Sailing Through the Trade Winds

Passage Notes (continued)

A dead flying fish on-deck in the morning. Jelly wasn't interested.   Apropos of nothing, here are two Ecuadorian squashes that came along for the ride. We kept them in a small mesh hammock hanging above the port settee in the saloon.

Monday, May 3, 2004 (Day 10 of the Easter Island Passage)

Despite my fears of inclement weather, my night watch last night had the usual benign though somewhat cloudy weather. We still continue to make good progress although both the seas and winds have been gradually moderating over the past couple of days. This morning I went topsides to relieve Marcie and discovered a marvelous morning in progress—for once, Marcie got to enjoy a pleasant and dry watch.

I found and photographed a rather large flying fish I found dead on deck. I took it below to see if Jelly was interested, but not only wasn't she interested, she was actually annoyed and even repulsed at having the flying fish poked under her nose. Imagine a ship's cat that doesn't like fish! And she even eats some repulsive fish crap that comes out of a can, which looks and smells so bad I call it "macerated sardine guts"—and she turns up her nose at fresh fish!

This morning, Marcie whipped up a batch of delicious scones for breakfast—they looked good and tasted great. I still consider Marcie's performance as cook during this voyage to be exceptional. Tasty, hot, home-cooked meals, every day, no matter what the wind or weather. And as an extra treat, yummy baked goods, fresh from the oven (including oatmeal and brown sugar cookies yesterday that I savored on my night watch). Way to go, Marcie!

I was talking to David about the weather and he explained how the "Pacific High" works. This is a persistent global weather pattern (similar to the "Bermuda High" in the North Atlantic) that manages to keep storms and typhoons away from this area of the Pacific. The northeast corner of the Pacific High is near the Galápagos, and the southwest corner near Easter Island. Being in the southern hemisphere, the circulation is counter-clockwise, opposite from the northern hemisphere. Therefore, we are sailing along with the circulation pattern, westward and south from the Galápagos to Easter Island, then continuing with the circulation eastward back to the South American mainland.

Just after I started my afternoon dogwatch, I was sitting in the cockpit when out of the corner of my eye I was startled to see a rather large animal swimming alongside the boat. It looked like a dolphin but was two to three times bigger. I didn't know what to call it, so I shouted below, "Whales, come quick!" and David and Marcie came topsides. As we looked around we saw two or three near the boat and several more in the distance aft of the boat. They swam and maneuvered rapidly and gracefully like dolphins but were much bigger and not quite as beautiful (their heads were a little chunky). We saw one riding a big swell like a body surfer, keeping in the curl of the wave and letting the energy of the wave carry him forward. They were coming up to breath like dolphins so it was pretty clear they were some kind of marine mammal. Both Marcie and I tried to get snapshots but they were as tough as blurry-birds to photograph—very active and mobile and unpredictable. I got a couple of blurry shots and one of a dorsal fin from a distance. Marcie said she heard them below making high-pitched squeaking sounds, and Jelly was looking around to see what was making the noise. It was an exciting and interesting interlude in our otherwise routine passagemaking, but unfortunately, they abruptly departed after a very short visit. Later, Marcie looked in a nature guide and figured they might be whale dolphins. Much later, I looked on the internet and came up with a couple more possibilities: pilot whales or false killer whales, both of which are types of dolphins.


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