Transition Zone

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July 28
Cape Flattery to Kauai
Day 6

Noon position: 35.50.44N by 135.54.80W
Miles since last noon: 174
Total miles of passage: 960
Avg. Miles per Day: 160
Course: WSW
Speed: 7 knots
Wind: NNE 10 to 25 (strangely up and down)
Sky: Complete cloud cover, but sun punching through; no rain.
Waves: NNE 5-10
Bar: 1022
Air Temperature: 74 degrees
Sea Temperature: 66 degrees

At noon yesterday I set the second headsail on its pole. And that has changed everything. We now charge forward with a grace and speed unmatched since the very birth of sail. The twin genoas, fast to their yards, are lifted and full and unmoving as if they are not, in fact, made of a limp cloth but of a magic material that, when run out, transforms into the stiff, lithe, white wings of birds.

It’s reminiscent of–if not quite as romantic as–that famous painting by Marin-Marie where he’s flying two twins but also a spinnaker on his steady Annabelle (?) in the great, tumbling surf of strong trade winds, and him on the bow in a pith helmet apparently laying on a coat of varnish.

It’s not quite like that, but pretty damned close.

I have the wind slightly on starboard quarter. The working jib is flying to starboard and has two reefs rolled in; I’m flying an equivalent amount of sail area from the big genoa to port. The working jib is out a little fuller; the genoa in a bit more snug.

And here’s what I’ve done in the intervening 24 hours by way of sail adjustment. Nothing.

Under this dead-simple rig we’ve had our second fastest day.

And I’ve given up on my “head to 35N by 135W and then follow the line west” scheme. Now the boat is in charge of navigation. With Frank and Georgette having apparently worn themselves out without leaving home and the next International Harvester not due off the line for as much as five days, we may just follow this wind all the way to Kauai. (That’s not a prediction so much as a wish.)


Several signs this morning hinted that we are transitioning out of the north and into the middle latitudes.

One, the slate-gray and drizzly ceiling that has been so constant now has holes in it; sun is punching through. As the day progresses, the holes are getting larger. We’re approaching the edge of the marine layer.

Two, I’m in a T-shirt. Air temperature was 67 degrees at 7am this morning (74 by noon), up from 60 degrees on the day of departure; and sea temperature is up to 66 degrees, up from 59 on day of departure.

Given the warmth, today I took the opportunity for a bath. No, not the Chichester full body drenching (you don’t get to see me naked just yet), but a good head and beard scrubbing.

Three, flying fish. While meditating upon the Monitor Windvane this morning, I noted fish scales on the leading edge of the air paddle. Then I noted scales in the cockpit. I found the unfortunate fish behind the fuel cans, mouth frozen open in an everlasting disbelief.

Sailboats must be vehicles for The Rapture in flying fish world. Uncle Wilber goes for a quick flight after dinner, just to stretch his wings, and is never seen again.

Flying fish mean other fish, like Dorado. So I’ve set the big pink hoochie trailing astern.

After a brief conversation, admittedly one-sided, I returned Uncle Wilber to his loved ones, or at least their general visinity. Some would say I should have eaten him, but flying fish smell like sea lion innards and feel as if they are made of bailing wire. I’d rather have egg on toast.

Am starting to see plastic in the water. A submerged milk bottle; a recipe card holder, a two gallon bucket, a fish float, and several smaller, broken-up pieces. All white. I think this suggests we’re on the outer edge of the gyre and that this much wind this far east at this latitude is somewhat rare. (?)

Haven’t seen a ship all day, this after a couple days of a ship or three on the scope all the time.

I think we may be on our own again.

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2 Comments on “Transition Zone

  1. Randall I came across your FB page by accident. I’m really enjoying your journal sitting here in my office in London UK. Your writing is so vivid I can almost feel the spray on my face!

    • Hey John, a most excellent compliment. Can’t imagine better, actually. Surely most of us who “publish online” know our material is largely ignored–there’s just too much information begging to be had. And god forbid we should add a picture…who would read when they can look? So thanks for the note on the writing, which I much enjoy.

      I depart for San Francisco in September. Hope you can follow along.



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