suggested to Captain that I could make breakfast and he was agreeable. A couple of other mornings I have offered to fix the Captain coffee in the little old camping style aluminum percolator. While this was fine with the Captain, I thought I might be detecting some resentment on Rob’s part, though was reluctant to read too much into his manners. Rob is officially our cook and after fixing eggs and spam and Bisquick hot cakes today, an act clearly unappreciated by Rob, I decided not to offer to cook any more. It had seemed like a good idea at the time since the sea was smooth and I had purchased the Bisquick, a combination of ingredients where only water is required to produce various baked goods, with this in mind.

I hadn’t known when I bought it that the yeast bread he makes from scratch is heavily dosed with sugar. So I was extra happy to be able to make a non-sweetened bread. To be fair, in the grocery store when I suggested hot cakes the crowd gave a negative response. In response to my puzzled look, Jessica explained that Rob had made some (out of flour and water; they have no baking powder or soda on the boat) and "pancakes just don’t come out very good on the boat." Little wonder I thought, and I went ahead and bought the Bisquick. After all, they were throwing specialty foods into the cart, and I was paying for the whole lot of it, so why not?

Note to explain
about watches

Watch order is Jessica, Rob, Susan, Captain. 3 hours on, 9 hours off with a 6 hour watch in the middle of the day (9 am – 3 pm). Now depending on who you talk to – I had made the mistake of thinking that the Captain was in charge of rules like this, I understood at this part of the trip that while this 6 hour watch was officially assigned to a particular person, because it was the middle of the day, and usually everyone wanted to be outside in the cockpit anyway, it was a responsibility shared mutually by whoever wanted to be out there. By logic I then presumed, that only in the case of nobody wanting to be outside during these hours would it become the assigned watch’s responsibility to do watch duty. No one ever told me I was supposed to record stats on my watch, which stats, or for that matter when they were to be recorded. I saw what other people did, which varied, and tried to emulate. It never seemed a big deal. If it had, I would have asked the captain for specific instructions. There was never a time when four or more hours would go by without stats being recorded. Usually location, course, and speed were noted, as well as engine times, running lights, change of sails and anything unusual.

My later notes say: Watch consists of monitoring battery charges, recording location, speed, other incidents of note; and watching for other vessels. We have seen none except the first day slight evidence of the Pride of Aloha sailing up Kauai’s east coast.

Parts of this paragraph regarding meals
added later

In spite of my cooking of the breakfast, I think I am supposed to wash dishes. Later I heard Rob comment that when he cooks they are his dishes to wash. Nobody else’s. So I see that by washing dishes the first few days I was not behaving correctly at all. Though I was sure I heard Captain say when he fixed breakfast before we sailed, that the rules were: "whoever cooked was excused from washing dishes." Another case of the captain getting the rules wrong I guess. This might have been resolved days ago had we regularly had meals to wash up after. At most it seems, two meals a day are prepared and eaten. If the weather is rough, none. Meals are prepared when the cook is hungry and because the cook stands watches it would be impossible to have them on a regular schedule. This makes perfect sense. That they need to be served in the portions the cook chooses, and dressed with condiments, and quantity of condiments of the cooks choosing seems a little less obvious. I never say anything to object; I have already offended the cook enough by buying Bisquick and canned corn.

Jessica and Rob are outside sharing this double-long midday watch. It can be hard to escape the sun outside because the "hard dodger" is barely big enough to give partial shade to 2 people. As long as we are headed due north, the cockpit gets maximum southern exposure. Though even a nothing breeze feels good, it is just too hot to sit in the full sun. In the cabin, even with the windows open and the tiny fan on, it is like a steambath, and the galley end, with its stove and propane powered frig, is even warmer. The thermometer down here reads 85° to 90° with only the occasional waft of cool air sneaking in a window to tantalize us. The table to read or write at, and the escape from the sun are the cabin’s few redemptions.

Oops. Captain is preparing the dishes for washing. I missed my chance to make lemonade or retrieve a cold can of juice or soda from the frig. I splashed a tiny bit of hot olive oil on my right foot while cooking this morning, and have been trying to sprinkle water on it regularly before I notice it hurting again. I’ve been wearing socks while outside and my long silk pants. These pretty blue patterned pants have torn in two places. Now I see how ship-wrecked sailors end up wearing rags!

