first sailing component

Since the last entry, nearly two whole weeks of sailing have gone by! Unfortunately, I am posting a blog because the engine is out of commission for the next couple days as salt water got sucked into it through the air intakes; until it gets fixed, we sit here at Roche Harbor amongst the fancy yachts with terrible names such as the Victoria’s Other Seacret, Neverland, and La Sea. There is one perk, however…well, two, the first being that there are coin-operated showers!! Big deal here on the Gato Verde where freshwater is in high demand and short supply, especially hot water which is contingent on the engine running-this is further hard to come by on a vessel which primarily propels itself by harnessing wind power. Number two perk: the vessel thoughtfully broke down in a time where the whales seem to have disappeared. I should be used to no-sighting events like these occurring and certainly should have learned by now to never get my hopes too high-but it’s hard!!  I guess what I have learned is that I will inevitably get excited beyond the point of healthy when it comes to whale sightings.  I am starting to worry about when they will return in order to start gathering data. While I am starting to become more and more confident that I will be more useful and productive on the policy end of ocean/marine mammal conservation, I am also finding it more and more vital to have participated in the research process first in order to most effect conservation. For this to happen I need those orcas!!
On the other hand, sailing in the absence of whales has been simply amazing and has passed the time quite quickly. When they do finally decide to grace us with their presence, we will be super sailors handling those lines and sails like pros. My favorite part of the day has been raising the main sail. It’s getting the point where the captain has altered his offer to raise the sail to “does anybody BUT Dominique want to raise the main sail?” Sometime soon though, he promised I’ll get to do it by myself!
With so few people on the boat, I’ve been able to frequently participate in most every sail task, resulting in a much better understanding of wind and wave dynamics, how sails should be set in response to such dynamics, and how to manage the sails and lines in different conditions and situations. My second favorite part of the day is the navigation duty. This job requires one to listen to the VHF radio in order to gather local marine weather forecasts, check tides and currents and their forces as well as list any navigational hazards we might encounter. From this gleaned information the navigator must pick a destination which suits the tides and weather conditions and figure out how long it will take to get there. Fun! Finally, my third favorite part of the day is bedtime. Being out in the elements, which are always quite numbingly cold, combined with moving about and maintaining balance on a boat for 11-12 hours is really tiring! The gentle rocking of the boat only makes it more difficult not to simply lay back and be lulled to sleep. I have never before gone to bed at 10pm for more than one or two nights in a row! I haven’t even been able to finish my book as 10 pages per night are all I can muster before crashing, despite the cold.
Overall everything is going well as there is never a shortage of things to do, both sailing related as well as practice-data collection and analysis related. My inevitable inability to stay warm hasn’t even been able to sour the experience! The scenery is beautiful and my pictures folder on the computer is filling exponentially by day with shots of the landscape, sailing, classmates, and organisms we’ve encountered so far. Surprisingly, though, I’m finding I miss northern New England and even Maine, much to the satisfaction and “told you so” of some in particular.

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