Re-Entry to the Midwest

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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 8 – 9

Day 9
Author: Pete
Location: 31°09.966S’ 172°42.202E’
Date: Nov 5 and 6, 2015

Day 8 – 9 at sea.

Wind continues to come from SSE where we would like to be heading.  We tacked Tayrona upwind all day, which she really doesn’t love.  I can’t say I blame her; we’ve just gotten coddled and soft from eight thousand miles of downwind run.  The fifth was a beautiful day with cloudless blue skies and flat water, literally the calm before the storm.  We knew that a nefarious front was incoming, dragging heavy weather with it.  Preparing during the sunny day for the rough seas to come left me feeling like a nerdy kid that knows the bully is going to beat him up and steal his lunch money at recess.

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And come it did!  Yikes!  “So when do you think we’ll see that front come through?” asked Miranda.  Ten minutes later we’re donning foul weather gear, taking in sail, and dogging hatches.  The wind kicked from twelve to thirty knots, accelerating the boat to nine knots almost instantly, sending us skipping over waves and giving a pounding to the bows and hull.  Things haven’t abated; we’re still ripping along under reefed sails in the dark and rain.  It’s too murky to see outside so the radar is blazing away looking for the next squall to tear through and, more fearsome on a dark night, freighters.

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Feels like we’ve been on passage for an eternity with all the tacking, motoring, fighting upwind.  We really haven’t hit a great sailing groove yet.  We’re ready to get there and aren’t thrilled by having a raging front to punch through after nine days already at sea.  Bleh.  We’re picking up weather forecasts from various sources and compiling them to come to our own routing conclusions.  We’re only 250 miles from New Zealand but can’t motor directly to it because the wind and waves are too heavy from that direction.  We have to go out of our way to the west and wait for the post-frontal southwest winds to blow us in to New Zealand.  It’s real sailing for sure, gauging weather, time, distance, and fuel, but I much prefer the “Set it!  And!  Forget it!” approach where we’ve run downwind with a spinnaker up for a four days straight.

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It had been rough the previous days.  Miranda’s birthday fell right in the midst of the trough when wind was gusting into the thirties on the nose and ten foot seas paraded through.  I wrestle-baked a carrot cake, which is a neat procedure on a rolling boat because the batter stirs itself!  I had to secure the pan inside the oven with two sets of vice grips to keep it from being ejected mid-bake into the cabin.  The birthday festivities were rounded out with snacks, libations, presents, and Scopolamine patches.  We have plans to go out for a more agreeable and much deserved celebration ashore.

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Currently, the rain just stopped blasting our topsides, but the gloom obscures the horizon and waves shake us like a dog with a shiny new chew toy.  Miranda is below and I’m on watch.  We’re doing fine, just ready to be there.  I think the boat is rather enjoying herself though, engaging in some nautical calisthenics after an easy month day sailing through Fiji.

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Passage to New Zealand: Day 6 -7

Day 7
Author: Pete
Location: 28°18.158S’ 173°27.441E’
Date: Nov 3 – 4, 2015

 

Day 6 and 7 at sea.

Yesterday brought glassy seas and not even a whisper of wind.  Motoring in a sailboat feels sacrilegious to me, but an idyllic day made up for the fuel burned and the permeating rumble of the engines.  With almost no clouds for depth perception the horizon seems to stretch away forever in all directions, blending with the sky at the offing and giving the impression of being in the middle of nowhere.  Ah, impression-schmeshun!  We really are in the middle of nowhere!  Being becalmed leaves the sea a reflective surface, not a ripple to be seen.  Long period rollers still lumber through, creating an endless plain of mirrored knolls.  It’s a scene from Alice in Wonderland, hard to describe without making it seem like we’re hallucinating.  Staring out at it for hours does indeed make one feel disconnected with reality.

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Great bio-luminescence at night in the still water.  Our wake is a ribbon of shimmering green behind us, like an afterburner trail out the tail pipe of a fighter jet.  We’re not going quite that fast, but a guy can dream, right?  Between the hulls where the bow wakes converge the glow is bright enough to eerily light up the underside of the boat.  I sat out on the trampoline my entire watch in a stupor, fixated on the lights under us, the flashing squid passing by, and the millions of tiny, glittering eyes out in the water.  It’s a little like aqueous northern lights or a sailor’s lava lamp.

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Today we had more wind to sail and made good use of it. Looks like we’re in for some heavier weather in the next day or two. We made a few more meals to stash in the fridge, including a batch of brownies (thanks Glabs!), fueled the main tanks from our jerry cans, and took longer watches to get a real night’s sleep.  I spent a little time working on Belinda, the starboard diesel engine, who is making some knocking sounds and is taking longer to fire up these days.  Wendy, the port engine, is leaking a touch of sea water into the engine compartment from the raw water pump.  It’s nothing the bilge pumps can’t handle.  She used to be house broken but has had a little relapse lately.  Don’t tell her you know; she’s embarrassed about it.  Both are running just fine aside from their little quirks.  Tayrona is ready for the fight, and I suppose we are too.

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In this neck of the woods high and low pressure systems sweep over Australia towards New Zealand, bringing heavier weather between them. You’re almost guaranteed to hit an ugly patch on the trip unless you have a particularly speedy boat. Per the recommendation of the salty sailors who ply these waters, we plan to encounter the front at 30 degrees south where it’s weaker than if we ran into it closer to New Zealand. We’re having some trouble connecting with the radio to email I think due to the front between us and the closest relay station in Australia. We do have regular SSB contact with Gulf Harbor Radio out of New Zealand, so fear not if you don’t hear from us in the next couple of days while we wage war with Poseidon.

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