Jessica pointed the damage out to me. Both tears are in the seat and she is so embarrassed to point out that my panties are showing through the tears. This is so amusing. She is wearing virtually nothing and is embarrassed for me that 2 square inches of my white cotton panties are visible!

I showered yesterday evening using the sun shower (less than a third of one of the two bags) and shampooed my hair. There are some good uses this calm weather can be put to.

I called Joe on the ship-to-shore this morning. Caught him canning peaches with Erma. I asked if he was having a good time. He said they were having "a time." My journal doesn’t record why I called so I have no notes to verify this, but since day one, when the new laptop got a sprinkling of salt water on the keyboard, Captain has been complaining about it not working properly, the keyboard not functioning, and other things. Though as often he has complained about the other computer on the desk. There have been various questions about this laptop from Joe that I felt perhaps Joe could answer to the Captain’s satisfaction. Better than I, who was hearing all these complaints, at least. It was only later that I finally realized this was just the Captain’s way of dealing with machines and technology he didn’t know how to use – lots of loud complaints about stupid computers, stupid Windows, stupid Microsoft, stupid weather reports, stupid weather maps, stupid weather service. So I know when this call was made, it was specifically under Captains instructions to do so.

An explanation
now that I am home

Joe says it was the day we asked him to look up weather maps from our computer at home to read and interpret them for us. I pressured the Captain into taking this route to try for weather info. It was not successful. Joe was busy and didn’t understand our needs. At least this reduced the frequency of Captains complaints about "Joe’s computer."

We need our batteries to run our two GPS’s, shortwave radios, 2 comuters, depth finder, etc. Below is the note I wrote Saturday night, as explained by Captain regarding the engine and batteries.

Turn on engine when 2nd battery is below 25% (as read on battery selector dial when it is in position four and rotary switch by Captain’s berth is on battery #2. Before turning on Engine, turn rotary dial to "Both." [drawing]

To turn on Engine: Prime first. (Captain will do this for me.) Then place the long control arm into the black transmission control hole and move one position forward to neutral or two forward for forward motion. Turn key to start engine. Place short control handle into the throttle (chrome) hole and pull forward until needle points to 10 on the RPM dial. 10 is idle, adjust to 12-13 for a little more power.

Sometimes autopilot dies when engine is started. If red light is blinking on autopilot, push red button to turn it back on.

Sunday, August 14
Day 6

I stood the 3-6am watch this morning and have the 6-9 shift tonight. I used all this info about the batteries and engine on my Sunday 3-6 watch. First time I have been asked to do anything in regard to the batteries or engine.

Still seeing the occasional bird. Yesterday evening saw spray in the distance – on a glassy smooth sea. Captain suggested it was porpoises; a school of them playing perhaps. I have been below staying out of the sun and enjoying the solitude of the cabin and its table for reading and writing. Cockpit discussion right now is of the "America – Love it or Leave it" genre. But my lips are sealed. Fools believe what they want to believe: Research that shows contrary evidence is dismissed out of hand. Researchers who attempt to find facts are biased by definition. To even go out looking for a range of information (possible facts or explanations) is evidence of treason.

I have no facts myself in regard to some of the topics they are discussing, so there would be no reason for me to attempt to persuade them. They believe the story that the US Government gave smallpox infested blankets to the Indians is a total lie. "Some guy in Colorado made it up." I hear Rob say. I don’t know the facts one way or the other and doubt that these three do either. Their stand is that "some people just want to believe their government is bad" and "some people can’t accept personal responsibility for their actions and have to have someone else to blame their failures on." I kid you not! These are direct quotes recorded as I sit below, pen in hand.

I say, or might if I felt suicidal: In theory the "guy in Colorado" had some evidence he based this statement on. So it seems appropriate to question his references – find out why he said that. Out here in the middle of the ocean we lack these references to draw on, so we can’t argue the validity of them. Instead we might try to use "rational" or logical thought to deduce whether or not this sounds true. I say: many different encounters, civilian and military, with the Native Americans have produced stories equally appalling. This begs the question as to whether any of them can be substantiated. But I do know there were many battles and lots of hard feelings against the Native Americans. And since even today there are people who quietly believe "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" it may not be too rash to believe that it was a widely held belief a hundred years ago. Especially by soldiers.

