Day One: We're Outta Here!
Wed. Jun 23, 2004, 0800h - The official start to our Journey, although the preparations started years ago. After more last minute glitches and 'administrivia' than I ever thought possible we are finally motoring away from the dock at West Bay Marina. Bjarne's parents are there in the grey morning waving goodbye until we can no longer see them. A few tears mingle with the light rain that starts just as we pull away.
The winds are predicted to get fairly strong over the day so we start out with two reefs in the mainsail. While we putter along with our reduced canvas, the Vic-Maui racers who started at 1000h that morning go whipping by us with lots of sail, along with burley crew hanging off the gunnels (a.k.a. ballast).
We are still settling. We left Victoria with more than a few things unfinished. Many of them we can manage without, but it nibbles at the back of my mind that we didn't get the jack lines out or our safety harnesses which tether to the jack lines. I worry that we're already taking short cuts regarding safety but also feel too tired to bother with fixing it. Sleep has been in limited supply for the last few days and we are beginning this journey feeling close to exhausted.
I had been hoping for an easy, light wind start to this voyage, but we are not so lucky. By the afternoon we have head winds that are 34-37 knots (gale force is 35 kts or about 70 kilometers/hr). Freya, who normally feels quite spry, seems to be pounding into the waves. To give her credit, she did just put on about 3000 pounds, not all of which has been distributed in the best way. The v-berth at the bow is just too big of a space to resist stuffing things into, despite nautical wisdom that recommends being stern heavy. This gives me something else to worry about - just how much does the weight imbalance increase the risk of pitch-poling (when the stern flips over the bow - nasty stuff)? Of course this is a very rare thing to happen, and certainly wimpy little 35 kt winds wouldn't do it, but still I wonder.
The term "shake down cruise" takes on new meaning as things begin to rattle loose. Suddenly our speed drops. The Genoa (largest foresail) is dragging in the water. It is still in the sail bag, which is obviously not as well secured to the deck as we thought. I chide myself for not trusting my first impressions, as this morning I had some qualms about how it was tied and then discounted them as being a bit obsessive. We manage, with difficulty, to haul the sucker back on board. There is some tearing of the sail bag but no critical damage. The supposedly well secured anchor is the next culprit. Bjarne manages to jury-rig something and the loud banging is tamed. However, while at the bow he notices that the hawse pipe lid is not staying closed. This could allow a fair amount of water into the anchor locker, and the last thing we need is more weight at the bow. This problem is more tenacious. Duct tape doesn't stick to the wet metal. We decide to plug the hole with plumber's wax but then can't find where it got put during the stuffing frenzy. Again Bjarne jury-rigs something. Now it is his turn to chide himself as he had initially planned to screw the lid down but was talked into trying something else. We've had enough shaking down at this point and decide to put a third reef in, and reef the staysail. At this point in our journey we are still not very fast with the reefing and have forgotten the lesson we learned last time we reefed, which was, take down the jib first. We remind ourselves of the merit of that approach when we debrief the reef. With such a small amount of sail up our angle of heel decreases to a very comfortable level and we are no longer pounding into the waves. We also aren't moving very fast, and in fact, end up being pushed back a bit by the current, but this is a sacrifice we are willing to make at the moment, while we regroup.
Probably because there isn't enough sail up, and perhaps because we don't entirely trust her yet, Hellena is having difficulty, so I am hand steering. This is not a problem except for the difficulty of trying to eat with one hand while the boat is bouncing around and the wind is blowing the rice off of my spoon before I can get it to my mouth.
Hellena, by the way, is our Monitor wind vane, which steers the boat for us. Her full name is Hellena Ann De Basquette, which is where we hope she doesn't take us. She will turn out to be a very valuable crew member.
The wind gradually eases to about 25 kts and each of us manages to get a bit of sleep over the next few hours while we slowly make our way along the Strait of Juan De Fuca, avoiding the shipping lane.
