Hello from the Pacific!
Ohhhh do I have some blog material for you! It's been almost a week on the ocean, and what a week it has been... So much and yet so little has happened - it all feels a bit blurred together.
I write this from my phone, which is connected to our satellite email device (iridium), and I'm being tossed around my bed at the bow of the boat forcing my fingers away from the phone every few seconds. Hopefully any typos will help add. to your understanding of what it's like out here.
So what is it like out here? First, I think it's important to say that it's absolutely breathtaking. We haven't seen another boat since day 2 - nothing but water, a few clouds, the sun, the moon and the southern cross. Yesterday, Anne says she was concerned when she saw a light in the distance (perhaps a big cruise ship) during her night watch. Turns out it was just the moon rising over the horizon. Connie has the same experience with the bright planet Venus. Perhaps we've gone a little too long without signs of other humans? We do of course, see some wildlife. Yellow or brown footed boobies (birds) often circle the boat and stay with us for extended periods of time. A huge pod of dolphins (probably 100?) did the same one day. We watched them swim through the crystal clear, royal blue water, and leap into the air, saying "hello" as captain Diana would say. There are also lots of flying fish (who often want to come visit our deck) and our eyes are peeled for our first blue whale sighting.
But when we're not reveling in the beauty of our surroundings, we're usually hard at work. You might have thought we'd be bored and have endless time on our hands out here, but you'd be surprised how little we're able to accomplish in a day. With the waves rocking us like they are, it's almost like standing on a big plank of wood, supported on the bottom by only a loose soccer ball. Imagine trying to chop veggies, stir pasta, write in your journal, or play guitar when you're whole body is being forced one way or another every few seconds. It's usually only the essentials that get done, and we're exhausted after the simplest of tasks. On top of all that, a few of us (mostly me -Emma-, and a bit Captain Diana) were pretty sea sick the first couple days. I won't speak for her, but I certainly had a few "what the hell have so gotten myself into," moments... thankfully the sea sickness has passed though and those thoughts, much less common.
Despite all of our talk of not getting much done, we should say that we're actually quite proud of our accomplishments thus far. We've made it 703 miles (out of 3045) in 6 days, and none of us have decided to use our evacuation insurance to jump ship (....yet).
Plus, we've already tackled some of our first inevitable challenges:
Spinnaker: day 4/night 5
Using the spinnaker (a big beautiful sail that extends at the bow of the boat) is always a story in it's own. It's no secret that we've been a bit terrified of it since it went up in the sea of Cortez and came down in an awful tangled mess. Even the most seasoned sailors have difficulty using it correctly, and the sail often get ripped when used in too heavy of winds. Well we took it out in light winds, only to have the winds shift, becoming heavier on us. We had to get it down, which is never easy, but especially difficult in heavy winds. It took all 4 of us on deck going over our "plan" (Connie and Emma literally heaving the furler line in unison with all the strength they had, Anne at the helm, and Diana guiding the line so that the sail was just loose enough but not too tight) over and over again before actually doing it. It was a success though, and we were quite proud of the beautifully fueled sail.
Buuuuuut the story doesn't end here. We discover in the middle of the night that heavy winds had somehow managed to unfurl it a bit. As Connie said, she's designed to catch the wind, and that's what she did. Not only was it making a lot of noise, but if it had gone on, it could have been ripped. So in pitch black, all four of us were on deck - Connie and Diana tethered in at the bow- trying to get the thing down. We had to open a hatch and drop it into the cabin onto our dining table. Whew!
Whisker pole: day 6
We thought the spinnaker was our share of adventure, so we settled in for a relaxing day 6, hoping to catch up on some rest since we were all sleep deprived. The wind wasn't cooperating though, so we had to decide whether to go due south, due west, or the ideal southwest by running with the wind (having one sail on each side of the boat). This is quite difficult as the sails tend to shift on a moment's notice, so we decided to use our whisker poll, which is a very large, very heavy poll that extends from the mast to the jib to keep it from shifting.
With Anne at the helm, 3 of us went out to the bow to pull it down from it's vertical position on the mast using a pully/ groove system. Essentially you pull on a rope that lifts it from the top and guides it slowly down through 2 grooves on the mast. Well we started to detach it at the bottom to start the process, only to discover that somehow (we honestly have no idea) the top had detached from the pully system aaaaand the whole thing was out of the groove. If you can picture this, this means we have a very heavy, 20 foot poll standing vertically on the bow, supported only by us 3 women, heavy winds, and 4 foot waves and swell. At least it wasn't night though right? It was a dangerous situation, but we were proud of the calm steady demeanor with which we handled it. Nobody freaked out, and we kept it vertical with the help of Anne who ran out with a dock line that we used to tie it tightly while we figured out what to do. With advice from our rigger back home and honorary Captain Jeff, we ended up securing it even more and leaving it until calmer seas, when we plan to slowly lower it to the deck in a systematic way that I won't bore you with.
A funny side note on this story: This was perhaps the most stressful event of the trip thus far, and yet we were kept laughing because of.... let's say.... a certain shape that the pin of the pully system took. Alright, alright, I'll just say it. Penis. It looked like a penis. In the midst of trying to figure out how we might fix the situation we had to talk about getting this "penis" back into the hole at the top of the pole, which our rigger kindly referred to as...ahem, the "vagina." To too it all off, the top of the poll happens to be called the "butt." Ohh so many jokes were made around this vocabulary. Are we mature? Probably not. Were we using the best means available to keep ourselves sane in a stressful situation? Yes. Was it hilarious? Absolutely.
Other broken things: literally all the time
We're always joking about how Captain Diana's (AKA "Mrs. Fixit) repair jobs never end. Below, find a list of all the things that needed to be repaired in some way in the last week alone:
Hydrovane steering string
Hydrovane steering string round 2
Toilet seat hinge
Toilet joker valve
Iridium Twitter setup
Diana's iridium email (somebody in the Caribbean shares her email address and is hijacking her messages)
Some favorite quotes that go along with these repairs:
"It was supposed to be simple" (said, probably on average 5 times a day)
" when is the fun going to begin?" (Also said probably 5 times a day, but jokingly)
"Where's the wine?" (Arctic Loon is a dry boat for this passage so we celebrated yesterday with pretend booze - sparkling water and lime)
Anne: "Diana, what the hell did you do in your past life to deserve this? Did you upset a bunch of pirates?"
Connie: "Let's get to the equator fast so we can ask forgiveness from king Neptune" (it's a tradition that upon reaching the equator, sailors should have a party and give "offerings" to the king Neptune).
"Get this boat to the nearest spa" (said by Diana in all seriousness after the whisker pole situation)
Anyway, I suppose I want to conclude by just talking a bit about how proud I am to be a part of this all female team. We're far from perfect. Like every boat, we have our moments of tension, difficulty making decisions, and minor disagreements. But given the extremity of the task set before us, I think we're doing pretty fantastic.
For very good reasons, most boats have one captain. Truthfully, this boat has 4, and it works. We all work to make sure everybody's opinion is heard and accounted for in decisions. When it gets rough, we're willing to throw our pride away and follow whoever is most experienced. In really challenging situations like the whisker pole, I wonder how an all male team would have handled it. A broad generalization I realize, but I think being all female gave us the advantage of deeper cooperation and teamwork.
We look out for each other too - constantly offering to take over a watch shift so someone can sleep, making each other comfortable when sea sick, and just checking in regularly on the team's mental health. If I had to cross the ocean with any set of crew or captains, this would be the one.