War intensifies in the same way as football. Them or us. Winners and losers. Personally, if I was running a war; if I were the general whose job it was to win, I would use tactics that were most effective. Eliminate the opposing forces while preserving my own. I would use disease without compunction. Unless of course there were things like the Geneva Accords that could come back and bite me – send me to jail for actions that had been declared out of bounds. (Which is why I wouldn’t ever want to be in a war, and why I think the next time we have a "Geneva Accord," we ought to declare that war and its goals are totally illegal. Yeah, Yeah, I know. We do. But if such a law were faithfully enforced the threat of retribution might discourage people from barging into someone else’s country with their guns blazing.)

But of course, I don’t say anything. I am glad to be below in the cabin where my face doesn’t betray me. This notebook could be a life-saver!

There was rain this morning after my very uneventful early morning watch. I had a hard time staying awake and was sorry I missed an event as exciting as rain. And with the rains came some stronger winds. Not real strong, but enough to keep the flag fluttering straight out. These are from the west, and since our boat is pointed true north (or close to it) this is a "beam reach," if I understood the captain correctly.

The flag and wind are 90° from the direction we are going. The swells are said to be coming from two different directions, though I don’t see it. Anyway, after all day yesterday making one knot, or 2.5 knots when we had the engine assisting, and making 2 or so at night, it is exciting to be going 4 or 5 knots. For the uninitiated, knots really is basically equivalent to miles per hour. We literally could get out and walk as fast as the boat is going at any time during most of this week … if there were ground to walk on. And the ride is not rough. (You can see by my writing – well YOU can’t see this, but you could if you were reading the original longhand version of my journal.)

We put the mainsail back up yesterday afternoon and then took the reefs out of it for the first time too.

Monday, August 15
Day 7
8 am

Captain asked me to say "Grace" before dinner last night (Sunday). Grace isn’t the term he used, but something else totally foreign to me. I understood his meaning clearly though and, thanks to Jessica being three minutes late to sit and join us, I was able to think about what I was going to say.

Added Note

This was one of the very few times we all sat down together at the table to eat. Usually as many people as would fit sat in the cockpit with bowls on their laps. You might ask "who was on watch then during this meal?" Nobody of course. Though rarely would as much as a half hour go by without someone on deck, it did happen on this one occasion at least, though there were others. It was totally common for 5 to 10 minutes to pass without the watch being topside, for various reasons.

So, last night for "grace" I said something like: "We are thankful for this food and the bounty of the earth. Thankful to be able to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us and to be able to share this meal with good companions." I didn’t use God or Jesus’ name, but nobody said anything to object. Jessica, who has been blatantly irreverent many times, followed my statement with "God’s neat, Let’s eat." Captain then passed out little round "hosts" blessed by the pastor before the trip.

Earlier in the day he had asked to "confirm" that I was Catholic, or "raised Catholic." I said no, but I’d married two Catholic men. That shut him up momentarily, but set Jessica right off. "That is amazing! Both were Catholic? I mean, wow! Does that kinda like, you know, MEAN something, maybe?!!"

Yeah, I said. "It means that Catholicism is one of the world’s largest religions and certainly is in the U.S." Well, that really blew her away. She’d "never heard THAT before!!!" Fortunately, Captain was there to assure her I was correct. "Wow!!!"

A short discussion followed of what the world’s largest religion, number one, was: "Hindi, or probably....Muslim," said Captain or Rob. This was followed with an assortment of "yucks" and "icks." I’m glad I don’t normally hang out with such fools.

Anyway, after this brief interchange, Captain went on to complete his thought which was in regard to communion. I said something like "sure, that’s fine with me." The small silence that followed led me to add, "The churches I went to as a child often served communion, which I participated in." I didn’t add: it wasn’t much of a meal, but any food was always welcome to my empty tummy. This seemed to satisfy Captain.

Later at dinner, after we had each eaten our wafer, I told of Jeff’s experience receiving communion in St. Peter’s Square Easter morning and the great photo he and Judy got of it. I figured it would help illustrate another non-Catholic taking Catholic communion. Thought it would help lighten the tone and be a subject of interest to them too. I did wait a few discreet minutes before telling it.

