Day 5, Passage to Noumea: Slow Boat to Nowhere

22 Aug


August 23, 2013 01:00 UTC

Somewhere along the way

Erik read my last post and made a face. “Why did you say where we are?”

I looked up from my book. “Why?”

“Because we are making lousy time.”


Erik gave me his patented incredulous, isn’t-it-obvious look. I returned fire with my what-are-you-talking-about-you-crazy-person stare. (I won, because I have better eyebrows. Never underestimate the power of a shaggy brow in an adversarial situation.)

But I knew out what he was talking about. We are becalmed. And there is nothing worse for troop morale.

20 knots on the beam? Happy. 30 knots in a cold front? Bring it on. But three knots on the stern in rolling seas? Our mood falls apart like wet tissue paper.

The kids don’t care. Fast, slow, heavy seas, flat calm – it is all the same to them. They want to know: when do we eat? Will you tell me a story? Any new books hiding in your closet? Beyond that, passage is a long, undifferentiated block of time that will eventually end in friends and swimming. I admire their live-in-the-moment attitude.

Unfortunately, their father has a harder time with being stuck in a high pressure zone. He spends his time scowling at the sky. Sails go up, sails go down. New sails come out of the locker. He is sure, somewhere is his sailor’s heart, that if only we could find that perfect, special, kissed-by-golden-unicorns sail combination, then the rolling will stop and we will get moving again.

I feel bad for him in the way I feel bad for Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football: pity with a heavy dose of exasperation. This is never going to happen. I may not earn my PhD in Physics for this, but I know perfectly well that the 3 knots of wind puffing at our stern is not going to translate into forward motion on our 30 tons of aluminum any time soon.

So we have two choices: motor or wait. Right now, we are waiting. This isn’t a race. It might take ages to get through this high. But, probably, by tomorrow a little wind will come. And we can start moving. And once again happiness will reign supreme aboard Papillon.

Until then, I’ll give my eyebrows a workout when the captain gets too crotchety.



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