Back-to-Back Lows, The Second, and The Loss of a Friend

23 Dec

December 21, 2018

Day 78

Noon Position: 43 12S 06 11W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ENE 6

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 24 – 28

Sea(t/ft): N and NW to 10

Sky: Clear. Not a cloud. By 5:30pm, rain.

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 998, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 52

Relative Humidity(%): 74

Sail: Double reefed headsail

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 147

Miles since departure: 10,517

Avg. Miles/Day: 135

I may have been hasty in calling these two lows back-to-back. The first cleared out overnight, and we had what I call “lovely sleeping weather,” that being moderate winds consistent in speed and direction. I was only on deck once, and that was to let out more sail.

The second has just arrived as I dug out the computer to type this report. It’s 5:30pm.

The day was clear, the sun brilliant. I hung socks and towels and hats to dry in the pilot house, as the cockpit still caught the occasional dunker of a wave. And they dried! What luxury, a dry sock. You have no idea how celebratory it makes the feet feel to go into a covering that is not clammy and cold at the start.

Now rain. Winds in the thirties from the NW. The cycle begins again.

The Loss of a Friend

Last night I went on deck to change Monte’s smaller “storm” wind vane to the lighter, larger vane that usually steers, a not infrequent task in mixed weather. As is my practice, I set the larger replacement on the aft deck, being careful to tuck it under Monte’s control lines so it wouldn’t blow away, and reached over to unfasten the vane in place. Mo took an especially deep roll to port, and the replacement vane slid into the sea.

I lunged and missed. I yelled, “No, no, my friend!”

The vane glowed in the light of the moon, the word MONITOR face-up and plain, as it trailed away on an inky swell. I couldn’t watch. I turned and faced the bow and was quite sad for some time.

That vane has steered Monte since the beginning, across the Gulf of Alaska, to Hawaii and back, all the way around the world. It has flown through the trades, drifted in the doldrums and even whipsawed in our first gale, 50 gusting 70, when I was too preoccupied with other tasks to change it out.

It has faithfully fulfilled its required tasks, and I have spent hours watching it do so.

But to call it friend? Later, that struck me as odd. Would a bicycle rider become so enamored of a tire? A basketball player, a shoe?


This afternoon and while waiting for this low to arrive, I prepared for the holidays by putting up the Christmas Tree; in this case, a photo my wife gave me of a red Ohia Lehua tree from Kauai. If you don’t know the tree, think it’s Pacific cousin, the New Zealand Christmas Tree. It warmed up the cabin nicely. And that will be the extent of decorations.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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