Monday, December 6, 2010

Staring Into Darkness

It's 4:44 a.m. and I'm staring into darkness. I'm on watch for our 400 mile passage to Zihuatenajo. We are currently motor sailing as the True Wind speed is 2.7 knots coming from the North, which is directly behind us and too light to push us forward. With our starboard motor in overdrive (we only run one motor at a time), we are able to travel at over 8 knots (approx. 8 mph) running the engines at 2800 rpm. This is considered fast by sailboat standards. The engine temperature is around 180 degrees Celsius, which is good. Our autopilot is set at a course of 160 degrees, which is pretty much straight south. The radar screen stretching out into the 36 mile radius screen is completely blank as it has been for the last several hours, with the exception of the Tres Marias islands off our starboard side(which must be stayed clear of, given that they are prison islands according to our charts) and Isla Isabela, a bird sanctuary we visited when we were in the area last time, to our port. There is no moon, thus the darkness. Way up, the stars are incredibly vivid. Straight behind us, in the wake of the engine, bursts of phosphorescence illuminate the water. Other than that, it is difficult to see where the horizon is, where the ocean meets the sky. Given that we have a navigation station inside the cabin, I am able to monitor things in the warmth of the salon, but every 10 minutes or so, I go outside to do a quick check - temperature gauge on the engines are still looking good, sail is still looking good, and around us is still looking, well, dark. Not sure what I'm looking at in the vicinity. That's where your faith in your vessel and God come in. We hope it's not our turn to hit a lost container fallen from a container ship. We are very aware that most 'bad' things happen at night, but that's where we give up our control. We make sure someone is on watch at all times, we make sure our boat is in good sea-going shape, we wait for 'weather windows' before departing on a passage, we have our emergency procedures in place and our 'ditch' bags at the ready (the bags that you take with you when you have to ditch the boat, i.e. it's sinking - which is another blog post in and of itself) and the rest is up to the powers that be.

As we lie in bed trying to regain our rest for our next watch, we listen to every creak and sound that the boat makes. I'm still not totally used to these noises. Some of them sound like the boat is going to crack apart. Occasionally a wave comes and hits the inside of the hull and practically knocks me out of bed. Intellectually I know that this vessel can take much more than that, and hopefully much more than what we'll ever experience if we are prudent, but still the sounds are amplified inside the hulls where we lie awake listening. Anything out of the ordinary, and we jump up to question whoever is on watch.

The engine is purring after our 1000 hour service which had brought us to Mazatlan, where the only Yanmar-authorized mechanic in Mexico is located. Many boats have Yanmar motors, so you'd think there'd be more authorized mechanics around, but TIM (This Is Mexico - a phrase that I believe was coined by Toast Conger in her blog Toast Floats - see blogs listed at the right hand side of this posting). And like most things boat-related and/or Mexico-related, it took much longer than expected. I thought we were being conservative when we estimated we'd be in Mazatlan a week, and we left after two. Parts had to be shipped to Guadalajara for repair and service, new parts were ordered from elsewhere, and the engines were literally taken apart and put back together. This in and of itself is a cause for anxiety: The engines were working well before, but now that they've been tinkered with, what if they haven't been put back together properly? There was recently a sailboat that sank in the South Pacific due to a massive leak around the drive shaft after it had just been serviced due to faulty workmanship (google Aquila). Again, we try to be prudent, and the rest is up to the powers that be.

Our delay turned out to be a blessing, as noted in my last blog post. We saw the crew of Gypsy Wind every day, which included helping Kim celebrate her birthday - two years in a row! We could not have planned it better, and our two weeks took on a vacation-like feel to it, with lots of swimming and hot-tubbing, and way more restaurant meals and happy hours than we would have otherwise had. Perhaps it is their Eastern European roots that we share or their strong family values, but I do feel an incredibly strong connection to them. At one point Kim started talking to me in Russian and this couldn't have flattered me more. We watch closely and with admiration as they parent their two teenaged kids (and a third, who is close to Harrison's age - see Harrison's earlier blog about his friend Noah).

Time for me to pop outside to check the darkness, although the sky to our port is brightening up a bit by now and I can start making out the eastern horizon. No sight of land though, as we are more than 30 miles offshore. At least this far off, we hope to avoid fishing lines and running aground...

-Barb, at 21 degrees 08.713 minutes North by 105 degrees 53.244 minutes West
Posted by Single Sideband Radio in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

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1 comment:

  1. ...enjoy the peacfulness - just don't fall asleep at the wheel!
    Glad to hear that you have made such great friends. I'm sure you'll meet up with other such compatible people in the next episode of your new adventure.