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Typical Sailing Day

Bob says I should include what cruising is really like. So here goes:

Up at dawn to check sails, weather conditions, sea conditions, course and position. Then the usual brush the teeth, wash up, make the bed and get breakfast, which can be anything from toast to eggs to pancakes to cereals with juices, hot chocolate, tea or coffee. Sounds pretty down to earth, doesn’t it?

Bob with bird on deck. Then Bob checks the reading on the Taff Rail Log, a mechanical device that measures distance, he then turns on the SatNav, plugs in the log’s numbers and waits for a position from the satellite. We usually average 100 miles in a 24-hour period. If everything is running smoothly—we are on course, the boat is sailing well, no squalls on the horizon and the boat isn’t rocking too violently—we each have our own pastimes. Bob is learning how to program in Pascal in preparation for computer jobs that now require that skill. He reads, plots courses, trims sails, adjusts steering, naps or just sits on deck and enjoys life.

I read and sew and write and cook and clean and wash. Nothing fantastic. I’m making a counted cross-stitch square for every place we go. Someday, when we are in our own house, one wall of our "den" will have a kind of patch-work quilt made up of the squares, surrounding a cross-stitched map of the world. A record of our travels.

We spend time listening to our collection of compact disks and tapes, too.

Lunch time is our big meal time. It is easier to prepare, eat and clean up at that time of day. We usually eat on deck. weather permitting, balancing the dishes on our laps and watching the birds, flying fish, turtles, porpoises and whales that we frequently see around our boat.

A day's catch Dinner is a light affair, usually soup or just a can of fruit. By now, 6 p.m., the sun is going down and we like to spend this time on deck, too, watching blazing sunsets.

We check the skies, the seas, the course, the sails, and if nothing is amiss or we are not close to shipping lanes or land, we go to bed. Depending upon which way the boat is heeling (angled) I either sleep in bed with Bob or on the couch across from him. We usually check things from time to time during the night to be sure we’re on course and there are no ships in the area. We just bought a radar detector that sounds an alarm if someone (usually a big ship) is using radar. That should add to our peace of mind next time. Sometimes we sit out on deck for a while. If the need arises, we stand watches of about 2-4 hours each, depending upon the situation.

Usually things are rather boring after a while when nothing goes wrong and the weather is behaving itself. But then when no one is looking, things suddenly get too exciting! We get into a strong squall and have to reduce sail, sometimes even running bare-pole because the wind overpowers the boat. We are out there in the rain and wind and waves and Bob is forward with his foul weather gear and safety harness trying to reduce sail and I’m at the tiller in my foul weather gear trying to see through the torrential rain and spray and keep the boat on course and keep an eye on Bob and hope he has the harness secured to something on deck so he doesn’t decide to go for a swim and go floating by. Then we go below and dry ourselves and try to ignore the whole thing. But the waves and the current take over and we rock and things below, like my spices and books, break loose and rattle and sometimes fall to the floor. And we find it difficult to walk from the bunk to the head (bathroom) without banging into things. And the wind howls through the rigging and the waves crash on deck, and buckets and things that we thought were tied down on deck begin to slide this way and that, crashing first into the rail and then into the cabin. And then the sun comes out and the wind dies down and the sea calms itself and everything is right with the world. And we pick up the things that fell, and set sail again and continue on our way. Ho, hum, nothing ever happens here!

And then there are other times that we just sit. No wind, nothing. We can’t use our engine because we don’t carry enough fuel. But still the swells continue, usually small ones during a calm period and the boat rocks this way and that. And we just sit and then yet tired of it and try to change our direction or hope that little cloud on the horizon will bring some wind and the sun beats down and it’s hotter than blazes and we try to keep cool and we look out over the empty ocean and can see for miles and not a ripple. We get a lot of computing and reading done during those times—anything to vent our frustration.

Now, just suppose we have just found land and have made our way into port and have dropped our anchor and now we can relax. Right? Wrong. We have to worry what is down there.

Is it sand or mud or coral or rocks or grass? That makes a difference in what kind of anchor we put out. How deep is it? How much anchor chain and line do we have to put down? What is the wind condition? How many boats are in the harbor? How close are they to us? Do we have enough swinging room? Are we close to the channel or in a acceptable place to anchor? Which way is the wind blowing? So we sit on the deck and spot things on shore to see if the anchor is dragging and has to be reset.

Once all of these things have been taken into consideration, we can launch our dinghy, tie up our boarding ladder, and go ashore. Hopefully there will be a good place to land the dinghy. Maybe a dock or sandy beach. Then where to tie it up? Can we get out of the dinghy without capsizing it? Then is it safe to leave it? Then we have to bring our bundle of boat papers and passports to immigration and customs to check in, scout out the local shops, etc., and hope our dinghy with oars and engine and gas can are still at the dock or on the beach when we finish. Many times it rains in the meantime and we come back to a wet dinghy or have to rush back to the boat to close hatches and ports which are merrily letting in all the rain onto our bed. And it’s always fun and games trying to get to shore or the boat during a rain squall or a sudden blow, especially when we have decided not to put the outboard on the dinghy and have to row. And imagine the added fun if this happens when you are dressed up to go to a fancy restaurant! Or the boredom when you’d like to go ashore just for a change and it is raining cats and dogs and you know you’ll be soaked before landing the dinghy, so you give up and you look longingly at the shore, watching from the ports of course, because you can’t even sit in the cockpit and keep dry.

Now comes the experience of sitting at anchor. You look out the port and see one view. and a few minutes later you see another from the same port as the boat swings and glides and bucks on the anchor line. We see one yacht far away from us and the next instant our boats are close together. We check from time to time to see if we have dragged or are just swinging on the anchor line in a different direction. If a storm comes up during the night or the wind changes direction, we are up and checking again. We not only have to worry that we might drag into another boat, but we have to hope HIS anchor is holding as well. And then power boats zoom by and leave a wake that sends us rocking and bouncing just as I’ve managed to get three perfect fried eggs on the grill. Ah, the joys of cruising!

Another is bathing on deck. No problem when cruising. Just get down to the birthday suit and bathe using rainwater and soap. etc. In port the boats are too close for that. I made a weather cloth around the railing but it doesn’t completely enclose the bather. We some times wait until dark and then wash up on deck when no one can see. The water in our "solar shower" bag cools after dark and you should hear the reactions when that water hits us!

But, then we are close enough to everyone, like people in real neighborhoods. And, like good neighbors, we visit and trade and share things. We go to each other’s boats and play card games or just enjoy each other’s company. When we see a "neighbor" with a problem, we rush over to help. The other day, Bob helped a friend tie his boat on a mooring. Someone came by this morning. We were going to buy a windlass and lots of chain and he gave us some alternative ideas on anchoring. I had heard the sailing fraternity was one big happy family and now I’m convinced.

Just thought you ‘d like to hear a bit more about the "enchanted lives of cruisers." Adventure and boredom, new lands and doing the laundry on deck, fantastic sunsets and horrendous storms. That’s the way it is, folks!

So, now that I’ve rambled on and on and bored you to tears, I’ll close and promise to answer any letters we receive. For a while there I thought I would not be able to say that. Our laptop computer was "down" and after racking our brains for over a week, discovered all it needed was a head cleaner. So I’m in business again. With our cards this year, I’ll enclose a "newsletter" with a recap of our year’s sailing. Until then. please write and use the Pago Pago address.

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