Photo: Michael at the bow. Note sea anchor in yellow bag lashed to inner forestay.
The ocean was idyllic. Aldebaran sailed peacefully past slumbering swells at 4 knots with a North wind.
Up ahead, however, were changing/strong winds. The weather models gave us 72hrs to arrive in Pitcairn before a small rainstorm made landfall. To gain ground, we had motored the previous day in the calm. But we only have 50 gallons of diesel left in the tank (equals about 350 nautical miles). We need to use this wisely to make it all the way to Pitcairn (400nm away) and finally Gambier (700nm away) where we can fill the diesel tank.
We must sail when there is a breeze, so heck, let’s make the most of the relaxing conditions! In fact we felt “teleported” to another place, as if we were hanging out at Santa Barbara Harbor on a typical Saturday.
It started with the hearty Huevos Rancheros and a nice talk over VHF radio with the Royal Klipper’s captain (see previous post). We might have been walking past the gates to Marina 4, chit-chatting in morning sunshine.
We laughed all through lunchtime as Spencer made us “fish&chips” wrapped in a basket with newspaper – a nod toward our British crew mate’s enthusiasm for landing at one of the Queen’s remote outposts. Recently fermented Kim Chi was available to vinegar lovers. Gin and tonics were poured to complement this greasy feast; just like lunch at the Harbor alley!
Meanwhile we carried on with boat preparation for strong winds. I rigged up our 15ft parachute sea anchor; should we not arrive in Pitcairn and stormy conditions unfold, we can deploy it and hold position. To the delight of all, Spence and Sabrina drilled out new cam cleats for the jib winches, which makes trimming the sails infinitely nicer. Michael gave the cabin and cockpit a thorough tidy up. The boat was so steady under sail, we could momentarily imagine being secured to an end-tie at the marina; hammering away at projects before going to the Channel Islands for the weekend…
The day’s final hurrah was the long awaited “Movie Night”, where we rig a bed sheet and the projector to create a brilliant 4 foot wide screen. As Aldebaran crawled at 2knots under sail and autopilot, we watched a BBC episode about the South Pacific, and a terribly funny youtube series (downloaded by crewmates) called True Facts about animals. The creaking of the blocks as the sails stretched was our only reminder that we weren’t in the movie theater. The sensation of being teleported to another place was so distinct we had to rub our eyes to remind ourselves where we are.
Then around 8:30pm the good times were over. Lightning began to appear in the distance over a dark horizon. We packed up our “fun day” and fired up Mr. Isuzu. The wind had dwindled to nothing and we were entering a transition zone with rain showers and variable winds. Through the pitch black night we motored, harvesting 10 gallons of rain from our roof and discovering some new leaks from the solar panel installation.
Even though we were using more diesel than hoped for, we were pushing to get to the “other side”, where we expected a high pressure with strong SE winds that would propel us the rest of the way to Pitcairn.