Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cloudscapes Mindscapes: Passage to Hawaii

 We get up early to finish some last minute preparations before sailing off to the deep.  Putting things away where they won’t move when we are rocking and rolling out there, making last minute phone calls, and plotting our course out past the Channel Islands.   
Due to the exposure of the anchorage in Santa Barbara, we had set both a bow and a stern anchor to keep us in a position headed into the predominant swell regardless of wind direction, which provided for a much more comfortable ride at anchor.
 As I'm trying to pull up the stern anchor while out in the dinghy, with every tug the dinghy dipping low, its buoyancy giving the only resistance against the holding anchor, I feel the anchor line suddenly go slack.  I pull up the line... no anchor.  The shackle had worked itself loose during the week we were at anchor.  Shit.  I think for a moment then drop the line back in the water.  I need to go down and get the anchor, and hopefully the anchor line will lead me back to it.  35 ft deep, though, I can't free dive that deep.  Luckily, Jorgen (the previous owner) had left some dive gear on the boat: two tanks and a regulator, but no BCD.  Check the tank... air pressure good.  Alright, attach the regulator... seems to be working.  No BCD, hmmm...  Well, after rigging up a bunch of lead weights in a fanny pack and another anchor all attached to the tank we had enough weight to just sink the tank with me holding on to it as it's tethered by a rope to the dinghy, where Dylan and Quinn are going to lower me down.  Alright, lower me down, 1 tug means stop, 2 tugs mean keep going, 3 tugs mean pull me up.  Ok, I’m ready... wait!  What was 3 tugs??
I'm being lowered, equalizing as I feel the pressure, because I can't see the bottom yet as I look down, and I can't see the top through all the bubbles if I look up.  I have no reference for depth.
Hey!  Standing on the bottom, now.  Cool.  Now I have to hold the tank and all the weights and do these jumping moon steps forward following the anchor line hoping there is an anchor near the end of it, all while remembering to breathe.
I make it to the end, and no anchor.  Looking around, with only 5 feet of visibility, there is no way I’m going to walk about and find the anchor.  Since I’ve already forgotten the signal for pull me up, i leave the dive gear tethered to the rope and slowly rise to the surface letting out the compressed air in my lungs all the way up.
Only the genesis earthling way.  Can't leave for a crossing without a little shit storm.

With the engine idling we haul in the main anchor.  We motor out of the anchorage, set the sails, and begin our journey across the Santa Barbara channel.
After a good afternoon sail, we pass between Santa Cruz and Anacapa islands and into the lee of Santa Cruz Island...  no wind.   Now what?  Let's motor a bit and get away from the island to find some more wind.  As we are motoring, we notice that it looks like there might be some surf on the south side of the island.  We could surf and anchor for the night!  Here we are, just five hours into a 3 week journey, and we're about to anchor another night!  Well, just part of the adventure.
We're motoring along the coast heading towards the break to check it out, and the engine starts making funny sounds, then seems to be working too hard, then abruptly dies.  Shit!  Well, guys, put the sails back, we are sailing to Hawaii!  Sort of.  Not much wind and a rolling sea, makes it almost impossible to make any headway, but we manage to inch our way away from the island, and pray for wind.
We spend all night and most of the next day just to get out of the lee of Santa Cruz island, luckily with the help of a current running our direction.  Yay, wind!  Wow!  Lots of wind!  Within minutes of getting out past the island, we are reducing sail like it's nobody's business.  Genesis Earthling is pounding against the west winds and swell.  We went from bathing in the sun in shorts, to full foul weather gear as waves are crashing over the boat sending spray everywhere.  It just got way gnarly, way fast.  We reduce down to a storm jib and mizzen main only, and the wind is still picking up.  I had never sailed up wind in these conditions before, so I didn't know what was normal.  I didn't know how the boat was supposed to behave, and what it could handle.  For me, having waves slamming the boat didn't seem normal, so we decided to reduce to only a storm trysail and heave to.  We are all standing in the companionway watching the wind and waves blast around us wishing for our mommies and wondering what the hell we got ourselves into.  Is it even possible to turn back?
To settle some nerves, we decide to just call the coast guard on the radio and ask them what's up with the weather.  They report back 25 knots through the week.  We thank them and let me know that it is blowing way harder where we are.  This was just further confirmation that weather reports are shit.
We hunker down all night periodically looking out in the cabin checking things out, and looking for container ships.  Once the sun comes up, we set a bit of sail and start beating against the wind.  We realize we just had to keep pounding our way off shore and just keep sailing, waiting for the weather to get better and wind and seas to turn behind us to get cruising nicely.

