030310 to 031410 @Sea Equator Crossing

Trip Start Feb 11, 2010
Trip End Apr 04, 2010

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

030310 @Sea:  The "at sea" days are melting into one another.  The highlight of today happened at 17:30 when Ricardo came running to the Tropical Bar from the stern.  He excitedly told me that his son Dickson needed help to haul in a fish.  I ran to the stern to find two lines with Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi or Dolphinfish) hooked.  I got my camera out and took a movie of the 1st line loosing its fish.  Then I took a movie of the 2nd line being hauled in with a Dorado at last.  Dickson proudly held up the beautifully iridescent, blue-silver trophy shimmering in the sun.  The Dorado has a steep blunt forehead with a long continuous dorsal fin.  I remember seeing this fish in the book 'Kon Tiki'.  The crew was sure to have a fresh meal tonight!

030410 @Sea:  This is the 8th day with no land in sight, heading northeast at 7 knots.  The sea & sky seem basically the same each day.  There are always ocean rollers with chop and plenty of warm easterly trade winds pushing the partly cloudy scenery to the stern.  The schools of flying fish (groups of very small to larger ones) are ever present from sun up to sun down, startled into the air by the crashing and ever advancing bow waves. 

Trying to meet new people, I sat down to breakfast at a different table than usual.  Soon, an elderly man came up to me and said that I was in his seat.  I said that there was no assigned seating aboard ship.  He said he always sits at this table.  I invited him to sit across the table from me.  The slight confrontation ended up in a very delightful exchange of stories as we shared “his” table.  “Bud” is an old salt.  He has sailed his entire life.  He now lived in Ft. Myers, Florida with his wife Anne.  Anne was not at breakfast because she had pain in her leg.  Bud declined my offer to help take food to her.  We parted and the day went by as usual until later. 

I skyped Bill at the prearranged time, 19:00 EST from the Piano Bar.  It was great to see and hear him again.  And to my surprise, the whole Thursday Evening gang was there (our babies Butch & Roman, Bone & Tom, Rob & Phil, Terry & Angel, and Chard).  Gail joined me to greet the Michiganders.  Bill aimed the camera at the frozen Lake Michigan waning orange sunset glow.  I took my laptop out on deck and showed them the South Pacific.  I walked around the Tropical Bar and introduced the gang to several fellow passengers.  They even met Jozsef, the musician, playing tropical tunes on his keyboard.  All too soon, my Internet minutes expired and we were abruptly cut off. This would be our last Skype meeting in the South Pacific.  We lost satellite signal by the next morning.  Rumor has it we will not get it back until Panama.

030510 @Sea:  Half of our 18 “at sea” days behind us.  A rather uneventful day until a rumor spread that one of the passengers had died this afternoon of a clot that started in the leg.  At 17:30, Captain Brunon announced on the loud speaker for all passengers to come to the Sun Deck for an announcement.  We all scrambled to the upper deck.  The Captain announced that Bud's wife Anne had died an hour ago and asked for our thoughts and prayers for Bud and his family.  Gail left in tears as memories of her father’s passing five years ago swamped her mind like a crashing wave on a shallow reef.  She had met the couple on the 4X4 tour of Nuku Hiva.  There was the most uncomfortable feeling as I gazed around at the stunned passengers on deck.  I went to the Piano Bar and sat down with Joel from Tucson.  Soon, Bud sat at the bar alongside.  Joel & I gave our condolences and talked with him for quite a while.  I kept getting more and more emotional as Bud spoke about his life with Anne.  It is difficult to write about it but I do not want to forget this moment at sea in the middle of the South Pacific.  I kept thinking about my own father & mother and of my Bill & me.  And I felt so guilty for not giving up my breakfast seat the day before.  Lesson learned:  If another asks for your seat, give it without hesitation.

Bud (now 81) had met Anne sailing in San Francisco Bay when he was 19 and she was 18.  They were on small sailboats and started racing each other prior to actually meeting.  She won not only the race but also his heart.  They knew each other for 62 years and were married for 58.  They have a son (54) and younger twin daughters.  They have four grandchildren and soon a great grand child.  Anne & Bud sailed their entire lives together.  He retired at age 57 and never looked back.  They have owned several sail boats and have sailed all over Europe, the Inter-coastal from Newfoundland to Florida, and to all of the Great Lakes.  I asked if he heard of TC and he said of course he had and that it was a beautiful place for sailing.  Tears were running uncontrollably down his cheeks as he spoke.  He wanted/needed to speak his precious memories.  He had a sparkle in his eyes as he spoke of Anne.  He was lost without her, his compass gone, no anchor anymore, no wind in their sails.  He said they spoke of this day and thought they had prepared for it, albeit, he hoped he would precede her in death.  He could not believe the day was here, so fast it came, so unexpectedly.  They would bury her at sea at 4:00 AM in a very private ceremony with the Captain and Ship Doctor.  The aft flag, the blue & white horizontal striped ensign with the Luxembourg Coat of Arms, was lowered to half-staff in honor of Anne.  Bud has 15 long days "alone" on Star Flyer until we land in Panama.  I cannot stop thinking about him. 

