Dawn seemed to illuminate the sky with a piquancy that accentuated the fact that, full circle, the sky and the sea met. Land was conspicuously absent. Looking around the vast horizon and contemplating our plight, Jenny uttered in amazement, "There sure is a lot of water out here." This struck me as amusing, and we joke about it to this day. But it certainly epitomized my feelings of incredulity as well.
“There sure is a lot of water out here.”
The wind and seas had slackened, bringing a welcome respite from our white-knuckled clutching of the cockpit coaming. Now the ocean seemed far less hostile. But rather than make more sail, we enjoyed the respite so much that we kept sailing short canvassed, despite the greatly reduced pace.
When one considers the astronauts who hurl around the globe in a mere ninety minutes or so, it felt ironic for this former aerospace engineer to be aboard a sailboat that would require not hours - not days - nor even months to encircle the globe, but years. I could only reason that education does not quench wanderlust, and that for the civilian individual, space technology has a vital drawback: it's prohibitive expense. I agree with Edward Abbey's flippant opinion that the ultimate goal of technology is to reduce the intervening space between two distant points to zero. Yet Jenny and I wished to see and experience every mile of this intervening distance. And we were quite satisfied to be powering the quest in the traditional way, using the wind.
That afternoon a woodpecker flew headlong into the billowing mains'l (mainsail). After bouncing off apparently unscathed it attempted a landing on the mainmast aloft. But this proved no easy task, considering that the ketch was reeling and heaving its masts across the sky like a pair of overgrown baseball bats as though a pair of children were swatting at wasps. Nevertheless, the poor bird finally managed to alight on the uppermost mast step, and there it clung until well after dark. Woodpeckers are not seabirds, and we could only surmise that this one had been blown from land by the storm. One hundred and fifty miles off-shore, the little creature was indeed fortunate to have found at least some measure of respite. And granted, a woodpecker perched on a wooden mast might not seem the most favorable combination, but the bird seemed exhausted, and indeed after a time it flittered down to the deck and found a snug niche among the folds of the dowsed staysail lashed on the foredeck. And there our feathered companion spent the night.
From my journal:
“Day 3: We haven't perfected our nocturnal discipline quite yet. It happened to each of us during the night, that the watchkeeper awoke to find the other, supposedly sleeping belowdecks, sitting nearby on watch.
“Early in the morning the woodpecker flew away in the correct direction. How it had known in which direction to fly we can't imagine, but we certainly hope it reaches land. While bucking these headwinds, what an imposing distance of open sea it must cover.
“We are beginning to adapt to our new sea-going environment. The queasiness has subsided, mostly, and our appetites are returning. This morning Jenny braced herself in the vertigo-inducing galley and prepared an exemplary seagoing breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs, English muffins and coffee. Despite a twinge of lingering mal de mer, we are really enjoying the trip so far. Having literally left it all behind, we feel more than a little insecure. But the anxieties surface only when we think about them; otherwise life out here is grand.”
Throughout the day we busied ourselves with various projects. I rigged a pair of lines along the topsides, stem to stern. To these "jack lines" we slide-ably affixed our safety harnesses with a pair of carabiners each. Also, we fitted a main-boom preventer: a stout nylon rope made fast to the boom's after end. Led forward, this line rove through a block on the leeward bowsprit, then aft to a cockpit winch. Hardened in, the line levered the eighteen-foot wooden boom forward, restraining it from lurching dangerously from one side of the boat to the other - that is, from jibing, in the advent of an unexpected and sudden shift of wind.
Far at sea, Ray takes advantage of the light airs and ties rags to the spreader tips so they don't tear the cruising chute.
During the afternoon we experimented with flying the big cruising sail, termed "the chute." First, I climbed aloft and wrapped each spreader tip with a rag, padding it to prevent tearing the wispy sail.
A month prior to our departure we had gone to a local beach to shoot the twilight stars with a plastic sextant. Returning to the office, I had reduced the data using a navigational calculator. My first results were down-right preposterous, but subsequent field trips yielded far better results. The math was not difficult because the calculator simplified the sequences to a cook-book procedure, and with a background in theoretical space-flight mechanics I was not unaccustomed to finding my way among the stars. So now while Jenny marked Greenwich mean time on a wristwatch, I obtained a round of twilight measurements to the stars Vega, Altair, and Polaris. Using these measurements I then computed what seemed an accurate position fix. "Seemed" because we no longer stood on a known beach, and therefore knew of no means to determine whether our methods and calculations were correct. The figures seemed in order, and they reassured us that we would be passing by Guadalupe Island in the night with more than enough offing. Nevertheless we resolved that the watchkeeper should keep his or her eyes open.
Suka flew her jib, her staysail, her mainsail shortened with a single reef, and her mizzen sail. With the wind holding steady over her starboard quarter she scampered ahead willfully into the night. By now we had far exceeded normal VHF radio range to the mainland, but by some fluke of airwaves we managed a clear contact with the San Diego marine operator. Remarkably, a few hundred miles from land we placed telephone calls to Jim and Deidrie, and to our parents.