Day 3:
Our only long distance source of communication aboard is the SSB radio, which we also use to receive weather information.  We are able to connect it to the laptop and get weather images from NOAA called weather faxes.  These images show us locations of high and low pressure systems, wind directions and intensities, and especially the locations of hurricanes.  Well, this day, we find out that the computer is not charging, and to keep the battery from dying completely, it has to be plugged in continuously.  However, the inverter gives off too much electromagnetic interference to get a clear signal from the SSB radio, so that only on one of the frequencies one time of day could we manage to tune the radio and still get weather images despite the interference.
Two or three days go by like this; gradually the winds are becoming lighter and turning off our beam as we make our way southwest.  The boat is sailing great, the sails are balancing, and the self-steering is working like a dream.  One morning the computer was left unattended on the desk, and a wave slammed the side of the boat tipping it sideways and throwing the computer off onto the floor, breaking off the end of the mic cord inside the jack.  It is through this cord that a data signal is sent to the computer giving us the weather faxes.  Well, we still manage to keep it working by holding the broken end into the jack making contact with the rest of it stuck in there.  The next day, computer won't turn on at all.  Alright, day five and we can't get weather faxes for the rest of the trip.  That's ok, we can still listen to the voice report, which is somewhat cryptic and filled with longitudes and latitudes, so it took a while to figure out exactly what information was needed and be able to write it down as fast as possible, mainly concerned with the hurricanes down south, which were a constant source of terror as we continued on our voyage.  In reality, there was very little risk of encountering a major storm like that on our route, but lack of sleep and the intense exposure and susceptibility we felt out there lead the mind many places.

Day 5:
We are hanging out in the cockpit as usual when an enormous grey whale surfaces right next to us heading the same direction!  We are screaming, with both excitement from seeing this sight and terror at the thought of the two of us colliding, it continues to surface just feet from the boat another couple times.  And then it is gone.  Heart rate steadies, and we continue on our voyage.

Day 6:
We have settled into something of a groove now and decide it's time to fish!  There is no evidence of fish out here, and it seems rather of a desert of an ocean but we heard it could be good fishing, so we set the pole with a big bright feathery lure about a hundred feet back and wait.  A few hours later we hear the self-evident "whzzzzzz!!" of the reel as Dylan jumps up to set the hook, and the excitement level spikes watching the pole bend over with Dylan leaning way back balancing the weight, then nothing.  The line broke.  50 lb. line.  It is probably better we didn't get whatever was on the other end of that line.  We reset the pole with a new lure.  An hour later "whzzzzz!!"  Dylan jumps up to set the hook, but the fish had spit out the lure.  Alright, we set the line again.  Maybe, third time's a charm.  A couple hours later, "whzzzzzz!!"  I happen to be the closest this time and jump up and crank the pole as hard as I can and “bomb diggity!,” the hook is set!!  I hand off the pole to Dylan, so I can take the helm to steer us into the wind to slow the boat down in order to more easily reel in the fish.  With Dylan reeling we can see this bright blue shape just below the surface of the water, I am literally screaming with excitement!  An epic moment!
We get the fish next to the boat, and beautiful mahi mahi!  Quinn skillfully gaffs it like a pro and we get it in the boat.  Shit!  We need to kill this thing and keep it from banging up the cockpit.  Dylan throws a pillow over it to calm it down, and I hand him a hammer... the rest you can imagine...
Alright, we have a dead 35 lb. mahi mahi in the cockpit of the boat.  Get the fishing book and figure out how to gut this thing.  Blood and guts all over the place and we have a whole bunch of raw fish.  We eat some raw, baked up some massive steaks, filled a mason jar with little chunks and added lemon juice for ceviche and cut up the rest in strips for jerky.

As the trip continues, each day is much like the one before.  Some days, we would go a whole 24 hours without touching the sails.  Some days we'd be adjusting the sails four or five times.  Gradually the wind moves directly behind us pushing us straight towards Hawaii.

Day 11:
With the sun out and very light winds, it looks like a good day to swim!  To jump from the boat tethered by a rope I would imagine is much like space walking from a space station.  There is very little room to fuck this up, because if the line comes loose to turn the boat around and track the wayward floater down would be very tough.  Each of us take our turn space walking.  Jumping into the deep blue.  The purest bluest blue I’ve ever seen.  Each surfacing screaming and laughing hysterically!  An adrenaline rush like no other.  Being immersed in this ocean, a thousand miles from any land and almost 4 miles above the ocean floor, hanging from our traveling craft stuck between two separate liquid mediums is surreal.  A beautiful thing.

Squalls.  In the tropics, every sailor must get used to the squalls.  At first, they are pretty mild, but the closer we get to Hawaii, the more intense they get.  Pouring rain, heavy shifting wind, and up we jump to take down sails, and adjust our course for 20 minutes as it passes.  Then sails up, adjust the course again, and wait for the next one.  The second half of the trip hardly had a day where we didn't deal with at least 2 squalls.  They always seemed to be more present at night, too, which made all of this even tougher!

I have explained what happened in mostly a physical sense which is interesting enough, but the bigger and tougher journey actually took place inside each of us. Three active dudes suddenly stuck still for three weeks in a small sailboat, used to running and playing as our active meditation now forced to travel our own mindscapes.  Many peaks and valleys in these mindscapes; a diverse terrain.

