Adventures in Sailing, part 7
The day-to-day in the boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean can become quite dull. Oh, give me that dullness all year long.
In the first part of this series, I described our encounter in the doldrums. But when we had wind, there wasn’t anything quite like sailing in the Pacific.
It grew warm quite quickly on our trip. It’s late June and we’re heading south and west from southern California to Hawaii. Take a look at a globe to see — yes, even you flat earthers out there can learn from a globe.
Our days were very regular. I slept on the dining table, stowed down to become a bunk. My bunkmate was Tonya, the skinny blonde hard rocker partier teenager a couple years older than me. We slept in our own sleeping bags, head to foot. At 16 and inexperienced in the ways of the world (euphemism alert!), I didn’t quite know what to do with myself on this crowded vessel. At any rate, we were saved by the daily schedule — table up at 6:00 am for a 7:00 breakfast, and table down at midnight for lights out. That gave us 6 restful hours for the night, 4 of which were taken up with my watches. I drew the unfavorable watches of 12–2 am and 4–6 am, due to my lapse from seasickness. Fair is fair — or since the captain made the rules and the watch and cleaning schedules, there was no arguing.
We had our meals at 7:00, noon, and 6:00 pm. There were also snacks through the day whenever they happened to be done. For chores, we each had to care for our own bunks, and then we were assigned chores: bright work (polishing anything metal), washing the dishes and cleaning the galley, cleaning the head and head compartment, scrubbing the decks and pilot area, and whatever other cleaning activities had to be done.
On our way to Hawaii, we had the wind at our backs, trade winds, and often we sailed wing on wing, with one sail out and the other out on the other side, like a giant wingspan. The wind was behind us, pushing us to Hawaii. The effect is that there was very little slapping noise of the water on the boat, and we surfed the waves. We’d reach the crest of the waves and then the boat would surf down into the trough and we’d repeat, gently, all day long. It was warm (sunscreen was absolutely necessary!) but we did a fair amount of sunbathing. If we got too hot, we could dunk a 5-gallon paint bucket into the water on a rope and haul it up and douse ourselves.
Our boat was a 42-foot trimaran with three pontoon hulls. Between the hulls up front, there was netting that could be lounged on. Also, there was a swing, and we could hook the swing up between the pontoons and swing into the water. On other days, we tied a milk jug to a rope and let it out the stern of the boat and had target practice. We each bought several boxes of bullets, .22 gauge. I had never shot a gun before, but this was great fun. We also flew a kite that we tied off aft and just let follow us.
There wasn’t much to see except vast amounts of blue water and blue sky with various configurations of clouds. Every once in a while, we’d see a large vessel some ways off, not close enough even to see us.
We spent time playing games — Scrabble, Dominoes, Othello, Backgammon, and cards. We read a lot and listened to a single cassette tape over and over by The Kinks — I still remember most of the songs and words. I read Tolkein’s Return of the King and books about Star Wars and Battlestar Gallactica. I must have had English major aspirations even then because I also read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.
After our adventures in the doldrums and my card playing fiasco, we began to itch for land. We still weren’t quite halfway there. The captain showed us the course he had plotted on the chart — a zig zag due to our collective inexperience at the helm that cost us a great deal of time. We also had a pool going as to when we would land. For most of the trip, we were on a course to make the date I had for landing, so I was excited that I would win some money to recoup my gambling losses. We settled into a fine routine.
One of the personal items we were asked to bring were snacks. The food situation didn’t turn out as well as he had hoped, so snacks were a premium required for us to keep going. But they also entered “the market,” a bartering system that could last days, especially with some of these stubborn sailors. I had the premium treats and had also bought quite a few boxes of bullets, which were great items to trade for food. At one point I had Almond Roca and See’s Suckers, which went for a premium. It took Dave and me 1/2 hour to come to an agreement: he would give me 3 pieces of beef jerky and 2 boxes of raisins for 1 almond roca and 1 See’s sucker. Then Dave traded a box of bullets for the rest of Cloud’s gorp. I loved that gorp, so Dave and I bartered some more. I remembered I had chocolate chips which I could put in the gorp, but Dave took the gorp off the market, but he wanted the chips. Cloud ran out of bullets again, so I traded a box and a half of bullets for his yogurt peanuts. All in all, bartering helped the time go by and was great fun.
We were getting closer to the islands all the time and waiting for the mountain peak to peek through the clouds. There was a heavy cloud bank in front of us, and we should have been seeing the islands, if our charting was correct. Or, we were too far south and would pass it completely.
Lazy days at sea with calm weather is something I remember fondly, though my journal betrays that I missed Big Macs, the Dodgers, and was unhappy at being picked on constantly. I was a dorky kid — 16 and still wearing a plastic Dodgers helmet (I had not yet discovered fitted baseball caps), and I was reading some 3rd rate sci-fi magazines and Tolkein’s first-rate fantasy.
There are still plenty more sailing adventures to share, including a brief scary squall, riding with the dolphins, and finally sighting land.