04 February, 2010

A Long Short Passage

This is an older entry that I never properly finished, but I am
throwing it up now before to much time goes on and I forget again.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Richards Bay, South Africa.

This passage was noteworthy in several ways, and none of them
particularly becoming. I am quite sure that it is my slowest passage
to date, and that perhaps by a considerable magnitude. It took 22
days to manage 1600 miles. I was running 30, 40 and 50 mile days.
These are shocking numbers, nearly unprecedented for me. Indeed I had
light wind, very. But in my eagerness to be far offshore I completely
lost the fine, south-running Mozambique Current and entered a sort of
counter-current flowing north—against me. Having no wind, I was
nearly stopped in place, often sailing 1.5 – 2 knots.
I sailed so slow in fact that I did something very fun. When some
dolphins came along I tethered myself to a lazy sheet and threw myself
over the side. It was great fun because the usual haunting sense of
being alone in the deep ocean water was completely alleviated with the
presence of the dolphins. No fear of sharks with them around. They
talked amongst themselves and paid me some attention—not as much as I
would have hoped—but they were paired up, so I reckon they had other
things on their minds. It felt great to be at peace drifting behind
my boat. I felt weightless, like I might imagine an astronaut to feel
in space—because that was all there was. Space. Endless, vast blue,
bottomless blue. There is nothing like the blue of endless,
bottomless sea. The comfort of the dolphins allowed me to open myself
and surrender to it. That is, until I saw some of those strange
deep-water looking animals, the bizarre sort, square-shaped,
translucent things, looked like crystalline crowns … most strange.
The trance was broken; time to get out.

The passage was good for peace and music. For the first time in my
life I enjoyed the use of a single-sideband radio, or an HF, or SSB.
I came to really look forward to my afternoon contact with the living
world through a weather net. At 5 pm a man in Durban named Roy Cook
comes on frequency 8101 and discusses weather with any sailors who
listen in. The weather wasn't terribly useful, as nothing excepting a
typhoon would affect my course, but hearing a friendly voice was a
great balm. I will always hear Roy saying, "bu-bye … bu-bye." In his
particular way.
At last I got wind, and when I least wanted it. Just coming into S.
African waters, a southerly gale blew up and forced me aside. I
turned into Richard's Bay instead of Durban as was my intended
landfall. In the end it would take over a month before the weather
was suitable for me to leave again. In that time however, I accrued
some friends and memories that I shall carry with me forever.
Providence indeed.

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