The story of Easter morning in Rome: This guy Jeff has dubbed ‘Guido’ – an unsmiling man in a black suit, black sun glasses, and black snap-brim(?) hat -- made sure Jeff ate the "host" then and there (using a hand-to-mouth gesture) so that Jeff didn’t walk off with it. He looked like a Mafia guy to Jeff. Seemed incongruous to him; he thought it would have been a priestly assistant or an alter-boy.

My tablemates’ responses surprised me. The general consensus at dinner was that "the guy was probably a Jesuit." Jessica thinks Jesuits are gangsters. Rob and Captain think of them as "Liberals." "Far-fringy," "non-representational segment of the Church." "Too weird to be taken seriously." I’ve rarely heard such disrespectful things said about a group of religious practitioners before, and certainly not from members of the same church.

Anyway, we clipped along between 4 and 5.5 knots all day yesterday (Sunday) and last night. This morning I had the 6-9 watch and enjoyed being out here alone to do all this journal writing. Plus I mended my silk print trousers and refilled my pill case for the coming week.

Captain is supposed to be on watch right now but is doing some paperwork in the cabin so I told him I was ok here in the cockpit. Actually though, I can feel my toes getting sunburned through my socks and I was hoping to make biscuits for breakfast. It is hard to stay out of the sun, even when I am the only person on deck. I hate to use my recent melanoma excision as an excuse, though I did mention it to Jessica, her blank stare leads me to believe she knows as little about it as I did six months ago. She and Rob are in their cabin.

Ooh, I just remembered. The first day when I was sea sick Jessica offered me Bonine and warned me before I put it in my mouth to chew it, that it would taste awful. "It has that terrible medicine taste – like the stuff your parents made you take when you were a kid." I was sick enough I figured I needed to take it anyway. So I pop it in and chew.The thing is cherry-flavored candy! What would she do if someone presented her with medicine that actually did taste like some of the medicines I’ve had in my life. Bitter and foul tasting, or maybe like Cod Liver Oil? We are each composed of our own experiences – personal and those we learn vicariously through books, movies conversations.

Saw a bird today early. Black with some white markings on underside of its wings. Albatross? Frigate bird? Everyday we see at least one bird. First two or three days out we saw many birds – sheerwaters I was told – in groups of 3 to 6. These guys are comfortable even 100 miles offshore. Jessica’s descriptions: Frigate bird – dirty colored, split tail. Albatross – white or dull gray brown. Flies with a distinctive loopy swirl pattern. Is this correct? I'd heard so many different attempts to define the birds, and I haad lost confidence. There were no bird identification books or charts on board. Though there was one for reef fish.

We are traveling about 60 miles most days. Let’s see, with 4000 miles to go, that should take us ______ days. Can’t seem do this in my head; I keep getting weird answers. But I don’t think it would be good for my moral to know the answer anyway.

(I see I repeated my porpoise story here. It must have made a strong impression.)

Everyday we get closer to home and Joe. I’m too busy to "miss" him. There is plenty of social interaction, so I’m not lonely exactly. But I very much look forward to being held in his arms and talk about this adventure with him. I hope he’s called the Argus and Joan Boatwright about a story. It makes it easier to write these notes. Though in truth I enjoy the activity.

A few white caps today which is strange because the sea is not at all rough. Swells are barely a foot high. I just saw a small white bird, but didn’t have my glasses on. It could have been a flying fish. I spent yesterday writing stories in my other notebook.


In the cabin now. It is only 82° in here today, which is much the same as yesterday. When we were becalmed three and four days ago it was closer to 90° in the cabin. We’re traveling at 4.5 knots (good) and only slightly in the wrong direction (20° - 30° west of north instead of due north.). Captain is using his sextant readings from last night to determine our position. (Or what it was then at least.) Of course, the GPS does this for us very nicely, but he teaches celestial navigation and wants to verify his sextant-reading skills. Has not been successful here yet. Keeps getting errors he says.

Tuesday, August 16
Day 8
10:40 am

I called Joe yesterday at 5 pm our time, 8 pm their time. We had a pretty productive day, probably averaging close to 5 knots. In the evening though the wind dropped. Sails were adjusted, the main dropped, then raised, and then dropped again. We keep changing our course slightly to enhance our angle in regard to the wind. I thought one was supposed to adjust the sails, but in truth the greater wind is to the west and its important to bear west, away from home, until we get far enough north to catch the westerlies which will take us east.

