Sunday 16 September 2012

3rd Leg Day 5: Waiting For The Wind And Other Decisions

How far can you motor on 100 liters of diesel? How much food is left over? How far still to go? How much counter current can we expect? Where can we buy diesel if we have to? When will the wind come through?

These are some of the questions that start to pervade one's thinking in conditions like we are having at present. The overnight low temperature was 28ºC/82ºF. And we have no wind. In fact, that may be technically incorrevt. We do have wind. The swells that come past make their own wind, making the boat's wind vane do spins. At least it provides some element of cooling, even if it just mills the hot air around.

We are motoring at about four knots, but making way at less, sometimes more, depending on the counter current that we go through. It is excruciatingly slow.

So we start making plans. About getting this trip over and done with. All and sundry ideas to make the boat go faster. Most based on wishful thinking and a prayer for wind. A good friend in the sailing industry once remarked that delivering a boat is not sailing, it is boat sitting. Rather like baby sitting. Except this one is prone to the vagaries of the wind and weather. And becomes very expensive and high maintenance when there is no wind and you are under way. In this instance it feels like boat sitting in the transcendental degree of comparison. You dig deep in your personal psychological resources to keep sane.

One wonders how the sailors of old kept sane in windless conditions. Sitting there becalmed and at the mercy of the sun. Nowhere to hide. The cabins are getting hot enough to make them feel like a sauna during the day. We all pray for some relief after sunset, that the hot air may vent out of the boat and allow some respite from the heat.

The conversation on board now centers on the future. What are we going to do when we get home. The adjustment to the rat race and urban living. The crowds. The summer season in South Africa is on us, the shops probably preparing for the Christmas season already. We have missed winter, biltong, the braais, red wine and friends. But it seems that there will be some catching up. Especially on the red wine and steak on the coals. And there is always the new horizons and plans for a better life. It is good to dream and plan a little while you have the opportunity. It lies easy on the mind and one can do it uninterruptedly here on board.

The night was quite interesting. Instead of having clear skies, there is a haze lying on the horizon. This gives an impression that you are submerged in the ocean. The water is smooth and the surface looks oily close to the boat. As your gaze goes further afield, you look into the haze and there is no horizon, just this dark mass of haze. Then, looking higher up, the haze thins and the stars start peering myopically through the haze. Right above us the stars are shing brightly. Perhaps we have transmuted into a fairy tale, a bit like the Tales of Narnia, where one enters into a different world by going through some form of gate. Some science fiction stories have a star gate. And we are approaching a traditional celestial star gate with the equinox coming up on 22 September.

Well, we travelled through such a gate. A real gate. It's called The Narrows and takes one from the Caribbean Sea into the North Atlantic. For my money it is a totally different world, not much different from the fantasy world of literature. We may well have travelled into a different world, for all we know. For us it is easy now to associate ourselves with being in a fantasy world. We don't have effective contact with the outside world, except for a few text messages. No TV, radio, newspapers or other external media to influence us.

We are also passing the Dominican Republic and, hopefully soon, Haiti. The origin of voodoo, the world of traditional pagan magical rites. There may be something in this after all. We do create our own reality, don't we? One can easily get sidetracked in these conditions.

We have seen other signs of life on land in addition to the birds that came to visit yesterday. A small butterfly fluttered around the boat, then on, into the wild blue yonder, away from land. Also, we now have flies on board. Perhaps another form of refugees from these lands of rife paganism?

And then the wind came, at the end of the day. At dusk. A blessed wind that is carrying us gently along at around four and a half knots over the ground. The sea is still quite flat with long, even swells of about two meters and small wavelets of around half a meter splashing merrily in our wake, making a restful musical sound. And no drone of diesel engines. It is now getting on for seven hours of this wind. Not using any diesel fuel, sailing along quietly at a pace that gives a comfortable movement to the boat.

The mood on board lifted discernably and there are happy, smiling faces shining relief all around.

A soulful end to our doldrums indeed.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

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