The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Day 17. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Thursday, 08 April 2010,
Our position as at 1500 GMT/UTC (1100 NYC; 1700 Ffm):
S 04 degrees 14.06 minutes; W 97 degrees 08.60 minutes;
2568 Nm to Nuku Hiva

This is the first opportunity to write a blog for days now. I wrote last
that we had doused the mainsail because we were at cross-purposes with the
SW waves, and because there was so little wind that the sail would not
keep filled. We ran for a few days under our working jib alone. Be assured
that is a lot more pleasant than having your nerves kept on alert day and
night by a loudly slatting mainsail boom.

But, running under headsails has its own set of problems. The absolute
worst issue was the rolling. No slatting, of course. But without the big
mainsail to help stabilise the boat, we roll and roll and roll. Life
belowdecks rapidly became stressful, cooking a dangerous challenge, and
sleeping despite the use of lee cloths and wedging oneself in with soft
pillows nearly impossible for the crewman on the 'upside' berth.

Not that it matters in some ways because the other issue is the fact that
the windvane steering is much less efficient going downwind in very light
airs. To function it needs water running over the tab, and this assumes
some wind. At slow speeds it will of course work, but not very well and
wants to yaw all over the place. If you are following the waves (very
comfortable) and you yaw off course a tiny fraction too far, the waves
give the boat a shove and the windvane cannot recover fast enough to
correct. Soon you are rolling like mad (very uncomfortable). Even using
only headsails hasn't worked well for us. We try everything including just
bungee cords to the tiller again. In the end, the watchkeeper has to stay
in the cockpit. What a drag!

The third aspect of all this is that, at 2.5 knots it will take us at
least 40 days to reach The Marquesas from The Galapagos. A less than
enticing thought! The challenge of the South Pacific Crossing is the
preparation. The actual execution seems to be one of dealing with the
tedium.

But, hark, dear Friends! There is good news! Yesterday (Day 16), about
mid-afternoon after passing through a squally patch lasting about 24
hours, I notice that the sky has largely cleared and the wind is blowing
nicely from the SSE to S. Nothing wont, we hoist the main- and staysails
again. And behold, we are soon zipping along at over 5 knots! We fiddle
with the Cap Horn windvane steering at this speed and it decides to show
us what it can really do. In a short time we are hi-fiving each other
(mentally, at least) as Vilisar skips along over the waves. There is only
a very slight bit of rolling, and we keep a steady but not exaggerated
heel to starboard (no water rushing up under the caprails) and the deck no
longer becomes a treacherous surface. Down below, except for the sound of
rushing water along the hull, you hardly notice we are moving at all.

I can hardly believe it! Over 5 knots! No, no! Look! It's touching 6 knots
and over! Once she gets her skirts up, this old girl can really run! We
are on a reach or a broad reach, the sails are adjusted and fine-tuned for
good balance and the most efficient sailing point seems also to be the
direct route to our waypoint 2700 Nm away. Glorious! We deserve this,
don't we?

Mid-morning a small snowy egret, whom we have dubbed Igor because he
stands with his shoulders hunched up to his head, lands on the boom and
eventually hops down unto the cabin roof. An egret is a wader that eats
shrimp, crabs and the like. What is he doing way out here? He won't land
on the seawater, most likely. There is no way for him to get food out
here. And how is he to get fresh water to drink? Basically, he has been
shipwrecked. I try interesting him in some of the flying fish I find on
deck this morning. No interest. I reckon his chances are just about zero
unless he does something radical like flying off in search of The
Galapagos some 478 Nm to the NE. What he does is to stand near the edge
overlooking the water as if he were on a dock and keeping an eye out for
shrimp. If you are failing, in other words, increase the intensity of the
activities that you are familiar with. Maybe they will work. He also
preens himself from time to time. I have to admit that his snowy feathers
are beautiful, but his survival outlook is poor. I secretly wonder if we
might do him and ourselves a favour by catching him and converting him
into pollo con salsa. The leftover feathers would be an added souvenir.
This morning, Igor the Egret is still on board. When I move around the
deck he might fly off, but he immediately lands on a part of the boat
farther away from me. I don't think he has many options.

With the steadiness of the boat life below begins to change. Kathleen
bakes banana bread to use up the large number of very ripe bananas. I make
a nice omelette for dinner. And the fact that we are now into the
watchkeeping routine, we both got enough sleep last night. Kathleen wakes
up around 0930 and I make espresso for her. I had mine hours ago and have
completed some little jobs on deck. We talk for a while. I go into the
cockpit and fine-tune the windvane steering to keep us heading directly to
the waypoint. We actually pick up speed and occasionally touch 7 knots.
Good girl, Vilisar! Oh, and Cap Horn? I take back everything I was
thinking about you and maintain the opposite.

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