Thursday, April 30, 2015
First Sailing Days
It's been 10 days since we gathered at the good ship Mehitabel, and we're learning all sorts of things about living on this 40-foot, junk-rigged ship. My crew-mates are Pim and Josje, a hard-working, fun-loving couple from Holland, and the skipper is Uncle Kurt.
Uncle Kurt is an expert seaman and navigator, who owns electronic commodities, but believes strongly in not relying solely on them. He has sailed whole swaths of ocean passages successfully navigating with just a sextant and the stars. We are learning how to handle the sails and lines, to radio in to the coast guard in case of emergency, and how to handle the dingy.
There are so many natural wonders here: the Southern Cross glows in the sky and the the "false cross" glows more dully nearby. For several days, little "welcome swallows" have landed on the ship's rails in the early morning - flitting here and there. We've also been told to keep an eye out for the bio-luminescence which comes up the pipes and into the "head" (the toilet), making for an exciting flush at night time. The best part about sailing so far, however, has been seeing dolphins! They danced delicately about the boat (they love a speeding boat) only to disappear seconds later.
Yesterday, we took our first long sail in rougher ocean waters. We left Whangerei in the morning, sailing down rivers of gold as the sun poured blindingly over the ocean. The crags of the coastline jutted up like the teeth of some decaying old giant or the crenelations of a black castle. We were pushing 7 knots, sometimes 8, which is quite fast. It was difficult to hold the tiller steady at times, and we were getting salty waves in the face. When a gale warning came over the radio, Uncle Kurt decided that it was time to head for the shelter of a nearby cove and anchor there. After several hours of sailing, Pim, Josje, and I all agreed that we felt "weird", and no one really wanted lunch :) I'm curious to see how we'll do in the Big Waves on our ocean passage. Apparently, they are 1 and 1/2 to 2 meters high. We'll have to be tied into our bunks when we're not on night watch, so as not to get flung out.
Right now, we're waiting for good wind (Westerlies) in order to leave for Tonga. The weather has been unfavorable so far, so we're just waiting and learning more about the boat.