Last Night

Here we are 70 miles west of the coast of Chile. Three months and 6000 miles of sailing and we end up approaching the new continent at night , in a gale and rain , 16′ seas from the SW.

This is the real deal. Full wet gear , 3 wool sweaters , long johns , fleece pants, gloves and toque. Blowing like the clappers. WE even had the drogue out for a while today. Gusting well into the 40’s. We were laid right over with only the storm jib up. This little sail looks like a toy, like the flap on an envelope. But it is pulling us at 4.5 to 6 knots right now.

The howl of the wind rises, and prompts me to leave the keyboard , and reach a hand out the doorway into the cockpit, through the canvas curtains , and grab the tiller ,correcting our course. The gusts over power the windvane.

The barometer plummeted from 1015 yesterday morning to 985 at noon today. 30 millibars !

Our kayaks , on the sidedecks regularly float as the decks are inundated.

Imagine closing this coast in these conditions with only a sextant and dead reckoning. I would have more than a little anxiety.

Meredith and I talk about walking upright without staggering , maybe holding an umbrella. That would be nice.

Maybe tomorrow , if we play this game carefully tonight.

Romance Of The Sea

We are approaching a new continent (for me). We are pretty confident that it exists. The GPS and radio banish much geographical doubt.

That is one way our experience differs from the earlier mariners.

In many ways though nothing has changed. We see the very same scenes that Magellan , Cook , Drake , and the Smeetons all saw. I include them all in the same group. They all had big seas and flat calms ,worrying squalls, too hot and too cold , no life and surrounded by dolphins and albatrosses.

We sometimes motor through calm patches. That is another big difference.

We can stoke the fires of anxiety by looking at Grib file weather maps and barometers and anticipate bad weather to come. They did it by looking at the clouds and the barometer. (The mercury barometer was invented in 1643). Same worries.

The sounds of the ship under sail. Ours is a clank and creak of dacron , nylon and stainless steel , not wood and hemp.

Here I think is a big difference. Cook and Magellan and their like were Experts. They spent their whole life moving vessels under sail. Who has that experience now ? It is way different in a power vessel. I still marvel looking at a 60′ seiner punching into 25 knots in the Strait of Georgia , no problem. The same thing in a sailing vessel is a big effort requiring thought and planning. Who are the experts under sail now ? Maybe a few professional racing skippers , a few high latitude charter boat operators, a few ‘amateur’ short- handed small boat sailors. But very few sailors now spend the years full time at sea under sail , with little support. Even the crews and officers of tallships spend much of their time in port , and due to legal concerns they are quite constrained. I am open to correction here. I think it is mostly a bunch of fairly inexperienced amateurs out here (myself definitely included).

There is an intense low-pressure system around 50 S , not that far south of us. But far enough. It is about the same as hearing of storm force winds off Cape Scott (Vancouver Island) while going sailing near Texada Island. The big difference is that there are no barriers here between us and 50 knot winds and 8 metre seas. Hopefully distance is enough.

As we approach the continent the wind will rise and the seas will build , from that storm to the south. We will need to be careful at the shallowing of the continental shelf , about 40 miles off Valdivia. Maybe we will stop and wait a day or two if needed.

It is all really quite romantic and at times dramatic , I think.

38 13 S 80 04 w 300miles to Valdivia