Freedom on the high seas

Position: 37 55.00 S, 173 4.00 E
SOG (kts): 6.5
Remarkable wildlife sightings in the last 24-hours. Last evening a seal leapt out of the water beside the boat, playing just like a dolphin. It was almost like those acrobatic trained seals, except this one wasn’t expecting a treat. Several massive albatross cart-wheeled over the glassy swell early this morning. They glide millimeters up and dpwn the wave surface without even touching the water. They almost appear to make contact with their wing-tips and I watched for a trail in the water as one whooshed right by the boat to check me out, but I didn’t see any trails. The wings were actually vibrating with the minute wavelets on the swell, like running your fingers across a chain-link fence, but without the fingers touching. Last night when Kelsey came down off the night watch, she reported that she’d smelled whale breath (we know the smell very well from Alaska). I smelled it too about an hour later. And at daybreak, I spotted a massive plume from a whale’s blow on the near horizon. Suddenly 6 pilot whales cut out of the swell in a line, hunting. This area is known for its Pilot whales, which are threatened by the seismic testing from the oil rigs. The Pilot whales reminded me of miniature Orca whales, with their dorsals cutting the waves. The whales were increasingly aggressive until a huge boiling of whitewater erupted about 50 yards behind Privateer. A massive whale appeared, about 4 times the length of the Pilot whales and the size of a school bus. The leviathan rolled onto its side and barreled down a large swell. When his head came out of the water it was the classic bluff-bowed shape of a Sperm whale! Its forehead plunged into the trough of the next swell and that was all I saw of it, but the Pilot whales continued to dart around the Sperm whale. Perhaps they were fighting for the same fish, or each other, I do not know. We always see something we’ve never seen on every sail! Our west-southwest breeze finally sprung up this afternoon and we are silently clipping along at 6 knots with the Monitor windvane (finally!) taking control of the steering. It was a long, tedious hand-steering session last night without the electric autopilot in swells but no wind. I had to have a “3 o’clock (AM) Coke” and listen to loud dance music to stay focused on the compass. Fortunately we are in the higher latitudes and it is almost the longest day of the year here, so despite it being a new moon and an otherwise black night, there remained a constant twilight glow throughout the sky all night long, and it was possible to make out the line of swell where the sea met the sky. After we shut the engine down and got the servo-steering back on line, Kelsey said “We got the boat back!” Yes, it is very liberating sailing down the blue highway again. We celebrated with hot deck showers with the left-over hot water from the engine loop, and ate an obligatory lucky Pineapple for lunch. I am also carrying a box of Ritz crackers and leftover “Fruto” jelly from Fiji in rememberance of my sail here with my Dad last year–but I won’t eat these unless we fall on hard times and bad weather! Kelsey and I are figuring out everything we need for Taz on the ocean on this sea trial. We tried to find people on the internet doing similar stuff, but most of it it written from a marina live-aboard perspective. We’re solving all kinds of problems and have a few good ideas. We’ve found that we absolutely need a playpen area for Taz that we can stick him into and leave him to his own devices while we set sails & tend to the boat etc. Instead of buying a playpen we are simply going to raise and extend one of our lee-cloths, and Taz will have a giant padded area to romp in when we are busy. For the moment, having Taz on the boat is like having an extra helm–someone’s hands are always on the tiller. This, combined with our lack of electric autopilot right now, means that we have two helms that need constant attention. Going to the bathroom, cooking, relaxing, and sleeping are not possible unless Taz is sleeping and one of us can go off-watch with him. We’re looking forward to returning to the trade-winds in May and clocking away auto-miles while Taz plays in his new pen! Then, Kelsey and I will be freed from one helm, and our other little helm will be sleeping about 1/2 the day, giving us approximately 65% freedom with our time during the day & night to do as we please. We are currently 95% tied up at the moment with about 5% freedom as we sort things out… Taz perked right up today when the winds picked up, releasing a massive poop as we trimmed the sails. He’s very relaxed in the waves and grips tight when the boat heels with the swells. He did, after all, cross the whole Pacific in the womb already! It is a motion he knows well. Sometimes he looks at points on the horizon or the boat and starts laughing and pointing. We can’t figure out what he’s looking at or why it makes him so happy. It it weren’t very cute, it would be kind of creepy. We should have about 48 hours of good following winds, and we hope to gain Cape Reinga and North Cape at the top of the island before they switch around. We’re just over 1/2 way up the west coast from Nelson now, with 209 NM to go before turning south around the top. Blue skies and sparkling seas–life is good!

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