Ocean Watch
Susan Scott

Friday, March 25, 2005

3 voyagers sail
across the equator

As of today my two crew members and I have been at sea for three weeks. We're getting close to our Tahiti destination, meaning we're a few sailing days away.

How many, I won't venture to guess. I've stopped speculating about which direction the wind will blow, how tall the waves will be and how fast the boat will sail. That leads to mental hurrying, a bad habit I'm trying to break.

Also, when I think about Tahiti, I wish we were already there. This seems normal after so long at sea, but I fight it.

No matter how monotonous life gets on the boat, I'm determined not to wish away the final days of this extraordinary experience.

One of the lessons I'm learning is patience.

Our chant for the whole trip has been east, east, east, but the wind hasn't cooperated.

"Oh no," I moaned two days ago as I studied the Global Positioning System. "We're going too far west."

"Mm," said Alex.

"After all that work we did getting east," I said. "It's not fair."

He looked up from his book. "There's nothing we can do about it, Susan. Either the wind will shift or we'll tack."

He's right, of course. "Go with the flow" has taken on a whole new meaning.

Some days seem almost endless. As we travel south, the water and the air temperatures have become warmer than Palmyra. Our days are hot and sweaty, and the seas are rough enough that we must close the hatches.

Doing anything below deck, including sleeping, takes determination.

But we have plenty of that.

This week, Alex spent half a day in the sweltering galley making flour tortillas and good things to wrap inside them. Later, I organized a cleaning day during which we sloshed the decks and swept and tidied the boat.

One of our best moments was crossing the equator. It happened during my watch at 4 a.m. I woke Alex and Wren, and we counted down with the GPS: Three. Two. One. Zero!

The display read 00 degrees, 00.000 minutes.

I took a picture of the screen to record our transformation from pollywogs to shellbacks.

Officially, we aren't shellbacks until we're initiated, like Alex was last year on a research vessel. But my diesel fuel and motor oil baths and Wren's persistent seasickness seem hazing enough for us.

Most days don't hold that much excitement, but they're pleasant.

Audubon shearwaters, a rare seabird species, entertain us with their wave skimming, and we wait each day for the setting sun to turn our world pink.

Alex likes the night watches, when he can watch the moon and stars in the cool night air and be alone in the cockpit.

Sometimes Wren, Alex and I don headphones and for a few hours live in our own worlds.

Our best entertainment, however, comes from the satellite phone. Every few days I download e-mail, which I read aloud. Due to the expensive and fussy system, we can't answer your letters, but know that they are a highlight of our days.

My next column will be from Tahiti.


No planning ahead.

My next column will be from wherever the wind has blown us.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Marine science writer Susan Scott can be reached at http://www.susanscott.net.

E-mail to City Desk


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