January 8, 2015

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Storms and Pirates Out Here. (Parent alert: just skip this post)

Friendly police with a serious warning--we're in an area known for pirates, so please take their mobile number in case we're attacked.
At some point last night, when my vertigo was at its worst, and the boat seemed to be revolving in a clockwise fashion with distressing speed, I tried to focus on one bow to settle the motion. It might have been the drugs—but rather than relieving my vertigo, forcing myself to focus made me feel like I was in the fakest-looking storm sequence ever filmed. Our boat looked like it was in a wave tank—with waves coming every which way. Buckets of water seemed to be hurtled at us from just off camera. Occasionally a flash of lightning would illuminate the entire amateur scene. While it was a bit strange to be so disconnected—the bonus was I didn’t feel even slightly concerned about the weather. If the rough seas looked that phony, clearly things were fine.

A while back Evan and I came across and article (survey?) about qualities every successful blue water sailor shares (I’d hunt down the link but have limited internet—but if this rings a bell and you know the source please post it in the comments). The results looked at cruisers who have lasted for years on the water. It turned out sailing has less to do with finances, perfect boats and text-book sailing skills and more to with grit, and the ability to puzzle through complications without quitting, than most of us imagine. In other words—the sailors who keep going are the ones who don’t give up during the tough moments, instead they try one-more-idea.

This answer makes tons of sense to me. I have to say our sailing friends are some of the most stubborn people I know—pile the problems on and they’ll just keep solving them. The flip side of this is that most of the long term sailors we know are also really cautious. They take calculated risks and don’t worry too much about not making a destination as planned, when planned. To borrow a little Kenny Rogers’ they know when to walk away and know when to run…

We just ran away. Rather than being in Malaysia with decent internet we're somewhere deep in Borneo with sketchy internet. The last three days passed in a seasick haze, punctuated by crisis. Take Two of Get to Malaysia was one of the worst passages we've ever had and took more consecutive grit from Evan (who already has a medical worry at the back of his mind) than he’s needed so far.

When we came out of the Kumai River we knew we had an initial upwind/against current slog. But the winds were forecast to be light so we expected we’d make more than 2 knots in seriously obnoxious seas. But 2 knots it was (think toddler walking speed) and within a few hours I was bright green. By the time conditions eased off, the fishing boats had also come out to catch up for days of being harbour bound. We miscalculated which net belonged to which boat caught a net around the prop. This meant Ev jumped into the murky water at 3am and spent for an hour in bouncy seas working to cut us free (at least it got him a bath so he smelled better than me...).

Our second day and night don’t seem to come with any distinct memories. I vaguely recall Evan encouraging me to sip water and try to eat. And I know I kept a few watches so he could get some sleep—but the upwind sailing in rough seas pushed me into the worst seasickness I’ve ever experienced, mostly I was in a stupor.

By the third night we thought we might be okay. Every few hours we’d get smoother conditions—enough to get food or water. We were making good speed under genoa alone (so many squalls came through that it was easier to only have one sail to reef) and then the jib furling line broke in the middle of a squall sucking Evan's hand into the winch (it's swollen but okay).

Evan pointed the boat downwind (which had the unfortunate coincidence of being in the same place land was) and I woke Maia at 3am for the second time. Donning our harnesses we worked together to secure the sail and got the boat turned back on course in the nick of time. According to the weather reports if we fixed the furler at sea our current weather window still has just enough of an opening to get us to Malaysia.

the calm river water was a beautiful sight-even with all the fish traps we needed to dodge
But instead we followed a tug into a river this morning. We’re anchored. Evan is sleeping. There will always be another weather window. Know when to fold’em.

And…the police just pulled up. Apparently we’re anchored in an area of known pirate activity. They’re moving us to a village we didn’t see and giving us a cell number to call if we’re boarded. Umm, thanks?! They’re also getting us more diesel fuel—gotta love a full-service piracy alert.

1 comment:

Doug and Carla Scott said...

Thinking of you guys. Hope you find a good weather window soon. Be safe!