Back-to-Back Lows, The Second, and The Loss of a Friend

December 21, 2018

Day 78

Noon Position: 43 12S 06 11W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ENE 6

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 24 – 28

Sea(t/ft): N and NW to 10

Sky: Clear. Not a cloud. By 5:30pm, rain.

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 998, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 52

Relative Humidity(%): 74

Sail: Double reefed headsail

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 147

Miles since departure: 10,517

Avg. Miles/Day: 135

I may have been hasty in calling these two lows back-to-back. The first cleared out overnight, and we had what I call “lovely sleeping weather,” that being moderate winds consistent in speed and direction. I was only on deck once, and that was to let out more sail.

The second has just arrived as I dug out the computer to type this report. It’s 5:30pm.

The day was clear, the sun brilliant. I hung socks and towels and hats to dry in the pilot house, as the cockpit still caught the occasional dunker of a wave. And they dried! What luxury, a dry sock. You have no idea how celebratory it makes the feet feel to go into a covering that is not clammy and cold at the start.

Now rain. Winds in the thirties from the NW. The cycle begins again.

The Loss of a Friend

Last night I went on deck to change Monte’s smaller “storm” wind vane to the lighter, larger vane that usually steers, a not infrequent task in mixed weather. As is my practice, I set the larger replacement on the aft deck, being careful to tuck it under Monte’s control lines so it wouldn’t blow away, and reached over to unfasten the vane in place. Mo took an especially deep roll to port, and the replacement vane slid into the sea.

I lunged and missed. I yelled, “No, no, my friend!”

The vane glowed in the light of the moon, the word MONITOR face-up and plain, as it trailed away on an inky swell. I couldn’t watch. I turned and faced the bow and was quite sad for some time.

That vane has steered Monte since the beginning, across the Gulf of Alaska, to Hawaii and back, all the way around the world. It has flown through the trades, drifted in the doldrums and even whipsawed in our first gale, 50 gusting 70, when I was too preoccupied with other tasks to change it out.

It has faithfully fulfilled its required tasks, and I have spent hours watching it do so.

But to call it friend? Later, that struck me as odd. Would a bicycle rider become so enamored of a tire? A basketball player, a shoe?


This afternoon and while waiting for this low to arrive, I prepared for the holidays by putting up the Christmas Tree; in this case, a photo my wife gave me of a red Ohia Lehua tree from Kauai. If you don’t know the tree, think it’s Pacific cousin, the New Zealand Christmas Tree. It warmed up the cabin nicely. And that will be the extent of decorations.

11 Comments on “Back-to-Back Lows, The Second, and The Loss of a Friend

  1. Am sure now that Monti is not going to be talking to you for some time after losing a limb overboard.

    And Merry Xmas and may the winds be gentle and from the aft quarter so that you don’t spill the Xmas stocking on the sole.

  2. Sorry to hear of the loss of good and faithful kit. Was the Monitor vane named “Wilson,” perchance?

  3. Marry Christmas Randall! Thanks for the regular updates! I am following your progress and adventures with great interest. Glad to hear about the dry socks. Do you have a replacement for the regular wind vane you lost? If not, how would your trip be affected? I assume the wind vane you have now is probably not going to be responsive in lighter winds.

  4. Were conditions too challenging to try takin a reciprocal course to try to retrieve the vane? I guess it would be pretty hard to grab even if you spotted it… such a shame.

  5. Randall, it is not odd to think of the Monitor vane as a friend – often at sea I would give thanks to Mr. Perkins, the diesel, Hydro, the wind vane, Sage, the boat & Tony, my sailing partner. All essential parts to crossing an ocean safely. Keep safe, my firend, know we are thinking of you & feliz navidad from warm latitudes. Connie

  6. Arrfs, barks, and tail waggings from all the Greyt Beasties, and their Mom. We all understand about attachment here! Merry Oceanic Christmas. Figgy pudding? Cheers!

  7. Merry Christmas, Randall! As we were reading your post, we recalled Tom Hanks’ as Chuck Noland in the movie Cast Away. His only companion on a deserted island was “Wilson” a volleyball personified. When Noland and Wilson finally make it off the island, Wilson was lost at sea. Maybe Monte’s limb will meet up with Wilson, and they’ll be able to celebrate the holidays together. Keep up the good work, friend. S & S

  8. Hi Randall. You may not remember me. Met you briefly at KKMI when they launched my Tayana 37 pilothouse.. What a remarkable thing you are doing. I read your post every morning. First thing. Congratulations on your first 10,000 miles and Merry Christmas!

  9. Randall, I can’t believe all you endure, wow! Stay safe! From Vista, Ca, we’re watching!

Leave a Reply