Oh! Another black bird just now. And earlier I saw a white slab of something go by – 2 feet square maybe, and a dark something. A fishing float says Rob; looked more like a coconut to me. Pretty exciting out here, watching the trash go by. Everyday we throw lots of food scraps and several tin cans overboard. As near as I know, we do not toss our aluminum cans or paper scraps. Nor or course, plastic. Strictly verboten! Captain says aluminum is too valuable to not recycle, so he is very careful about collecting our drink cans into a big plastic bag. I see the other bag of obviously unsorted garbage tied up and removed from the galley waste can, but I have never seen it actually "put away" into some deep storage area. I fear it is tossed at night when I am not around. I say this based on crew comments I have heard regarding the environment and politics about the environment.

I have not brought up this subject, or any sailing questions that I think might be even slightly or possibly impertinent. I would not want to offend the Captain. He is already very upset most days with the stupid computers, stupid radio, stupid weather maps. Or at least most days that he makes any attempt to access them. One day, early on, when he was upset about not being able to get weather maps I suggested maybe we could just listen to the radio and hear a report. I knew there were hurricane warnings down by Mexico, a long ways away to be sure, but I am under the impression that BBC broadcasts news 24 hours a day, and I am sort of under the impression that sometimes you can hear this a very long ways away. My suggestion was met with extreme skepticism, but since the other three of us were at the table, Rob tuned it to a government weather service broadcast that just has a running monotonic machine reading "the weather report". I had been reading articles in Ocean Voyager, a copy of which has been sitting on the table. It refers to this weather station and "Perfect Paul" the machine which reads it. It was truly dreadful. Worse than Air Traffic Control. But I figured if we listened to it a few minutes, we might be able to adjust our ears and start to figure some of it out. In barely two minutes Jessica was maxed out and asked in a less than gracious manner that it be turned off. "I’ve had enough of listening to these little green men!" It was driving her nuts. I had hoped for something better, or even a chance to try the dial. I suspect I would not have received anything better. I know nothing about SSB. Captain commented that the machine voice is a great deal better than the Swede who used to read it.

Last evening Captain and I discussed a variety of things. I mostly encouraged him to talk, and tried not to be too obvious about not contributing my own thoughts to the conversation. We covered "how colleges don’t teach anymore, they indoctrinate" (with new unproven ideas, is what I think he meant), "colleges are always decades behind in their knowledge," "the last time I took an electronics course, they were still teaching vacuum tubes" ( I presumed this was meant to illustrate the previous point, and was sometime within recent decades). Also "doctors are worthless," and how much he hates computers; the latter we’ve already covered. These were all elaborated upon of course, so at one point I commented that his complaints about indoctrination sort of seemed to conflict with his comments about college professors’ information being out of date. He was not able to answer this question.

Earlier on the trip, when mention was made of "the stupid woman who put her coffee cup between her legs and now we all have to suffer cold coffee at restaurants" I piped up with Michael Spinak’s details about the case. I said I knew the lawyer whose firm handled the case and I had received some first hand knowledge, stuff that hadn’t shown up in most of the news reports. So I told them what he had told us a couple of years ago in Chicago. That there were many complaints and small suits against McDonald’s regarding their coffee handed out the "to go" windows without proper packaging to protect consumers from this super-heated liquid. It had caused many burns and in spite of the many recorded and verifiable complaints regarding this hazard, McDonalds had refused to do anything. A case where the company could have changed its policy and taken reasonable precautions but had steadfastly refused. I described the damage done to the woman and my audience had listened, compassionately. They were happy to agree that the press had misrepresented the case and that it was clearly not a frivolous suit. Volunteering even, that the resultant double-cupping, insulted wrappers, etc. are good things.

Inspired by this success of a previous conversation, and with just the Captain in the cockpit with me, I told the two memorable stories I read in Dressed to Kill. The first story was about doctors and their reluctance to wash hands between patients. The first modern doctor to see the efficacy of hand–washing and to recommend to his fellow doctors was ridiculed for his efforts and discredited. It was 30 more years before it was accepted as a good idea. The second story I remember from this book (I told him I have not yet personally researched these stories to verify them.) is of the first formal study linking tobacco and cancer. I asked the captain when he thought it was. He thought maybe Britain in the 1950’s. I told him my source had stated 1860’s, Civil War Hospital.

