Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 12: Encounter

About 9:00 a.m. this morning, Eleanor bolted up from the settee pointing out the companionway, "A plane!" Windy figured Eleanor was over reacting to a commercial airliner passing overhead, but dutifully turned to take a look. She heard it at the same time she caught sight of a red fuselage very low and close. She and the girls raced up the stairs into the cockpit.

Windy said a small red and white helicopter finished a tight turn around Del Viento and then hovered off the port beam so close that if it wasn't for the roar of the rotor blades, she felt she could have called out to the two guys in the cockpit and had a conversation. As it was, they were trying to communicate. Windy picked up the cockpit VHF remote and motioned to speak. They shook their heads and the pilot made a thumbs-up gesture and then shrugged as if to ask if everything was okay. Windy gave a thumbs up and then the pilot and co-pilot waved and banked away-quickly disappearing over the horizon.

"Why didn't you wake me?!" I asked when I heard the story upon rising at 11:30 a.m.

"There was no time, it all happened very fast."

"Was it military? Was their writing on the side?"

She said it definitely wasn't military-shiny red with white accents and a swooping logo that was a bit like the stylized kangaroo on the side of every Quantas jet. There was no writing except for the registration numbers and she didn't note which letter they began with. She said it was a small helicopter.

We're literally 1,000 miles from anything. Helicopters don't have very impressive ranges. It had to have come off a boat nearby. I didn't see anything on the AIS until about noon, when a ship named Salt Lake City passed north of us, heading north, about 9 miles away.

There is not much to see out here, so that was pretty exciting, even for someone who slept through the event. We also saw dolphins today, which is a first for this passage. The only other living things we see consistently out here are boobies (mostly white ones) and tropic birds (the ones with the distinctive long tail feather trailing behind) and flying fish. The flying fish have been unusual for their size, smaller than we've ever seen, some only an inch long. The largest has been about 8 inches long and I'd say the median length is probably 3-4 inches.

That's all. We're deep into squall territory, getting hit left and right. We batten down, sometimes we heave to, and listen to the torrential rain pound the cabin top as one passes overhead. Our progress is a bit slower now because we're constantly reefed to some extent, but so far we haven't seen the winds die completely. The seas are still big and confused, so between squalls we're always wanting more wind to keep the sails filled.

I think tomorrow or so we'll reach our halfway point.


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  1. Interesting helicopter incident. Quite possibly from a tuna boat as they often use onboard helicopters for spotting schools of tuna.


  2. Weird! The only "Salt Lake City" i can find on the internet is a bulk carrier, last reported position to marinetraffic was in Japan headed west but back in february. Pics dont show any helipad.


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