A Refreshing Swim - Mid Pacific
Suka encountered a second windless zone two days after the first one. Negotiating it required a 12-hour stint of motoring. As suggested by the brand-name inscribed boldly on its coolant reservoir, we referred to the diesel engine as "Perkins." And Perkins was beginning to run hot. We were learning that a sea-water engine cooling system is much less efficient in warmer climes. Twice the engine overheated completely. After my fussing over it, burping a few bubbles from the cooling circuit but doing nothing of real consequence, its temperature gauge needle would decline suitably - as though the machine needed occasional attention and reassurance.
A refreshing swim - mid Pacific.
Jenny suggested we allow a recess from the monotony and heat of the constant motoring, and go for a refreshing swim. After all, our accommodations came with a large pool in the back yard, one small step from the transom. So I shut down the engine and allowed the ketch to glide to a graceful halt. Tethered to a length of safety line attached to her harness, Jenny donned mask, snorkel and fins, and with gleeful abandon jumped overboard.
"See anything with big teeth down there?" I asked.
"No, nothing but a little fish under the boat." She splashed about while I stood by, gripping her line anxiously, ready to haul her to safety at the first indication of a menacing shark. Beaming, she climbed the self-steering rudder mounts, and stepped aboard exclaimed: "That was fantastic!"
Encouraging her to keep a sharp lookout, I donned my snorkeling gear and walked the plank. Compared with the water I had last swam in, this water was far less bracing. And it was just as clear. In fact, astonishingly so! And unlike Jenny's flat-glass mask, mine was ground for my eye-glasses prescription, so underwater I could see more clearly than she could. I found that my lenses also provided better depth perception. To my amusement, I found that her "little fish" was actually a dolphin swimming perhaps 150 feet below the surface.
“The wind has returned this evening, and we're cruising across glassy seas at four knots. This is fine sailing and I'll take a big dose. Suka is heading for her equatorial crossing, which according to my evening round of star shots is only thirty five miles ahead. Tomorrow the scumbags will cross the line to become shellbacks, and in lieu of celebrating with King Neptune, Jenny is planning a sumptuous dinner.”
That night King Neptune alighted on the bow pulpit, having taken the form of a red footed booby. As was the case with the masked booby, this bird showed us no fear. Subsequently, it remained aboard for several days while occasionally foraging at large.
. . .
“The crew of the little galleon was adapting well to their seafaring life, and finding it very much to their liking.”
Falling in with the South-East Trades
Sailing along blithely, Suka fell in with the south-east trades, characterized by remarkably steady force five winds blowing from the port quarter, and reasonably benign seas. Enrapt in their maritime inquisition, the crew of the little galleon was adapting well to their seafaring life, and finding it very much to their liking.
Showing the broken trail-board, damaged in the storm.
As the weeks had unfurled, we had devised ways to facilitate life aboard. Reefing the mainsail, for example, was no longer a grandiose task. By accident one afternoon, early on in the journey, the topmost mainsail batten had inadvertently slid out of its pocket and dropped into the sea. This struck me as a serious misfortune, imagining that the sail would no longer draw properly. But not only did the sail function as well as before, but I found that it could then be made and handed much easier without that troublesome batten catching on the spreaders and shrouds. So a few days later when the second slat shook free, I viewed the matter almost with equanimity. And when the sail even then performed as well, I removed a third wand myself. Suka's main boom is jumbo, and the sail's leach is but softly roached, so on all points of sail the battenless canvas drew well. And without the baneful battens, the sail could be easily dowsed and hoisted as the ketch sailed on a broad reach, or even flat before the wind. This discovery gladly heralded the last of our having to round the ketch to windward, and to put her into irons in order to reef her mainsail.
Calking deck seams.
Another pleasant week rolled by.
Jenny had cleared the forecastle berth of its voluminous sail bags and cartons of miscellany, and had carved a comfortable reading nook. This area was favorably ventilated by the open fore hatch, yet was protected from the harsh, tropical sunlight. It was an ideal nook where an off-watch crew could idle away a few pleasant hours.
Endowed with fair weather and a waxing gibbous moon, the nights became even more pleasant. As the brig penetrated deeper into the southern latitudes, more specifically now at ten degrees south, her navigator could no longer see Polaris (Kochab as it is known astronomically) nailed staunch against the northern sky. In exchange, the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross, now adorned the austral firmament. My evening celestial measurements were now of the stars Archenar and Altair. At dawn I shot Sirius: to man's eyes the brightest of all stars; and Canopus: second brightest and a primary space flight navigational star.
And assuming that my calculations were correct, we were nearing our first landfall.
Nearing Our First Landfall
Our 29th day out of San Diego, (Nov 30) at the first hint of dawn I wielded the sextant expectantly, and after working through the sight reductions I penciled the following entry into my navlog:
Heading: 244 T, 234 M.
Fix: 10.045 S, 137.227 W
56.1 miles to go.
Should sight island at noon's-run log 107, at approx 11:00 a.m.