Sunday, April 12, 2009

From s/v Circadia

Saturday, April 11, 2009, Day 20
Noon position: 6 degrees, 11 minutes S, 134 degrees, 47 minutes W
Distance travelled: 2416 nm

We have lost the wind again, just under 300 miles from the Marquesas. This is a phenomenon I notice often when sailing, a kind of reverse relativity—the closer you get to your final destination, the more slowly you approach it—distance increases or time lengthens, I’m not quite sure which, until it feels like the smallest span will take an infinite amount of time to cross. At any rate, soon we will have to turn off our engine and simply bob around out here until the predicted wind comes in. Meanwhile we have the sky to entertain us: the horizon trimmed with a continuous cloud frieze of towers and arches, and closer clouds like hot air balloons just loosed from their tethers floating up and over the boat; squalls which drag transparent curtains of rain shot with rainbows.
Yet despite our slow progress there is a feeling of anticipation building. Everyday we see signs that we are approaching land: plastic bottles and fishing floats, a far-off boat, birds which breed here (Tahiti Shearwaters, Sooty Terns, Frigate birds). Conversations drift to what we will do when we get to there: check emails, find a Laundromat, eat out, have a good bottle of wine, take a long freshwater shower…I expect we will all quickly scatter to spend some time to ourselves. (Though it is amazing how one can find privacy on a 40-foot boat—bow, cockpit, side decks, aft cabin, forepeak, the main salon—four people can each find a little space for themselves.)
Most of our fresh food is gone; we have a few eggs, some cheese, 2 oranges, 2 apples, 2 grapefruits, a bag of onions, a few potatoes, three beets, one yam, and a half dozen of the invincible jicamas. We’re hoping for another fish but meanwhile we are surviving on dried and canned beans, pasta, rice, canned vegetables and fruit; every couple of days Kim and Farlyn make bread.
After I finished the last paragraph I went up to watch the glassy water and to try to conjure wind, but another phenomenon, a law of sailing physics you might say, is that a watched wind never blows. Fortunately another law states that things change. Somehow it’s easy out here to think that when the wind is blowing it will blow forever, never giving you respite from a heeling boat and that when it is windless, you will always be wallowing in swells, losing hope. Anyway, while I was sitting on the bow I saw a sleek dark form leap out of the waves. It was so big at first I thought it was a dolphin. I had a brief movie play through my head that went like this: this big tuna is going to swim to the back of the boat and take the lure we have been dragging for days, then Tavish, who is watching “So I Married an Axe Murderer” on my computer, is going to miss the last scene as he jumps up to pull in the fish. Moments later Kim shouted “fish!” At the end of the line the very fish I saw, a 25 pound yellowfin tuna. Like the skipjack we caught last week it was hydrodynamic, with “recess-able” fins, including the spiny dorsal fin, which slid into a slot on its back. It’s skin was opalescent, its fins and scutes brilliant yellow. It was such a beautiful and astonishing creature, like pulling a small god out of the water. We might have thrown it back, but it was already bleeding and we will keep what we don’t eat to give away when we get to the islands.
Post Script: while we were all busy with the tuna a little whiff of wind came in…


materfamilias said...

so did Xeno have a sailing paradox?
I'm sure you'll get there soon, at any rate, and we'll all be cheering for you back home!

Chris Skelton said...

Alison- I love the tunas also. I just got a small specimen this year to use in my ichthyology course. It is hard to make people understand just how perfectly they are designed for swimming. The grooves for the fins are one my favorite adaptations in the fish world. I looked for your location on Google Earth last week. It gave another dimension to my imaginations of what you are seeing out there....and what you are not. You know every time I read your posts I can't help but sing to myself- "Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas...."

Alison Watt said...

well, we did make it, paradoxes and all! What an adventure. I've been thinking about you, cleaning up your term, dreaming of Paris, no doubt

yes, Tuna are every bit as wonderful as quetzals! (still have to see the later though).

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