Saturday, June 18, 2016

LIFE AT SEA: Life in the trade winds (1 of 2)

     We spent a leisurely five months touring the Hawaiian Islands. When we set out from Hilo on May 26, 1955, it was for the Society Islands in the South Pacific: Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, then American Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.
     Trade wind sailing was a whole "nother" ballgame. Mum and I were glad we hadn't jumped ship in Hawaii!
     The trades maintain a constant brisk breeze off the beam when you're sailing south and make for perfect sailing weather. The boat heels but sailing is smooth. They are almost always northeast in the Northern Hemisphere, southeast in the Southern Hemisphere. You can count on them.
     Wind off the quarter is okay too but wind from directly or almost directly ahead or behind requires a zig-zag course which involves tacking, or changing direction periodically so the wind will fill the sails first from one side, then the other.  Wind from directly behind the boat causes rolling and wind from straight ahead--well, you can't really sail right into the wind but as close as you can get causes bucking.
     On a typical day in the trade winds, the five men would have "two hours on, eight hours off" which meant they'd steer (and monitor winds, waves, sails, watching out for possible squalls, other boats and land) twice a day.

     Let's say it's mid-morning and Nick, the first mate, is on watch.


Mickey and Moto, the other two "boys" as we called them (meaning no disrespect), have spread their dried squid (read "jerky") all over the deck up forward because they got wet and a bit moldy during our last squall. Now they are relaxing in the bright orange life raft lashed to the cabin top. The rest of us haven't quite figured out what that peculiar odor is. . .
     Mum and I are cleaning up the galley, washing the breakfast dishes in sea water and Joy.  Then I go back to my desk in the Ladies' cabin to write my journal.  Writing my journal is always my default position. (This photo is cheating.  It was posed.  I didn't wear my Girl Scout uniform at sea and I didn't write my journal with a pencil, only a fountain pen with an open bottle of ink to dip it in, which I had to hang onto every minute.  When the boat really rocks, I have to brace myself with one foot, as you already know.)

     Mum and Skip are always urging me to come up on deck when the weather is nice. Mum says I need the fresh air and sunshine.  Skipper says I 'm like "a white grub under a rock."

     Sometimes when the seas aren't too rough, Mum and I take a watch, especially if the crew has to make repairs.
     Then I might take the tiller. (Normally we wouldn't sit on it but it was a really calm day and I am goofing around.)

     Say the Japanese men are taking advantage of the good weather to mend sail.  (In the picture, we're in port but often this mending had to be done at sea.)

     Okay, noon. Mum is making lunch below and Ted spells me at the tiller so I can go below and have lunch with Mum and Skip and then record Skipper's sun shots for him.



Sometimes he lets Mi-ke help, too.
 Then I take the tiller so Ted can eat. Skipper and Ted take the figures from the sun shots and work out our position.

     They determine that land might be visible soon.  So Ted goes on deck with the binoculars to look for it and when I get off watch, I climb the ratlines and search the horizon.
     By the way, those lumps at even distances apart on the lines are called "baggywrinkle." They are to protect the sails from chafing against the metal halyards.  All the way across the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii, I made baggywrinkle--unraveling strands of rope about one foot long and braiding them around two long lines of rope. Dad got me to keep at this job for hours on end by telling me when we got to Hawaii there would be a baggywrinkle contest.  Like his story over the three years of our life in Japan about getting the sword if we ate enough swordfish, I believed him.  I wondered how he knew we would be in time for the contest since we didn't know when we'd get there.

     What do you know? Land ho! (Actually, we would have sighted it a lot earlier than this!)

(Photo of Phoenix under sail taken by Werner Stoy/ Jessica writing journal in Girl Scout uniform and Earle and Jessica taking sunshots by Wide World/ Earle working position by Jeff Day, others by Barbara Reynolds)

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Enjoying your stories so much, Jes.

I have to say, i've never known someone to look as an adult just exactly as they do as a child. Your beautiful features have endured time. I think you look just the same (except, of course, the now-white hair). :)