Part of the reason Dressed to Kill had come to mind was that Captain’s wife, Donna, has had breast cancer. This was some number of years ago I believe; she had a silicone implant which has been a problem ever since. "Not because of the silicone," says the captain, but because "the stupid doctor didn’t know what he was doing." I am happy to agree that there are, sadly, too many incompetetent doctors.

It was the end of my watch, and as I was going to bed, I realized I hadn’t asked him where he graduated from college. Especially since he had obviously had such a bad experience. So I asked. "I’ve never been to college. I’ve taken a couple of classes at PCC, that’s all." not.

11:40 am

So today without the engine, we were going about 1.5 to 2 knots, so we have the engine on now to charge our batteries and run the reverse osmosis fresh water maker. And Captain says instead of the usual 4 hours we will run it 5 hours. We are also going to put the big jib up in short order to gain a little more push from what wind we have. This is a sail the captain has never used before. It is apparently of lighter weight fabric, as well as being larger, and is designed to catch large amounts of even light winds.

I had corn bran and half and half for breakfast (gag) plus a can of chilled juice and an orange. No one else has eaten anything but an orange. That is, Rob ate one and the captain rejected them because they have, maybe, dots of mold up by the stem end. He is allergic to Penicillin which he says is made from oranges. I didn’t know that. Of course they could have been dots of dirt. Doesn’t matter to me, but I wish he wasn’t so quick to toss everything overboard. Fresh apples, oranges, peppers … if he sees any imperfection as it comes out of the rear locker (the lazarette?), he tosses it overboard. Jessica, who had a busy night watch has been in her berth until a few minutes ago.

Now Rob is baking bread. They put in massive amounts of sugar (1/2 cup I think the Captain said) so the bread is sickly sweet. I have a hard time eating it. I know this seems strange. I don’t normally mind things that are sweet, but here everything is. The hard candies that we have many tubs of, the chocolate kisses, the sweetened fruit punches and sodas. Even many of the canned meals are heavily laced with sugar and salt. I crave something plain. Mostly Rob reliably fixes dinner and it is usually good, though either the fish both nights was overcooked, or I don’t like the flavor of Ahi, or was it Mahi Mahi? And yesterday morning he made corned beef hast and eggs which was wonderful. The first thing I made was a cabbage/apple/peanut salad that wasn’t popular.

Another note from last night. I told Captain that I wanted to take a shower before going to bed, so a half hour before the end of my shift he excused himself from the cockpit and closed the cabin doors so I could have some privacy up there. So I had my soap and the warm water and enjoyed a something like a sponge bath with just my tie-me-to-the-boat safety harness on.

2:00 to 3:00 pm

We turned off the engine and put up the oversized jib after taking down and disconnecting the usual jib. It is stored tied down to the deck. We have not had the mainsail up all day, since about 3 am. (That is what Jessica was busy doing last night.) Anyway, putting up the big jib didn’t seem to help. We added the boom which enables us to extend the bottom of it way off the side of the boat. That didn’t help either. 90° in the cabin, no breath of air topside either. Oh, and earlier in the day I re-braided Jessica’s cornrows that I’d done up for her the first day.

At 32° north we are clearly in the horse latitudes, and we were very discouraged and hot after all that work which produced nothing. But then, out of nowhere we got a breeze off our starboard beam and we are now tearing along at 5 knots!!!

BTW, one day I did get to help put up a sail, the jib. I don’t remember which day and don’t seem to have recorded it.

Wednesday, August 17
Day 9

Becalmed again. Since last night some time. During my midnight to 3 watch we were traveling at 3 – 3.5 knots. Then we had our morning engine time to recharge our batteries and run the reverse osmosis water maker. We have two batteries that get depleted down to 25% each night and we make about 4 gallons of water each time we run the engine for 4 hours. One of those gallons though has to be used to flush out the machine, so we only gain 3 gallons. Afterwards, with the engine off, we’re making only 2 – 2.5 knots.

