Sunday, July 26, 2009

Artist Aground- last post

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. ~Jane Austen

I can’t say I wish I’d stayed home these last ten months, but it is good to be back. Back among friends and back in my neighbourhood, the cozy, gossipy, crazy, infuriating, wonderful Protection Island. And great to find nothing much has changed: winter has come and gone, leaving a few casualties in my garden (my jasmine and my variegated fuchsia) and a new granddaughter to my good friend Frances. Oh, there have been the usual community feuds over various issues, which in the summer seem to mysteriously evaporate. And there have been the usual capers: the project to replace many island toilets with low flush models, which were barged over en masse and transported around the island with great ceremony in a poo-rade. Or the day one islander set a piano on Satellite Reef (while it was exposed briefly by one of the summer's lowest tides) in the middle of the harbour, for a performance and party.

I have been home for 10 days, enjoying day after day of classic Strait of Georgia summer, clean winds and clear skies. The wild grass in front of my house, which begins the summer brilliant green and lush, is golden and everything smells of dry fir needles and hot sap.

In my house, I wander from room to room, marvelling at all the space. I open and shut the refrigerator, amazed by the fresh food: three types of cheese, bags of arugula, bottles of chilling wine. I take long baths and help myself to clean towels. I sit in a chair on the porch watching the sunrise, or explore the corners of my garden, the overgrown forest at the back, the pond, the rhododendron dell. I putter in my studio, pulling out supplies and thumbing through art books. My home feels like a kingdom. And I feel rich.

Last night at 3am. Circadia completed her Pacific circle. Kim had promised to call me before he arrived at the dock here on the island, so I could be there to meet him. I slept through the phone ringing and didn’t wake until I heard someone having a long shower.

Circadia at the dock, Protection Island

He has captained the boat for over 10,000 nautical miles and will spend the next days having a well-deserved rest before he unpacks all his office boxes in the attic, brushes off his skull, and begins the process of re-opening his practice.

..the tired mariner.

I am already back in my studio most days, painting and preparing for the classes I will give in the next few months. And I am back at my desk, working on writing projects.

my studio

I will miss writing blog posts. Yes, this is my last one. As I have said before on this blog, your presence has meant a lot to me this year. You were my community and I often felt your interest and support on the slender thread of this journey over a wide ocean. I have learned a great deal from this year, some of which I already knew, but have been reminded of once again--that the fear which keeps us from doing the things we dream of is worth wrestling with (or at least ignoring). I wasn’t always as strong as I would have wished, as funny, or as brave, but I did it anyway, and it was a hell of a ride.

And thanks again for coming along with me!! Consider this an invitation to stop by my studio on Protection Island (23 Hispanola Place), check my website, or email me, if you have any questions or would like to be on my email list for shows and classes.

And so, Jane, I would say, perhaps there is nothing like staying home for comfort, but there is nothing like coming back after a long absence for appreciating it profoundly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

s/v Circadia

Currently at 48 degrees, 06 minutes north, 132 degrees, 37 minutes west.

In retrospect our travel in the last several days has been concerned with the North Pacific High. A high pressure area has been developing in the area of 45 degrees north and 135 degrees west. On July 19 (at 44.33 N 141 W), after a few days of picking up the leavings of a weak low pressure system we were able to hoist the spinnaker heading due north in a southeast wind (starboard tack). During the next three days until 0430 this morning the wind gradually veered*, becoming southerly, then increasingly southwesterly. As a consequence we turned more east and by early this morning were actually having to sail a bit southeast to keep the sails full. What was happening is that we were sailing around the developing high and the winds we experienced were spinning out of it.

The high is developing into a ridge that extends from here to northern Vancouver Island and it is fusing with the main high to the south. At 0430 we jibed and are now heading a bit east of north, magnetic 15 degrees is our course. We hope that the wind continues to veer and will fuse with the northwesterlies that come down the BC coast. If so, we should find our course gradually coming more easterly so that we line up with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

At 0430 it was broad daylight and I realized we were a bit late with our time zone changing.

The GRIB files suggest that this developing high will snuff those nice westerlies you are having on Friday/Saturday, and perhaps the last part of our voyage will be diesel powered.

*Veer, a verb, according to the OED means to let off a sheet, turn downwind, or for the wind to blow from more behind. It comes from an old french root. However it is used by modern sailors to describe when wind changes in a clockwise direction (looking at the planet) as opposed to "backing" when the wind is changing anti-clockwise, and somehow the OED people haven't picked this up tsk, tsk.