030610 @Sea:  I woke up at 4:20 AM, went to the bathroom and got a towel.  Tissue paper would not do.  I lied down with the hand towel soaking up my tears, as I knew Anne was with the sea.  The ship was rolling back and forth, creaking and clanking, the sound of waves washing my porthole.   As usual, the ship was listing hard to port and I placed a pillow under my side to steady me.   I imagined Anne finally at peace in the vast Pacific, being slid into the sea just moments ago.  She began her life with Bud on a bay in the North Pacific and ended her life with Bud by her side in the South Pacific.  I never knew her but am honored to have known her mate Bud.  Up on deck again, wind filled the sails, buffeting as we left the western horizon behind us.

030710 @Sea:  Sailing into the sunrise.  Many clouds and puffs of blue sky.  The sun peaks through.  The clocks have moved ahead one hour to Mountain Time.  Now only two hours difference from EST and at the 1st Parallel South, we are very close to the equator.  One week before we hopefully sight land after 18 days at sea.  Cocos Island will be a welcomed sight.  It is Sunday and there was a multi-denominational service held at 10:00 AM at the Tropical Bar.  Somehow it seemed so appropriate.  It would be our last farewell to Anne as a group of fellow sailors.  Not knowing Anne, I am still amazed at how moving this was.  I suddenly understood how Harold (from the movie Harold & Maude) could be sad at funerals he attended where he did not know the deceased.  Lesson reminded:  Funerals are for the living.

030810 @Sea:  Close to the equator but oddly “cool” with low humidity.  Who could have known?  I sat out on the main deck in the shade of the main staysail and still got sun burnt.  Rarely use sunscreen now…tired of slathering everyday.  Always partly sunny, partly cloudy.  Tuscon, AZ  Joel gave an interesting and humorous talk in the dinning room about his life with hockey.  Russian 3rd Officer Oleg (from the Black Sea off of Ukraine) asked me to bring my laptop to the bridge tonight for stargazing.  In the evening, laptop in hand, Oleg, several passengers and myself had fun stargazing the Southern constellations and sky.  Originally skeptic, astronomer “Good Rum”, from Germany was seemingly convinced of the validity of my Starry Night software.  Several asked for the website.  The Magellanic Clouds (Large & Small, some of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way Galaxy where Earth resides) were now below the horizon haze, no longer visible.  The Southern Cross and Milky Way were brilliantly visible, best stargazing ever!  No city lights.  Later, I gave Officer Oleg a private astronomy lesson on the bridge.  He could not speak much English but we got by.  I told him I spoke no Russian except Yah-yu-blu-tib-yah (sic).  He blushed and walked away and would not let me explain further.  Translated, it means I love you.  I leaned that in college umpteen years ago from my 1st lover who was taking Russian at MSU.  Lesson learned:  Careful using foreign languages you do not know.

030910 @Sea:  13th @sea day, only 6 more days (1,300 km) to Cocos.  At 7:15 AM, 9.6 knots, GPS reading 00.37.135S, 107.09.296W, winds 20.8 to 23.5E knots, heading 87.7 degrees.  Thick cloud cover but burning off with some blue sky after 9:00AM.  My opinion… today is the day to put our bottles of champagne on ice!  Equator day!!  Will tie one on tonight!  (Wrote too soon.  At 9:45 AM, Captain Brunon announced on the PA system that official equator crossing would take place tomorrow 3/10/10, in the afternoon.)  11:00AM Crow’s Nest Climbing.  No problem climbing 14 meters above deck with safety harness.  I felt like a 10 year old farm boy again climbing barn beams.  No fear.  Beautiful vistas from above.  Evening after dinner:  Claudia requested Gail & I to help her celebrate her new life direction at the Tropical Bar and get drunk!  She ordered a couple of bottles of champagne.  Gail & I ordered a couple later.  After 4 bottles and some sharing, we achieved our goal and toasted many times to Claudia and her new book of life.  Great time with new friends on the South Pacific! Our last evening down under!  Lesson learned:  Never turn down an opportunity to party!

