Pan-Pacific Adventure 18

These past couple days have seen us though some rather curious weather. We
are still in that windy zone which I previously explained and are expecting
to come to the end of it sometime tomorrow around LAT 46.5N where we will
see light winds as we “turn right” and punch through the North Pacific High.
This will take a day or two and the barometer has been rising steadily in
anticipation of its, or rather, our arrival. Good winds are prospect on the
far side and we still look good for the 4th.

Now, this weather: With our Easting and steady progress North we are
experiencing a marked drop in both sea and air temperature and a smell on
the wind that smacks of the Pacific Northwest. This is to be expected; the
dense fog however, was not. For two days the evening has brought upon us a
moist chill, and with the setting of the sun, a thick bank of advection fog
that seems to swallow us up entirely. The most peculiar aspect of this whole
scenario is the constant wind blowing at 10+ knots and continued boat-speed
of 7-8 knots… within the fog! Drifting about in pea soup is one thing, but
to charge through it at this speed, in the dead of night with no ambient
light save for the nav lights, which cast odd linear shadows about us, and
the bio-luminescent wake stretching eerily behind us is a thing of singular
wonder. Standing watch on deck is an entirely surreal experience – the
atmosphere is as cloying and oppressive as is it damp, yet somehow thrilling
as only something heralding a touch of the unknown can be. With visibility
so reduced I can barely see the tip of the mast 60 feet aloft, we rely
solely on radar for our safety. Out here though the chance of encountering a
ship is apparently slim, but obviously not impossible, as we discovered the
other day. To add confusion to the bizarre, the first hues of sunrise begin
to penetrate the fog around 0330 (our clocks are still on Hawaii time)
rendering the morning a very long and drawn out affair. We shall have to set
the clocks forward soon.

Of note too was a little incident, which had us “all hands” on the foredeck.
Wile dousing the spinnaker, which we have flown daily, the wind caught the
belly of our furled jib and began to whip it open at the top and
consequently tighten the sheets around it at the bottom – this is not a good
situation as it tends to compound itself as the sail thrashes more violently
and tangles. Interestingly enough the right thing to do turned out to be the
least intuitive: go faster. By quickly pulling in the remainder of the kite
and bearing dead down wind at full speed we reduced the “apparent” wind
(wind actually felt on the boat) to such a degree that the sail became
almost manageable, and with the 3 of us we were able to wrestle it free. The
sail was damaged but still sound so that’s just part of the game. I had to
temporarily lash the main sail headboard to the sliding car too – something
is always breaking!

Most disconcerting of all though is the temperament of our autopilot. Once
already she has inexplicably gone on ‘standby’ and left the boat to her
forces, which tend to round her quickly up into the wind (not good with a
kite up!) Last night I was in my bunk listening to music when I heard a
violent shuddering and felt the boat come to a stop. I thought we had hit a
bloody whale or something and was on deck, into the fog and upon the wheel
within 5 seconds flat wearing nothing but my goddamn underwear! John, who
was on watch, was a little bewildered, as was I until I realized what had
happened. The pilot had let go and Zulu, freed of the constraints of her
rudder, had turned happily into the wind and scared the shit out of us all
in the dead of night. A little sail handling and a course change and we were
back in business – not a little shaken and all the more wary for it.

That is the latest in my ongoing saga. Please tune in later this week for
the next installment.

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