Close

June 18, 2016

27 Days at Sea

Land ho! 27 days and 10 cases of beer later, we’ve made landfall in the Marquesas.

So, you’ll be expecting that during this most epic of journeys, Captain Rusty will have thought the profound thoughts, deep as the darkest depths del mar, no? That only ineffable wisdom will have burbled to the surface of my sea-wizened soul?

If so, lament, Dear Friends, for if anything, I have only become more Rusty, prone solely to inane chatter and heavy adjectival  use.  My deepest, most soul-wrenching, revelatory thought occurred on Day 20, when I realized that I would happily trade my left arm below the elbow for an hour with a lime-sorbet flavoured mermaid with great tits.

Such is life. Read on, amigas y compañeros, read on.

Fair winds and smooth seas never a good sailor made, as they say, so I still can’t count myself a good sailor. We didn’t always have favourable winds, but we never had anything scary. In fact most of the trip was under lighter winds than I was expecting – the fickle southern trade winds took their ball and stayed home this trip. I hate to say it, but it was an easy crossing. Bless Neptune. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The trip was incredible. The days ran into each other, a briny blend of salt water, sunshine, fluffy clouds, afternoon naps, happy hour, sunsets and a perpetual rocking motion that became so much second nature that I’m wobbly on terra firma now.

She's a well-heeled boat. German registered, fyi.

She’s a well-heeled boat. German registered, fyi.

My universe was the ~62 sq miles of visible sea, the only variations being how high were the swells, how bright was the moon, and what combination of onions, cabbage and bacon we were going to eat that day. I never got bored of it, even, surprisingly, the cabbage. I read books and wrote and played games on the computer and took some photos (there’s only so many photos you can take of another otherworldly sunset), but most of the time I just looked at the sea.

We stayed on the same tack for thousands of miles at a time, the boat requiring nothing more than an occasional few degrees of correction to the autopilot. It was more like a train trip that a sailing one – we pointed her nose and off she went, bringing us along for company.

With these caveats on the banality of my thoughts out of the way, here’s a record of my trip, annotated for brevity and an attempt at mirth.

Day 0

Great weather on the first leg out of Golfito, left around 4pm – good winds, bit of rain, then a gorgeous sunset as we left Golfo Dulce. I took the first night watch at 9pm, was smooth. At 3am I was woken up by the guys banging around on deck putting in a reef – we had 25 knot winds, torrential rain, and the boat was heeled over to her rails. Couldn’t see a damn thing except water foam. Was an epic start.

Our last glimpse of land for almost 4 weeks

Our last glimpse of land for almost 4 weeks

Day 1

Winds shifted around to the south west (‘SW’ – meaning they’re coming from that direction), which is where we want to go. Kia Ora doesn’t point well, so we’re tacking back and forth to make way. It’s a messy, slow process, but at least we’ve got some wind, even if it’s from the wrong direction.

Day 2

Rainy, steady day, beating upwind. Big near-full Halloween moon came up around 2am and lit up the ocean.

Day 3

More of the same, weather-wise. Intermittent rain squalls and SW winds. Relationships on the boat are going fine – have disagreed with Alan re: sail trim (I’m right, naturally…) but it doesn’t seem to bother him. He’s still letting me make most of the navigational decisions.

Day 4

Winds slightly more south, which lets us sail to our target better, but we’re heeled over to 20+ degrees, making everything difficult (particularly peeing and cooking, not necessarily at the same time). I keep thinking about what I’m going to do when I get home. But I’m not going to get home for a long time, so this is stupid.

61.8 sq miles of universe

Day 5

Sailed through a storm this afternoon with so much lightning it felt like we were in a wizard duel. Bolts were hitting the ocean all around us, and cracking so loud it left ringing in our ears. Not much we can do to avoid these squalls, as they move faster than we do. No problems though.

Day 6

My favourite part so far is when I’m on night watch, all alone, and there’s a bright clear sky. Such an amazing view of the stars. Today I wrote a haiku:

Your dangling laundry

obscures my view of this quite

lovely sunset, dick

Day 7

Full week at sea, bitches! No ill effects so far; still quite content. Night winds were blowing fierce – I’m in the leeward cabin, so when the boat’s heeled over and banging through the waves, with white water whooshing by the portal, it feels like I’m sleeping in the bottom of a bobsled.

Day 8

Winds are strong from the S, and we’ve picked up a good current, so we’re doing 10+ knots over ground (which would put us in the Marquesas in 10 days…). Generally sticking to my navigational plan, which feels good.

