After all these years, I've realized something about sailing that's very obvious, but at a far deeper level: you spend an awful lot of time waiting for wind. Back on Puget Sound where diesel was sold at every corner marina, it was not as noticeable a dilemma when the wind failed (as it often does) because you could get there just as fast--sometimes faster--with the turn of a key. Vroom, the diesel rumbles to life, dissolving any pretensions that you really, truly wanted to sail the whole way. The choice is whether to disturb the peace for convenience's sake, or to sit tight and wait for wind. If we were in Puget Sound in a calm, it's likely we'd start the engine, especially if no wind was in the forecast. But we've read in multiple accounts that in the Tuamotus, diesel is unavailable. We are now becalmed and have been for several hours, drifting at one knot on the current. So the choice is: do we want to wait for wind, in hopes the calm's short-lived (the wait possibly being measured in days), or go for it and use our precious diesel?
News flash: As I write this, Jim is attempting to PURCHASE some wind. He's dropping seven Polynesian francs overboard. He also wants to see how fast they sink. The trick with this method is to not buy too much wind. Uh-oh. He just came back down, saying, "These cheap coins actually float a little, and I can't tell how fast they're sinking before we drift away from them. I need a heavier coin." He just dropped a 100 franc coin into the drink. That's a whole dollar, fer cryin' out loud. Heaven help us, we may have bought a gale.
A mega-sailing yacht passed us two evenings ago, just before sunset. We were enjoying a nice reach of 4 to 5 knots. The mega-yacht was motoring downwind with just a staysail up, doing 11 knots. There was a perfectly usable breeze blowing. Just to say hello, I picked up the VHF radio mic and called the mega-yacht, which looked at least a hundred feet long and had a very tall and empty mast. At sea, mariners are as equals, and big ships talk to tiny sailboats. The voice answering sounded very formal but friendly, and had a Scottish accent. I said, "We're watching your speed and envying you for that."
"We carry and use a lot of diesel," he admitted, but we go around the world on the owner's behalf, chasing the sun." They were going to Fakarava Atoll, too, then Tahiti. He said, "We'll be there tomorrow around noon, and will look for your arrival. What's your ETA?" (estimated time of arrival.)
"Oh, maybe four days," I said. "We carry 20 gallons of diesel and have a 21-foot waterline."
"Wow, then you must do a lot of sailing," he said.
"Indeed we do."
We're still becalmed. Who knows what ETA we'll have? We'll get there when we get there. But it's 90 degrees inside the cabin, and getting our 21st Century selves moving via iron genoa and its artificial breeze while enjoying a cool drink sounds pretty darned fine compared to roasting under the noonday sun, listening to slatting sails, and going nowhere. So why must we always be moving? That old journey-as-destination question again, and still no answers.
We just had a swim call. It's one of the bennies of a calm day at sea.
Patience is part of the bargain in sailing a small boat long distances. We're just as impatient as the next person, but every time we get becalmed we remind ourselves that we programmed it this way, sailing and living on a small boat with limitations that force us to use the wind. We can't have the motoring range of a 40-footer unless we went to extremes of fuel tankage, and then we'd have to give up other heavy items, like food or water. No thanks. We don't need to chase the sun, nor could we if we wanted to. The sun finds us. Now, about those cold drinks... we've got those!
Sent via Ham radio