Oct 17, 2010-Dispatch #8 from Indian Ocean-
17 days at sea is something of an endurance test. Of course other sailors, many others, have done longer passages by far, but for the three sailors on Wings this test is a mix of good and bad.
The sailing itself is glorious, that is true. We have had days on end of fresh, now cooling, breezes from a steady SE direction. Twenty knots of wind, or more, which push us ever westward fleeing from the rising sun each morning, pursuing the setting moon each night, seven knots of speed and upward, hour after hour, day after day, sheets tight, sails flat and firm, the windvane at the back constantly adjusting, pulling the tiller left and right, so that we keep on our westward course, and the water continually roaring past our hull. Who could ask for more?
But we also have the endless motion. Big waves, rollers up from deep in the Southern Ocean, are added to significant wind waves from the SE trades and the result is extreme motion which is constantly with us, a powerful opponent to any normal activity. No item in the boat stays in its place unless constrained, including ourselves. If you put something down, anywhere, as soon as it is released it lifts directly from where you put it and flies away. Try cooking a meal, doing the dishes or even poring a glass of fruit juice; nearly impossible. It takes two hands to do it and then there is no hand left to secure yourself, so you and whatever you are holding fly away only to crash into the next solid thing. You learn new skills of working one handed and planning every slightest operation. The surface of the stove, which, being gimbaled, is not motion free but its movement does not cause items to fly off of it, and it becomes your only ally. You can place things there, however briefly, and they rest. So you use the stove even when not cooking. The sink can hold a few things, so you use it too. You learn these new skills by necessity.
When working on the computer the mouse becomes a missile on a leash. You have to put it way after each click. To type you lean on the computer keyboard to preempt the motion which wants to fly you there anyway. Even that is risky; I was thrown onto my beloved new Dell Studio laptop computer and my elbow broke the glass on the LCD screen and it is slowly degrading. Right now there is magenta and red blood dripping from the crack. Its demise is imminent which saddens me because I love this computer; it is my joy and my tool and my entertainment. I am so sorry I broke it.
Even sleeping is difficult because your body is thrown up and down and from side to side in the bed. We wake up with sore arms, backs, shoulders, and necks from fighting the motion in our sleep.
On deck you have the same issues of motion but added the constant wind and spray. Try to read a book and the pages flutter like bird's wings unless you hold them both in place. The spray flecks the pages with water spots until the book is soggy. The motion carries away the cookie you took with you. Going to the foredeck or aft you need to walk like a cat with at least one hand grabbed onto something solid at all times, even then you get thrown around. Your fear is being thrown off the boat so you wear a harness which gets tangled in your feet and everything else.
But we cope with all of this. We eat, sail, cook, read, work on the computer, work on the boat, clean things, pump things; all of it. Sometimes life seems really good. This afternoon Judy is on the settee reading and drinking wine, Pierre is on deck, standing his watch with a camera and a good Grisham novel and I am sprawled in the aft cabin reading a religion textbook in a pool of warm sunlight coming in through the open hatch. We are sitting around reading, listening to music, and standing our lazy daytime watches while the boat rocks, rolls, and sails itself onward. It is the life on the sea.
But, we are two days away from being in port.
That arrival will be a happy moment; things will be still for a change.
Fred & Judy & Pierre, SV Wings, Indian Ocean