Blue Desert


Sept 13
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 3

Noon ***HST*** position: 29.09.63N by 160.07.61W
Miles since last noon: 130
Total miles of passage: 432
Avg. Miles per Day: 144
Course: NW
Sail: Close hauled; working sail with reef in main; out reef and open big jenny at 3am
Speed: 7 then 2
Wind: NE20 then NE5-10
Sky: Mostly clear; rare, small cumulus
Waves: NE2, NW8
Bar: 1013
Air Temperature: 84 degrees
Sea Temperature: 77 degrees

Wind built yesterday, topping at 20 knots in the afternoon, and then eased as the night matured. By moonset at 3am winds had diminished to NE10-15, and in a fit of uncharacteristic responsibility, I rose, shook out the reef in the main and popped the large genoa. This, and the rebalancing it required, took an hour, but it brought our speeds back up to 6 knots. It failed to improve our course, however, which is still aimed for the center of still air to the NW.

In anticipation of our arrival, wind has eased today instead of building with the sun. As sailors will know, this makes for a busy time of sheet trimming and vane adjusting. When it became positively zephyrous at 5 knots apparent, I switched to Otto (auto pilot) as Monte (wind vane) gets vertigo and must take to his bunk in such conditions.

For several hours we made no better than 2 and 3 knots of boat speed, worse when I tacked E and found the swell from the NE just enough to stop Mo in her already minimal track.

If you think you have someplace to be, days like this can be an unfathomable torture. Home is 2000 miles ENE, and I’m headed NW at 2 knots?!?! Great! I’m ready for that root canal now. Can someone please call a cab?

I have been known to scream and yell on days like this. But for some reason, I’m relaxed this trip. I’m ready for a long go round the mountain, and the forecast seems only to happy to oblige.

In truth, some of my most memorable times have been in utter calm, between the Tuamotus and Tahiti, for example; or two days out of Sitka, when the sea becomes, as Callahan notes in ADRIFT, a big blue desert, and the rollers like blue dunes.

For one thing, it gets quite. A fast boat is a noise bucket. And you begin to see differently. On the surface today, skimmers; tiny white insects (I guess) pinhead-sized and skating around as if on a mill pond. What are they and how do they survive when the sea is in froth? Just below the surface, odd shaped jellies hanging out at various depths, and millions of tiny balls I presume to be eggs. Then a random bit of plastic; on top is a small crab; beneath, a small fish. One has the sense of sailing through a nursery.

When the sun is just right, light rays are cast into the sea, cone-shaped, radiating in and down with a roundness like organ pipes, and only then does the ocean feel precipitous. 18,000 feet to the bottom. I had to look it up; never think about it otherwise. The usual impression is of being on top of the waves but under the weather. It takes a calm day to realize one is floating 3,000 feet above the tallest mountain in California.

I have a gecko aboard, first noticed in Hanalei where he perched on a cockpit winch and gorged on gnats attracted by the glow of Mo’s cabin lights. He’s a small fry, a mere inch long, and I noticed him again last night when I rose for sail changes. His name is Handel, named for the Composer Seamount were were passing over at the time, and because it will take something on the order of the Messiah’s return for him to survive the trip. What a conundrum for him. Millions of skimmers on the ocean’s surface, yet not a one within his reach. I guess one could call his situation cruel, though I doubt he sees it that way or even thinks of his probable meeting with death in the next few days.


Handel perched in the cockpit, navigating by the stars.


De-molding moldy bread before enjoying it with cucumber and deviled ham.

5 Comments on “Blue Desert

  1. Love your well written and humorous blog. Best sailing blog around in my upinion! Thank you and fair winds sir!

  2. Moldy bread? Might as well make some penicillin while you’ve got the starting material.

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