Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hawaii to Sitka. Days 7-11: The Canned Chili Card

Since I last posted, not much noteworthy has happened; but for the few people back home who may be wondering how we're doing, I thought it was time for another post. So let's talk about what people always talk about when they have nothing else to say: Let's talk about the weather.

We have been busy trying to keep the boat going in challenging conditions. After three nights in a row of fairly nasty weather, we have been enjoying the last two nights of drier, calmer conditions in the cockpit. That was not true a couple of days ago when I played the chili card...

It's not a card I play lightly. I pride myself on providing tasty and nutritious meals while we are underway and on trying to keep variety in the menu for interest's sake. But on every passage, there comes a time when I pull from out of my sleeve and play: the canned chili card. It happened on Day 9 of this passage. Day 9 was the day I felt conditions were too rough to cook, that I could not deal with hot water, hot oil, or sharp culinary instruments, and that all I could manage was to open a can and heat up its contents on the stove. We had canned chili for dinner on Day 9. That evening's offering was the Cattle Drive Gold brand, purchased at Costco in Kailua-Kona, but we also like Stagg brand canned chili.

The forecast low pressure system (1015 hPa) passed over us on Days 7 and 8, bringing sustained winds in the low to mid-twenties and 33 hours of rain. The rain, if not torrential, was at least driving, and it sometimes tapered off to an icy mist. While we cheered the arrival of wind, the angle of the wind was such that it forced us off course; so that even though our boat speed was five to six knots, we were only making three nautical miles (NM) per hour towards our destination. Then the wind almost died, and we either ghosted along under sail or motored for a period, also making slow progress.

Day 9 brought the high pressure system following the low. We had winds of 18-25 knots into the following day, for a total period of about twenty-six hours. Again, there was no lack of wind to sail, but since the winds were contrary and the seas large, we were only making two NM per hour---at best---or less than one NM, at worst, towards Sitka. We watched with dismay as we crossed 157 degrees of longitude, getting pushed further to the west when we wanted to head northeast. The seas were big and sloppy, occasionally hitting three meters (about ten feet) in height. When the boat smacked into a large enough wave, it would shudder and come completely to a stop before recovering and soldiering on. {The valiant Silhouette always soldiers on!) Although the rain had stopped, we were taking water over the dodger right and left, and the cockpit was still very wet.

To non-sailors, all of this sounds pretty bad, I'm sure. But fellow sailors realize that these aren't truly bad conditions; they're just uncomfortable ones. We have never been exposed to 50-knot winds at sea. We have never even been in sustained 40-knot winds. In those conditions, you can't even play the canned chili card. You might be able to grab a protein bar if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, you might be too green to eat at all. For us, these uncomfortable conditions just mean the difference between a fast, easy passage and the kind of passage we're going to have: a slow, tenacious one, in which every mile under the keel is hard-won.

Conditions have moderated during the last day and a half, with lighter winds and smoother seas. The barometer has reached a high of 1030 hPa, up 15 points. Although we are still hard on the wind and only traveling at three to four knots, our miles made good now almost match our boat speed. The angle of the wind has also shifted enough to allow us to get back on track and make our course. The sun even came out this afternoon. These are big improvements over the last several days, and we'll take them, thank you.

Dinner tonight was clam spaghetti with a crunchy vegetable salad. The clams came out of a can, yes, but they were sauteed in butter, parsley and garlic. Water for noodles was boiled on the stove, and no one got burned. Fresh zucchini, red pepper, cucumber, celery, tomato, radish---and yes, even some cilantro that by some miracle had escaped becoming slimy---were all chopped by hand with a knife to make the salad. I'm happy to report that all the clams stayed in the pan, my fingers remained intact, and none of the veggies ended up on the cabin sole. And the canned chili card? You never know where that thing is going to turn up. It's tucked in my hat band for another voyage.
Posted from sea via Ham Radio.

1 comment:

  1. Good story, sis! You should get those canned chili companies to sponsor your rough passages!