The passage from Japan (Shimoda) to Canada (Victoria) took 51 days, and it was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We decided to keep a logbook, to better remember it and so it can help others who wish to make this trip.
We’re usually more organized than this, with only a few menial tasks to do, but not this time. Last minute departures is not our style, but we also wanted to take this window. We had to find a post box to send the pocket wifi we rented and to fill our water tanks — this may not seem like much, but it was, as it piled up on top of other things we’d forgotten, like finding and installing the pot holders to the stovetop, installing the jack lines, taking out the tethers, putting key items back in the ditch bag plus a number of other last minute things that had escaped us at the time.
We saw the Kurofune, a replica of Commodore Perry’s black ship, taking tourists about the harbor. It was the first time we’d seen it on the water, as there weren’t many tourists before due to concerns with the coronavirus. Now that the state of emergency’s been lifted, people started traveling more around the country.
Devine is reading “The mushrooom at the end of the world”, while I steer us east. We tried calling Robusta on the VHF, but got no answer, either they’re too far or their radio isn’t on.
Yesterday we sent Robusta an email and got a reply, they are ok and are southwest of us.
We ate raw snap peas as a snack, the texture was weird in our mouths. Devine made spicy ramen, which were very, very spicy. I couldn’t finish my bowl. We had a grapefruit for desert, and made a mess on deck trying to pry it apart. The deck had red on it for a while afterwards.
Devine sent a happy birthday message to his sister.
We’ve noticed the automatic bilge pump keeps going off, we think there’s a leak below the waterline, if so, that is worrisome. We tried to find where it was, but found nothing. None of the thru-hulls are leaking. I also checked the hose connections, nada! I suspect it may be the rudder post that is leaking, but for now it is impossible to look as I’d have to get into the cockpit locker, which is full of water bins and other heavy gear. For now, we try and check the bilge often, pumping the water out by hand every 2h or so. We have two manual bilge pumps, one in the cockpit and another in the cabin under the sink. The automatic bilge pump doesn’t empty the bilge entirely, as it sits on a little stand above the lowest point, but the manual pump tube touches the bottom and does a better job of sucking up the majority of the water. If anything, the automatic pump serves as an alarm.
We still eat two small meals per day, but at least we aren’t low on energy. The terrible weather has a way of keeping us focused, when there is danger we become superhuman, we need less sleep, less food…less everything. Don’t know how long we can sustain this though…
The anchor fell off the bow this morning, after too much time spent bashing in the waves. This is bad. We could hear banging outside of the front of the boat, not because it was banging on the hull, but it was the sound of it hitting the water and reverberating up the chain. I went ahead to pull it back up, the bow diving deep. I was drenched with salt water. I managed to get it up, and secured it as well as I could. If the winds calm down enough, we’ll take it off the bow entirely. If it comes off it could cause real damage to the hull.
The ‘usual tricks’ I have to pass the time include brainstorming, as I have many ongoing projects to plan, I use night shifts to plan it all out in my head and take notes if the weather is good. Another, is recalling as best I can my favorite films, then wording them out. I’ve watched The Lion King too many times in my youth and can narrate it well enough, this can keep me busy for some time. I do the same for my favorite music, singing aloud when I feel tired to keep awake, and when I run out of ideas I try and do the same thing but translate the song into french, which usually makes me laugh and does a good job of keeping me alert. Listening to podcasts, music, or the audio ripped from films is something we used to do, but on this trip, we don’t take devices outside as it is too cold, or too damp and will damage them.
Then, the world became clear again, Pino righted itself and I found myself clinging onto the lower lifelines, hanging outside of the boat. I was tethered to the boat — thank goodness. My lifejacket had popped open too. I was dragging halfway into the water, coughing up salt water. I realized what had just happened then and screamed for Devine. I saw him work his way out of the companionway, completely shook up. Our dodger was ripped off deck, in shreds, and the flexi panel on it was broken in half.
He ran for me and tried to heave me up, but couldn’t. “Is something dragging you under???” He yelled, panicked. “NO!” I replied, “It’s the weight of the water in my clothes! MY boots are full of water! Winch me up!” The winches and lines were covered in broken dodger pieces, it was hard to reach them. “TAKE MY LEG!” I yelled as I managed to lift my right leg up so he could help me get it above the lower life line. It worked. Once that leg was up, it gave me enough lift so he could grab my other leg and then it was easy to climb to safety. The boat was in a heave-to, because it had rounded a full 180 degrees. Devine secured it into a proper heave-to so we could assess the damage.
We left the outside as it was and went inside. The cabin was a complete mess. “We’re dead,” Devine said. In truth, the inside of the boat looked worse than it was. During the knockdown, Devine was thrown from one bunk to another, the produce jumped out of the baskets, some of the floor boards were flipped over, a bottle of cooking oil lept out of the fridge and emptied its contents over a cushion and onto the floor, a giant jar of umeshuu leapt out of the same space and hit the ceiling on the opposite side, exploding onto the navigation table and instruments… all our charts were wet, our passports too. I usually stash them in dry bags, but I didn’t do it this time and I’m not sure why? There was umeshuu EVERYWHERE. The stink of it covered everything.
We sat on the sticky, wet floor, wide-eyed and shook up, thinking: “Did that just happen?” I downed a can of ginger ale. “You almost lost me,” I said to Devine, pained at the thought. He came over and we stayed in each other’s arms, for what felt like…forever. He smiled and looked at me afterward. “You want to get married?” I laughed out loud when he said this, grinning. “Yea. Fuck it. Let’s do it.” I said. We made a promise then, that if we made it back home to Canada, alive, that we’d get married and that we’d try and be content with less. We don’t need to cross an ocean to be happy, surely?
We spent the day heaving to, trying to relax. We made a plan not to panic, and to go forward. It’s a long way to anywhere from here, and we’ve got to keep going, even if it is scary. We’ve got to keep going.
We awoke Calcifer to charge our batteries, but noticed there was no water coming out of the outtake? We shut Calcifer down, and I go below into his chambers to investigate. Sigh. Recently, in Shimoda, I changed the water pump impeller as I noticed it was damaged, but it looks like I put it back in the wrong way… that is bad. Calcifer is good now, at least, and if I messed up that impeller I’ve got another spare I can use. I can’t keep making mistakes like this though, as I heard impellers are hard to come by on the ocean.
Currently, we are more north than we want to be. The weather keeps pushing us that way. We get low after low after low, it feels like being in hell, with the possibility of good weather a distant dream. We’ll likely keep heaving-to ’til sunday, depending on how the weather develops. This is not what we want, but depending on the weather it may be safer to do this.
We are parked in the dead center of a mean system, waiting things out. Looking at the GRIB files, it’s funny to see ourselves positioned in the ‘eye’ of this storm. The world around us is chaos, yet here it is much quieter… in our little parking lot on the ocean.
Pino is steering itself, and we are navigating from inside, checking our heading on the side of the compass. There are zero targets on AIS, different than our 100 target average on Japan’s east coast!
We have finished all of our Japanese sliced bread. We bought many bags before leaving, so we’d have something easy to eat in the begginning. Now, we eat cereal and oatmeal for breakfast. It was nice to have a breakfast that doesn’t dirty dishes.
My ribs hurt a lot today, took an Ibuprofen. The pain comes and goes. I sleep in a seated position most times, and I try not to lift anything heavy.