We have a weather map with isobars, highs, lows, and wind arrows, but it is such a dirty printout we can barely read it. This may be the first one the captain has printed. Captain had marked our location on it, incorrectly. He extrapolated between the longitude lines to 38° when we were actually at 32°. I made the mistake of impulsively pointing to the correct location, which he then acknowledged. Have I mentioned yet that I am impressed with his navigational skills, knowledge, and intuition? No? Wonder why?

Thursday, August 18
Day 10
3 am:

To be more generous, the captain does feel a lot of responsibility for the safety and well being of his crew. This is something I do very much appreciate.

Last night before dinner he was going around checking the integrity of the boat’s hardware and found some weak points. He quickly and cheerfully announced the reason we haven’t gotten any good wind: "We have been under divine protection." The mast he says would have blown down in strong winds if he hadn’t found these weak spots to reinforce. Spots where the brass, aluminum, and stainless steel fittings are chemically reacting with each other, destroying the stainless steel. They are now tied with ropes and we’ll do more work on them later today. He is a more religious person than I, and more superstitious too. Or did I just say that?

I have the 3 – 6 am watch. The moon was less than totally full when I went to bed at 8:30 last night, but this morning it has grown to a full circle. Saw what must have been a Frigate bird yesterday. A huge wing span. And later a pair of birds farther away.

We were sailing along last night at a pretty good clip, but have slowed to 2.5 knots. Actually, last night I asked about how sails work. That I have heard the description of them serving as an airfoil, a wing, rather than a catchment. The Captain assured me that that is how we always set the sail. Then, about 30 minutes later he shouted down to the cabin, "Well now, that speeds things up; I adjusted the sail to work as an airfoil rather than as a ‘stopper’." I asked him to repeat that last word, I thought maybe it was a technical term I had missed.

A bit later in the early morning

The captain just came up and adjusted our heading. The sail is much happier now and our speed is back up above 3 knots (3.3 when I looked). Cassiopeia is directly overhead, Orion is mostly up, one knee still behind the clouds on the horizon. The moon is so bright we are running without our lights. We have seen no other traffic out here and apparently this is unusual. As I was trying to sleep I thought of logs and wondered what happens to a boat like ours when it encounters one.

5 am

The dawn is starting. The moon gone, for 15 minutes or more. We’ve been clipping along at 4.5 – 5 knots for quite a while now. I’ve been thinking about these safety harnesses. If I fall and I’m clipped in, it would no doubt break my fall, but probably my neck too. The harness is really just so the body isn’t lost at sea.

5:30 am

I just ate a can of corn and recorded stats for my watch in the log. The sky is bright all around though the sun isn’t up yet. I’m wearing my life vest and was still chilly a few minutes ago. Goose bumps even. What a wonderful feeling. I get to go to bed soon. I thought I would shower while on watch this morning, but the shower water had cooled off to chilly. During the day it is too hot to use.

6 am

Took some pictures and turned off the running lights. I applied a fourth scopolamine patch because I was feeling a little nauseated, and it has been 9 full days since we left Lihue when I applied the first one.


Went to bed at 6 am and slept until past 9. Yesterday’s weather report and Captain’s interpretation of it is very discouraging. Ten days out and we still have a like distance to travel before we even get to the westerlies which will take us home. And those will still take ten more days to achieve. So we are looking at 20 more days of travel. Of course I was expecting to be at sea as much as 30 days.

I read a nice little article in Ocean Voyager yesterday. What you learn at sea: "there is no controlling the weather – or a lot of other things. The one thing you can control is Attitude. I think I have been doing fine in this regard, but am a bit concerned that I will need to be working on it more in the near future.

I was worried about horrific storms. I didn’t know I should have placed more concern on calm weather. And of course, the storms are still equally likely to yet occur.

I stood the 6-9 pm (1800 – 2100 hours) watch last night and showered between 8 and 9. I used soap and our warm sun shower as I perched on the side of the cabin roof. Of course, one has to be below the sun shower bags in order to have water flow and without an "up" place to hang it that is hard to achieve. Still, it was fun to be up there naked, except for my harness in the moonlight. (Yes, everybody else was below.)

The last 5 day of the sailboat part of this journal
will be found in a file titled, Sailboat II.

My next set of entries will be about my time aboard the containership, m/v Rhein Bridge.
Sorry, there are very few bad guys
in this part of the trip —
though a couple more do show up at the very end of my adventure,
so do stay tuned.

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