Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Departure Dance

Okay, I get it now.  Over the past two years I have known many people on sailboats who cross the Pacific Ocean.  I have wondered why it takes them sooooo long to get off the dock.  I have watched these friends set a departure date and delay and delay and delay again.  They change out parts, paint, fix things, provision and end up provisioning a second time because they are so late getting off the dock they have eaten all of the food they carefully selected for the first departure date.  My logical self knows that they were being cautious and careful, but I have to say that before this experience, I did wonder whether they were possibly overdoing it, or putting it off because it is simply a scary prospect, crossing the huge ocean in a small sailing vessel.

Now, almost seven weeks since Carmen and I left Anchorage, Alaska to climb aboard S/V Sweet Dreams and crew for them across the Pacific, we are still at the dock and I finally understand.  With my tail between my legs, I admit that I was clueless.  All six of us have been pulling our hair out working to get the boat ready and waiting for the weather.  Everything takes longer than anticipated.  The weather is unpredictable.  Thus, we have missed many deadlines while we do this Departure Dance that I imagine all seamen become accustomed to. A few rules of thumb:  respect the ocean, wait for a good weather window, don't rush.  Have another margherita and wait.

**swing your partner**

While we wait for the perfect weather window, the girls and I took a few hours off to play near the surf.
The first deadline we missed, our launching date of May 9th, was due to issues with the work being done on the boat in the boatyard, to the tune of nearly three weeks worth of delays and missed deadlines for launching.  Our actual "splash" was May 30th.  Honestly, it's a good thing that we were delayed, because Gina and I worked nonstop during those weeks sewing canvas covers for the inflatable dinghy (called "dinghy chaps").  Our estimate that it would take one week to complete was way off when attempted by novice seamstresses such as ourselves. 

During this first three-week delay, we missed our weather window to go to the South Pacific.  Either too much wind in the form of cyclones or monsoons, or not enough wind in the doldrums make it not a good choice this time of year.  And so we changed our destination to Hawaii.


Safety meeting at the dock - Jim is going over how to deploy the life raft (which we are sure we will NOT need!) 
Once in the water, we remained on the dock another three days rigging sails, making more last-minute repairs, shopping for food, and waiting for a good weather window to safely cross the Sea of Cortez.
**sashay left**

After successfully crossing the Sea on June 1-2nd, we spent the next week hopping south in beautiful aqua water and monitoring Hurricane Cristina, slowing down since we knew we had to wait for this storm to peter out before we rounded the tip of the Baja Peninsula and headed West.  Eating the food we carefully provisioned to last four weeks for six people at sea.  Accepting the weather delay with a sigh and a feeling of gratitude for modern meteorology and technology, making us delayed but helping us avoid catastrophe.

So, we monitor the weather and meanwhile tidy up and dance a little.  We get to those last-minute items on the to do list that we thought we might just never complete.  We hold safety meetings and prepare to stow everything once again.  We learn patience.

Reviewing where medical supplies are and how to use them.....yes, we are VERY prepared aboard S/V Sweet Dreams!
**circle right**

For days the hurricane (upgraded from tropical storm two days ago) has been growing in strength and tracking NW, right toward our route to Hawaii.  But today, things are looking better, the storm is expected to dissipate over the next few days.  This morning we got that green light from Brynn for a tentative departure of Monday or Tuesday.  Not only is it looking likely that we can avoid getting caught up in it, but we will actually benefit by receiving some decent wind for the first part of our journey, left over from the hurricane's power.  

Even so, the latest departure date of "Monday or Tuesday" remains tentative.  Mother Nature is fickle and unpredictible.

And so we dance.

**sashay right**

Taking a break from boat stuff - a blustery walk along the beach.  Terra firma for a few more days, then only ocean under our feet.
P.S.  You might be wondering how in the heck we monitor the weather without the Weather Channel.  Here's how it works:  When we have an internet connection, we watch the storm via NOAA and other weather websites specifically designed for sailors.  We also have Bruce (my husband) back home in Alaska sending us emails with his merchant marine sailor's interpretation.  When we are not land-based and thus have no wifi, we email or call via satellite phone, and get updates from Brynn, our official professional weather router who is the person in the end who decides when we get a green light to depart this hot dock.  While underway we will use a low band-width dialup email connected via satellite phone.  Once a day we will upload and download emails - this way Bruce will send us updates.  When needed, we will call Brynn via sat phone.

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