We cooked some Japanese curry for lunch. The wind is coming out of the SW, with us drifting eastward.
Forecast is promising, but GRIB files in this area are not always accurate. This morning showed winds in the 15-20 knot range but we had 30 knots. There is better weather ahead, at least — well, we hope. We are happy to leave this forsaken area behind. We’re running with a a full jib and double-reefed main. Our paranoia with the weather is still strong, full main just isn’t going to happen in this trip.
We had soba for lunch, the smell was enough to cover up the one emanating from the rotten charts.
To be truly rid of it, we’d have to exorcize the rot demons out of them.
We are crazy fools to be out here, but what other option was there really? How else could we bring Pino home? It’s funny. When the weather is bad, we are fools, but when it’s good, we’re lucky?
We downloaded a bigger range for the GRIB files, and noticed a big system heading our way — what else is new? It’s going to be a strong one. The forecast may change, it often does, but we’re not sure how to go about avoiding it. Devine thinks we should go south, I think north… either that or we slow down and let it pass. This part of the ocean loves beating us down. The only wind we get to go forward is those from passing lows, which are usually too strong, and then leave calms in passing. This is discouraging. Devine is a glass half-full kind of person, I’m glad he’s around to balance me out. A crew of Rekkas would be curled up on the floor, trembling and blaming each other. Fear is a terrible thing.
We have some crystallized ginger for dessert. Our produce is looking past its best. We’ve got a 3/4 cabbage that is okay, 9 carrots, with a few starting to look tired, a daikon that is getting spotty and 1/2 an eggplant. Our potatoes and onions are looking good. We’ve also got some preserved lotus roots, and many other dried vegetables, but we’re keeping those for later.
Morgan and Douglas, from Tumbleweed, messaged us to report an issue with our track, saying it was not updating (since the 17th). We were concerned that people would think we’d died, or had serious issues. It is fixed now! We’re glad. We’re lucky to have such good land support, people to tell us if our path is broken, to help us with weather or to give us moral support from afar.
We’ve got our share of bumps and bruises! Devine has got splinters under his nails, I’m not sure how that happened? He’s got a bruised knee, from the knockdown, and we both have random aches, callusses on our hands etc.
Devine started reading “Canticle for Lebowitz”, having finished “The Dispossessed”.
If the wind had a face I’d punch it.
We’re steering from inside, as it is getting colder. Devine found a sweet spot with ropes that permits us to do little do no steering tonight.
I noticed some wear on the foot of the headsail, but I’ve no clue when I’ll be able to go up there to patch it up. The weather is still too rough. I hope the jib will hold up, it has so far but it’s old, very old. I’ve no doubt it’ll enjoy a quiet life in BC inland waters, once if we reach Canada. I can’t talk in ‘whens’ or ‘ifs’ still, it’s hard to imagine arriving anywhere when there’s this much distance between us and land. BC is a haven on a rough ocean.
We had kiri mochi, carrot and the last of the cabbage for lunch. Our veggie supply is looking sadder, and sadder.
Both of us slept soundly last night, we steered from the companionway stairs again and kept our heading to the E. We don’t have weather yet, as we’re having trouble getting a good signal. We will try again soon.
We are 19 days out of Japan.
We flipped the jib sheets around as noticed some chafe, we also added tape to places they commonly lay up against. Devine tightened some halyard so they’d stop banging on the mast, and we cleaned solar connections from salt and added lanolin to protect them from corrosion.
There is blue ahead, how nice, but this also means we’re heading into a calm — not so nice.
Cruel that the wind is gone but that waves persist. I bet there’s a circle of hell that is exactly this — this is a common theme in my writing isn’t it? I blame the fact that I started to read Dante’s Purgatorio.
We had early oatmeal, as we were very hungry this morning. Cold night, had many layers on but was still cold!
After waking, I read “The Long Way” by Bernard Moitessier aloud to Devine. It’s comforting to have our thoughts echoed in his, somehow we feel less alone. The sea scares everyone.
Then, we make savory pancakes to be eaten as a sidedish to soybean hummus, carrots and daikon. The daikon had some nasty bits but I cut them off, and the rest was eatable, mild, but good enough by our standards. We had a glass of wine afterwards, as two albatrosses circled our boat, landing closer and closer everytime.
They kept their distance at first, but now they come right near, checking us out, and allowing us to see their striking features more clearly. We named the more daring of the two “Bowie”, because of the dark colouring around its eyes, which is very glamorous indeed. Everytime we look outside we see Bowie there, paddling next to the boat, having no trouble keeping up. Love ya Bowie, you’re keeping us well entertained.
We dumped a 10L bin of freshwater into the main tank.
Wind is invariably weak, coming out of the E.
A quiet ocean isn’t the worse thing, as there is much to enjoy. Our neighbours the Pacific white-sided dolphins came to see us 3 times today. Because the sea was flat, we could hear them coming from far away. They are a most welcome sight. No matter how bad I’m feeling, their visit always perks me right up! Bowie left to look for food, we’re left with the cackling storm petrels for company.We moved closer to 180 degrees, we are at 178, here’s hoping for wind returning later today so we can finally cross that invisible line! We noticed today that one of our spreader lights was broken, our espar heater too has issues… Pino is going to need a lot of love and attention after this trip is over.
We have an early glass of red wine to celebrate our near victory. We sip it as I continue to read “The Long Way” by Moitessier to Devine. The sun is warm and being outside is so damn pleasant!
I wash my face every few days to remove the accumulation of salt, my face feels smooth, and as do the tips of my fingers? Our bodies don’t get rinsed often, as we are conserving water. We wash whenever we change clothes, which on this trip isn’t terribly often. Sea life puts us on a different beat, I like it, but I do miss hot showers and our little room heater. It’s a shame our Espar diesel heater is broken, but again, even if it wasn’t I doubt we’d have enough power to sustain its use, as it is coldest when the power it at its lowest. Tomorrow is our scheduled time to wake Calcifer so we can charge our batteries. Our neighbour under the stairs is doing well, and did not think the knockdown bothersome — good.
Our main is flapping, waiting for wind to fill its belly, to give it purpose. Not tonight. Maybe things will be different in the morning, in the meantime we’ll have to endure the flapping.
The night is quiet otherwise, with stars in full view. The moon has set, making it easier to see the tapestry in detail. I see 3 ships on AIS, all far away. Busy, busy seas no? May they stay far away, may we never hear the sound of their rumbling engines cutting through the quiet in our vicinity.
Calm, calm, calm. Flat calm. Silvery, rippleless seas. We drifted last night until 4h this morning, then turned on the iron wind to charge the batteries and to give ourselves a false sense of progress. Our dolphin family came to say hi today, we saw their outlines perfectly in calm waters. We felt guilty to be motoring with them around, I imagine the sound must be deafening underwater. Devine charged the Nikon yesterday and was able to take footage of our sea family.
As we drifted in quiet waters this morning, I saw a strange creature pulsing in the water, it looked like a creature that had been turned inside out, translucent and pinkish. It had multiple bulbous protrusions. The ocean feels alien with such things living in it. We dubbed these strangelings “mimoids”, like the manifestations in Solaris.
