Pacific Ocean Passage
April 28, 2016. Position S 00 57’53” W 090 57’45” Isabela Island, Galapagos. Wind 5-8, swell 0, sunny, air temp 25C, distance to destination 2923NM.
We are lifting anchor on sail, without engines. Mainsail up, bring the anchor, drift backwards to open the wind angle, open the jib, sail away. Pretty simple if there is enough space and enough wind. But the spot is tight, we are between many other anchored boats, and there is a shallow sandy patch not too far ahead. And no wind. The main is up and Ivo starts bringing in the anchor chain. Anchor out. No wind. We start drifting and the current is pushing us sideways towards the catamaran to our port S/V Free Spirit. I am freaking out, preparing a fender. The guy from Free Spirit is out looking at us puzzled, asking if our engines are broken as we pass by silently less than a meter away. I don’t know what to answer. The engines work fine, this is just Ivo’s stupid principle not to use them, including when dropping and lifting anchor. For me, these are the scariest moments of our life at sea, besides storms. I wish we are like normal people, motoring in and out of crowded anchorages and bays. I don’t think the risk is worth it. Ivo doesn’t think there is a risk…
Jib out. We are now picking up a bit of speed with very light wind and are heading directly for the shallow sand. S/V Free Spirit is now safely behind us, but I can still hear her skipper shouting in our direction: “It’s shallow there, you will run aground!” I am beyond freaked out, expecting the boat to bump on the bottom and get stuck any second now. We tack, just as I am about to faint, and we sail away from the dangerous shallows, passing too close in front of another boat, and then clear away, heading for the bay’s entrance and out to open sea.
The wind arrow on top of the mast is missing, after a frigate bird landed on it and broke it. Maybe the frigate bird chopped it off and stole it; maybe it flew away caring our wind arrow in its claws to his nest in the mangroves. In any case, Ivo couldn’t find it, even though he spent the whole afternoon the day before diving around the boat looking for it. Damn frigate bird! Hope he uses it as a Japanese sward to perform hara-kiri. This means we will be crossing the ocean without wind angle and direction indicator. We’ll have to rely on the good old ways- tying tale-tales (small light threads) on a few visible places on the shrouds. They will show us where the wind is coming from.
Thus, stressed, we begin the long journey across the biggest of oceans- the Pacific. We have been planning and preparing for this passage and we have been worrying (especially me) for many months now. We have been stocking up provisions since Puerto Rico- two years ago (some of which have already expired); we have been talking to more experienced sailors about strategies. We have been imagining how it will be. But some thinks you cannot imagine. Being in a tiny boat in the vastest of oceans, alone for over three weeks is one such thing.
A family of Galapagos sea lions are playing around the boat, escorting us. We will miss them so much. Maya said, on land they remind her of hobos- lazy, clumsy, dirty, rude and completely inappropriate. They sleep all day occupying the most comfortable benches in the park, stink terribly of rotten fish, poop in public places, make loud vomiting noises, fight for the best spots on the benches, act mean to each other and to random people, breastfeed their unruly kids on the steps at the pier, and always board- completely uninvited- people’s boats, especially at night. They will steel your fish, if you have any, they will bark at you, poop on your deck, sleep on your cushions, and runaway reluctantly leaving a trail of stink behind if you chase them (which is not easy to do), ready to return as soon as you are not watching. Yet, we never hated them for their trespassings.
In the water, they transform completely to become gentle, graceful, enchanted creatures possessing the agility of world famous aquatic acrobats. We love them.
That morning I realize that the hardest part about leaving Galapagos is not the fact that we won’t see land and civilization for many days- there will be no green trees, no brown earth, no red roofs, no yellow butterflies- only blue and black seas and skies. It’s not the uncertainty of what lies ahead- maybe storm will break our boat, maybe Fata Morgana will hit a sleeping whale or a lost container at night and will sink, along with her three helpless passengers. These are all things I have been worrying about for so long now that I am kind of used to, kind of accepted these ideas. I am ready for this passage, let’s get it over with. What is really making me sad right in this moment, when the sun is rising with purple light as the dark crater of Cerro Azul is shrinking behind us, is the fact that we won’t see the sea lions anymore… If I am crying, it is certainly for the sea lions.
To be continued…
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