April 23 – May 13, 2013
Everyday for 21 days, with very little variation, we maintained a fairly constant routine.
Each morning, as Wil was finishing his graveyard watch, he would have a walkabout on deck. This was the perfect time to see what daylight would expose. This was his way of finding out if anything was out of place or about to break. Fortunately, on this passage, the walk only entailed ridding the deck of the numerous flying fish & squid that had landed on deck during the night.
I could count on Wil to wake me by 0715 each morning. This gave me 15 minutes to shake any grogginess and get ready for the morning edition of the Beagle Net on the SSB radio. Before leaving the Galapagos, several of us had organized a twice daily radio contact with everyone in the fleet who were crossing the Pacific around the same time.
By 0730, I was on the radio listening to the positions and weather conditions of the twenty-some boats that were also sailing the Pacific passage. Many times I would relay for net control when the controller couldn’t hear a boat with a weaker signal, and Saturdays were my days as net controller.
Since there were so many boats reporting into the Net, it would usually take an hour to get everyone’s positions. During this time, Wil would fall asleep on the salon seat next to me. By then, Colin would have crawled out of his bunk to check on the new day.
Colin was responsible for putting out the fishing lines first thing, sometimes using the squid or flying fish for bait. Then, he would keep an eye on the horizon, as well as the fishing lines, while Wil napped and I was on radio duty. Once the Beagle Net ended, then Wil would resume his sleep in our cabin, and I would take over the morning activities.
During our first week at sea, school did not happen. In addition to feeling a tad seasick, Justine had picked up Colin’s cold. At the same time, while Colin had gotten over his cold, he and I were both suffering from some form of Traveler’s diarrhea. Needless to say, in addition to trying to find our sea legs, and dealing with a few mishaps early on, we didn’t have the energy for any schoolwork. Once we found our sea legs, got over our sicknesses, and had settled into a good routine, the schoolwork became part of our morning schedule.
By the time the kids had eaten their breakfast and gotten a couple of school topics under their belt, Wil would emerge from his 1-2 hour nap in time for lunch. He would either assist with school or make lunch. During this time, all of us would take turns doing brief horizon checks.
Each day our routine was almost always interspersed with several other main events. Sometimes it was a fish (or three) on the line. Sometimes it was a major or minor mishap. Or sometimes a passing squall. Other times, we’d work on small chores.
The sight of another vessel on the horizon, or on the AIS, was always a cause for excitement. There were lots of fishing vessels during our first night, just past the Galapagos, hanging outside the border of the nature reserve. On day 5, we sighted an unidentified ship on the horizon. On day 8, we saw our first sail on the horizon. It happened to belong to Calico Jack, some good friends of ours who we’d met in the Galapagos. They don’t have SSB, so their only form of radio contact is via close-range VHF. It was a nice surprise to be able to talk to them for the next couple of days, until we got too far past them. On day 17, a large freighter-sized fishing vessel passed within 2 miles of our stern.
Every afternoon, once the kids were done with school, then they would lie around reading books, listening to music, or watching movies on their iPods. Occasionally, we’d have family games of Skip-Bo or work on our French together. The kids were always on standby for any on-deck duties.
By about 1430 in the afternoon, I’d start to feel ready for my nap. If nothing was going on, I’d lay down right away. Sometimes we were too busy catching fish or dealing with mishaps, and my nap would have to wait. Three days a week, I had an afternoon ham radio contact, so my nap would have to wait until after the contact. By the time my head hit the pillow, I had no trouble falling asleep for a couple of hours.
Every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoon, I’d have ham radio contact with my dad, Wil’s mom, and a good family friend, Bob. Even though I did regular SPOT and Winlink position reports, it was a chance to verbally touch base with family back home. It was always great to hear their voices!
Wil would wake me up from my nap anytime between 1630 and 1730 hours. As soon as I was moving again, I’d start getting dinner ready. On most days, I’d have dinner ready (or almost ready) by 1800 hours. At 1800 hours, I’d leave the galley to Wil, and I’d get on the SSB radio for a chat with Pete & Rae on Saliander. While I was on the radio, Wil would serve dinner to everyone, including me at the radio.
At 1830 hours, it was time for the evening edition of the Beagle Net. I would continue to eat my dinner at the nav table while writing down boat positions and doing any necessary relays. The evening net usually had a lot of loud radio interference. It was difficult to hear everyone, and by the end of the hour, we were all more than ready for the radio to be turned off.
While I was still on the evening Beagle Net, Wil would keep an eye on the darkening horizon, and make sure the sails were set for the night. As soon as I was off the radio, Wil would go down for his nighttime sleep, and I would take over the next 6 hours (usually 8 pm to 2 am).
At the beginning of my night watch, I would take this time to check email and chat with the kids. Many times, I’d read the emails to the kids. While I was outside, checking the horizon, and admiring the stars and the rising moon, the kids would come out to see the night sky. We’d always locate the Southern Cross, the Big Dipper, Orion, and the Milky Way. The Southern Cross became my night time comfort. If I could see it, then all was good.
The kids would usually say good-night to me around 2200 hours. I knew it was a late bedtime for them, but I enjoyed their company. They were there in case I needed a hand, and having them around also helped my night watch pass more quickly.
Once the kids were in bed, the night was my own. Interspersed with my horizon checks, I’d study weather gribs for daily passage planning, do small chores, compose emails, and eventually watch a movie on the iPad. I was surprised at how many of my night watches went by so quickly. There were several times when I accidentally went overtime, and Wil would get some extra sleep. He was always very thankful for the extra rest.
When I was in tune to the time, I’d usually wake Wil at about 0145, give or take. While he was waking up and getting ready for his watch, I’d do my final horizon check. Then, I’d brief Wil on the night’s activities, say good night, and head off to bed.
During Wil’s night watch, he’d read books in between his horizon checks. He completed the entire Harry Potter series! By about 0600 his eyelids would get heavy and he’d start to drift off. Therefore, he set his alarm for 18 minute increments, so he could make sure all was good. Throughout the entire watch, he’d always make it a goal to find a shooting star during each horizon check, and he was usually successful.
Then, came another day, and the cycle would start all over again. In order to keep track of our days, I’d made a blank calendar for the crossing. It had 20 boxes, with room to add more. Each day, we’d fill in the day’s highlights or how we were feeling. Watching the calendar fill, made it easier to accept each day that we were at sea.
Fortunately, we made landfall the next afternoon. It was the afternoon of our 22nd day, and it was a day of many emotions. There was an incredible sense of relief and achievement. Excitement and exhaustion. A wonder of what this beautiful land would bring and very happy to be there.