mon, nov. 10 2008, noon
it was blowing well into the night and every now and then we had sets of 2 or 3 breaking right behind our stern. Just as ACai sat down to put away the ramen makings from our night snack, one broke on our stern and water came in by the rudder and through the yulo hole in the head and dowsed him. he squieled like a little boy.
i got a little banged up by the rudder klonking the tiller and can feel my pecs and shoulder muscles from steering.
as we got into the range of catalina island lighthouse the winds started subsiding though the swell remained. that made it more difficult to steer with the tiller tied off, using the weather helm. we shook the reef but then the wind turned to W just toward the end of our watch at 0500 and we had to wake Lao Tang to help wear the boat about. For that we had to hoist the mizzen and jibe the jib which was on the wondward side. what we call sailing wing on wing, the chinese call butterfly. though for most of the gale with the reefed tan bark sails we looked probably more like a tattered moth.
heading the boat up needs a lot of crew. the main sheet is devided in upper and lower sheetlets which lead to port and starboard respectively. so two people have to haul in on that. with the person manning the mizzen helping at the main block where twist and frictionprevent a smooth running of the lines. the jib gets tied off to weather to help push the bow around. once the boat has tacked we need one person to release the preventer while another one swings the sheetles around so they don't get caught on the battens and change the shape of the sail. all this with a tired crew it happened with a lot of yelling. i learned "hau" means "good", "shi" means "sure, o.k." and "ban" means help. It is interesting that because i understand the issue at hand , i can understand what people are talking about. the moment i try to talk about anything else unrelated, in my smile, pantimime, simple english, it's a 50/50 cahance that they have no idea what i am talking about.
this morning we got awoken with the engine starting. i could see the sunlight come through the diamond shaped holes in the crew hatch. no need for foulies or even shoes.
once on deck i realized that we had probably moved about 5 miles during the last watch. catalina is still there. there is no wind to speak of and the roling sea has only ripples and the remainders of the gale swell. we tied the tiller off and life on board is leisurely. clothes are being washed and hung to dry. guys are shaving. nelson is getting a haircut. we putt-putt into a navy exercise and they take pictures of us and wish us good luck. ACai put a handline out with a big red squid lure on it, but i think we are too slow to catch any of the yummy predetor fish.
i can't stop smiling. there was a pair of pelicans soaring around us earlier, the offshore shearwaters and storm petrels have already disappeared.
I had a good chat with Angela yesterday, her family lives in South africa and she's a painter. she showed me some photos of cool paintings of hers, oil, and we discussed scoping out art supply stores in san diego to get a small watercolor set for her so she can work in color during the trip. she is amazing supporting her boyfreind on this endeavor and coming along to cross the pacific twice in this tiny ancient craft. we were scheeming what to do next. once you are an adventurer it would be foolish (or death) to stop. So, either more voyages on princess taiping: south east asia, india, africa... or a quest for a new adventure. mua-haha!
well, for now we are inching our way towards san diego. after a fabulous lunch we all just hung out, exchanged addresses and sat in the sun.
i keep thinking time doesn't exist.
i got to dry out my sleeping bag and fleece jacket. actually it is weather for shorts and no shoes. the crew is sitting around doing expense accounting, they feel there won't be time for it on land when the cultural exchange and PR machine gets rolling again.
Finally, after it took us 10 hours to pass the length of catalina island, there was a strong enough breeze to be sailing again. what releif for the ears, no engine and instead the splashing of the 1ft sea, the creaking of mast and rigging and the voices of Angela, ACai, Lao Tang and Nelson counting.
i observed that ACai can read but not really write. he had to ask several times for the strokes of certain characters.
Once we were sailing again i retrieved my sleeping bag which was drying on the the forward gallows. unfortunately the jib decided to jibe at this very moment and the block knocked my glasses off and hit me in the cheek, another bruise to take home. it took me a second to realize, as the pain was subsiding that the world around me was blurry, and another minute to find my bent out of shape frames. luckily the pliers on my leatherman were able to fix the bend without breaking the frames of my only set of auxillary eyes in went aft to join the conversation again.
i love the fact that apart from catalina still being in sight, we could be anywhere, at anytime.
i'm thinking of the slow boat to china song.
i feel this is a very good crew. AUe is a little too eager, too polite and apparently doesn't have his sea legs yet. but he's adorable and reads peoples mind for their comfort needs. Hugh is a young man, so no surprises in behaviour, but he did impress me with his stained glass artwork he was working on in china before embarking on this expedition. Lao Tang has three kids and and a 2 yr old granddaughter. "Lao" means "old" as a prefix to express respect, he seems so young and cheerful, well, and small. but i can see the sparkle in his eyes, i think in his culture he is quiet the ladies man... ACai i already described, plus i'm bias because i have a crush on him. the relationship of Nelson and Angela is very impressive, they are a great team, i saw them working with the public and press on land, and also on the boat they have each other's back, i wonder how progressive their relationship is in their country.
the way angela pronounces "nelson" sounds to my ears more like "nielson" so that makes me smile because of pip longstocking's monkey Mr. Nielson.
in short, everybody is great and found a spot in my heart in this short time together. Life is good aboard the princess taiping.