Friday, August 2, 2013

Gambier to Marquesas - Day 6: A Grey World

Time: 2045UTC, COG 0T, SOG 0.0kts, Distance Remaining: 0nm

It was a day of mixed emotions. Frustration. Annoyance. Remorse. Sadness.
Gratitude. Disbelief. Proudness. Regret. We felt stupid, we felt relief, we
felt unfortunate, we felt cruel, we felt lucky. We have no idea what
happened or why, but today was not how we thought to spend our last full day
at sea on this trip.

The morning started out nice and promising. The weather predictions were
favorable, no more fronts or funkiness. The sun was out, the temperature
perfect. Mark and I shared a delicious papaya, Irie was cruising along
nicely in benign seas and we settled in for a comfy day. Within half an
hour, the sky turned grey everywhere and the wind picked up. We were
surrounded by massive clouds, with no end in sight.

Then, we caught a fish. Exciting! Our first one in a while and he was hooked
well. There was no way we would lose him. But, he was heavy. A big tuna,
hard to bring in with the hand line. Mark managed to lift him on the top
step. (Sensitive souls should skip to the next paragraph now.) While the
fish was flapping and blood splattered all over Irie's back, Mark could not
pull the weight any higher, or around the stanchions, lifelines and outboard
engine. I was just staring, stunned, not knowing what to do or how to help.
A fishing net and gaff were laying right next to me! With a last effort, the
dying fish managed to rip itself loose, leaving parts of its torn body
behind. Once back in the water, he kept spinning, turning and bleeding. It
truly broke my heart. It was awful in more than one way. Some predator had
an easy meal; it wasn't us.

Ten minutes later, we had our second chance in a similar scenario: a
relatively big tuna had swallowed the whole lure. This time, we were better
prepared. Mark and I both wore gloves and pulled the line in simultaneously.
When the fish was close to the bottom step, I held the line while Mark
gaffed the tuna and brought it on board. Success! We had a tasty lunch and
food for a week.

In the meantime, the wind kept picking up and the waves built. While the
forecast promised 13 knots out of the east, it was blowing 20-25 out of the
northeast. We put two reefs in our mainsail, while we dealt with squall
after squall, steep seas, wind speeds up to 30 knots, infinite grey clouds,
and taking waves over the side for the rest of the day. Although little Irie
did great (we managed to eat and drink her overweight in the Gambier), it
was a pretty uncomfortable ride. Twice, I was totally drenched by a wave at
the helm. The pile of wet, salty clothes is growing, and so is the amount of
washing and cleaning needed upon arrival.

Mark grabbed the most recent weather forecasts with the sat phone. Nothing
new. Apparently we were in the midst of an "unknown", unobserved system; a
50+ mile area of disturbed weather. At least with the fronts, we knew what
was going on and that there was an end in sight. Times like this, we miss
the Caribbean with its trade winds, reliable weather forecasts and sunny
skies. Are we spoiled or is the weather in the Pacific really this crappy?

During the night, we took no chances; we put two reefs in the main and
placed our "comfy" chair (which is really not all that comfy anymore after
six years of use) on the leeward side of the cockpit, opposite the arriving
waves. It is blowing 15-20 knots out of the east and Irie is sailing
straight to Fatu Hiva at six knots, due to arrive around noon on Friday.
While we pierce the gray enclosure of night, I can hear and feel the waves,
but I have not had to taste them. Yet.

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