Devine went up the mast to the first spreader to fix a light that had broken off, it was hanging by its wires. Devine feared that one day it would fall and smack us in the head. He secured it with tape, a good temporary fix. He was happy to come back down, even after only being up there for 5 minutes, as the bosun’s chair was giving him a hell of a wedgie. “Ahh! My balls!” Dev whined as I helped him down.
There is a tiny breeze, it helps us keep a heading E. We’re cruising at a low 2-2.5 knots — better than zero no? It will likely die today, with the forecast calling for an even calmer calm, if there can ever be such a thing. Perhaps it is a place where even sea life is still, slumbering peacefully before the next low comes rolling in. We should get some weather on friday, maybe enough to propel us to our halfway mark.
Devine prepared some epoxy, and filled up some holes left on deck by our former dodger after it was ripped off.
The breeze is still with us, the sky is overcast now though, it is much cooler outside without the warmth of the sun.
I feel bad because I dropped a glass jar onto Devine’s bony side while reaching for a snack in the dark. He was not pleased with me.
Noticed we were getting a few amps from the solar panel after all, that is good.
Devine spotted a whale, far, far away, and wonders if it’ll come closer to say hi. We have been on Japan time since the start, but I checked local time today, Adak time, and I feel less bad about our early afternoon wine.
We are becalmed, again. Pino had a good run today though! Now, there is fog and it is wet out. I await the sun, the wind… I can hear storm petrels cackling outside. Seems like they only ever come around the boat at night, to laugh, as if they know how eerie it is for us to hear. Robusta is more N, but also suffers from lack of progress. Sailboats are creatures of movement, ours has not had many opportunities for it lately. As we bob around, I hear voices in the rigging, a sort of squeaky “Hellooo.” Other times, while sitting outside at night, we’d hear “Hey’s!” and “Check it!” When extremely tired, the brain not only finds words in sounds, we have conversations with ghosts, asking questions, receiving answers… sometimes my own answers were so absurd it would startle me into wakefulness. I’d start combining words to make new ones, or invent new ones entirely while being sure of their meaning. Questions like: “Where is the turtle there?” i’d answer with “the meeting last time”, then say “in the mihtime” or something.Lack of sleep does weird things to one’s brain. Don’t get me started on the things I saw moving in the compass! A head, nodding, agreeing to all of my nonsense, always. It would swallow me right up, my head swimming with numbers in a clear liquid, enveloped in yellow light. Thankfully, we hallucinate less these days, being becalmed allows for more sleep.
We set up food goals for each milestone. Halfway means opening a bag of gobou (burdock root) and renkon (lotus root), a mix we bought at Aoki in Shimoda. It was pricy, but its shelf-stable and looks delicious! Looking forward to it.
Pino is doing good. The sky is grey, but bright. Our solar backpack is outside, charging up our two little battery banks. Devine went back to sleep, I’m okay to watch as it isn’t much effort, Pino is steering itself.
We make penne with a red lentil sauce for lunch. The food helps to diffuse Devine’s headache, a little, but he hopes to nap again right after the ship has passed us. The wind has lessened, but is still with us. Pino won’t self-steer now, I pull ropes while standing on the companionway stairs. Afternoons are lonely when Devine doesn’t feel good. We are 150 NM away from the halfway mark.
We skipped dinner today, as Devine wasn’t hungry and I had no desire to cook something complicated for myself. I made a small bowl of cereal, and a peanut butter pita. Breakfast for dinner — hell yes. It is quiet and cold on the Pino universe today. The days blend with one another, and Vancouver Island is a distant, fictitious land of plenty. We won’t accept it as a reality, not now, all land is fantasy. Our world is ocean, skies, sun, stars, porpoises, dolphins and seabirds. This is our 24th day at sea. I realize I should not be counting, counting only makes me anxious, and eager to arrive.
We’ve started to wash our dishes using water from our pressure sprayer. We filled it up at the pontoon in Shimoda before leaving. We put the container in the left sink, it works well. Our main tank is reserved for drinking and cooking. Conserving water early is the safest thing to do, as our current speed doesn’t inspire much confidence.
We’ve fallen into a trap, the tricky web of the guardian of the Aleutian Island monster. It grabs winged creatures like us in passing, and is determined to keep us.
The wind is with us, but has switched direction and is blowing from the S. Pino seems content with the change, gliding on without assistance. The night is not as dark as it usually is, the moon and stars are hidden but their light shines through the grey veil. I think it is a full moon tonight, this may account for the marked brightness.
Devine makes late night ramen on his last shift. I am happy he is eating and that his stomach appears to be more settled. I am wearing my scarf tonight, it helps keep the breeze from entering my collar. It keeps me comfortable and warm.
We reached 175 degrees today, with only 96 NM left to our halfway mark. I am as sick of not crossing it as I am of writing about not crossing it. There’s fog, but thick enough to obscure all. Coffee time cannot come fast enough, my veins demand it.
The wind is good, the seas are flat and we are flying! We put Calcifer back to sleep, job well done friend, our batteries are healthy again. Pino island is drifting happily, its residents too, are happy. Captain Ninj is giving us tasks to do from his spot on the starboard side settee. Our armchair captain enjoys the comfort of the sleeping bags.
Devine wiped rust that had formed over some of our sailing needles, and was in the process of sewing a patch to our laundry bag when I awoke to tell him about my dream. He’d also set up a Rasperry Pi to work on his off-time. He found a way to back up work using a UBS key on Linux.
We have to alter course to avoid a fishing fleet that lies ahead. We see many targets on AIS but they all bear similar names, ending with numbers. The last time this happened, the ‘other ships’ turned out to be buoyed beacons, marking the position of their nets. We hoped this wasn’t the same deal, as avoiding them all is hard. I really despise this industry. They shouldn’t be here doing this. All of the trash we see on the ocean is from fishing, foam fenders, floats, nets… they are filling it with garbage while emptying it of life. I really, really hate them.
The sight of all these targets is too crazy, I almost don’t believe it. They’re all Chinese-flagged vessels, all huddled up together here — a hellish sight. I really hope fog won’t set in, otherwise this could get dangerous. This is worse than sailing in Japanese coastal waters. We went through thinking that we’d reach the end of the fleet soon, but the thing is that AIS doesn’t load all targets, especially those beyond 12 NM. There are many, many more ahead.
There are no birds here. I understand. If we could leave this place skyward we’d do it.
The wind is light now, and we cannot download the weather. We’ll try again tomorrow morning. I am tired from this day, these ships sucked out all my energy. I can’t relax either, afraid to see another cluster ahead. Tomorrow will be better, it’s got to be better. I want to be with the birds and porpoises again.
There is some good news though, as we’ve reached our halfway mark and ate the gobou and konyakku mix over a bed of soba! As per usual, reaching a milestone also means drifting into a calm. This calm came with rain, that we promptly collected with an upside down umbrella, the water pooling in the middle and emptying into a bucket we set underneath it. We collected enough to fill up our pressure sprayer for washing dishes.
I did not sleep much last night, but I feel okay, food and coffee does wonders for the body and mind. Devine is napping now, while I’m dressed in my oil skins, awaiting wind. While outside, I noticed something bobbing on the water’s surface today, something in two smooth, shiny, rounded parts. I thought it was a gum boot. I looked away for a second, and it disappeared? Either I’m crazy, or the thing decided to sink as I looked away. I spotted it again aft of us, with only half of the mound appearing on the surface this time. I grabbed the binoculars to try and make out what it was…a SEAL! I saw its whiskers, its snout and ears. It was checking us out. It made my day.
