Out on the Big Ocean

Tuesday, April 8, 2003, 9:00 p.m.

32 degrees north, 122 degrees west

Dear friends and family -- We are now about 50 hours into the trip from San Francisco to the Marquesas.  Every 9 or 10 hours we knock off another degree of latitude, and every day is noticeably warmer.  Tonight we are even with Baja California (Mexico) and about 300 miles to the west.  We're heading due south, rather than directly toward the Marquesas, to take advantage of some stronger winds.  Not that they're very strong, even here.  We have had between 10 and 20 knots of wind, from the north or northwest, for most of the trip so far.  And we've averaged 6.1 knots so far, which is excellent.  The weather has been warm and sunny, with few clouds.  We've been out of sight of land for most of the trip.  But when we were passing the Los Angeles area, we did notice that the haze on the horizon in that direction was considerably more brown.

It's very peaceful, rushing along through the water, no engine sounds, just the occasional creaking line, or the splash of an extra big wave.  I've managed to cut myself a heck of a deal on the watch schedule.  I'm doing all the cooking and dishes, in return for which I get NO NIGHT WATCHES, and I'm guaranteed (as much as possible) to like the food that is being served. 




I have lots of fruit and vegetables stored on our berth, in two big crates.  (We can't sleep there on passages, because there's no way to be contained by a leecloth, and the boat's motion is more pronounced.)  (So we're sleeping on the settees in the main cabin, contained by a leecloth on one side and the seatback on the other.) 

On my trip up to the fruit/veggie storage area today, I smelled the alarming smell of the kind of mold that oranges get.  So I've just spent an hour sorting and washing citrus fruit, finding one very moldy culprit and three others starting to show signs.  All four have been consigned to the briny deep.  Hopefully that's the end of that issue, but I'm going to encourage rapid orange consumption.

Our dinner tonight was pseudo-Mexican, in honor of crossing into Mexican waters.  I have a little bit of salsa which Marcela made last time we had Thanksgiving together (and which I have kept frozen), and that made a wonderful addition to the otherwise fake (but delicious) arroz con pollo.   

We've been accompanied at various times by dolphins -- singles, pairs, and big groups.  The most exciting group was this afternoon.  They were leaping out of the water, three abreast, riding our bow wave.  Brian has a theory that if you go up on the bow and wave your hands and shout, the dolphins are attracted, and will stay longer.  The only problem with that theory is getting up to the bow before the particular group decides to move on.  We don't allow people out of the cockpit without life vest and tether, and it actually takes a couple of minutes to get all kitted up that way.  The one time the dolphins stayed around (and did their three abreast leaps), Brian did make it up to the foredeck to "communicate" with the dolphins.  There is no doubt -- everyone was having fun, but especially Brian and the dolphins. 

Sailing at night seems much more difficult.  (That's one of the reasons I'm glad to have NO NIGHT WATCHES).  With the wind dead astern, there is always a risk of accidental jibes (NOT a good thing).  (For you non-sailors, it's when the main sail goes from a stable position at right angles to the boat in one direction, to a position 180 degrees from the first -- at right angles to the boat, but in the other direction.  It happens so fast -- in the blink of an eye -- that there is a serious risk of damaging sail or other gear.)  Last night, we were using our Monitor wind vane to steer.  It's an exotic looking contraption on the stern of the boat that mechanically translates wind direction into steering corrections.  Last night the rope used to control the wheel broke, causing the boat to suddenly steer in an unexpected direction (and causing one of those dreaded accidental jibes).  No damage, but it makes a loud noise, and everyone not already on watch was leaping out of bed to see what happened and what could be done to help.  Now repairs have been made, and a jibe preventer put in place, so hopefully the issue won't come up again.   

Our crew is interesting and compatible.  They both like my cooking (sure to earn a fond place in my heart) and they have different kinds of expertise, skills and experience to bring to the trip.  Brian has been working for several years for Anacortes Yacht Charters, and seems to know a lot about important (although sometimes mundane) boatkeeping tasks. AND, being a thin, flexible 19 year old, he can go into small places, and climb the mast -- things that the rest of us have no particular desire to do.  Jim (a geezer like us) has lots of life experience, sailing experience, and a calm and steady attitude.  Both have a good sense of humor -- something that is totally necessary when we're going to live together in such a confined space for several weeks. 

Doing email on the boat is kind of like juggling from the back of a bucking bronco.  The boat does move quite a lot, even in these gentle winds, and the mouse keeps sliding down the desktop.  If it crashes into something on the way down, a button may get pushed, which opens a menu.  If the thing I am in the middle of typing corresponds to something on the menu, the possibilities could be endless.  That could also be the explanation for any weird typos you may see. 

Best wishes to all-- 

Craig & Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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