Day 9

Disregard navigational-plan comment. Alan turns south every chance he gets, regardless of the plan. Incredibly frustrating, because we’re in great weather right now, and we don’t know what we’ll get south of the equator. The phosphorescence in the water is intense – the keel makes a glowing wake under water behind the boat that looks like a reflection of the Milky Way

Day 10

Bittersweet vindication – we’re becalmed, bobbing gently and slowly south towards the equator. It’s getting cooler too. Nights are foggy, which is pretty when the moon is out, but unnerving when it’s not, because I can’t see the bow, let alone lights in the darkness.

Endless haze

Day 11

Totally becalmed most of the day, floating in white foggy haze on white glassy seas. I think I’m starting to hallucinate.

Day 12

Crossed the equator. Alan told me there was a ritual, so I sailed her across and he came out all dressed up in a goofy costume and gave a ceremony about inducting me into the ranks of King Neptune’s Knights, which included drinking a magnum of red wine. Was fun, and I appreciate him doing it. I’ve written a separate article on the event to submit to Roads & Kingdoms, as my first bit of ‘professional’ travel writing.  [Later edit – the article was published here.  Have a read and keep an eye out for more of my junk at R&K.]

Day 13

A shark swam by while I was peeing over the side. They don’t really swim though – more that the ocean gets the fuck out of their way, and the shark gets sucked into the vacuum. I miss Bray.

Day 14

Put the spinnaker up and we’re starting to get a beneficial current finally. Thinking a lot about the scifi book I’m writing. Have ~40 pages written, but am stuck for now.

Day 15

Every night a gorgeous sunset, and every morning a gorgeous sunrise. It’s been more than a week since we had rain. A huge fish grabbed our lure and took off with it. I flicked the brake on the reel and Greg turned the boat up to slow down, but the fish pulled so hard on the clutch that the reel started to smoke. It’s seized now.

The Pacific Ocean is not bereft of these

The Pacific Ocean is not bereft of these

Day 16

Hallucinations continue; woke up around 3am and saw the stars brightly moving past my side portal. Looked up and it was the same out of the top portal. They were visibly turning through the sky as we moved, so clear I wanted to take a video. Except my top portal view is blocked by the bimini and the stars don’t visibly move in the sky, no matter how fast we’re moving.

Day 17

It looked like it was going to rain today – I was excited, for the shower on deck and just for a change of scenery. But the squall blew past us to the north and I was left holding my soap and towel like a chump. Now the sea looks like mercury.

Mercurial waters

Day 18

The night was as dark as a dog’s guts. Winds were howling and the autohelm couldn’t keep up, so I had to manually steer our 18 tonnes in the pitch black, blinded by the gauges that were necessary to keep on a course. Toot toot!

Day 19

Have been somewhat lethargic and having muscle pains. Not sure if it’s diet (or lack thereof), lack of exercise, or something else. I desperately want a grapefruit. Ended up making Dark & Stormies for the guys during happy hour, and shot a video to show how much the boat rocks around.

Day 20

Mermaids, please.

Day 21

Does the International League of Adventurers exist? If not, I’m starting it.

Day 22

Every day is beautiful, and I never get sick of my 62 sq mile universe. The sunset was a doozy so I grabbed the gopro to take a video, and was treated to a circus show by a pod of dolphins at the same time.

Flying the kite

Day 23

Pancake breakfast! Makes me sad I’m going to miss camping with the family this summer, but was a great nostalgic treat. Just realized I haven’t seen an airplane or even a contrail for weeks.

Day 24

I spent most of my night thinking about ‘when I get home’ again. Not ‘I want to get home’, just thoughts on what I’m going to do next. I keep running down this train of thought. For now the only conclusion I can draw is that I do, ultimately, want to go home eventually. I don’t need to make this my full-time life.

Day 25

I haven’t worn shoes for 25 days. That feels amazing. If everyone I know and love would just move to an island I can sail to, I’d never have to go back to Toronto.

Trying to make perfect weather look dramatic isn't easy

Trying to make perfect weather look dramatic isn’t easy

Day 26

We were going to arrive today, but then the winds swung more east, so we had to swing more north, away from our target island of Hiva Oa. We could jibe downwind and be there at 3am, or just hold this westerly course and head instead to the next largest island, Nuku Hiva and be there by noon tomorrow.

Day 27

We opted for a day-time arrival, and are approaching Nuku Hiva now. Passed Ua Huka, a sparsely populated volcanic rock, as our first land sighting this morning at dawn, while I was on watch. It made my heart do a little jig and rekindled my imagination for the unknown, which, I just discovered, had been tucked away under a layer of contented, beatific monotony at sea. Shit, I have to think of something witty and charming to say on Facebook when I get to town…

Thank you Señora Pacifica. It was grand.