I am tired. I may need a second cup of coffee to help me through today. Being animated by artificial means is necessary sometimes at sea, it makes me focused, determined. If I had giant oars I’d go and row Pino along, moist air be damned.
Sometimes though, I grow tired of resting. I am restless to sail, to move forward. I continue to watch the sea for ripples, but it is as still as ever. It is hard to distinguish the water from the sky, it is dizzying. It is almost as if there is air underneath us. If I were to take a step out, I’d fall, not sink. Devine is sitting at the bow, playing the harmonica, providing a fitting soundtrack. We try and make the best out of difficult situations, conserving food, water, resting our bodies and minds, and being careful not to succumb to the gloom bug. We must never despair.
This morning at 1h, when I went to sleep, I noticed that I could see my own breath. Yep, it is cold in here! I was lying in bed, in a pile of sleeping bags, buried within to try and shield myself from it.
Devine made a lantern our of a can of Yebisu yesterday, he hung it up and placed a candle in it. It helped us save power at night, while giving the room a nice ambiance. If we near our hands to it it gives off a bit of warmth too, it feels good after a cold shift.
Our next milestone lies ahead, 90 NM away. We’ll hit the 2000 NM to Vancouver Island. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but we’ve already done so much. If the wind stays we’ll meet our goal soon enough, but it is difficult in these waters, where the wind is far from constant. We still don’t have weather, as the Iridium office is closed on weekends, and that the next working day is a holiday. Sigh. We’d like to know what’s going on out there, we can’t read the waves and wind like Moitessier — at least not yet. Maybe it’s time to unbox the sextant, although I imagine it wouldn’t be easy to take noonsights in fog.
We’re sailing E into the wind, it is hard, as the waves make us yaw, and that self-steering is not possible. Can’t complain though, as we are going forward, it’s what I wanted, although I do wish that wind came at us from a better quarter. What I wish doesn’t matter though, because we’ve got to live in the moment, what is is, and we’ve got to push on.
In better news, my ribs are better. I can sleep in almost any position, but I must be careful not to strain. Lifting heavy objects is still hard, and on some rare occasions I get a dull pain. All in all, it’s better than it was and I am glad. Now, we await wind, if it would be so kind as to return to instill a bit of hope in us, some faith in the possibility of making it to land… someday. I often joke that Pino is a log, when we’re not going forward. In such times, I feel the log would get to its destination faster. Maybe Pino is just tired? Steering us from calm to calm to rest its rigging and wings. We pushed you hard these past 4 1/2 years, haven’t we?
I made chocolate cake today, a request from Devine. I prepared it on the stovetop in our cast iron pan with a heavy lid, let it bake for 15 minutes and let it cool with the lid on. It baked wonderfully. Life aboard is quiet today, Devine is reading “The art of UNIX programming”. We should have left with more books. “Golden Apples Of The Sun” is great to read, we went through 3 shorts this morning. Ray Bradbury has a fun writing style. In one short called “The Murderer”, a man is jailed after killing a variety of noise-producing devices, being fed up with it and wishing for a quieter world. That struck a chord. In a noisy world, people don’t have the mind space to reflect on what matters.
A lesson in this trip, is that any metal, piece of electronic or paper product will suffer from moisture. This notion isn’t entirely new to us, but the speed with which it degrades these things is astounding! The chart that I use to mark our position everyday has a lot more mold now, but we keep using it still. It’s all we’ve got. There are little black dots all over it, and any mark we make using a marker pen bleeds out. We’ve got to use a ball point pen to keep our positions on the map readable.
We have a box of electronics and wires that we use everyday, which houses the Iridium and Devine’s old iPhone (and corresponding wires). Everytime we use them, we put them back into their box afterward to protect them. We’ve also added a pack of dessicant to minimize moisture. We keep the logbook and some other important notebooks in a plastic bag with more dessicants, we’d hate to lose the content of these books, which contain notes on future projects, drawings etc.
I’d rather be here than on a plane though, that much is sure, as I hate to be bombarded with advertisements. Visiting an airport is an attack on the senses, a place of masterful trickery, where you are made to walk through rows of gifts shops, perfume stands, jewelers… the only way to have peace and quiet is to go to a paid lounge. Quiet and comfort comes with a price tag. It’s crazy to think that people thought it a good idea to do this, who would design such a space? Such a world centered not on the well-being of people, but on how much money they can get them to spend. It is like this was designed by beings who’ve no idea what humans need, by creatures who have no empathy. That episode of Black Mirror where people run on treadmills for money, and pay not to see ads in their rooms, feels all too true while in airports.
There are some fishing boats ahead that I can see on AIS, I hope it isn’t another large fleet… we’ll have to wait until we get closer to find out.
There is fog all around us still, it just won’t leave. We’re staying inside as we’re getting a lot of saltwater spray in the cockpit. I’m eager for a shower, but none like that. Sometimes, the fog blanket thins out just enough that we can feel the warmth of the sun, other times we are rewarded with patches of blue sky.
We received a message from Devine’s dad, saying that he’d contacted the customer service at Iridium and that we had indeed, run out of data. Our plan was topped up, and we’re able to update our position on the live map, check emails and to check the weather — finally! We had many messages from Robusta, saying they’d run out of coffee, and that they looked forward to touching land, even if it is only 10C outside. We told them we’d be passing Dutch Harbor, and that we’d head straight to Canada. After the knockdown, we weren’t sure if going straight home was the best idea, but now we think we can make it.
The weather is set to increase, which means we’ll be going forward for the next few days, but we’ve got to be careful. It’s been a while since we’ve encountered such weather, and I don’t want a repeat of what happened off the coast of Japan. We reefed down the jib, it helped stabilize Pino, but it has offset our course a little, not a big deal because the fleet of ships is still ahead. Yep, another fleet of Chinese-flagged vessels. As we are nearing them, the number of vessels increases. First, there was 2, then 4, now 9. The closer we go, the higher this number will go. Our reefed jib is giving us more northing that will permit us to sail around the northernmost edge of the fleet.
We’re going at 4-4.5 knots. I’m glad to have the weather, but seeing the forecast is worrisome in other ways.
The fog is thick, thick. I can’t see a thing. Looking outside offers nothing but grey, the sea too is that colour. I wonder if we’ll ever see a full blue sky accompanied by a wam sun again. The weather tonight should not be too crazy, but we’re ready for anything. Devine went outside to put a piece of Sunbrella to our jib sheet, to a part rubbing against one of the stays to protect it against chafe. That is always a problem in heavy weather, and our jib sheets are not young, they’ve seen a lot of weather and ocean.
I’m on watch and it is hard to keep from snuggling up to Devine in the covers, ignoring the chaos outside, buried in soft fabric. “The weather can’t touch me here! OH no! I am safe in the fort with Devine.” Pino doesn’t feel unsafe to me, that I want to make clear. The noise inside the cabin is what scares me the most, as does the roar of the waves, like a monster is outside, trying to get it. Even if a fort is strong, you can still tremble within its walls.
We prepared the last two packets of ramen for dinner, something simple and warm to appease my stress. It helped. We continued to read “Golden Apples Of The Sun”. We only have one short left, and then we’re finished. We read “The Foghorn” and it illustrated the mood outside perfectly. I calmed down after that, the wind too and with it the waves. We kept the reefed jib as the wind may increase again tonight, but for now it has slowed our speed. No matter.
These ramen are making me crazy thirsty, I can’t stop drinking water.
I bought boxes of Clif Bars in Japan before leaving, as filler for our ditch bag but also as a night time snack. A few weeks ago, we started rationing them so they’d last till our arrival in Canada. Devine cut them into 6 pieces and placed the slices in a jar for easy access. In the beginning, we were wolfing down entire bars, initially out of hunger, then out of boredom, then as a way to keep awake. We try and be more reasonable now, we get 3 slices per night, each.
Gliding at a reasonable 4-4.5 knots, heading NE. The winds will shift to the SW tomorrow, and will increase a lot. If it gets too crazy we will heave-to. I’ve no desire to take risks anyore, not for speed anyway.
As I am writing this, the fog cleared ahead! WOW! Look at that horizon line! What-a-BEAUTY! Never thought I’d miss the sight of it this much. I will not last, but for now I’ll take it, it is here, it is pleasant and I am happy. The world just got a lot sharper and I love it!
Tonight, we will prepare hummus and stovetop bread. We don’t have fresh vegetables to eat with it, but it’s okay. I’ll also be using garlic powder instead of fresh cloves, as we only have 1/2 a bulb left. I’ll hate myself forever for not buying more fresh garlic.
I ate fermented radish that Kako gave us before leaving, she gave us two jars, plus two others of raggyo, onions preserved in soy sauce and vinegar. We also prepared garlic miso, but they’re not good to eat anymore I think. It’s an amazing recipe and is easy to prepare, it consists of peeled garlic cloves with the tips cut off, buried in miso and left to ferment for 1 month. It is delicious!
The wind will rise tonight as the low passes over us. It won’t be as strong as what we had near Japan, but we’ll be careful anyway. We’re doing good speed, rapidly approaching our next milestone: The Turn Off. It is 370 NM away, not too far. Devine added other milestones in-between, to make things exciting. We’ll likely cross the 1750 NM (left) mark in the coming day. Captain Ninj is pleased with our progress, “the gnocchi—” he says, “—it is near! SOON the potato pillows will enter your mouth caves!” Yes Captain Ninj, and we will be happy when they do.
With 1800 NM left, being careful is essential. We don’t know what could happen that could slow us down, meaning more days out here where we consume water. Here is hoping we get some rain, one big downpour to dissolve the crust of salt enveloping Pino, to fill a few upside down umbrella’s worth of extra water.
The night is smooth, so far. We are staying ahead of the weather, pretending it won’t catch up. I realized today that I stopped dreaming? Seems like they stopped when the wind returned. I’ve got a more active mind during bouts of calms. With the winds we’ve had yesterday and today, those calms feel like a distant dream. Not sure we’ve seen the last of the calm calms, I could never say anything like that with confidence, not out here.
Fog is ever-present, but with a bit of sun shining through. It isn’t too cold either, even at night. We sit at the navigation table with a sleeping bag, and with it we are comfortable. Robusta is near Dutch Harbor, maybe they’ve arrived already. We got no message saying so today, we’ll miss exchanging emails with our schnaubees.
The fog parted today as we were chatting, glass of aka wine in hand. I peeked outside and just… laughed! I felt such joy at being able to see far ahead. It’s had to describe what I felt really, such unbriddled joy! I missed seeing it, but more than this… it is such a relief to see the world and ocean with such precision, clarity and colour!
Devine is making garlic, nori and chili flake pasta for dinner – one of my favourite recipes! We’re using up our last onion, and the bulb of garlic is thinning out. These ingredients usually go last, but the potatoes are still plentiful. Staples in Canada, like carrots, onions and potatoes, are things that are cheap and easy to buy in large quantities — but not in Japan. Yellow onions were sold in packs of 3, and were expensive. The carrots too, sold in 3’s, expensive. Why 3?! It’s possible that the price of a big bag would deter Japanese buyers, as in general, produce there is costly, but still. When stocking up for this trip, we told Robusta the number of onions we got and they were shocked, because they’d seen the price at the market. We had little choice, since we don’t have a fridge and that we had to buy many more long-lasting items to make up for it. At least, Japanese groceries stock many great items like dried tofu, kiri mochi, fu, preserved lotus root, dried seaweed, dried mushrooms etc.
We are nearing the Turn Off, it is 138 NM away! Then, it’s GNOCCHI TIME!
Devine made pasta, I ate it while half asleep. Today’s stress robbed me of rest. We shared a Yebisu too, to make sure i’d get knocked right out.
This streak of rough weather is a cruel, cruel thing, a horrible weather monster, guarding the east, keeping small ships from passing. Vancouver Island is concealed behind it, uncaring. “What can we do to appease you? OH great streak?” It doesn’t answer, well, it answers the only way it can I suppose, with lashes of rain and gusts of wind. Maybe it intends to let us through, and we are misunderstanding each other? As different sorts of beings often do, being dissimilar in every way.
I am eager, scared to see how this develops. 40 knots of wind isn’t a big deal for most vessels, and it isn’t for us either, technically, but it can get dangerous if the wind blows that strongly for hours and hours, then the sea has plenty of time and inertia to grow into something terrible. In Japanese, the word for waves is “nami”, they call waves “nami usagi”, or “rabbit waves”. This is a perfect way to describe the ocean, full of rabbits waves.
Nothing is guaranteed, neither the calm, nor strength of that system. Conditions change daily, mostly in small ways, but also in big menacing ones. Today, we got the big menacing kind of update. I am tired of being afraid, of waiting, I’m tired of these walls that keep forming around us. The next 4 days will not grant us much progress, we’ll be hiding from the monster streak, waiting for its anger to subside so that we can transit past it. There’s a chance too that once the streak leaves, that it takes all wind with it. It is what it is, and it sucks. I am sick of the Pacific Ocean.
The gloom bug is strong today isn’t it? You let it in! Why’d you do that? It’s easy to succumb to it while in bad weather, with our goal being so far away, but I’m here, with the most fantastic human there is! That’s good isn’t it? Even in bad times it’s good. My brain defaults to this kind of negative thinking when I am tired, and I definitely am. A sure way to slay the gloom bug, is to sleep.
It is definitely discouraging to not work towards our goal because of strong winds, but we’ve got no choice, it is the safest thing to do. Sometimes, the long way is the best way, detours and all. After that, we have 1500 NM to the opening to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. With what we’ve done already, it doesn’t seem like much, but if we keep getting flare-ups like this it will amount to many more miles. It is best not to count detours.
I’m in a better mood than yesterday, as we’ve got a plan. Having a plan feels better than idling, waiting for the storm to come. We hope that this bad streak will be a distant memory, as we glide on a corridor of smooth, fresh winds all the way home!
As for the diesel, we’re at 1/2 a tank currently, with 3 extra jerry cans, totalling 60 L. We’ve used Calcifer sparingly in this trip, only to charge batteries, hardly ever for forwardness and we will continue to do this. We tried to time our charging sessions with calms, to help us move along, and also because it’s better to motor in calms than in rough weather. The engine doesn’t like being tossed around, neither do we. We want to have enough diesel to motor through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and into Victoria Harbour. Distances will seem so small once (if) we get in sheltered waters, with everything being a day sail away! Ah, the dream!
