blue water for 360 degrees around you, from your perspective, it really feels like you're on top of the world. You can tell that you're at the top of a round object. Even the sky appears to be curved. The visual clue is the fact that the clouds get closer and closer to the horizon until at the horizon line the clouds form the backdrop, not because the clouds are lower in the sky, but because the sky follows the curvature of the earth.
Sunrises and sunsets are also a special treat; both because of what you get to see and because, with the watch schedule String Theory is on, you only get to see them every second day. While it is not uncommon to see a sunrise or a sunset that starts or ends in an ocean horizon the experience, in my opinion, is different when you're in the middle of the ocean. When there is literally nothing to block your view and no frame of reference, the second there is a hint of sunlight, the entire 360 degrees view around you lights up. And because there is zero light pollution, the time from the sunlight's first appearance (or disappearance) to the actual sunrise (or sunset) is much longer and more gradual in duration than usual; about an hour and a half or so. The colours generated in the clouds at the horizon during this period range from vivid dark reds to light oranges. It is also much easier to pinpoint the exact moment the sun rises (or sets) above (or below) the horizon and you have a much better sense that the earth is actually rotating during the first 45 minutes or so as the sun rises or sets.
Another interesting thing to watch from hour to hour and from day to day is how the sea state changes, both by the way in which it can change and the rate. There are times when the sea has been flat as far the eye can see (or as flat as it'll ever get) to times when the boat will disappear in the trough of each swell. When the water is flat - or even when there is a relatively small amount of chop - it feels like being on any large lake or coastal sea; i.e normal/nothing special. But when the swell is up, the feeling is completely different. The really large swells are so large (the largest we experienced was a relatively small height at ~15 ft) they act like a fast moving hill which makes for an interesting brain teaser because these hills/mounds are made of water and water should be flat; it shouldn't be possible to have water form a large hill and yet when you look over the ocean when you're at the top of a large swell you see these large, fast moving hills for 360 degrees around you as far as the eye can see. Jeff's
visual description of these distant swells is that it looks similar to a herd of galloping horses.
The ride up to the top of the swell gives you a momentary bird's eye perspective of your surroundings; you're quite literally on top of a temporary hill in an otherwise flat desert. And watching the large waves come up from behind you, first completely blocking your view with a wall of water and then lifting the boat up to a peak and back down again is quite hypnotic; I'm told it is called the elevator ride.
As compared to previous Vic-Maui's, when the winds have been up for an extended period of time, the sea state this year is quite a bit more confused; the swells are not spaced very far apart, and less rhythmic. Swells have also been coming from one direction yet the chop from another, with the odd rogue, or series of rogue waves coming from yet another direction. It makes for some fun upwind (white sail) sailing but also a very rough ride for those below. From a practical point of view, it doesn't make for good race conditions as beating to the wind is slow. The Vic-Maui race is supposed to be a downwind (spinnaker) race and that's one of the key attractions for many who take part.
There has been a notable lack of sea life visible to us this year as compared to previous Vic-Maui's but never-theless there have been at least a few sightings of some of the key sea creatures. The course is somewhat
different this year with the location of the high pressure centres so that may be one of the reasons. Sightings of a lone albatross here and there, literally a thousand nautical miles from land, have occurred throughout the trip. Watching them glide along going from thermal to thermal and dipping down to skim a wave here and there is a relaxing way to pass the time as you sit on the high side of the boat during a watch. A white bird (about the size of a large seagull) with an orange bill and pointed tail feathers, called the "Tropic Bird" by the crew, has also made the occasional appearance as well as what we believe to be Swifts. Spotting flying fish is another way to pass the time. They started to appear occasionally on Day 6 but slightly more frequently as the trip has progressed. It is amazing how far they can skim or skip along the top of the water. And they've appeared in sizes ranging from about the size of a moth to slightly larger than a barn swallow. They also didn't disappoint in providing late night entertainment this year when one hit Richard in the chest in the middle of a night watch, startling everyone in the process and creating a great photo op, much to the fish's dismay no doubt.
Another unusual occurrence for this particular Vic-Maui is the lack of sighting of other boats, be it competing sailboats or deep sea vessels since the last of the fishing trawlers were seen off of the coast of Washington.
There have been only two deep sea vessel sightings thus far and no sightings of any competing boats. This has resulted in very long stretches where you're left with the feeling that you're the only one out there, but in my
opinion, this simply adds to the overall experience.
Today we got to experience our first few squalls which, again, is unusual both because of how late in the trip they have started to occur and because of how few there have been. The first squall was a relatively small one and
was quite localized. You could clearly see the affected patch of water below it; it was much flatter then the surrounding seas. Unfortunately we weren't able to get in front of it so we got caught in the lack of wind left behind
it as we approached. When we finally did catch up to it, because we only caught the tail end of it, the downdraft and accompanying rain we experienced when we entered it was minor. As we passed through it (or more
specifically, because of the lack of wind, as it passed over us), the patch of water underneath it appeared to be a much lighter blue to anyone wearing polarized glasses.
By the end of the day, we had experienced a few slightly more powerful/larger squalls - nothing wild to write home about. It makes for good practice executing quick sail drops and hoists from our relatively light wind,
asymmetrical A0 sail to our J1 Genoa and back again. We'll be quick at the sail changes should we need to do so in the future when facing more powerful ones. Hopefully we continue to experience unusually few squalls though, as they kill our boat speed for about an hour or hour and a half each time and we can't afford to have them do so. We'll see what tomorrow brings...
Signed: Behold: A Nautical Adventure Nearly Adjourned Becomes Really Exciting. Aloha, Dave!