Day 16 Sunday, June 2, 2013
1025 Position: Latitude 24 00.6 N, Longitude 126 27.5 W
Speed 15.7, Course 049,
Barometer 1012, Weather: Overcast, big swell
Total miles run: 4517
Our longitude this morning is even with Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island! The seas are much bigger today—at least 3-4 meters—and the ship sways noticeably, especially at the top of this inverse pendulum, the superstructure where our cabins are. It's also cloudy and cool. There has been a weather system off San Francisco with winds in the 35-knot range, according to the weather forecast. What we're seeing here, 690 miles off Ensenada, Mexico, is probably swell that's been traveling down from the north.
We're plotting our course each day on the same chart we used for our first crossing. How straight and fast it is compared to that course we sailed a little over a year ago! The differences are huge in modes of travel; in our first crossing, starting in March 2012, we zigzagged under sail across the Pacific according to the big wind belts of the Northeast and Southeast Trades. We sat becalmed for days, and crawled through doldrums. Though we made great time in the first two weeks, we averaged only two knots of speed in our last three weeks, and called 50 miles a good day's run. Sometimes we went only ten miles in 24 hours. Once we went 16 miles backwards on an adverse current. The sea tossed and rolled us at will.
In this crossing, we are on an immense behemoth of a ship that can largely (but not completely) ignore the wind belts, and we're passengers rather than participants. We have 340-mile days. The sleep is plentiful, and the navigation (for us) is voluntary. Although it feels necessary for us to know exactly where we are on the planet so we can track our voyage, the two crossings can be compared only superficially. In the first, we crossed the Pacific under sail, in a little bobbing cork of a boat. In the second, we are riding across the Pacific under power, on a schedule in which our arrival times are coordinated exactly to the hour. We feel the rumble of the great propeller turning, and when seas crash into the bow, we feel it shrug them off as the ship shudders.
Both modes are equally valid, though some crew think what we did on our little Sockdolager was "dangerous." We point out in turn, that when you follow the wind belts and seasons to stay out of certain areas during tropical revolving storm season, or stay out of higher latitudes in winter, that it is perhaps not so dangerous as keeping to a schedule that puts you in those iffy areas in the wrong season.
This is much the same weather as we had leaving Mexico, only better. We recall lots of rain and 30+ knot winds and 3-4 meter seas. We recall endless hard rolling and wet sailing, but never once did we feel that the boat couldn't take it. And although we got tired and frustrated, we're glad we did it.
After dinner last night I (K) taught Oleksandr, the Second Officer, how to tie a turk's head mat using the golden cord we were given by the First Officer to make Neptune's epaulets. He had requested a lesson, and was a fast learner.
Afternoon: Seas are getting bigger. 4 meter waves are common, with some higher. Lots of ship shuddering and a surprising amount of pitching at the bow. Big crashes of foam hurtle off the sides as the bow comes down, but they still aren't big enough to sweep over the bow.
Day 17 Monday, June 3, 2013
1025 Position: Latitude 28 34.7 N, Longitude 121 24.2 W
Speed 18, Course 047,
Barometer 1011, Weather: Overcast, cool
Total miles run: 5234
Yesterday evening we 3 passengers enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails in the Captain's cabin, along with some sparkling conversation. We were having such a good time and laughing so much that we almost missed dinner! Later after dinner, Jim and I walked up to the bow to watch and film the foaming maelstrom created by the ship's passage through the seas.
Seas are much improved this morning, and by 1300 we are doing 16 knots in relative calm of a well-spaced 2-meter swell. I can feel Mexico on the horizon, and hope we'll be able to go ashore in search of tacos and to fracture some more Spanish. This morning we saw our first ship, off the starboard bow, headed south, probably for the Panama Canal. We plan to post photos of this voyage as soon as we can after arriving in Oakland.
We will be in Bahia Ensenada around daybreak tomorrow to meet the pilot, tied up at the docks by 0730, and underway again by 1300, for San Francisco Bay. The ship will quickly unload and load some cargo.
Arrival in the pilot area outside the Golden Gate Bridge is scheduled for Thursday morning around 0515, and Jim and I wouldn't miss it for the world. Being high up on the ship's bridge as we go under the Golden Gate Bridge will be a thrill.
