[This was originally published to our subscribers during our passage from San Diego to the Marquesas.]
There was a distinct moment a few nights ago when I could feel us enter the tradewinds.
It was about 1800, and the sunlight had just slipped into its soft, golden evening wear. The north-northwesterly winds were still chilly, sitting outside in the evening required a blanket, and I was still in full bath protest mode (see yesterday’s log). The wind was forecast to increase steadily that night and shift to north-northeasterly. I knew that if the wind picked up in the night and changed direction, I’d need a significantly different sail configuration. I decided that moving both the foresail and the large pole that holds it out from port to starboard would be easier in the last of the daylight, so I set to the task.
Everything takes longer to do on a sailboat at sea, and by the time I was done with this project, nearly two hours had elapsed and the moon was our only light. The deck was coarse and crunchy with salt, and I ran on it fore and aft, fore and aft, fore and aft, putting out new lines, discovering I’d put them inside where they should be outside, or outside where they should be inside, taking the load off the sail so I could run the lines again correctly, checking the position of the pole, bringing the outboard and inboard ends of the pole up and down until they were holding the foresail out with just the right tension and yet not laying against the rigging that holds up the mast.
Sometime during all of this—and it wasn’t just the physical exertion—it became at least seven degrees warmer. The texture of the air changed, becoming heavy, moist, and sultry. The wind direction changed by more than 15 degrees, clocking around to the northeast. Everything suddenly felt sticky. Breathing in, the air was somehow thicker in my lungs. We had arrived at the north Pacific tradewinds. This was confirmed during the night, when I found the first flying fish of our trip in Windfola’s scuppers.
Since then, there are flying fish on deck every morning and I haven’t once needed a blanket in the cockpit. Tradewinds are a sailor's delight, blowing predictably and keeping us moving downwind at a steady pace on a relatively constant course. The air still has that warm weight to it, inducing daydreams of fresh coconut milk, pamplemousse, and mahi mahi.
I can almost smell the plumeria now…
with a warm and salty heart,
elana, zia, and sv windfola 🌺
P.S. Is a group of flying fish called a school or a flock?