Current time: 2:25 AM Monday
Current Position: North 6 degrees, 20 minutes; West 36 degrees, 25 minutes
I’m sitting in the pilothouse on my watch, as usual. The boat is racing along at 8.5 knots, even though the jib is reefed to about half its size and the mainsail is on its second reef.
It’s tough to describe what this is like. The boat moves side to side and front to rear, as it goes up over the waves and back down the face of them, The waves are big enough that when the bows go down a trough, the top of the wave is higher than the deck. But, the bows always rise to go over the wave, and the pattern repeats itself.
The movement of the boat is much faster than one would imagine, at least in these conditions. The waves are steep and close together. The boat can dip from side to side, going through an arc of about 25 degrees on either side of “straight up.” The rhythm is: dip, surge, sway, lurch… sway, dip, surge, lurch…lurch, dip, sway, surge; BAM! (wave slapping under pilothouse or on the side of the hulls). It does this, 24/7, while you attempt to cook, eat, clean, write, etc.
Walking around the boat is a hands-on exercise. This is very rambunctious lurching, and if you don’t have a good handhold, you can get slammed against something – hard enough to bruise, especially when you are doing something in the forward part of each hull. This morning, for example, I was finally getting around to properly putting the Code Zero sail away in the port forepeak. It was stored in a rush, and overflowed into the port head – so that there was really no floor space.
I had put it off because all the overhead hatches are closed, to keep the spray from getting into the boat, and it is really hot in those forward areas. Ten minutes of physical work and you are red as a beet and very sweaty. It’s all tidy now, and I have my head back, and Philip can access the supplies he has stored in the forepeak (the front-most part of the hull).
We have been going more or less into the wind now – not “upwind,” which is as close as you can get to the oncoming wind, but close reaching, which is in between going upwind and reaching. Reaching is when the wind is abeam of the boat (about 90 degrees). Running is when the wind is behind you and you are going downwind.
So there are really three states when you’re sailing, boat relative to the wind: upwind (closest to the oncoming wind), reaching (about 90 degrees to the oncoming wind), and downwind (turned away from the wind). Subsets of those use the words “close” and “broad,” so you can be close reaching – closer to the wind – or broad reaching, further from the wind than straight reaching.
Since wind makes waves, sailing upwind is always the bounciest and wettest. Reaching is fastest, and downwind is the most peaceful.
If the wind stays like this for a long time – this angle and about 20 miles per hour – this will be our moving reality for a long time. I’m still trying to get used to it. This last night – before this watch – I tried to sleep while we were pitching, rolling, slamming, big fountains of spray coming over the boat when we hit a wave a certain way, me feeling like the berth was a trampoline. Didn’t really work. I’m pretty tired now, and it’s going to be a struggle to keep awake on this watch. We also had dinner late because we spent the afternoon fixing the reefing line that broke.
Sometime before I got up for this watch, Philip turned the boat downwind – away from the wind – about 10 degrees. Much more civilized. Our compass heading is 325 degrees anyway, as we make our way to our next waypoint. That’s the heading the autopilot is set for now. I might even be able to open the front door for a while; we had to keep it closed because of the spray. Tomorrow night I will make sure we are on this less violent heading, so I can get caught up on my deep sleep.
As I mentioned, we replaced the reefing line yesterday afternoon. In order to do that, we had to take the mainsail down, flaking it into the sail cover, which comes up on either side of the boom. We also had to actually lower the boom (the tube at the bottom of the sail, running from the mast to the back of the boat) onto the pilothouse roof, between the solar panels, so it would be steady enough for Philip to work on the lines. We put a fender – those rubber, inflated, sausage-shaped objects that you typically use to “fend off” from docks – at the top of the pilothouse, laid on its side, so the boom could rest on it and be still.
We were going to try to sail with only the jib, while Philip worked, but we weren’t sure we’d go fast enough to maintain steerage (a boat can’t be steered if there is no water flowing past the rudders). So we started the starboard engine again. The autopilot and engine kept the boat on a certain heading and speed. We were going barely a knot, but we were making our way gently went over the waves, and we didn’t have to worry about steering.
There are three reefing lines going along inside the boom, which start near the mast, make their way inside the boom, to the back of the boat, and come out at the end of the boom. Then, each line goes up along the aft edge of the sail, to a pulley (block) built right into the sail itself, then over the block and back down where the end is to the boom. When you reef, you pull on that line while lowering the halyard (the line that pulls the front edge of the sail along the mast). The goal is to create a new, smaller sail, with the aft end and the front end of the sail secure.
So the back part of the sail is being pulled down by the reefing line and its block, and the front part of the sail is coming down because the halyard is being lowered. You pull on the reefing line at the front of the boom (by leading the front part around a winch and using a winch handle to pull it), until it is all the way down near the boom, and is set tight to secure the aft part of the sail. The front part is secured to the mast by attaching a shackle on the mast to a strap and metal hoop sewn into the sail. Once that is secure, you can once again pull up on the main halyard until the front of the sail is pulled as tight as it can be, along the mast.
We had to get a new reefing line in the boom to replace the one that snapped. You can’t push on line, so we had to pull it through somehow. First, Philip taped a thinner piece of line to one of the reefing lines that was already in there, and we pulled that line from the aft part of the boom forward, toward the mast. Now there were two lines where there had only been one. Then, we took that thin line off the already-existing reefing line, and attached it to the replacement reefing line, and pulled that through from the front of the boom to the end of the boom. Then the new reefing line was led through its pulley at the aft edge of the sail, and tied off at the boom.
It took a bit of fussing to get the line to lead the right way, but it finally all looked right. Philip was working on the aft end of the boom by standing on the inflatable dinghy that is stored on the afterdeck.
I’m happy to say I stayed calm the whole time, even when the drill sergeant kicked in. I still need to do a better job of anticipating what he needs, especially when he is moving quickly because we have limited time to do a certain task. We discussed that at dinner.
There was one ship tonight, off in the distance, and there have been several flying fish landing on deck and in the cockpit. But, otherwise, it’s still just us and the boat, and the endless waves and wind.
I never like to say, “Happy Memorial Day,” because of what Memorial Day really stands for, but I do hope it is a good day for you. In honor of my “ex” Marine, I attach here a poem that Matthew sent us.
Philip and Kristin
The Final Inspection
The Marine stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
“Step forward now, Marine,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?”
The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
“No, Lord, I guess I ain’t.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.
“I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
“But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep.
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
“And I never passed a cry for help,
Thought at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.
“I know I don’t deserve a place
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
“If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”
There was silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Marine waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
“Step forward now, you Marine,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.”