031010 @Sea:  Two weeks @sea with no land in sight!  Today is official “Equator Crossing Day”.  Took free bottle of champagne to Tropical Bar early morning.  Danny put it on ice to chill.  9:45AM signed up as “virgin” for baptism by God Neptune during Crossing party.  1st time in 40 years I have been called a virgin.  Not sure what it means to loose my virginity at the equator but am going to kick the can.  Rumor has it I will be kissing a fish, floured & egged and tossed into the pool.  Anticipations rising.  15:00:  Captain announces official equator crossing.  We are now in North Pacific.  We bid a rather sad farewell to the South Pacific.  All virgins congregate in Tropical Bar.  We are tied together in long line of about 20 virgins with very thick rope and paraded through a very enthusiastic grouping of passengers on the Sun Deck.  Virgins are confined into a small fish netting enclosure.  Each are successively forced out of the enclosure by two prodding Devils (aka Sports Team Victor & Gustav) and paraded through the crowd to the awaiting royal throne of King Neptune (aka Mike of Sara & Mike), God of the Sea and his strikingly beautiful Queen Tetia (aka Claudia of Argentina).  Here we have to kneel beneath the royal throne and the gaze of the Royal Highnesses.  Then, we are forced by the Devils to kiss the large, smelly, de-headed fish, are anointed by Neptune he-shes (aka Ricardo & Dickson) with fish juice & flour in the hair, down a jigger of dark rum, and baptized in the Sun Deck pool by maidens in grass skirts.  Gail & I were toward the end of the line so they asked us to pair up to speed the process along.  We lost our virginity together, hand in hand.  Somehow, loosing virginity the second time was not the same.  We had a very fun time, much like Rosaslovian!  One highlight (and dismay of the crowd) was the baptism of Norman (born in Wales, raised in England and now living in Scotland with Scottish wife Sue) who shed his clothes at the last minute before entering the pool to expose his crown jewels & bum in a very skimpy g-string.  19:00:  Captain Brunon toasted the Equator Crossing with free champagne and wine for everyone on the Sun Deck.  Lesson learned:  Kick the can at every opportunity! 

031110 @Sea:  5:55AM, 8.9 knots, 00.44.500N, 100.31.200W, winds 14.7-17.5NE, 70.6 heading, 26 degrees Celsius (79 F).  7:25AM Dolphin sighting off port & starboard bow.  Several in each pod, porpoising & blow-holing with glee.  Seemed darker and larger than those in French Polynesia.  After lunch, went to deck railing, just below starboard bridge, leaned over and was mesmerized by the bow waves crashing below.  They quickly dissipated to the stern.  Suddenly, a large brownish gold shark appeared below, lazily undulating towards the stern just outside the bow wave, dorsal fin slicing the surface.  The large eye stalks gave it away.  It was my very first sighting of a living hammerhead shark.  I shouted SHARK and two crewmen also witnessed my nemesis.  I ran to the stern to see if the shark would take one of the baits in the water but it was gone forever (or at least until Isla del Coco). 

031210 @Sea:  Time change one hour ahead to CST.  Now only three blending days to land.  Off the port side of the Tropical Bar appeared at least 10 small whales.   Only whitecapped splashes and an occasional spout of water air betrayed their location.  They disappeared as quickly to the stern, soon followed by two dolphins.  We were getting closer to Cocos and it’s plethora of sea life.  It rained hard, my porthole a Maytag.  I imagined the life below the keel as we grew ever closer to the continent.

031310 @Sea:  Attended Captain Brunon’s lecture on “Sailing Around the World”.  In 1987 to 1988, he sailed around the world on a Polish, 3-masted, full rigged (square sails) training ship.  Beautiful ship with 5 levels of yardarms.  Told Captain later that I enjoyed his talk but decided NOT to sail around the world after hearing his tales and seeing pics & movies about the 100 foot waves.  No thanks!

031410 @Sea:  18th day at sea since French Polynesia.  Last day before Isla del Coco landing.  Signed up for two days of hiking and snorkeling.  Cannot wait!  Bone & Tom fly out of TC in 3 days.  Am sure they are excited.  No internet for 10 days and not sure will have it again.  Voyage going quickly.
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elaine nixon on

thank you so much for your blogs. it was so moving to hear about Ann and Bud. Joel had told me the story, but u made it so real. you are a wonderful writer. thanks so much for sharing.

Chard on

I agree with Elaine your story gets the emotions going for me. I disagree that you should have given up your seat. Bud then might have missed the incredible gift or your friendship.

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