From a natural history point of view we were visited by a large herd of dolphins in the night, giving a great phosphorescent show. It appears they were staging under the hull and then springing forward in synchronized groups of 8 to 12 swimming abreast. This went on for at least half and hour and then I think they triggered the shallow depth alarm by sitting under the depth sounder, alarming the sleepers. By the time the kerfluffle was settled they were gone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

s/v Circadia

... we have been sailing due east along 47 degrees and 10 minutes north with 10 to 13 knot southwesterly winds and the red spinnaker. We can't make a more northerly course because of the wind angle. It was sunny this morning, now a kind of bright overcast. You get the idea--it just thick enough to obscure the sun, no thicker. It is a bit sleepy but we are steadily counting down meridians every 45 miles, currently the 136th one. We are interested to see what happens when we encounter this so called high pressure ridge at about 134 West - naively hoping very little, we'll just keep sailing.

We just saw the first freighter on the AIS that is heading for Vancouver. I was dozing in the forepeak a few hours ago and Michael saw an animal that probably was a fur seal based on his description. It had prominent flippers, a whiskery face and relatively light colour. The field guide says that this is breeding season but not all animals breed; so perhaps this animal was unlucky in love and just decided to stay at sea with the mackerel and anchovies and squid, nursing its woes.

Another sign that we are finally getting to the Pacific Northwest is that the closest Sailmail Station is Friday Harbour; I've said good bye to the incredibly efficient Honolulu station.

I don't know about the John Banville book - it could be characterized as that of a complaining Irishman or alternately as a book by a man whose wife has just died, neither really light reads, however I am trying to think of it as a coming of age type of story to keep my spirits up. And it is beautifully written. It occurs to my that the travel book by the dutch fellow must be somewhere aboard; I will be reviewing the bookshelves again.

Hinge fell off head door. A Joycean phrase. Fortunately that is the only boat related problem that developed today; everything seems fine otherwise.

Well, that is all the news from Circadia.

Au revoir, love Kim

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

s/v Circadia

We have 644 miles to Cape Flattery, that is about 750 to Nanaimo. Things are going pretty well. There is a high centred at 45 N and 135 W. Though the GRIBs do not show this there has been southeast wind flowing from the high to our position west of it. My theory is that the high is emptying into a low pressure system that was supposed to have arrived today but never did. These things do not show up on the Gribs. Practically we have been moving well north and bit east with these southeasters, using the red spinnaker. Just now at noon the wind is easing some but we plan to continue northeast from our current position at 46.34 N / 140.30 W and turn towards Juan de Fuca at about 47.5. There is a chance that the wind will just carry us around the high and we won't have to do much. There is then a low pressure system which should arrive sometime Tuesday with southwesterlies that should push us along. Capiche?

It does feel like there are more birds now than there were. We passed a zone with several albatross sitting on the sea, a fishy smell and then caught a tuna whose stomach was full of squid. We passed another similar scene this morning but didn't have a hook down. The water temperature is 13.5, about what you get off Willows Beach. Lots of petrels, some shearwaters. I have to say that I have given up trying to speciate them.


Monday, July 20, 2009

s/v Circadia

Things are pretty much how you would imagine out here. There is disappointing news about the wind. A high pressure ridge is developing between us and the coast. (we are at 44 north, 141 west). This is a zone of no wind and it also has the effect of filling and deflating the low pressure that was supposed to overwhelm us today with southwesterlies. So, we're droning along headed due north at 1300 rpm going between 2.5 and 4.5 knots depending on what zephyrs we can use for extra speed. We're down to about 15 gallons of fuel and there is a very real possibility that we will spend some days rocking back and forth with slatting sails waiting for the high pressure to disappear. Alternately we may be able to get around the top of the high which is at 48 or 50 degrees, if we ever run into actual wind so we can sail up there. One would say that I am being spanked by Aeolius for daring to calculate our arrival date when still 800 miles offshore.

It is Sunday morning. I have had my coffee and some cold pancakes spruced up with some honey from bees that frequented only madadamia nut flowers. It is overcast and I am sitting in the cockpit on green cushions wearing a toque, my reading glasses, a Loreto t shirt, my variegated blue merino shirt, my grey sturgeon sweater, my snazzy oregon research wind jacket, long underwear, shorts and my Musto Offshore pants, wool socks and deck shoes. I've moved to non-fiction in the form of the Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker. Only bird today = Laysan Albatross.

St Matthews Passion last Sunday, I think it will Mozart's Grand Mass today.