My 2-hour shift went by real slow, after that event. It’s possible that it felt like forever because I had an incredible urge to pee, that’s what I get for downing my coffee so quickly.
I want to have a good course always, I should know better. I know with sailing you can’t always point where you want. The path to our destination will never be a straight line, it’ll curve, zig zag and sometimes overlap itself. You can’t be in a hurry. I know all of this, but I still think it, like my brain is ignoring wisdom on purpose to torture me.
The gloom bug isn’t here to stay, it’s not all I have on my mind, there is also gnocchi banging around in here. Well, the idea of gnocchi. We’ve nearly reached the Turn Off, nearly… but fuck it, we’re eating those stupid potato lovelies TODAY. We’ll be hitting that milestone in the night, so it doesn’t matter when today, technically. Potato pillows, in my mouth cave….TODAY.
Rain is consistent. I set up a bucket under the main to catch some extra water for washing dishes. We’ve not yet touched our extra 70L.
I go outside to transfer the collected water from bucket to bin. It filled half of a 10L bin. Halfway into the trip, I wished for rain, now I wish it’d stop. Everything inside is moist, or thoroughly wet. I’ve got 2 dry and clean dish towels left, hm, must use sparingly. The bowls cannot be allowed to air-dry, as they won’t anyway, and will develop rot.
The rain has let up, we don’t know how long that’ll last but we’ll enjoy it for now. I know Devine is, as he is not as rain-ready as I am. He has no rain boots, as they became too leaky early in the trip, and no oil skins to hide under. Our foul weather gear does keep wetness out, a little, but doesn’t dry fast enough… and even if dry inside, it feels moist because of the damp outer shell.
We have coffee, warm oatmeal and I step outside to steer us along.
The waves are still with us, and the wind has turned a bit. We’re forced to hand-steer downwind, not my favourite. We’ll be outside tonight, pushing hard to make it to a safe zone, as per usual, more weather approaches. We’ll make it out of the first bad patch, but the second is wide. We’re nearing the 1250 mark to the Juan de Fuca Strait, we cannot get there fast enough. Sometimes we wish we had a giant dial aboard, counting our miles covered and what we have left to do, a colorful, ridiculous thing with little doors to open for each big milestone, like opening a door on a christmas calendar, but with lotus roots and beer as prizes.
I’m doing my best to stay upbeat, but I am getting worn down by all this grey weather and oncoming storms, I might be feeling this way because I am tired, I’ve had trouble getting deep sleep. I didn’t sleep well last night because of AIS beeping, warning us of a ship. Then after that, the wind died and the jib was flapping rudely. We always wait a little before furling it, as sometimes the wind comes right back. It did return, but it was weak and we had to furl it after all.
I motored for 2 hours on my first shift to charge our batteries, we need to do it often these days, as cloudy skies don’t permit our panels to draw from the sun. Once in a while, we get a ‘fog sun’, a bright diffused halo in the sky. That is the most sun this part of the ocean will ever grant us. Fog sun works with our panel, I did not expect that.
It isn’t raining, so I take this rare opportunity to fill up the diesel tank. Operation fill-up was a success, with no freak wave slashing up onto the deck. I can fill the tank myself, thanks to a little syphon we got while in New Zealand. I tie the diesel bin on the cabin-top rail, so it stands a bit higher, than I jiggle the syphon and have it empty into the tank through a funnel with a fine mesh strainer. No mess, no problem.
We are considering stopping at Ucluelet if we get low on fuel, but I don’t think it’ll be necessary. Landing there would shorten our trip though, that is something to consider, say, if we are tired. I’ve already marked the positions of the customs and fuel dock on Navionics. The little marina there looks nice, going there is tempting, but I wonder what the situation is now for Coronavirus as we’ve been in the dark for 37 days. WOW. 37?! That’s long. I stopped crossing dates on our calendar because it discouraged me, although the cartoons I’ve drawn in the margins always make me smile. Cartoons for the mind.
A ship called “Cosco America” passes south of us, I resist the urge to radio in to ask for Clif Bars, nutritional yeast and olives. “You want us to fill your boat with olives?” To which we say. “Buried in kalamatas yes that’s right.”
We’ve been pushing hard these past few days, doing as much distance as we can to position ourselves well to the weather. It has paid off, but it is exhausting, as these systems don’t stop coming, ever. At least we are dry, there is little rain and it isn’t overly cold.
“Sick to death of the Pacific Ocean” is stuck on repeat in my head. This ocean offered us many amazing moments, images that I will remember forever, but inversely, I’ll remember the terrifying bits always.
At this point in the trip, I’ve reached maximum annoyance with this ocean, made worst by my own hunger, accumulated tiredness and the fact that I don’t have anymore clean pants to wear. I’ve got to choose the pair that stinks the least, or the one that is the least damp. Tough choice. My fleece has an odor in it that I can’t stand, I smell it every hour of every day, it smells old, damp and well-worn. I keep wearing it though, just like I keep wearing the same pair of blue wool socks, as they’re what’s keeping me warm. I shook the salt crystals out of them, then back on my feet they went! Devine’s been wearing the same ‘combine’ since the start. All our clothes are looking past their best, 39 days of cold and wet sailing will do that. It’s actually been 40 days, but since we’ve experienced July 1st twice I like to substract that day, it makes me feel good to pretend we haven’t reached 40 yet.
Now, we’re down to 3 digits! This is definitely worth celebrating! We ate the renkon with soft tofu, short grain white rice (sushi rice) with bits of shredded nori, accompanied by a glass of red wine and some dekopon yokan (orange-flavored red bean cake) for desert. After dinner, I went to steer, then I switched places with Devine for 1 hour so I could have a break before my first long shift starts.
We download the weather, coffee in hand. We’re SE of a bad streak of weather, riding alongside in calmer winds. We are making good speed and don’t have to worry about being over-canvassed. We’ll be going along this streak for the next two days, then it looks like a patch of calmer weather approaches. Devine changed the GRIB file coordinates yet again so we could see the wind on the west coast of Canada. It’s nice to finally see what’s brewing in this region! The wind here circles the Pacific High, going S, to SW, W then N along the coast. We are about 880 NM from the entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait, and it is crazy to think that we are so close! I’m still waiting for something bad to happen, something that will keep us from our goal. It is almost too crazy to be true. Land, and not just any land, home, where we started from in August 2016. I’m both excited and scared.
Pino is a very leaky boat, and has been for a while now. We think the toerail is leaking, that along with other points on deck we’ve yet to identify. It’s hard to figure out where it’s coming from as sometimes the water travels far before leaking inside. Pino was a turn-key boat when we bought it, and 5 years of hard sailing have turned it into a project boat.
We’re almost below 800 NM to the Vancouver Island entrance. I hope that we won’t come at a time a gale forms along the coast, it is possible and we’ll plan for it, but wouldn’t it be nice to arrive somewhere in lighter winds? Our experience thus far, arriving anywhere, is coming in full speed into a protected cove, atoll, port etc, exhausted due to days of boisterous weather. Wouldn’t it be amazing to break that pattern?
