1st part of the big Pacific leg
Day 4 Wednesday 15th April
Interesting last 24hrs; good sail through the day but tailed off at 03:00 today so had to use engine for 1hr. Picked up at 5:00 wind astern which is good, Guy got stung with a brisk 25knots up his bum @ 0600 but wind has behaved since. Generator still variable but does give a bit, fanbelt still slipping but just OK. Making more to the West and clawing back part of our fuel over-spend.
Where to begin? So much has happened in the last 24 hours (or since I last sat at my typewriter like this). At times it feels like being the editor of some racy tabloid with scoops galore vying for front-page column inches. We have Fruit Fiasco in French Polynesia, Monstrous Maelstrom in Mountainous Marquesas and Fuel Spill in Pacific Ocean: Sealife Perishes In Panulirus’ Wake.
I shall start with the least alliterative but most melodramatic. Both items are sadly true. We have lost our gasoline can overboard. And we found a dead squid on the deck. I think the two events are related, but only in so much as they happened during the monstrous maelstrom (see page 5, column 3). I was very fond of the Yellow Gasoline Can. I had even gone to the trouble of painting the word Gasoline on it, as it had the word Diesel embossed on it and all our red cans (with Gasoline embossed on them) were full of Diesel and painted (rather sloppily I thought, in comparison with my fine – almost Lindisfarnian – calligraphy) with the word Diesel. We thought it would be less confusing if I painted Gasoline (the word “gasoline” that is - painting in gasoline would be dangerous, environmentally ruinous and remarkably pointless) on the yellow can as it was to be the only can to contain Gasoline. Contrary to its embossed name. Although, that said, all the red cans contained Diesel, contrary to their embossed names, so maybe it would have been obvious anyway, that the can embossed with Diesel actually contained gasoline. Are you still with me? Good. Anyway I also thought the yellow can looked rather fetching at the head of a long line of red cans. A bit like a nasturtium on a tomato salad. Are Nasturtiums yellow?
Fortunately the gasoline can had a child-friendly screw-cap so it is unlikely that any marine animals - not even very clever dolphins - are able to open it. I sincerely believe we have not caused an environmental disaster on the scale of the Exxon Valdez.
The squid meanwhile represents the zenith of our foraging from the ocean’s pantry so far. Not so much caught by us as vomited by the deep, I found it this morning tucked delicately under the grab rail. It had cured rather nicely in the salt and the sunshine but was a little too small alas for even a tiffin of calamari. Mrs Skippy was decidedly untempted by the exotic hors d’oeuvre and lobbed it overboard in a most unladylike manner.
Rather like the Papaya. Oh how pride does indeed so often presage a terrible tumble! How smug were we as we left the Galapagos, laden to the gunwales with our wondrous fruit cocktail? Four days out to sea and we are feeling significantly chastened. I thought I was in heaven with a bunch of bananas so large that it would make the gorilla in Richard Scarry’s “What do People do All Day?” as green with envy as an unripe banana. I have now eaten so many I am sick of the sight of them. Worse still, in an effort to eat them all before they turned bad, we neglected our sole remaining Mango. When we tried to eat the mango yesterday, it had become a vile mush inside. We tossed it into the big blue dustbin. Then we tried our first Papaya. It too was a putrid pulp, and tasted a little too much like vomit to be enjoyably edible. Over the side it went, hot on the heels of the mango. Our second papaya, the size of a rugby ball, was so far gone that it exploded in my hands in the cockpit. It was not so much thrown as siphoned overboard. To add insult to injury, the guava have turned out to be anything but. They are bilious and bitter. They have green skin, orange flesh and taste disgusting. At least we still have our apples. And rusty tins of peaches.
All this before the storm. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a storm, but the wind did get up, it did rain a bit and it was a bit tippy. Until last night, the strongest wind we had seen since leaving Colon was one freak gust of 16 knots which had clearly wandered into the wrong patch of ocean by mistake. That aside, 13 knots was looking like a delicacy. But last night it just kept on coming. There were whisperings of a 21 knot gust in the middle of the night and then at dawn all hell broke loose. All the way up to a mighty 25 knots. Count them – Twenty Five! We had to put in a reef, goddamn it! Amazingly the sail furled this time in a most orderly fashion. Inevitably no sooner had the reef gone in than the wind dropped again, but it’s still there and we’re making good progress nonetheless.
In other news this evening: I have been enjoying The Life of Pi but am rather glad I don’t have a Bengal tiger on board; we have eaten a second sticky toffee pudding and our first steak and mushroom pie; Cap’n Skippy still refuses to make his Tandoori Chicken with blue food colouring on some ridiculous qausi-religious principle; and we have reached a temporary ceasefire in the bathroom in war of the toothpastes.
Guy has said it all I think. Wind is great…(broad reach with poled out genoa) ..all that calm weather was very comfortable but wasn’t getting us very far. We are definitely making progress towards French Polynesia and the delights (in about 3 weeks !) of French food. I’ve given up on mushy fruit.! But onions and potatoes are good. Spaghetti carbonara tonight and beef in beer (hurrah for the pressure cooker as the Panamanian fillet is very chewy ) tomorrow.