We spent these three full days at sea. Counting two days at anchorage – one on each end of the crossing – without touching land, we lived on Fidelis for 5 days. Underway Diego, Vince and I each stood watch on an around the clock schedule of three hours on and six hours off.
We had a full moon on first night. Had some night rain and clouds, but generally the weather was good. Partly cloudy, winds 10-20 knots, seas 5-6 feet. We had several periods where the boat would roll quite a bit, when sailing wing and wing (sails out on both sides of the boat) with a beam sea (waves from the side). We got up to 30 degree rolls at times. Made basic things pretty challenging.
It was really dark between sunset and moonrise. We could see so many start it looked like sand along the milky way. When it was dark it was easy to see photo luminescent plankton in the wake. They looked like green fireflies in the water. We picked out constellations and planets. The planets looked larger and rounder than I had seen before. Saw a crazy bright shooting star. On the first night saw the “green flash” while I was at the helm. Diego yelled “flash” right before it happened and I turned my head just in time to see it. In all of my years in the Navy I had never seen it before. Vince had pointed out earlier that it wasn’t actually a flash, and that was the trick to seeing it. The phenomenon is simply a color change in the crest of the sun as it dips below the horizon, and only lasts a second at most. So you you need to know exactly what you’re looking for and when to look. It was really obvious when we saw it though.
We crossed the Prime Meridian on my local birthday (8/28 – but still 8/27 back home), and took a photo with the crew and of the GPS position. The dateline and the Prime Meridian are not coincident in most areas, so in this case the date didn’t change as we crossed. We had crossed the dateline as we flew in from Hawaii.
Connor started to feel better after two days underway. He maintained an exceptionally good attitude, despite being sick and not being able to keep much food down. I gave him a half portion of a seasickness pill, which helped convince him he was over it, and he was fine for the rest of the trip. He really got a taste for fish while underway, and got his fill once he was over the motion sickness.
On the third day caught a great barracuda. We were concerned about eating it because of the chance of ciguatera. We caught it pretty far out so it was likely that it wasn’t feeding on reef fish, which is the risk. Diego tested the meat that night and he didn’t die, so we had it for fish and chips the next night. It tastes like Mahi-Mahi.
The fish catch was a bit of a fiasco. I was at the helm toward the end of my watch when the fish hit. We had been hitless in three days, so we were looking forward to some fresh fish. Vince had me turn the boat into the wind, but as I centered up the rudder with the nose into the wind the boat continued to drift and rotated past upwind; with the poles holding out the boom and genoa the boat kept going and started to back down. Vince told me to start the engine, but I didn’t know how to do that. Diego started it but we didn’t know where to go from there. As the boat backed down the line cutter on the prop shaft cut through a couple of the four lines we had out, and another got wrapped around the rudder. We got the sails down, got the fish aboard, Diego dove down and cleared the lines from the rudder, and we got back to sailing. We had lost the iron-wood decoy that Vince carved and painted, which was kind of a bummer, and some tackle. As he called it – the cost of fishing. We debriefed what went wrong and put it behind us. It sure made me and Diego feel like a couple of knuckleheads.
We had a similar sailing mistake from the helm as we were changing sails. Vince told me to steer it downwind. As I put the wind at our six I let it drift past and forced an uncontrolled jibe. Diego yelled “jibe” and Vince, who was on the other side of the boat ducked the boom just in time. Diego later noted that it would have not been fun to have had Vince over the side on a dark rainy night, possibly unconscious, in the middle of a sail change, with Diego and I running the boat in high winds and fairly rough seas. I thanked him for making that call.
We started passing Fijian islands and saw a cool rainbow coming out of the islands. We read up on some of the gory history of the “Cannibal Isles”. A couple of dolphins came up close to the boat and followed us for a bit. We could smell the vegetation of the islands as we approached. We had a beer for my second birthday, as it was snow 8/28 back home. We still had one more night to make our anchorage, but it started feeling like we were there. We tried some of Vince’s 10 year old MREs, which I had told Connor were actually pretty good. I had a fond memory of them from my detachment to Jordan years ago. Turns out they aren’t very good aside from a few key items, like crackers and peanut butter, and the 10 year age probably didn’t help. Good survival food.