Sitting Pretty

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to just sit in the middle of the ocean and do nothing? Just sit there surrounded by all the shades of blue the eye can hold, see deeply into clear water as gentle swells lift and lower you on the surface of the sea? No? Are we strange that way? Yesterday we had our chance to experience this first hand.

We had been sailing hard for a week, seeing sustained speeds that, while really nice, take a lot of crew of energy. As we sailed toward the high pressure system that should eventually give the Pacific Northwest its summer, our winds began to die back enough that we got out our light air sail, otherwise known as the spinnaker, otherwise known as the pretty sail. We drifted along nicely until something scraped the bottom of the hull a bit and Mike suddenly called down that we had gone over an adrift fishing buoy. What? How did that happen?

I was all on fire to go back and see it so we started up the engine, doused the sail, and went back, keeping the boat in neutral as much as possible as we eased up on a group of three large floats with a trailing line, the kind we are glad we went over without snagging anything. This was a little floating reef drifting in the current and there were literally thousands of big fish surrounding it and under our boat. Coolest thing ever! We came around to the other side of the reef of plastic and Mike dropped a fishing line in the water as I put the boat back in neutral (because I wasn’t ready to use the engine for making progress towards landfall. It was ok to use it to backtrack, but not to cover territory we had not already covered under sail). Less than a minute later we got a big hit and very shortly thereafter we had a lovely Yellowtail on deck. Whoo hooo! We could have caught so many fish right there. But we needed only one and I got the whole thing on video for later. W e
floated aimlessly while Mike cleaned the fish, then we put up the spinnaker and were on our way.

As the morning progressed our speed decreased and we were going less than 2 knots, which is about a 30 minute mile if you are walking. We got some serious napping in.

At 2:30 Mike doused the spinnaker because the winds were not enough to dry a wet finger, much less hold a sail. We had sailed into the edge of the high pressure system. We had a choice at that point. We could turn on the engine (Booooooo!) or we could take a break and wait it out. Looking at our weather we decided we could wait it out and just enjoy sitting there, even spend the night drifting on the silent sea and get some really good rest for the next leg of the trip, which will see higher winds and more effort on our part.

It was totally lovely. We played with some little jellyfish I think are called Velella, if memory without internet serves me well. Correct me in the comments if you think this is wrong. So cute, they could be mistaken for tiny bubbles on the sea. When you look closely at them they are like little discs with sails. We saw a huge and barnacle encrusted sea turtle as well, likely following the velella. Slowing down gives you am entirely different view of things you cannot possibly appreciate if you are constantly on the move.

We set our AIS alarm and went to bed. Mike slept part of the night in his own bunk. Of course we are up several times in the night, both of us, gophering up the companionway and checking the AIS for ships and doing a visual check. But overall it was a day of rest and relaxation we were happy to have.

Aside from the experience of just sitting out here doing nothing, we decided to spend the night because neither of us looked forward to motoring at night. When you motor, your propeller turns. When your propeller turns and you hit things like trashed fishing lines, things can get wrapped around the prop, causing damage. Also causing a trip into the water to get things sorted. We like to avoid that when possible but it was broad daylight when we ran over those buoys. Imagine if we had been going 6 knots in the dark. Ugh. No thanks. On those flat seas we probably could have made serious miles in the dark. But we are not in a race and the risk isn’t worth it unless we have to take it.

And we did feel it was risky because there is a lot of trash out here 1500 miles or more from the closest land. Seriously, it’s depressing. You wouldn’t believe the amount of plastic floating around out here. Humanity is asking for trouble with all this plastic and I am almost 100% certain that outlawing drinking straws is meaningless in the scheme of things. It’s one of those feel good laws that make people think they are doing something to help the environment when they really aren’t because the problem so much bigger than straws, as your last shopping trip to Costco would show you. I couldn’t help but wonder about that gentle sea turtle, hoping it knows the difference between a jellyfish and a piece of plastic. And if you are a creature that takes in large volumes of water with your food, you don’t stand a chance out here. You are going to end up with a lot of plastic in your stomach and eventually it will kill you. It makes this old ecology and animal behavior major ver y sad
to be out all this way and literally be able to count plastic pieces as they float by. If that doesn’t make you feel sad, too, you probably should think about why it doesn’t.

This morning the winds were fresher and we are once more flying the pretty sail out here. We are making the big right turn toward Neah Bay so we are getting on top of the high pressure. I had seriously hoped we might go to Alaska this trip but the weather looks best to just go straight to Washington. Looks like we will have plenty of wind from here on. Homeward bound.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

3 thoughts on “Sitting Pretty

  1. The plastic. We never left the East coast by more than 20 miles and even there, the amount of plastic crap in the water is just sickening.
    The answer, of course, is to stop buying it, but evidently humans would rather die a slow death along with our planet than to give up their Walmart and Happy Meal.
    So depressing. The more informed I become, the more I dislike people.

  2. The plastic must be depressing. I try very hard not to buy it. Why can’t the manufacturers return to glass?

    What items do you see the most of?

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