We continue readings of Cyberiad, an activity we look forward to everyday, where we wander into the imagination of another, offering some respite from our own as we spend plenty of time in our own heads. We’ve done a lot of thinking in this trip, now we need to start doing. Our thinking quotas have been spent.
Pino isn’t driving itself well today, Devine is on watch, making sure we stay on course. He is sitting on the companionway stairs, and I’d prefer he stay up there as he is farting up a storm, as am I, actually. Not sure what it is we ate that is causing it, but it does not stop! We are trapped in a capsule of stink, we shoot bullets at all hours, and without warning.
Our arrival is becoming real, this is what we hold onto, what pushes us to keep steering in shitty conditions, what animates our tired bodies and minds. We’re at day 42, but everything previous to this day already feels alien, like the time we spent in Shimoda, and previously in Minamiise — were we really there? Then I look at our sailing track and pause. “Did we really sail all that?” It was a crazy plan before we left, it is crazy to be in the thick of it and it is insane to think that it will end. My brain still has trouble believing that this passage can end. This has been our reality for what feels like… forever, stuck in our little fog world. Land is coming into focus now in my head, it is becoming less phantasmic. The fabled land beyond the fog of war.
We got messages from friends and family, all kept up with our progress, and somehow, knowing that makes us feel less alone. “You’re almost there!” they said. Almost, yes, almost there.
Our days all melt into one another, like one long day made up of an infinity of hours, living in a grey world has a way of making everything feel the same. Nighttime helps to separate our days, but it is also a blur as it seems we’re only ever just waiting for the fog to clear. I made glass noodles with a peanut butter sauce for lunch, using up our last can of peas. For dinner, we had Japanese kare with tsukemono, dry tofu, dried radish and half a white potato.
We are running downwind, not my favourite point of sail as it requires a lot of attention, gybing is easy in big seas. The waves have calmed somewhat, courtesy of the calm at our heels, but they’re still there and we feel them, racing toward us, lifting us up before setting us back down. I fear being becalmed again, as it’ll delay our arrival. I am impatient. I am eager. I am ready to be back on land, and I want this to be soon. Of course, the wind will determine when, but oh how I wish we were just a day away! We’ve got 6 days left, and those will undoubtedly be the longest IN MY FREAKIN’ LIFE.
Do we still like the ocean? Yes, of course we still like it, we’ve spent too much time in it as of late, but we’ll always love it. During this trip, we’d often ask ourselves, why do we do this? Why put ourselves through this crazy sailing across a vast ocean business? We don’t really know why, but when we left Canada with Pino to go south, we knew we’d be taking it back home afterwards, that was a promise we’d made. No matter what, Pino would come back with us. We’re a team, and we’re closing this circle together.
Today, I re-packed our ditch bag, the current bag grew a bit of mold as it lay under the space where we’d hang our wet clothes. I pulled out what I thought to be a large dry bag, thought it would serve as a good replacement. I rolled it out once to look at it, but never tried to pack anything into it, I’d noticed then how long it was and thought it would be perfect for this. I assumed it had as much girth as it had length — far from! I put two big items in, and noticed how narrow it was, and so instead of bulging outward it grew skyward. With all the items packed in, it was no wider than a soccer ball, but reached up to my waist, like a long, awkward, slender worm. I named it: “The lumpy sausage”. Now everytime I look at it, I can’t stop laughing.
The rest of the night was uneventful, we are zooming forward, beating into the wind and waves. Last night was especially cold though, even with two sleeping bags I was frozen. Now, I sit at the chart table, fleece and puffy jackets on, tuque, scarf and foul-weather pants and I feel better, especially too since I’ve just finished a bowl of warm oats.
Devine is taking notes on his computer, while I’ve just awoken from a post-coffee nap. We’re going to prepare lunch soon! We’re in the habit of always discussing what we’ll be cooking while having coffee, we look at the state of our ingredients and plan based on that. We still have plenty of canned kimchi, a few cans of corn, 1 of potato and plenty of beans. We still have a jar of dried radish, which I’m really thankful for! It was a gift from Kako. The daikon adds variety and texture to our meals. I found one full bag of kiri mochi too! A nice surprise as I thought we’d finished them all. Our supplies have definitely dwindled, but did so at a reasonable pace, same for or 5 kg propane tank and for our water. We’ve got another full 5 kg propane tank left, plus 30 L extra water in jerry cans, along with whatever is left in the main tank.
We’ve been lighting candles at night, to keep the inside of the cabin lit while not disturbing whoever is asleep. We’ve gone through most of our collection, but still have 1 long one, which we’ll use up tonight, and 3 little ones that only last 3 hours each. We need more candles aboard, the lighting is soothing, pleasant, and uses no power. Devine found a clever way to set up the tall ones, in a way that they won’t fall over. They sit on a plate on the gimbled stove, secured by two pot holders.
Today was very quiet, with Devine doing a lot of writing and reading, and me drawing, keeping watch outside and sleeping. I was very sleepy today, so sleepy I nearly fell asleep while steering from the companionway stairs. I took 2 naps, on top of the 5 hours I get per night. I think the reason I may be tired is because we’ve been shifting hours around, delaying the time our night watches start as the night is coming earlier and earlier as we go east. Days of calm also mess up our sleeping schedule, as we don’t adhere to strict rules, we sleep whenever. My body demands a steady sleeping schedule to function, something that is hard to come by on a passage. We’re looking forward to sleeping a full night together in the same bunk, it’s been too long, I crave both the rest and companionship.
Tonight promises winds of 10-15 knots, smooth, easy sailing. We made it under 500 NM, now THAT is exciting! We’ve got maybe 4 1/2 days left, if the wind holds! We finally switched away from Japan time to Vancouver time, now hours of the day feel more normal.
It started with me outside in the cockpit, Pino was running downwind, and I was trying to pull in the main after gybing accidentally. Gybing scares me, as I am afraid of breaking something, this event already caused me some stress. I set our course back, then I pulled in the main sheet because I wanted to fix a block that was twisted under the preventer line. While pulling, the boat heeled because of a wave and I slipped on a rope lying on the cockpit floor. I fell, and hit my ribs on the edge of the seat. I now had a bruise matching the one on my left side. It hurt like hell. I just started cursing. I was angry. Then, that anger turned to tears and I just started to cry. I was just so fucking tired, of it ALL. My fall, and the morning’s difficulties tipped the boiling pot of water that was my brain.
“You okay?” Devine said as he came out to see me, sitting on the cockpit floor. “What happened? What’s wrong?” I just pointed to everything. Yep, I was spent. The vase had tipped, the patience meter was empty, the gloom bug pricked me and the tears came and would not stop. Devine to the rescue. He knew what was wrong, really, it wasn’t the pain, it was everything. Our callused hands, our swollen fingers, our bruises, the lack of sleep, our hunger, our impatience and eagerness to arrive… everything. He felt these things too. He dug out the Chromebook and found movies for us to watch, to distract ourselves from the repetitive tasks we’d been performing these past 46 days. He always knows what to do to calm me, to make me feel better.
That’s all I have to say for today, as my brain is mush and I haven’t got the energy. Today is a day of rest.