It's 0400h. I've been on shift for about an hour and a half and am feeling rather tired. There is a hint of light as dawn approaches. Suddenly I am hearing the splashes and puffs of porpoises. Initially, I can barely see them but the night relents over the next hour, allowing me to witness these beautiful creatures whooshing and zipping around the boat.
Whew! We made it through the first day.
We don't get clear of the Strait until Thursday afternoon, but are happy to leave it behind and celebrate with the help of Roger's Chocolates.
The winds are light off and on for the next few days. We discover that even when there isn't wind, there are almost always swells, which bounce the boat around in a most uncomfortable manner, making the simplest of tasks feel quite Herculean. In fact, when this first happens we are so frustrated by the motion that we motor through the night. Over the next few days, we learn that the swells are present quite often. Our improving ability to figure out which sail combination to use for which condition allows us to keep our speed up more often, which decreases the effects of the swells, somewhat. Mainly we learn to tolerate them, having no other choice, but this motion becomes one of the most wearing aspects of the journey. At times I curse and yell out, STOP DOING THAT! It doesn't seem to have a lot of effect. One day I am eating a bowl of cereal in the cockpit when suddenly I am pitched across to the other side, into Bjarne, and then abruptly tossed back to my seat as the boat lurches again the other way. Amazingly, I hold onto the bowl the whole time and not one drop is spilled! I am quite impressed with myself but would still be happy have a few moments of no movement.
It's pretty cold, especially at night for the first week, actually the first couple of weeks. This makes the watches more difficult. I find myself huddling under the dodger and hardly moving to conserve heat. Every time we have to change back into our clothes for our watch it takes 10-15 minutes to get all of the layers on, including wet weather gear and safety harness. Spending hours in wet weather gear which does not breathe gets a bit unpleasant although having good clothing underneath that keeps the moisture away from the skin helps. Nonetheless, we start leaving our stuff inside out when we crawl into bed so that it can dry out. This of course increases the dressing time.
We don't see the sun much for the first few days. Finally, on the 28th we get some relief and quickly sprawl our damp clothing all over the cockpit to dry it out. Even when things have not had water on them directly, they still feel quite damp.
Our progress is fairly slow for the first week, partly because of some light winds, and partly because we consciously decide to have reduced sail up, especially for the night shifts. I notice that the same strength of wind seems much stronger at night. It takes a while for us to get used to how loud it sounds at night in the cabin when we are hurtling through the darkness at 6 kts. During our sleep shifts both of us would awaken with some particularly loud bang of a wave and call out, "are you still there?" I think I am the worst culprit for this behaviour. One of the things I fear the most is that I'll wake up and find that Bjarne has fallen overboard in the night. Hence we have been pretty diligent about wearing our safety harnesses at night, even when it's calm. Eventually we get more comfortable with greater levels of speed and it takes more to wake us up.
Early on in the journey I learn that it is possible to fall asleep standing up. I notice this when I am on watch and suddenly my knees give way and I am falling forward. I wake up quickly at this point and assume I've only been out for a few seconds. Bjarne and I have both found ourselves reaching for something that someone is handing to us while on watch, only to suddenly realize we were dreaming. We try various things to stay awake. Having something to do makes a huge difference. Sometimes we read or write but it's awkward to hold the light and your book or journal, especially if the waves are doing their best to dislodge you from your seat. The light is of course hard on the night vision as well. Eating is a favourite. I personally like a nice cup of tea (or a cuppa as the Brits would say). Bjarne reports vigorous callisthenics helps. I've been known to do front snap kicks. As I'm singing along with the Arrogant Worms (very entertaining songs, often with a good Canadian focus) or dancing to Blondie, I just hope there's no secret camera in the cockpit.