Sighted at 4:22am after 27 days at sea, this black lump was quite a sight

Sighted at 4:22am after 27 days at sea, this black lump was quite a sight

23 Comments on “27 Days at Sea

Sarah W.
June 18, 2016 at 6:04 pm

I’m loving the pictures (and the words that go along with them). I will never tire of your otherworldly sunsets photos. Cheers!

Reply
Rusty
June 18, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Wolffy! I deleted your ‘happy bday’ note on the 5th so we wouldn’t make anyone jealous ;).

Reply
Sanaa
June 18, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Dude what an awesome recap! Reading it made me miss the hilarious in person/daily email commentary so much more! Glad to see you’re loving the jack sparrow life!

Reply
Rusty
June 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Just cuz i have wifi every week or two doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send me daily chatter my dear. Cmon. I’m lonely here.

Reply
Eitzen
June 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

An epic tale Captain Rusty, I look forward to a first hand account. Yes with the wizards.

Reply
Rusty
June 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Haha that one was for the boys! Looking forward to a long afternoon of pints and storytelling, probably in December when I’m back for some visa applications. And ‘festing, of course. Thanks for the support broski!

Reply
Janine Milne
June 18, 2016 at 8:23 pm

Simply brilliant.

Reply
Rusty
June 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Thanks Checkers! 😀

Reply
Lily
June 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Your pictures are gorgeous!

Reply
Rusty
June 22, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Merci cherie!

Reply
Sandy
June 23, 2016 at 12:35 pm

You have no idea how much I look forward to your posts, Russ! Stunning pics and awesome yarns – what’s not to love? So glad you enjoyed your nearly-four-week adventure at sea. (Mmmm, cabbage!) I knew you’d make it safely, of course, but it did my overly sentimental heart good to hear from you after such a long absence.

Reply
Rusty
June 28, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Thanks Sandy 😀 It’s been a great adventure so far. Looking forward to what mischief I can get up to next. Will miss you guys at Bon Echo though!

Reply

[…] many people is too many on a 40′ boat? Six? Eight? For reference, I crossed the Pacific with two other guys on a 46′ boat, and at the end I’m positive that we all seriously considered the implications of the other […]

Reply
Marzipan Doom – A Chart of Days
August 29, 2016 at 8:35 pm

[…] Ua Huka is famous for being the first island, first land, we sighted after 27 days at sea. At the time, it hit my soul like a bag of Doritos after five beers (which is to say, incredibly […]

Reply

[…] member didn’t lose any apparent respect in the exchange. He casually dropped mention of the 10,000 km I had just sailed from Panama which, even though hadn’t provided much opportunity for fine trim-tuning, was at least a […]

Reply
Road Life – A Chart of Days
September 21, 2016 at 10:37 am

[…] is, I could use my few weeks’ vacation every year to go see or do something incredible. Hell, sailing to Polynesia only took four weeks. It’s not a bad […]

Reply

[…] How do you measure the relative difficulty of climbing a mountain against, say, getting an MBA or sailing across the Pacific? I guess part of my adjudication process was that I could easily quit this task – I had made it […]

Reply
a Charter of Days – A Chart of Days
December 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm

[…] problem is that I’ve set myself up.  I’ve written these 2,000 word narratives about epic adventures and crazy shit that happened.  I really enjoy telling long-form stories like that, but it backs me […]

Reply
Back to the Grind – A Chart of Days
January 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm

[…] friend, and we’d been chatting online for a year or so during my previous travels.  With my experience in the Pacific, he thought I might not be totally useless as first mate for the maiden sea-voyage of Gaia.  That […]

Reply

[…] that my major goal this year will be to get back to Tokyo to finish writing a book I started while sailing across the Pacific. But Japan is far from the Caribbean, and it seemed a serious shame to miss all the adventurous […]

Reply

[…] never met a Canadian before, I had been telling stories about how I got to China. On hearing of my boat and train trips, they assumed I was the adventurous type and were kind enough to invite me along on […]

Reply
Severing Dragons – A Chart of Days
October 16, 2017 at 1:08 am

[…] eating and star-gazing. Gorgeous sunsets and the occasional dolphin visit reminded me of my trip across the Pacific, and I rediscovered my joy of sleeping at sea. It wasn’t an ideal start to the trip, with the […]

Reply
Wait, Japan Again? – A Chart of Days
November 2, 2017 at 2:02 am

[…] was the continuation of the book I had started to write while spending a month at sea in 2016, crossing the Pacific. My mind, during that trip, had been set free from so many… […]

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *