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September 2008
Dear Friends:

Taleisin is in her element, swishing down each wave, her bow wave a cascade of white foam which sometimes seems to fire off a starburst of flying fish. With her working jib held to port by the whisker pole, her mainsail squared off and held firmly by the boomvang/preventer, she’s making 6.5 knots in front of a 12 or 14 knot wind. Powder puff clouds dust a clear blue sky that, as we sit in the cockpit and enjoy a drink together, is now turning to the golden glow that promises a lovely sunset. This is tradewind sailing at its very best. Larry turns to me and says, “This is one of the tens.”  I chuckle as I remember the time, 42 years ago when we were first sailing together. We’d had one of those almost perfect days and Larry said, “remember this well. You probably only get one day like this out of every ten times you go sailing. But that day is so special you’ll keep coming back time and again to try and feel it again.”

We put a fresh coat of varnish on Taleisin’s spar two weeks before we set sail. This served two purposes, it took care of this once a year chore and also gave us a chance to do a complete survey of all the rigging. All looked just fine.

 

As I write this, we have been at sea for 18 days. Kiritimati, (Christmas Island) lies about 900 miles ahead of us. Larry lies asleep in the bunk next to me. In spite of the endless seeming lists that threatened to delay our departure, we did leave from Ventura within four days of the plan we set six months before. Taleisin sat two inches lower in the water than she normally does, proof that she carried about 2400 pounds of food and water and books. (lots of really good books recommended by friends, found at the book fair, bought during visits to second hand book stores). We were particularly anxious to get underway by before the end of June to avoid the threat of potential hurricanes as we worked south towards the equator. According to the pilot charts, and routing info, it is rare for eastern Pacific hurricanes to go far beyond 130 West longitude during the month of June, but in July the risk increases three-fold.

It felt good to leave the rolly anchorage at Anacapa Island and finally get started on the long haul

Of course the day before departure became a real circus as I spent a final $700 on fresh veg, a local youngster who raises chickens arrived to bring me 8 dozen truly fresh, never been washed or refrigerated eggs, several friends showed up unexpectedly to wish us well and my whole family came down to take us out for dinner (well, not the whole family, but eleven of them).  I gave up trying to get everything stowed properly and piled three boxes of provisions in the bath tub, Larry shoved six boxes of wine and several bags of assorted junk in the lazzarette, we had one long last shoreside shower and dropped into bed exhausted. Departure morning there was no wind at all. But about noon, a light breeze began to tickle the flags around the harbor, we cast off our lines and slowly tacked clear of the last American port Taleisin will see for a long time. Before we cleared the breakwater, we’d broken out the big blue nylon drifter (big blue) and the red and white stripped nylon staysail (the red baron) and began reaching southward.

The strap that secures the boom vang around Taleisin’s bulwark had to be replaced. The old one failed after 7 years – probably due to sun degradation.

 

Seven hours later, because it was close at hand, we decided to anchor in the lee of Anacapa Island for the night. It felt so good to be away from the dock, I got so busy the next morning getting things stowed in better places, that we decided to stay put for another day.  By the next morning a squeeze zone formed off the  California coast and winds increased to 25 knot Northwesterly. Our anchorage became really rolly, so we took off to spend the next week running in 30 to 35 knot winds, carrying either the small working jib or staysail with triple reefed mainsail.  Some fast days between 30 N and 18 N latitudes – 155, 145, 148…. Then we reached latitude 18 Nouth and though winds eased off and days runs fell, our luck held, just held I should say.  The first Pacific Hurricanes of the season began roaring westward. Three petered out near the Mexican coast but Hurricane Boris, packing 85 knot winds came right at us. We changed course more to the west to put a bit more room between it and us. After three days of plotting, worrying just a bit and listening to Boris’ position on WWV every six hours, the center of the storm was within 90 miles of us but winds had dropped to 45 knots. We had about 25 on the beam at that time. Six hours later Hurricane Boris had dissolved; just gone away…I wasn’t sad to see it gone.

This is sailing at its best, fast beam reach, all plain sail set.

 

Tradewinds carried us quickly to the ITCZ (Inter-tropical convergence zone or Doldrums) and doldrums they were. It took us six days to work through to the southeast trades, with days runs dropping to 60 or 70 miles.  So all in all it took us 28 days of sailing to cover 3100 miles or 30 days away from land if you include our stop at Anacapa.  It felt wonderful to anchor in the lee of Kiritimati island. (That is pronounced Christmas Island) which is one of the 33 Islands that make up the tiny nation of Kiribati.

Our working sails are now almost 12 years old and starting to show their age – we have a spare set on board but Larry says, let’s use the old ones up first. Not surprisingly, he had to do some running repairs to the bolt-rope on the working jib.

 

All in all it was a good passage. Larry is never more in his element than when we are at sea. I am never more relaxed as I can put away the shopping lists, forget banking, writing, making sure I keep dates and appointments. Our food supplies had been fine, ran out of tomatoes but had lots of other fresh veg left. We arrived with 30 gallons of fresh water still in our tanks. Both of us feeling just grand and me 8 pounds lighter – I always loose weight on passage – best diet in the world.

Don’t know what we would have done without our nylon sails. They carried us through half our days on this passage, Big Blue – the big drifter on the pole, The Red Baron our spinnaker staysail sheeted to the end of the main boom

Our chart indicated a very good anchorage inside the lagoon, but we decided not to sail in without taking a look first, especially as we could see absolutely no markings to indicate the channel, and it is not as clearly defined as most atoll entrances. So the next day we launched Cheeky and, since there was almost no surf on the beach, rowed ashore to try to clear customs and immigration and take a look at the inner anchorage.

Tropical sunsets were rarely a disappointment. But I can truly say that in all our years of voyaging, and countless evenings watching the sun set slowly in the west, I have never seen a green flash.

Talk about laid back.  We walked into the local village – (6,000 people live on the islands of this Atoll). Located the customs and immigration offices. No one there. English is the second language here, most older folks understand some English so asked the Post master how we could contact the officials.  “Don’t worry, they are busy out on a fish boat that just came to anchor. Come back tomorrow. I’ll tell them you came by.” Thus began what became a very laid back ten days at an island that has one café – one internet connection that can be used by one person at a time – five days a week for five hours, but warm and easy going people who managed to make my 64th birthday one I’ll remember for a long, long time. But more on that in the next newsletter.

Hope winds are blowing fair for you,

Sincerely,
Lin and Larry



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