<Bjarne:> Of necessity, we've been getting our sleep in many shorter chunks during the night and often in the afternoon. I was surprised one evening to discover just how efficient my napping had become. It was around 7 pm that I lay down, intending to try for an hour or hour-and-a-half of shut-eye. I woke up feeling rather refreshed, checked my watch, and concluded that I was now ready to take my turn at the helm. On arriving on deck, Barb looks at me, surprised, and asks whether I had been unable to sleep. I replied, "Nope, I managed to get a good nap in." Barb laughs at this and informs me that only about ten minutes have passed since I lay down. Guess my power-nap was pretty potent! <:Bjarne>
The transition between asleep and awake is becoming harder for me as I am becoming quite disoriented.. After one nap I awoke lying on my back and thought I was standing up. Nothing in the cabin was oriented that way of course and I couldn't figure it out. When I noticed the lee cloth holding me in bed I realized I must be lying down. At that point, it felt like I rotated back and the whole cabin lined up correctly. Other times I awaken and I think I'm in the cockpit but of course there is all of the stuff from the cabin around me. I feel very confused and it doesn't make sense for minute until I wake up more, or can focus on something I recognize. It's a very weird feeling.
Both of us are hearing voices. The noises that the wind makes or the various creaks and groans of the boat sound quite human sometimes. After a couple of weeks out I am now calling out from the cabin when I'm supposed to be asleep, asking Bjarne what he said to me. At least I'm not asking as often whether he's fallen overboard.
I think the swells with the concomitant rolling and tossing, and the sleep deprivation are the most difficult aspects of the journey for me.
Eek, a leak... all heck breaks loose!
On July 3rd we are happily sailing along when the steering suddenly goes. The jury-rigged tiller attachment had chafed through. Time to fix it for good. Bjarne has to drill two holes in a stainless steel plate with the hand drill. This turns out to be a time-consuming but successful endeavor. Ah, that's done, we are back on course and can relax... not! I then notice that the mattresses in the v-berth were wet. Sure enough it is salt water. We roundly curse our friends who said we were going to sea in a sieve, on the grounds that they jinxed us. After that we haul out a bunch of stuff from that area to figure out where the heck it's coming from. Back to that hawse pipe lid fix that BJ jury-rigged on the first night... time to fix that right, dag nabbit. Whilst getting some stuff for that repair Bjarne notices that the epoxy resin has leaked and the locker it is in is a mess. So, we haul all that stuff out too and wipe off everything. The boat is in chaos and it is getting closer to nightfall, a light rain starts and the winds are starting to pick up. We heave to again and work away amidst the tossing of waves. Finally around 9 we are eating a supper of canned stew, heated up with great effort because of the bouncing around. We are plumb-tuckered out.
After two weeks I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the ocean and the realization that I have another two weeks to go. A good novel, a day of lazing around, and a decent amount of sleep all help perk me up and the blahs don't last very long. We also celebrated the "halfway to Hawaii" mark around this time. The brownies I made to celebrate this auspicious occasion were rather an ordeal to make (back to those blasted swells) but were worth the effort.
We have only one medical emergency during the passage. I managed to get a very painful rope burn on my hands when we weren't quick enough in getting the spinnaker down before a little squall hit. I kind of thought those clouds looked suspicious and I regretted not acting sooner. An instant ice pack helped, as did some lidocaine, although neither lasted as long I wanted. For that amount of initial pain, I was surprised and relieved that the burn healed up quickly.
For the last week and a half of the journey (except the last couple of days) we are blessed with lots of sunshine and decent winds. There are even some days when we can work on some projects from our to-do list, instead of just doing the day to day stuff. It is amazing how little free time there can be when one is underway, especially if there is a day of many sail changes. We have to remind ourselves to drink enough water. We also discover that things go bad really fast in the heat. A container of soy milk goes bad by the next day after it is opened. That wasn't as awful as it sounds since soy milk doesn't really taste that good, but still, we have to be careful about not having left-over stuff. Oh darn, we'd better eat all of those rice crispie squares...
Finally we are close enough to get a Hawaiian radio station. We are almost there!
July 19. At last we are sitting tied up at dock in Hilo, after 26 and a half days at sea. Wow. The boat is still. We've showered and had ice cream. I am looking forward to sleeping through the night. The simplest things can bring a huge amount of pleasure.