We’ve got 210 NM left. We’ve awakened Calcifer so we could motor through a calm to get past 130 degrees, where the wind is scheduled to return. There is a mean system forming in the ocean a few days from now, and we don’t want to be in it. We’re done having storms chase us. It is nice today, with calm seas, a warm sun and clear skies. We’re sitting outside, getting some Vitamin D while trying to picture the outline of Vancouver Island in the distance. At times at sea, we see cloud patterns on the horizon that look like land, like mountains. It is too easy to trick our brains into believing there’s actual land there, it’s easy to warp our sense of space. We haven’t seen land in 47 days, maybe it’s easy to do because our brains long for the sight of land, for the shadows of great snowy peaks rising in the east. Soon, soon. In the meantime, we’ve got to watch for traffic. The Juan de Fuca Strait is a busy sea way, though after navigating the east coast of Japan I can’t say I’m too worried, instead of 100 targets we’ll get 20 and that is fine.
We are watching The Incredibles 2 this evening, with some popcorn! A little treat is nice every now and then. We’re going to watch it until our night shifts behind at 21 h. Things should be smooth tonight, here’s hoping we make good speed and get there fast.
We can see land on both sides! The day is perfect, just perfect. Well, it would be perfect if there was wind! Devine makes soba and serves it with our last tetra-pak of soft tofu.
Meanwhile, a jet traces line in the sky, a whale-watching boat zooms around us, making our AIS go crazy, there are little fishing boats bobbing around near the Swiftsure Bank too. It is so busy here, and ALIVE. It feels good to be somewhere lively again, so, so good.
Because of the difficult conditions and our imminent arrival, we both skipped sleep, knowing we’d be in a harbour soon and could rest then.
We worked our way over to the customs dock, tied to it, without any drama, and we took our first steps on land… well, on a thing that wasn’t our boat, as a floating pier isn’t technically ‘land’. It was a heavy concrete pier, and was very still compared to our boat. My steps felt heavy, like I had rocks in my boots, or as if the ground was pushing up against my feet. Devine stepped off then too, “feels SO weird!” he says, stumbling, while pulling the stern line in. We tied Pino up, jelly-legged on the pier, smirking like idiots. “MADE IT!” we said, throwing our arms up. It was finally okay for us to say this, nothing could take it away, no log in the water, no storm, no nothing.
We both took a few steps back to look at our Pino, the vessel that carried us so far, so safely. It looked a bit sad without a dodger. We noticed the front of the bow was covered in green slime, and the stern had a few goose-neck barnacles stuck to it. Pino has looked better, and will look better again soon.
The hard part now, was finding a place to quarantine from, as they told us most marinas don’t want to do it to protect their customers. We called the Victoria Harbour Authority to get their advice, as we couldn’t go directly at anchor since we had little water and almost no food left. One of the workers made a few calls and found us a secluded spot on a private finger, near the Johnson street bridge. She explained to me where it was on the radio, but by then I was tired, and not entirely familiar with the area. I understood nothing. I asked her to repeat, and as she was saying it… “Break break! Hey I can take you there!” Tim, on a harbour patrol boat called in, we could see him cruising around the harbour. He pulled up to the dock, grinning, and told us to follow him. What a friendly, friendly guy! We waited for a float plane to land, and then followed him to what would be our home for the next 14 days, a spot between a tugboat, and an empty finger for float planes.
We couldn’t go on land, but at least others had access to us! From here, it would be possible to get food, water, to wash our clothes etc. At this point, we didn’t know how we’d be getting groceries, as most of our friends are in North Saanich, and we weren’t sure if we could get a good WIFI signal. A gate separates us from the real world, we can see people, we can hear them too, but cannot take part in land life, not yet. It’s nice to be here though, to know that we are finally safe, that we can cook without having to hold onto anything, that overnight sailing is a thing of the past, that we can sleep at the same time, in the same bed… that the storms are out there, what a feeling! We have flocks of geese flying over our heads, float planes too, there are water taxis zooming back and forth, carrying passengers from one shore to the other, we see people in cafes, chatting and eating, teenagers sitting in the park, laughing. At night, the Empress hotel is lit up, the harbour is bright, and even late at night we hear people talking. It’s strange, all of it. Strange, but good. We are glad for the noise.
We look at each other, sitting on deck and admiring the view. “Hey…” I say to Devine, “I’m proud of you!” Devine smirks, “I’m proud of YOU!” We look at the Delta hotel across the water. “I guess the french fries and cold beer will have to wait huh?” Devine nods, “Yep, the bath too.” We go to sleep that night, dirty, tired, but happy. We’re here. HOLY CRAP we’re here…!
If you ask us why we decided to go sailing, we don’t think we could give you a straight answer. Even the authors of our sailing manuals cannot explain what might compel anyone to do it, even after being made aware of the many perils of an ocean. Why would anyone do something with a very real risk of not making it back to shore, and furthermore, for no obvious reward?
It seems unjustifiable, or at least masochistic, that a person would wilfully put themselves through potential misadventures for fame and curiosity alone, mountain climbers might echo these feelings although we don’t know any with whom we can verify this. And so, perhaps we do these things in the name of freedom, freedom to practice direct experience (with all that entails. Discomfort, pain, hunger and so on), here we shall name this calling to live deliberately, using Thoreau’s words.
Smart devices to take away the pain of thinking deep thoughts, social things against the solitude, forever removing ourselves, in exchange for protectedness, for a complete thoughtless socialized inexistence.
A creeping numbness might be to blame for our own search of this direct experience, in the form of long distance sailing, to let ourselves feel cold so we could sense the subtler changes in the weather, to go hungry to appreciate simpler foods.
Similarly, one might begin to talk instead of watching talk-shows and to play instead of watching game shows — To value the entire spectrum of sensations as necessary members of the whole that is the deliberate existence, with its potential for failure, awkwardness, loneliness, harm and death included.
Convenience products will protect those living at odds with nature. Novel and fashionable horrors will be popularized to subvert anyone into docility, else new fears will be provided as obedience demands.
In the name of security, a modern citizen will be thoroughly handled. A modern civilisation will deem itself total as it finally does away with all inconveniences, vanquished the totality of the Unknowable, the Indifferent, the Unorganizeable, of Nature, by means of paving over it.
We have seen the non-participation to the throughput mechanisms of society labeled as escapism, but we look at it in reverse where one escapes by being apart from nature. An illusory sense of dominion and domestication of nature might make one think of it as a place where one can escape to, and this is re-enforced when seen through the lense of a synthetic protective layer of proxies and simulations, but the protective layer doesn’t curve outward upon nature, but inward upon the individual. And that is absolute escapism.
We believe that one can use nature’s indifference as a reminder of the actual fortitude of their being, to learn of one’s own true capacity for resilience when communing with nature — Ideas altogether at odds with modern stories, or an invitation to be part of something.
“Modern man requires more and more comfort both at home and in the car. Sailors, too, want more comfort in their cruisers, but comfort cannot be combined with simplicity. And when life is no longer simple, it loses both beauty and joy.” — Sven Yrvind
We’ll end this post by thanking those who helped us during our 14-day quarantine period. Thank you Jason, for doing our laundry and for bringing some amazing take-out food, Brian, for the extra baking supplies, Cameron, for happy junk foods, Robert, for the fresh produce, Judie & Colin, for the company, Marie, for the pocket wifi, brew and fresh produce, Colin N., for the mouse and Warren for the fresh produce and beer.
Thank you for reading.