My life in a nutshell

A bientot, Love Kim

Addendum: Now sailing with red spinnaker, feeling good. I have realized that when I smile my canine tooth jabs my lip right into the wound. The Mass was excellent. Only Mozart would have a sexy soprano singing the Credo. Saw another flock of jaegers, several Laysan sitting on the sea. Michael caught a little tuna, sprucing up dinner.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

s/v Circadia

41 degrees N, 142.5 degrees north and 142 degrees west.46 W
July 17
Last evening we had 13 jaegers milling about the vessel. They were likely Pomarine jaegers, though as I read about them I realized identification can be difficult. We seem to be visited by birds at sunrise and sunset. This morning when I awoke we were sailing, then we had pancakes. One of my favorite times on the boat is when the other two crew members are asleep and I am alone in the cockpit. Such was the case this morning and I was reading your book. Then the wind lessened and I had to hand steer to nurse her along; now the wind is 5 to 6 knots and the motor and autopilot aredoing the work. We are pointed at Juan de Fuca 894 miles away but there is a little high pressure between here and there that should be swept away by a little low pressure system on Sunday. So, I think we will have fluky winds till then, and hopefully will really crack on after that. There is a current of half a knot at least pushing us, so our daily runs seem good even on a wimpy day like today.

July 18:
We had another flock of birds around the boat last p.m. but they were ruddy turnstones (15) rather than jaegers. I think the jaegers were parastic not pomarine. We are seeing Blackfooted Albatross several times a day and today saw our first Laysan. Lots of vallela (is that how you spell the sailing jellies?)
It is getting cold here - the water is 16 degrees C.

We are at 800 miles to Flattery. Yesterday's run 88 miles. Ugh. There have been light north easterlies !%&!### for the last 24 hours and we have spent much of that time tacking towards home motorsailing at 3 to 4 knots. Ugh. Hopefully a southwester associated with a low tonite or tomorrow, but still no reliable sign of it in the sky and the barometer remains high. Solar panels both shorted out at the deck, haven't fixed them yet as we are motoring so much we have lots of power. Fridge is off.
Tonite the crew will get their first hash experience and there's been a lot of talk about it already.

Love Kim

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

from s/v Circadia

Morning: We are at 37 degrees, 49 minutes north and 151 degrees 53 minutes west at 11 a.m. The wind has come around to westerly but is as yet only 7 knots so we continue to motor sail. Within the next 100 miles we should come into sailable wind. I got a reassuring email from Kevin (*our navigator friend, who is expert at Pacific weather) that they may not have to bury our desiccated bones after we expire floating gently around in the North Pacific High. The sea temperature is now 21 degrees and it is fairly cold at night so a person wears long underwear, trousers and rainpants just to stay warm on watch. Last fresh food is disappearing - it was Pork Chops, mashed potatoes and caramelized carrots last night.

Afternoon: Now broad reaching at 7 knots with engine off in 12 to 14 knots of wind. Wind will likely come ahead of the beam within the next 24 hours. The hydrovane doesn't keep up with this situation like it did upwind so we are using the electric pilot. Neither crew is interested in steering and there is no sun. I think the fridge is going to have to go. It is 1400 miles to Victoria.

Monday, July 13, 2009

from s/v Circadia

Today we're at 32 degrees 52 minutes north and 155 degrees 7 minutes west at 2 p.m. What a difference a day makes. We had a beautiful sail gradually becoming a broad reach until the wind expired at 2:30 a.m. and we began to motor sail. We still have 2 to 6 knots of wind aft of the beam. We have run into a lobe of the high that looks like it may be several hundred miles wide. The sky is blue - it is hot - the water is rippled with some swell- we have seen one sooty shearwater tody - I have seen some flotsam including what looked like a soggy loaf of bread. I have chosen to cross this patch mainly to the north at a heading of 005 magnetic rather than head to Flattery at magnetic 044 because it looks like there is no wind for most of the way in that direction which still is over 1600 miles away. The passage looked fast up until now.

I just now have finished Lolita a dynamite novel. Beautiful writing leaps out intertwined with plot, and other references, so that it is hard to make a simple quote to illustrate.

You would recognize the dietary things that are going on. We've got leftovers of the previously frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts but otherwise they are gone. We are looking forward to the lean rib eye steaks and the potential of tuna in the next few days. Various items do not seem to be present in the stores; I am sure I didn't purchase some of them but others may be lurking under something at the bottom of a locker that I haven't quite emptied.

Usual boat maintenance issues: had to replace the furling line again, solar panel electric connections are intermittent, a sail slide needs replacing. I'm really enjoying my weekend and hope you are too.