Day 18 Tuesday, June 4, 2013
0730 to 1200 Position: Ensenada, Mexico
Weather: Cool, cloudy
What a treat to awaken at 0515 to see the lights of land after 18 days at sea! The dry brown mountains of Ensenada Mexico welcomed us as the dawn revealed their contours, and the ship slowed down to receive the two pilots, who guided us through the narrow channel to the harbor, where our two tugs waited.
Customs boarded and cleared us by 0800 (I recognized the Banjercito lady from when we first cleared in November 2011,) and, because the time in port was compressed to an earlier departure than previously scheduled, we had two and a half hours to roam the town. After stocking up at the Mercado with our favorite Mexican foods, we wandered around looking at all the closed shops, until we came to the marina at Baja Naval. We looked for any cruising boats we might know, but saw none. It must be a slow time. We had asked the First, Second and Third Officers if they wanted anything from ashore (no crew were able to get ashore due to the short time in port) and all three asked for Mexican-themed refrigerator magnets for their wives, who evidently collect them. After a short search we found some decent ones. It's nice to know that these three souvenirs will be enjoyed on refrigerators in the Ukraine and Russia.
A fine breakfast of tacos and burritos at a friendly local cantina, and soon it was time to get back to the ship. We met Barbara in town at a prearranged time, and piled into a taxi, which dropped us at the Port's main gate. Our identities were verified and we piled into a van, which dropped us at a second gate, where our identities were again verified. A golf cart arrived, and we piled in like a football team stuffing a phone booth, which caused much merriment among the work crews we passed. A pleasant chat with a serene Mexican security guard at the gangway who said, "God bless you!" and we re-boarded the ship. We love Mexico and its people. The Hugo Schulte got underway shortly after noon, and we are now at sea again, steaming north toward San Francisco Bay.
This evening we invited the Captain and Chief Engineer to our cabin for some real Mexican tortilla chips, salsa and dark beer. If they couldn't get ashore, we could at least bring a bit of Old Mexico back to them. One more full day at sea, and we will arrive at the pilot station off San Francisco Bay around 0400 Thursday morning. The time has been moved up, so we may be going under the Golden Gate Bridge in early morning darkness.
Day 19 Wednesday, June 5, 2013
0830 Position: Latitude 33 56.6 N, Longitude 120 59.6 W
Speed 20.5, Course 328,
Barometer 1014, Weather: Overcast, cool
Total miles run: 5829
It's our last full day at sea for now; we arrive in Oakland tomorrow morning. We're finally in US waters, off the Southern California coast. It's the first time in 18 months, and it feels good to be nearing our home. I (K) am reminded, after a long stretch of open blue water with its endless opportunities for reading, reflection, contemplation and quiet strolls, of how normal it has come to feel being out here at sea. I'm also reminded, after yesterday's pleasant 2 ½ hour jaunt into Ensenada, of how much psychic adjustment is needed to rearrange oneself to the jarring contrasts of land. But we are land creatures, no matter how much we admire the whale. We have roots in our community, no matter how much we admire the migratory bird. And we are happy about our decision to come home, no matter how much we've enjoyed the adventure. There will be more adventures to come; the maze of islands and inlets from Puget Sound to Alaska awaits us, as do salmon, crabs and halibut!
We think often about our friends who've continued on, to Fiji, Australia, and back to French Polynesia, and we're happy for them to be sailing in warm tropical seas. I'm sure that in the coming journey north, when the wind howls and it's foggy and cold, that there will be times when we miss the tropics, especially our favorite places: Fakarava; Bora Bora; Aitutaki. And New Zealand. And Mexico's Sea of Cortez. What fabulous places. But homecomings are sweet because everything becomes new again. As G.K. Chesterton once said, "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land."
We look forward to reunions with friends in the San Francisco Bay area, and then to setting off again, to sail north. To round Cape Mendocino, to work our way up the California, Oregon and Washington coasts while seeing what we missed on the way down. To round the corner at Neah Bay, and sail past Seal Rock and the Pillars, down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with Canada's Vancouver Island in sight to our north. To sight the Olympic Mountains at last, and then the snow-capped volcanoes of Mt Baker and Mt Adams, then Discovery Bay, and round Point Wilson to see Port Townsend. And later, to continue our peripatetic perambulation under sail, being reminded of that wonderful saying by Anatole France: Wandering reestablishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.
We will write more (and respond to email) after we arrive and have the boat safely unloaded and at the dock.