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 22, 2010

Day 30. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Wednesday, 21 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 07 degrees 40.08 minutes; W 120 degrees 01.29 minutes;
1186 Nm to Nuku Hiva

We are getting bored and restless with this long voyage! Looking back, the
days rather blend into each other. They are 'filled' with routine
watchkeeping, noting positions, fixing the odd simple meal or playing a
game of Scrabble. Otherwise, we read and read and read or sleep and sleep
and sleep. The tedium of long voyages.

We are counting down the nautical miles now. First the halfway point (1523
Nm from The Galapagos), then two-thirds, etc. Kathleen, very numbers-
oriented, has calculated our progress and drawn up tables and rehearses
the figures repeatedly as a way of passing the time. Whatever you do, it's
still slow going.

We had a few days of around 130 Nm earlier. But now we are running nearly
straight downwind under double-reefed mainsail, a staysail and a yankee.
The 'power, such as it is, comes from the boomed out mainsail. The
headsails are sheeted in fairly tight and act to keep the boat from yawing
off and broaching into the sometimes seriously-big waves. Our maximum
speed, however, now seldom exceeds 4 knots (about 100 Nm per day) and is
often much less. At least on this course although we roll back and forth
somewhat, we are not being battered by the waves as we would be going
across them on a reach, and we are not doing the very heavy rolling that
comes with sailing only under headsails. But, slow progress.

Jimmy Cornell in his book World Cruising Routes opines that the number of
passage-making yachts (8,000 - 10,000 worldwide with only about 10% at sea
at any one time) is declining because it is simpler to fly out and charter
a yacht in Polynesia or the Cayman Islands than be bothered with the
upkeep of a boat and undertaking the long bluewater runs. We have met lots
of cruisers who, after their first bluewater challenges, decide to forget
about long voyaging altogether, though they might continue to live aboard
their yacht somewhere. They only do short passages. I can understand this
now.

In our bad moments we are heartily sick of the clammy cabin interior. No
matter what you do salt gets inside the boat and holds the dampness.
Clothes are not an issue, since we don't use 'em. But bedding and towels
and even books are icky to touch. Occasionally one or other of us gets
cabin fever and begins to rant.

I write all this for the benefit of those who think we are doing the
yachties cocktail-party thing out here.

Having the Iridium telephone on board for the voyage has been a good idea.
We get messages from our friends, which is cheering, and we can alleviate
worry to a degree amongst our family members who might otherwise worry
even more than they do. People of course forget sometimes that we last had
an update on world events in The Galapagos over twenty days ago. So when
people talk about air traffic being halted in Europe because of a volcanic
eruption, we have no background. Was it the Feldberg outside Frankfurt
that blew? Now that's a picture, surely.

When not reading or on watch or sleeping, we talk about our new lives in
Berlin. It's still a bit sketchy but something to look forward to. We also
want to spend lots of time in New Zealand before leaving there. It will
take time to sell the boat, no doubt, and there will be some cosmetics
necessary, I suppose. But, it is a real offshore-yachting centre and the
broker assures us that, given the modest price we shall be asking, Vilisar
should be able to sell herself quickly. His word in God's ear, as the
Arabs say.

At times, the waves seem huge and rather frightening. They vary a lot too.
Sometimes they are very close together and very steep and high. They are
often out of synch and from a different direction than the huge ocean
swells that mainly come from the SW. This causes a lot of turbulence and
bouncing around for Vilisar. She is actually very seakindly. But even
Vilisar can get sideways to the waves. Then life inside becomes like
living in a tumble drier. Everything is well-stowed. But if you are not in
your berth and secured you can easily be flung around hard in the cabin
with a risk of injury. The same applies when you head out to the cockpit.
We now have stainless-steel tubing handholds for safety, and I am still
quite nimble despite my 133 years of age. But this time, my foot hit a
slippery spot on the footlocker in the cockpit. I slipped onto my back
just as a swell rolled us. I stubbed my foot, jammed my shoulder and hit
my jaw bone next to my ear against the tiller. Ouch! I let out an
involuntary cry, which brought Kathleen out of her sleep and berth to see
if I had possibly gone overboard.

The problem comes when you are trying to fix a meal, for example, or doing
some small chore like replacing the dressing on my knee abscess or setting
up the computer for use. We now keep all the portholes tightly dogged down
and the skylight closed. Every once in a while a big sloppy wave will
throw a bucketful of saltwater at the side of the cabin, and it is not at
all uncommon for the deck to be awash when a wave tips us over well to the
side. A few times we have even had a serious deluge down the companionway
hatch onto the galley stove.

The seemingly innocuous little pimple that showed up on my right knee
weeks ago became seriously infected, very swollen, pus and blood-infused
with a 'head' about an inch across. Very ugly, extremely sensitive to the
touch and located for maximum contact with everything on the boat. I have
been keeping it covered and treated with anti-biotic cream, which seems to
be helping, though slowly. It will surely have been 4 weeks before it is
healed. Already other pimples have shown up around my legs. I wonder if
these are salt-water abscesses that become infected rather insect bites as
I originally thought. The ones on my knee became very infected, the others
just dried up at a much smaller level though blood-infused as well.
Perhaps, the pimple rose and then, kneeling to do a job, I ground some
infection into the spot, which then flared up most painfully. Getting
tropical saltwater into an open wound is a problem because of all the
staph infections in the warm water.

Last night we could not get the boat to stay on course without the
watchkeeper being in the cockpit full time. This is a real strain and
surely one of the least popular things to be doing on a boat. Much more
difficult than sitting out your watch below with occasional look-rounds
outside. It is damp and gets chilly without a fleece jacket. You get
splashed and sprayed from time to time and last night I was even hit
whilst sitting in the dark by one of the frequent flying fish that wind up
on deck. And it is damned uncomfortable sitting on the hard wooden planks
while you are wiggled and shaken around. We have both been losing muscle
mass so we are not as well upholstered as we were when we began. After
three hours in the dark, I was exhausted and cold and dying to wake up
Kathleen so I could crawl into the pre-warmed berth. I was asleep before
she was even fully awake, I think.

We are ticking off our 100 Nm a day so that means we have another 11 or 12
days to go.

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