Re-Entry to the Midwest

KeyMidwest
Author:  Pete
Location: Midwest, USA

Somehow I again find myself writing in the dark hours of the night, mid-ocean, aboard a turbulent vessel. It’s come sooner than expected, too. This time the command of the craft is not mine, but with two hundred airline passengers aboard, I’m happy that someone else is at the helm. We’re flying to Switzerland. The summer has come and gone fleetingly as usual, and now here I am, ruminating through the silence of a night watch once more, looking out across black seas.

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Our dizzying return to civilization felt like an astronaut’s re-entry to the atmosphere.  After rocketing back towards the gravity of the Midwest and debriefing with mission control, we wobbled about a bit on unsteady legs, adjusting to the world’s forgotten fundamental laws.  Like any good produce-impaired cosmonaut, we gorged ourselves on fresh fruits and veggies upon returning to Earth, but retained a strange inclination towards freeze-dried foods.

It was revitalizing to be home, to see family and friends, and to not worry so much about the boat.  I tried to keep a cool demeanor about the whole nautical escapade.  It felt like gloating to hint at our feeling of accomplishment about the Tayrona years and our excitement about moving to Switzerland.  I’d sometimes brush off the upcoming move as a tiresome necessity of our occupation or omit entire portions of my life in casual conversation to avoid sounding like a madman.

Summer was like a good kielbasa though: hot, zesty, and fully packed.  Miranda and I had a whirlwind tour of California to see my gramma and uncle Chuck, my cousin’s wedding, and Miranda’s buddies.  Looking west across the Pacific I swear I could see myself standing on Australia’s shores looking back over the water.  I felt like waving to myself.  

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After So-Cal we zipped back to the midwest for another wedding in Wisconsin and well deserved R&R with friends and family on the lakes.  What we didn’t do much of this summer was document anything.  Throughout the boat trip I had an insatiable urge to chronicle everything new that went on.  At home it was refreshing to fall back into the well-known summertime rhythm of sunshine-filled days, friend-filled evenings, and over-filled stomachs.  We’ve eaten pretty much constantly since we’ve been home.  In acquiescence to my palate’s protests though, I’ve been shunning fish, rice, and coconut like a Mennonite cold-shouldering rumspringant youth.

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Sleeping in a motionless bed and ignoring little noises has been an adjustment. More than once I’ve found myself on my feet in the middle of the night perplexed about how to get on deck to check the anchor.  However, I’m enjoying water that comes cold and hot from the tap any time you want it, and weeks on end free of mechanical troubleshooting!

There are still some lingering boat-related compulsions of which I’m trying to wean myself off.  Sometimes I’ll break down and revert to old weather-monitoring habits, looking for prime kite and windsurfing conditions in Lake Michigan.  Kitesurfing is my methadone and there were several blowout days this summer to wind-binge.  I even got out for a sailboat regatta with some family friends who needed extra crew.  I’m sure they heard about our nautical exploits and were anticipating their new deckhand to be some kind of sailing savant. Jokes on them!  I tacked and gybed more in those three hours of Wednesday night beer-can racing than in an entire month cruising to the Marquesas.  It was palliative to be on deck again though, working the sheets and halyards even if the lines wasted my now un-calloused palms.  It certainly helped my withdrawls.  Who knew that one could be a sailing junkie?  Pirates are often described as having a monkey on their back, but I just thought that was a figure of speech.

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So that’s the ball game!  Back to reality, as much so as moving to Switzerland provides. Too bad our good Tayrona hasn’t sold yet.  Australia’s elections slowed the buying market down in the past two months so things have cooled off there a touch.  Aside from that, I can’t fathom any better outcome of our odyssey.  Now, on to other adventures in Europe!  We’ll keep posting from the other side of the pond.  Tschüss!

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Okay, fine!  So I made up rumspringant!  Big deal!  Rumspringa is a period of time in an adolescent Mennonite’s life where recalcitrant behavior is accepted.  I chose to throw caution to the wind on my own literary rumspringa and adjective-ize the ever-loving snot outta that noun!  Take that!  Grammatical correctness be-damned and long live italics!

Passage to New Zealand: Day 10 – 11 and Landfall

Landfall
Author: Pete
Location:  34°38.261S’   173°43.365E’
Date:  Nov 7 – 8, 2015

 

Day 10 – 11 at sea.