Here is what i wrote on day 13:

"Middle of the Pacific.  Cruising.  Straight down wind now, en route to Hawaii.  A little slower than expected, so it's hard to think of spending another 12 days out here on top of the 13 we've already spent, so hopefully the wind picks up.  But I try to calm myself, surrender to the ocean and think of her as a healing medium, Gaia, keeping me out in the sea as long as I need to be.  It is hard, no contact, floating, susceptible to any rain cloud, and constantly having to keep the boat moving towards our destination.  A focused existence, so intense and in your face out here.  We’ve gone through so much on this journey, it blows my mind!  Pure bliss, like jumping from the boat and staring into the deep blue.  Terror at the gale force winds leaving Santa Cruz Island.  What was it out here that made me love and miss my family and friends more than anything in the world!  Landscapes have turned to cloudscapes... beautiful cloudscapes!   I feel like this is my mind I’m floating through. I am afraid for future passages.  Could I do this again?  Will I crack?  Or is this making me stronger?  Can I make this transformation, or will I run to comfort?  I try to block out the thoughts of how others may think of me, giving up on this idea of sailing the world.  Do I continue because I want to?  Because I must?  Because I said that I would?  I try to forget about those thoughts and focus on being here, now.  Hardest thing in my life, being out here now.  How will I look back on it?  Time is so different out here; I must be floating in my mind.  Sometimes i get these glimpses of a rhythm out here.  An entrancing rhythm.  Places you perfectly in the moment.  Rhythm of mother Gaia.  Back in the water where we were born.  I am at peace when I think of mother Gaia holding me out here in her ocean, in her rhythm.  I love you."

Wo.  That was the space I was in right then, and it is hard to relate to it now.  As soon as we left land, we shifted.  We moved to a different time that was parallel to the one we left.  Maybe an ancient time where emotions controlled the psyche.  Genesis Earthling?  Did this name come to me with more purpose than sounding simply like a name of a spaceship from a science fiction novel?  Who knows?  Who cares?
What I called mother Gaia on day 13, people all over the world would have called by many other names, but she is still the same presence.  As my journey continued, I chose not to give her a name, but to think lightly, feel the energetic presence, and expand into it.
There is a special time each day: sunset.  The fading light touches clouds and ocean 360 degrees encircling us.  Every part of this space is changing colors until complete darkness, when the stars peek through gaps in the clouds.  Watching the stars, truly we are traveling through space.

After one of these sunsets on day 15, I write:

"800 miles to go.  I love it out here.  This is exactly what i needed after working and playing so hard for the past year.  Time to think, relax, read, doze off.  Think about nothing.  Just be here.  How do i get the things i need?  Who/what is guiding me?  I’m happy.  Content."

Two days later, I write:

"Showered, shaved, my hair was really starting to dread.  Tough squalls last night but still managed to catch up on my sleep.  We got the main topping lift stuck in the wind generator, which was a fucking fiasco!  Luckily it is ok and seems to still be functioning normally.  I have been questioning myself why the fuck I’m out here today.  I find myself frightened much of the time out here.  It is this fear of the unknown partly, looking at some distant cloud, and wondering what it could bring.  The unknown of the last few days, how will the sailing be as we get closer to Hawaii?  Will I like Hilo?  Will the harbor patrol welcome us?  Some fear of the known, too.  I know how quickly the weather can change, and how gnarly it can be dealing with sails....  but shit, 17 days!!  No wonder I feel so fucked up!  I have hit my limit and am struggling a bit to keep it together.  Trying to stay present, not get down on adjusting sails, and enjoy the time to read.  Stay present!  But still, is this what I want?  Will I get better at it?"

It looks like I’ve treaded into a valley on this mindscape trip.

Day 19, I write:

"Doing well today.  Series of naps, sunrises, and sunsets, stars, and I’m happy.  3 days from Hawaii feels good.  Nice, mellow winds off our stern quarter.  With all the shit breaking on the boat and the repairs adding up, I’ve been stressing about missing my window through the south pacific.  I forget sometimes how well the trip has actually gone so far, with our delays giving us the perfect opportunity to spend more time in the places we are "stuck"!! I trust in the path.  Watching the boat dip and soar into the sunset is too beautiful.  Brings a great peace to my spirit despite the approaching squalls on our stern.  I love you"

And day 20:

"I do not pray away the squalls anymore.  I expect them, and prepare for them"

Sailing across the pacific is a difficult thing, but much more challenging was traveling through my mind.  On this voyage, I had to surrender not only to Mother Nature, but also to my own inner being.
Everyone chooses their own medium for this voyage.  Mine was and will continue to be sailing the oceans.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Passage: California to Hawaii

Quinn Baumberger joins me and Dylan last minute in Santa Barbara for the sail to Hawaii!!

2nd day out :)

The only fish we caught on the passage

Jacob video log day 6

Quinn's video log from day 6 from the mast!

Dylan cleaning the boat about half way there. 

Jacob spacewalk!

Dylan spacewalk!

Quinn swim cam! 

Jacob video log day 13