BLOG POST BY ERICA LUSH
25 degrees 18.291’ S
105 degrees 16.718’E
True Wind Speed: 15 kts
Full main, J2 jib
673 miles to go!
The phrase “mountainous seas” is so apt in the conditions we had this weekend. The waves rise in height up above our heads, and even though they are rising and falling on all sides, they do seem solid like a mountain. The normal deep blue becomes darker and greyer as clouds block the sun. Once in a while you catch sight of a wave when it’s about eye level, and about to break – the sun pierces through the meniscus and refracts a bright, translucent cerulean, almost the color of our sails, reminding me that these mountainous masses are still comprised of liquid. The cerulean harkens to Bahamian beaches and the ocean’s gentler side. In gusts between the peaks, little flying fish looked like tiny bi-planes shaking unsteadily in their flight.
Living on our ears provides a healthy mix of emotions, whether we’re doing “the lean” a la Michael Jackson while mopping the floors or we’re willing our feet to stay planted as we strategize our movements. Sometimes life is so ridiculous we can’t help but laugh! Other times it feels irrefutably personal when your bowl upturns, or everything you walk past falls on the floor.
My favorite question for crew members in rough weather is whether they remember their dreams. Often the dreams are funny and somehow related to the boat’s motions. Today Amalia dreamt she was curled up inside an egg shell, breaking an underwater speed record – but fearing that her shell would break! Tilly claims she can realize that she’s dreaming without waking up and get herself to fly.
Yesterday afternoon I finished my watch with some helming on deck. A bit exhausted from cleaning duties earlier which had taken me longer than usual, I was ready to be relieved. My watch ended, Wendo came up, and as soon as I crept my way to the companionway there was a loud “BANG” and “All Hands on Deck!” I repeated the call down the hatch and clipped in to the windward jack line, running forward with Ayesha. The jib haulyard had broken. Ayesha and I positioned ourselves on the foredeck and Wendo headed up so we could pull down the sail.
Soon everyone was on deck, already prepping the second jib haulyard to re-hoist the jib when I saw the top 6” of bolt rope had pulled out. Quick change of plan! Half of us began pulling the jib aft on the windward rail while Tilly, Ayesha and myself tackled the staysail. I hopped down the forehatch to grab the sail, Tilly set up the inner forestay, and Ayesha hanked it on while I ran sheets. By then the jib had been leech flaked and bagged, tri-folded, and ready to go in the hole. Back down I went, sail following, hatch shut and locked from above.
I watched the staysail being hoisted through the hatch, and I started to feel helpless at my task: moving our big, wet J3 jib forward in the sail locker and tying it up to pad eyes on the starboard side. It’s big, extra heavy because it’s wet, and there’s nothing good to stand on and push against because the sides of the boat are curved and too far apart. Just in time there’s a knock on the bulkhead door and Amalia enters! Perfect timing. We form a game plan and after some sorry attempts, we decide to both lift the aft end of the tri-fold together, hold it up with a sail tie, then move forward together to lift the front end up and forward. Once the sail was elevated, we moved back to opposite ends and made the final adjustment. We were victorious!
Meanwhile Belle apparently came forward to check on us. She knocked on the same bulkhead door but we never heard her. She started making faces through the window but these too went unseen. It was a good thing we didn’t notice her because while she stood there waiting, she heard a noise from the machine space that had bothered her the previous night. When she opened that door she found the calorifier nearly detached from its brackets on the starboard (and windward) side of the hull!
Thus one minor emergency transgressed into another in an exciting evening on board Maiden. Courtney and Wendo both went to work in the machine space while the rest of us tried to get some rest before our night watches. Today we had lighter winds and moderate seas – which means the waves were smaller than they had been over the weekend. We ran the water maker for a while to replenish our supply of drinking water. We had the J2 jib up all day, with one reef in the main sail – sometimes full hoist. We are getting faster at reefing and un-reefing! It is good to feel like a team.
As the sea state and weather improved, everyone was spending more time outside of their bunks. We washed our dish towels and rags and hung them from the lifelines to dry since the sun is out and the spray is down. Tomorrow morning I will break out the Sailrite machine to repair the J3 boltrope. I expect this to take a fair amount of patience since the boat will be rolling around, but I’m excited for the challenge – and glad I took the time to learn my machine when we were still in port!
We expect easier conditions tomorrow, but more wind again later in the week. I think we will be tired of sailing upwind by then. This has been a long ocean passage! We are all excited to shower, and to eat food without the hurdles of cooking underway. There is so much we will miss, too. I know I will miss seeing the sunrise and sunset. On clear nights I’ve been learning about the constellations in this hemisphere. They are new to me! There is something compelling about the ocean; I will forever be drawn to it. That’s the thing about sailors. We can be knocked down one hundred times or be soaked to the bone in wet foulies. But given a warm shower, solid land and civilization – it is only a matter of time. We sailors will always find our way back to the sea.