Winds from the south-southeast imposed a westward course upon us for two days as a trough blew over, pushing us more west than we would have wanted.  Velocity Made Good (VMG) is a nautical measure of how fast you’re going in the actual direction of your waypoint based on speed, distance to target, and a little trigonometry.  It doesn’t particularly matter if you’re rocketing at eight knots heading east if your destination is west, right?  For two days our VMG oscillated between 0.5 and -0.7, meaning that we were going places, but often it was away from New Zealand.  Yikes.  Our wayward westing allowed us to later catch the favorable southwest winds which would zip us in to New Zealand after the front muscled through.  Long story short, we’ve been pretty happy in the recent days sailing a beam reach southeast at a rejuvenating clip and enjoying our last days offshore.

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The temperature has been dropping steadily as our latitude increases and is especially notable on night watches.  Even curled up in the salon with a blanket and a mug of tea while keeping a lookout through the windows, the damp of the sea can put a chill in one’s bones.  I’m becoming convinced that we’ve sailed right past New Zealand and are quickly approaching Antarctica.  Miranda and I have been layering all the long pants, sweatshirts, and socks we can find.  With our patchwork garb, stumbling locomotion about the boat, and itinerant living habits we might not be out of place on a New York City street with the folks screaming at passing cars.  It’s a glamorous life on the sea.

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The morning of the 8th dawned clear with light winds.  In the late morning the jagged spine of North Cape rose slowly out of the sea to the west.  Almost as if on cue the wind kicked up to twenty knots on our beam and we hurried the last hundred miles at a happy clip as sea birds swooped welcome loops around the boat.  The scent of land greeted us forty miles out, light but distinct to our noses, acclimatized to the olfactory-neutral open ocean.  At twelve miles out we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag, which indicates that you need to clear in with customs and aren’t trying to sneak in like bandits in the night.  And night it quickly became.  The sun dove behind the bulk of New Zealand spattering the cloud layer in reds and golds.  As we approached the entrance to the Bay of Islands the conglomeration of pummeled seashore and rainy sheep pasture wafted over us and invoked memories of a year of bivouacking on the windswept coast of Ireland many moons ago.  A young seabird hitched a ride in to port, plunking himself unceremoniously on deck for some shut eye.

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The moonless and overcast night offered no aid in ducking the few freighters, navigating the ten miles into the bay, amidst the shallows, and up the Opua River to the customs dock.  Land, sea, and sky blended together in charcoal gray and wood smoke hung in the air.  Though dead tired, an hour nap before pulling into the bay and a cup of tea renewed us both, and picking our way through the beacons proved straightforward with a lookout on the bow.  Moored vessels slid past in the mirrored water like specters as we motored up the river in a glow of blue-green seafire.  On the 2AM slack tide we sidled up to the Q-dock, Cowgirl Miranda lassoed a cleat, and we wrangled Tayrona into her berth.  I don’t even remember going below to rack out.  Happy to be in New Zealand!

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Landfall in Fiji

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Author: Pete
Location: Navula Pass, Fiji

As night fell we sailed south of the island of Beqa and through the straits between the low Vatulele and the main island, Viti Levu. The wind swung from north directly behind us as we made the slow turn around the island and for the first time in what feels like ages we were on a starboard tack. You could hear the port shrouds sigh with relief. In the dark we dodged a fishing boat lit up like Las Vegas and an odd blinking tracking buoy of some kind.

As Tayrona pulled near the Navula Pass we had slacking winds and calming seas. There was no moon and full cloud cover, but the channel marker lights and range lights were clear and unmistakable. The channel is marked by a red light on the left, a green light on the right, and two red lights right in the center that line up when you’re in the middle of the channel. You just have to keep between green and red, and keep the range markers lined up. The radar picks up the shore and the channel marker buoys. It’s easy, just don’t screw up.

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We were all hands on deck for the pass. The more eyes the better. Once we were through without event Miranda went off watch and I took us north along the coast towards Lautoka. The navigation lights were easy to follow even in the dark, but soon the black turned to purple then rose and orange. We were exhausted after four rowdy days at sea and some tense night maneuvers; the sunrise over the hills of Fiji were a welcomed sight. I sat on the deck with a mug of tea and watched it unfold. Yes, I was cold. Leave me alone.

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We anchored off Vuda Point in sixteen meters of water and waited a few hours for customs to come out to the boat. They confiscated four coconuts, telling me that Fijian coconuts were better anyway, but left all our other stores alone. Even the aloe plant got to stay. We tied up next to an inner concrete wall temporarily while they waited for a more permanent spot to open up.

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That night we went out to eat at the marina’s restaurant to celebrate. They must have heard because there were fireworks and music. Somehow Miranda suckered the musicians into letting me play a little too. “So glad we made it… Look how far we’ve come now baby…”

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