Light winds and a heavy load lead to a slow start for Nick Jaffe's Constellation

After many months of preparation, trucking Constellation across America, re-assembling her in California, and finally setting sail, it’s nice to finally announce that I’m 223nm (approx 440km) offshore, en route to Hawaii. No great speed records will be set on this voyage, having left on the 8th of June, it is now the 11th, and progress is meagre, to say the least (I expect at this rate, no better than 30days). The winds are light, and the Pacific is calm? Constellation is overloaded with gear, provisions, and water, and so light air sailing is definitely not her forte. ‘Windy the Windpilot’ tries her best, but I find myself jumping in and out of my bunk to re-adjust, and trim to keep up our slow pace. It’s the afternoon now, and the pace has ‘picked up’ from being becalmed all night, to trudging along at 1.5kts, and now we’re pushing 3kts at best. Of course, the worst thing about this progress is not so much the lack of it, but probably the racket Constellation makes in the process. The normal sailing sounds of a boat underway are calming, even if they’re just as noisy; the trickle under the hull is the sound of progress? However, the banging of the masts internal halyards, wiring, and flapping of the mainsail are enough to make you go mad. There is nothing I can to, which just exacerbates the problem, and so I glumly read and fret about the banging sail, which I refuse to pull down, due to the severe rolling that would occur without it raised to balance the boat. It’s bad for the sail, and probably not so great for the rig, but I just can’t bring myself to put up with a rail-to-rail roll which happens when under bare poles, in a small but still active ocean swell.

My sail out of Half Moon Bay was idyllic, with my friends whom I wrote about in my last post, coming all the way back down from San Francisco to visit and escort me out. I spent the week waiting in Half Moon for good weather, and it coincided with their visit. Rob, Ted, and Adam sailed with me for around 10nm offshore, before pairing off and leaving me to my devices. It was a nice foray into the multi-day tack I had setup, and as they petered off behind me, so did the coast of California. Being left alone, I slowly became mildly seasick. This always happens, and it doesn’t help that it’s been nearly a year since my last sail when I landed in New York. For the next 36hrs, I didn’t eat or sleep, as my nerves adjusted and my ear got used to the roll of Constellation: At 26ft, and weighted down, Constellation ‘hobby-horses’ about, and so I then begin to wish I had another 10ft of waterline to lessen the motion. Of course my wish never comes true, and so I remember we’re out here doing it, and we get back to dealing with our respective environments; mine of feeling ill, and Constellation’s of generally being a rock-star Contessa 26.

As I sit in my bunk, writing this, a tiny squall is overhead creating a ruckus in the sails, and a slight chill. The water of the Pacific is that gorgeous blue, akin to the Atlantic before one hits the gulf stream. I’ve spent the day reading, and fault finding an electrical problem with my tri-light, which I’ve finally repaired, in the usual & aesthetically unpleasing, but entirely utilitarian manner which Constellation has become used to.

I feel quite at home here, but I must say the Pacific has an aura of a vast and empty desert, quite unlike the Atlantic. The Atlantic ocean always felt like a ‘working ocean’ to me – A vast watery highway of trade and bustle. Even if I only did come across three tankers on my crossing, it just somehow felt different. I have no logical reasoning for any of this, but what’s a blog post without an expression of unfounded feeling?

So as I drift rather than sail, (which could possibly end up being be my hallmark maneuver) closer to home, I can’t help but feel somewhat melancholy about friendships made, and friendships now abandoned. In ‘A Voyage for Madmen’, Peter Nichols talks about the driving factors behind the men who raced in the first Golden Globe race – A race nonstop and singlehanded around the world; the first of its kind. He classifies the archetypal solo sailor as being driven by ‘imagination, self-discipline, selfishness, endurance, fear, courage, and social instability’. I don’t really call myself a solo sailor, and wouldn’t for a second put myself near the likes of the men that raced, however Nichols’ characterisations do ring true to an extent, and I think the Pacific will be a nice time to reflect on all the things that have put me here, and kept me going. I sometimes feel like I’m driving an old car around the world, and people run up to give me a push, whom I thank, and then roll on. I’m hardly on the ‘home stretch’, as technically we’re only half-way, but for some reason, there not being a continent between myself and Australia, makes this piece of water a better place to contemplate such questions.

And what better place to have such lofty thoughts, than in a 26ft boat with 6×8ft of livable space, and a sunning lounge of similar proportions (the cockpit)!


(My position on the tracking page has been updated, and the messaging page is back up for those who feel the urge to send a cheeky message)