Friday, May 1, 2015

Day 18: We Broke Through

We actually said this a few times during the end of the past week: "Hey, I think this is it…we're sailing nicely now, the wind's shifted…I think these are the southern trades!" Thirty minutes afterward--sometimes the illusion would persist for a couple hours-the wind and current would go to hell and we'd know we were still not there. When everything changed before sunset yesterday, neither of us dared to suggest we'd made it past all the yuck. Though we zipped along at six knots on a close reach, the apparent wind in the high teens and our course matching the rhumb line to the Marquesas, there remained squalls on the horizon and we fully expected the good times to end. They didn't.

When I handed the watch over to Windy at 4:00 a.m., there was no longer any question we'd reached the southern trades. There are fewer than 1,000 nautical miles (FYI, equivalent to 1,152 statute miles, the kind of miles represented on your car odometer) between Del Viento and Fatu Hiva and we've been eating them up steadily over the past 24 hours. We're still on a close reach, but we expect that to clock around soon.

Also yesterday afternoon, we had our first non-flying-fish visitor. A black bird with a very stern face and long beak landed on our aft solar panels. The wind was in the high teens and the boat was rocking and rolling; for about 30 minutes we all sat in the cockpit watching him struggle to keep his balance and preen at the same time. Finally, I reached out and slid my hand under him, at his knee level, as you would a caged pet bird. He climbed right on and I brought him down, setting him on the cockpit seat next to Frances. He seemed happier there and eventually sat down. He stayed there all night long, flying away unceremoniously at 8:30 this morning.

He was about the size of a small gull. Windy looked him up on an app and decided he's a black noddy tern. According to what she read, they aren't usually more than 50 miles from their nest. Hmm. I've got an email off to an ornithologist friend to see if our ID is off, or the description is wrong.

We should cross the equator in the next couple days. Party plans are underway. I've been asked to make brownies and our sole bottle of champagne has been moved to the fridge. Not one of us has ever set foot in the southern hemisphere, which means there is no one aboard to play King Neptune. We'll see how four slimy pollywogs indoctrinate ourselves as shellbacks.


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