June 23, 2016

Not all Dolphins and Rainbows

Last night dinner was interrupted when a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins came to play in our bow waves. Even in the green-black waters of the Amazon River outflow we could see them as they streaked through the depths before surfacing for a tandem leap. I wanted to say then, that this has been the easiest passage we've ever had. Sailor's superstition means I can't say that out loud though. It's like challenging the gods to toughen us up and throw an 'adventure' our way. Perhaps having held the thought was enough though-with 100 miles to go we find ourselves beating into a squall; Poseidon demanding our reverence and caution by reminding us that ocean passages are awesome, powerful and sublime, but never simple or easy.

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June 20, 2016

Fish for dinner, the Amazon to port

To port lies the Amazon River Delta. Once in awhile the urge to abandon our plans and make a hard left turn kicks in. Sometimes we can yeild to the call of adventure-but this time the wild mystery of the Amazon is going to live as an unfulfilled yearning. I read once that it's not bucket lists that keep us exploring, but unfinshed travels. The sense that if we'd been able to go a little futher, stay a little longer, see one more thing-that the journey would feel complete. So we head out again and again; looking for a fresh view of the familiar, or a sense of belonging somewhere new. Only rarely do we get to stay until we're truly satisfied. We started fishing a few days ago. It is typically me who throws out the lures but with chronic seasickness, thanks to an ear infection, I haven't felt much like fishing. Plus we're in the Saragosso Sea--so sargassum weed tends to choke up a lure almost as soon as it goes in. But with almost 600 miles still to go a fish dinner would be a welcome treat. So I untangled the hand lines, tossed them over and this morning I had an immediate hard hit--which proved my lucky lure was no longer lucky because after the initial strike the line went slack and the lure was gone. Luckily the next lure did the trick and we now have four + meals of Dorado, to help stretch our provisions. Sailing continues to be easy. At night the seas are calm under a bright moon and in the distance a storied river sings her siren's song; urging us to come back. But we sail on.

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June 18, 2016

Sailing to Suriname day 14

We're starting to run low on fresh fruits and veggies; which means it's time to get clever with cabbage. We're not doing too terribly though considering the last truly well-stocked and affordable grocery store was in Port Owen in March. It helps that this is such an easy trip. It's complicated coming up with meals in rough conditions which go beyond 2 tins + 1 bag or box = dinner. Instead we have things like veggie burgers made from butternut squash and feta cheese or sweet and sour coleslaw with cabbage and beets. It really is all about food out here. We're now less than 800 from Suriname. We crossed the equator for the forth and final time a few days ago and changed times on the clock for about the 30th time since leaving home. What we haven't had to do on this passage is raise the mainsail, though we have changed foresail configurations multiple times. Mostly though we spend our days reading and pondering what to make with our diminished stores. Soon enough though there will be a new country and new cuisine.

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June 15, 2016

Halfway Day

At 2636 miles, the trip to Suriname is our second longest passage. Our longest was Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas when Maia was 9. The difference between voyaging with a 14-year-old vs a 9-year-old is pretty huge. Last time I carried a supply of books, art and science projects and made a lot of playdough to keep her entertained. This time I just made sure our galley was well stocked with baking supplies. Still, 18 days is a long time to be at sea. Fortunately this is a pretty sweet passage. Nights are gentle enough and traffic minimal enough that Maia takes the midnight to 1am slot--giving both Evan and I a four hour rest. She also cooks some dinners, helps with sails and keeps up with school. But she's still a kid, and to ward off the 'are we there yets' I planned a few celebrations. Last night we hit the halfway point and along with a huge pod of porpoises which showed up to celebrate we had pizza as well as dessert crepes with chocolate mousse and berries. Dinner is often the highlight of a day on passage. We dream about ingredients we don't have and then try to make something tasty with what we do. Part of our daily check-in when crossing the Pacific was the recitation of each boat's dinner menu (Whatcha Gonna Do always seemed to have the best meals...). This passage is similar in that Crystal Blues and us compare notes each day. Halfway Day wouldn't be complete without a gift for Maia. I contemplated fresh playdough for nostalgia but instead took advantage of the wifi on Ascension to grab a new episode of a much longed for show. So we watched TV, ate yummy food and enjoyed the feeling of being halfway there. Next up: Equator Day