Really miss you

Love Kim

Friday, July 10, 2009

Further Travels of Circadia

I am in Vancouver now and Kim is sailing the boat back from Hilo. He and his crew, Michael and Line left Hawaii five days ago. Here's what Kim wrote today:
Today we passed 31 degrees. We are going more than 150 miles a day, approaching the high--the pressure was up to 1023 this morning. The winds have lessened and the seas are quite pleasant now. We took out the last reef and are beam reaching slightly east of north in 12 to 14 knots, predicted to lessen in strength gradually over the next few days on the grib files. We'll see. It is still hot in the cabin during the day and we can't yet open any windows.
I have managed to snare the evening to 2 a.m. watch for myself so far. I usually make dinner and then Line washes the dishes in an attempt to allow my hands to heal up. She has this product called NuSkin which is kind of a liquid crazy glue that forms a membrane over the wound. Then I send the emails and get the gribs. As it gets dusky, (last night at 8 p.m.) I put on my cute red suit with rainboots and collapse into the supine position on the downhill side of the cockpit with a glass of whiskey. Last night I had chocolate too. I put the AIS and Sea Me on and frankly often drowse intermittently through the whole watch. Some nights I am alerted by squalls or horrors, the need to reduce sail, but last night the wind was steady all night, the moon was just past full and it was very enjoyable. Scorpio is the prominent constellation to the south; Sagittarius right behind. I haven't seen the Southern Cross since Hawaii but then last night was the first night I might have seen it. Cassiopeia is high in the sky at sunset. I haven't seen Orion's Girdle yet. We charge at about 6 when I wake up from my real sleep and then the whole cycle of coffee, granola, grazing, reading, little boat jobs begins again.
I did see one masked booby yesterday. Today the big sighting was a large whale, heading north, repeatedly surfacing to blow and then moving underwater as if it were travelling. It had a fairly blunt head and a small dorsal fin. I didn't see any of those granulations one sees on the head of a humpback and I like to think it was a solo male Sperm Whale heading back up to the Bering sea to feed after performing his mating duties in the tropics. However it was too windy to see the direction of the spume and I really couldn't call it for sure.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Back in the Flow

Since we left San Diego in December we have been leading more or less a news free life. In Mexico the news just didn't seem to matter. And in French Polynesia, the void was widened by the language barrier. When we found an internet connection I would sometimes remember to check in on a Canadian or world news site--sometimes. I usually find that you think a lot is happening while you are away, and in fact nothing much changes.
But the first thing we heard on arriving in Hawaii was that Michael Jackson had died. And so we were ushered back not only into the news but the celebrity obsession of our culture.
Hawaii does it's best though, to put things in geological perspective. Unlike the islands we have been sailing through, heavily eroded (the Marquesas and Society Islands) and completely ground down (Tuamotus) volcanic islands, the Hawaiian chain is still being created and the big Island is the newest. In the last two years Kilauea peak has been especially active, a new crater appearing in the larger crater. As you approach it there are signs warning of unusually high sulphur dioxide emissions and stating that part of the circle road and all of the trails inside the caldera are closed. At night the visitor centre is crowded with people, shivering in the misty rain that always seems to be falling on this wet side of the island. They strain to see the red glow of the lava which rises and falls on its own mysterious tides within this new caldera. (In the day all you can see is an industrial plume of sulphuric steam). Meanwhile fresh lava pours into the sea to the east, enough every day to pave a double lane highway all the way around the island.

the new caldera

Yesterday we walked along one of the trails which goes through the high wet forest, under giant ferns and strange flowering trees, trying to find some of the surviving endemic birds. They tend to be brightly coloured, red or yellow, with curved beaks, adapted to feed on the tubular flowers of some of the plants which evolved here. Many birds once here are extinct and many are hard to find. But we did see some beautiful red male Apapanes.

Apapane (from

When people here get tired of the rain they drive to the other side, the dry, Kona coast. Which is what we did last week, for a few days to get off the boat and check into a hotel (clean linen, stacks of towels, a king-sized bed, those white bathrobes...!). And a few last days of tropical sun and water.

Koi pond, Kona hotel

young Black-crowned Night Heron, fishing in the koi pond

The resorts of Kona are startling, almost unbelievable feats of overly-green grass and fluorescent gardens, surrounded by miles and miles of barren black lava fields, the heat rising off them in oppressive waves. And yet, even here there is a kind of cultivation. People throw chunks of white coral collected from the beach into the trunks of their cars and drive them to the lava fields, carefully line up the wave smoothed coral on the ancient re-forged stone in brief devotions of the human heart: "I love you Matt" or "Happy Birthday Grandpa Dave".

Other than these excursions our time in Hawaii has been busy with catching up on emails and taking care of the details of the lives at home, which we'll be resuming soon. My computer crashed. Apparently it didn't enjoy it's year of sailing. So I have been pre-occupied with restoring files. And of course, there are the boat jobs. In general Circadia has proved to be a tough little boat. We had a sail tear, but no other major repairs, just the usual maintenance. And at the moment she is almost ready to set sail again, for the last leg of this journey. And now it's time to fess up. I will not be onboard for the sail home. I am flying to Vancouver tomorrow, to attend a writing course at UBC. Two new crew members are flying in to help Kim on the passage, one of whom is Michael, who kindly posted my offshore blog entries. I plan to continue postings on the progress of Circadia across the North Pacific, via sailmails from Kim.