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Halfway Day

At 2636 miles, the trip to Suriname is our second longest passage. Our longest was Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas when Maia was 9. The difference between voyaging with a 14-year-old vs a 9-year-old is pretty huge. Last time I carried a supply of books, art and science projects and made a lot of playdough to keep her entertained. This time I just made sure our galley was well stocked with baking supplies. Still, 18 days is a long time to be at sea. Fortunately this is a pretty sweet passage. Nights are gentle enough and traffic minimal enough that Maia takes the midnight to 1am slot--giving both Evan and I a four hour rest. She also cooks some dinners, helps with sails and keeps up with school. But she's still a kid, and to ward off the 'are we there yets' I planned a few celebrations. Last night we hit the halfway point and along with a huge pod of porpoises which showed up to celebrate we had pizza as well as dessert crepes with chocolate mousse and berries. Dinner is often the highlight of a day on passage. We dream about ingredients we don't have and then try to make something tasty with what we do. Part of our daily check-in when crossing the Pacific was the recitation of each boat's dinner menu (Whatcha Gonna Do always seemed to have the best meals...). This passage is similar in that Crystal Blues and us compare notes each day. Halfway Day wouldn't be complete without a gift for Maia. I contemplated fresh playdough for nostalgia but instead took advantage of the wifi on Ascension to grab a new episode of a much longed for show. So we watched TV, ate yummy food and enjoyed the feeling of being halfway there. Next up: Equator Day.

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June 11, 2016

Rescue at Sea

My mum woke me early in the morning, to point out an injured black noddy, a tern. It was perched on the roof, its legs entangled with polyethylene fibres. They're small seabirds, with a long hooked beak and sooty plumage. Apparently, they're very comfortable with humans, to the extent that they can be picked up off their nests. This one was not as sociable. We tried several times to capture it, because it was clearly having trouble flying. I approached it slowly, oven mitts protecting my hands, but it flew away. It returned in a few minutes, and we tried to capture it with a towel. It flew away. Luckily, when it came back, it perched on the side deck, an easy place for us to reach. My dad captured it, wrapping it firmly in a towel before returning to the cockpit where I waited with scissors. It took us a few tries to find the feet, in the towel, (we kept getting beak), but we managed it and took turns snipping at the plastic. It had wrapped tight around its lower and upper legs, but we didn't realize how bad the damage was until we cut away the trailing fibres. On its upper leg, a tight band of plastic was almost cutting off the leg, and it was badly infected. It took quite a while for us to ease the bloody polyethylene off, but we managed. The leg was almost severed, and removing the plastic made it start to bleed. I dabbed some antiseptic ointment, with a general numbing agent on the wound, and we released it. Hopefully, we helped it survive and possibly keep the leg. BTW this is Maia writing, in case you didn't realize.

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Injured Hitchhiker

Any advice on how to capture this little sooty tern? His feet are tangled in a longline net. Email Diane at dianeselkirk dot com. We tried grabbing him and can get within .25 meters. Next up we'll try throwing a light towel over him. Our calm night turned exciting when a squall came through. While doing 12 knots under spinnaker our AIS alarm went off telling us we were on a collision course with a freighter. Meanwhile Charlie found our sooty and kept sneaking out to visit him on the roof. Managed to snuff the spinnaker, avoid the freighter and convince Charlie that the sooty doesn't want to play. Light winds this morning.

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June 10, 2016

Abandon ship rations

In the old days if you had to abandon ship you probably took a cask of ship's biscuits and some salt pork. In more modern times maybe some MRE (Army prepacked meals). But unless you're getting the French rations with those little cans of duck pate, they can be unpleasant to eat. Lifeboat rations need to be high in fats and sugars. Protein is actually bad because it needs about twice as much water to digest. Fats are good because they are calorie dense. But nobody wants to drink a cup of olive oil or eat a stick of butter. You want good tasting food high in fat and sugar, that won't spoil and also keeps up your morale.

Have you guessed what is in our ditch bag yet?

NUTELLA. High in fats and sugar, very tasty, and definitely going to keep up morale. After a long passage you should also pull it out and eat it to make sure it is still good. Replace before next passage.

We could also eat Charlie the cat but that's only if we really got desperate...

Sailing by Starlight

Moonless nights can be intimidating at sea; all sudden sounds in the darkness. But this gentle passage is lit by constellations and bioluminescence. 1800 miles to go.

June 7, 2016

Sailing to South America

Around day 4 (or is it 5?) we lose count. We know the day we left (Sat June 4) and our daily miles average (155) but it's hard to distinguish one day from the rest. Routines help - having a nice dinner and watching the sunset, counting sacrificial flying fish (six), hitchhikers (two boobies, four sooty terns), counting the miles (2012 to Suriname) but mostly it's easiest to let the wind and waves wash the calendar away.