Please select your home edition
Edition
Pantaenius EU 728x90

The big question

by Hugh and Heather Bacon on 20 Apr
Bright Dream Hugh & Heather Bacon
In October 1999, we left our sailboat in the South Pacific and returned to enjoy a Canadian winter. A few friends have expressed curiosity about our nautical lifestyle, especially the long passages: “What do you do all day?” they ask: Two people, alone in a small boat on a large sea for 3000 miles, 24 hours a day, no anchorages, restaurants or spas in between. Well, as someone told me, there’s always something to do. There are routine boat responsibilities, chores and optional extras. As well, every day some unexpected challenge comes along: the Eggplant Parmigiana hits the deck and 100,000 shards of Corelle, along with a reasonable facsimile of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre keeps you busy for a while.

Even in the halcyon life of Paradise West, there must be structure to a day. Ours is built around a few constants: deck watch and the Radio Net. The latter is a communication protocol, informally agreed upon by boats sharing the same passage. On our trip to the Marquesas, we checked in with eight other boats twice a day; shared information about weather, sea conditions and, increasingly, “glitches”. It was very reassuring to know that there were other people out there, even if we could not see one another.

We believe strongly that there must be someone “on watch” at all times. He/she should be up on deck, barring very brief sorties below. Our schedule is less structured than some, but we try to accommodate our personal “biorhythms”. Only the night watches are consistently scheduled. Hugh goes to bed soon after dinner, usually sleeping from 2030 hrs to 0030 hrs. He does the “graveyard shift” until about 0500 hrs. Then he sleeps for about 3,5 hours. He is, however, like a mother with a new infant; any unusual change in motion or sound may bring him on deck to check and adjust. During the day, we spell each other off for short naps.

At first, I found my evening shift almost unbearable. I would check the clock every ten minutes; I didn’t think midnight would ever come. Once I prided myself on being a night personality. Suddenly I had no personality at all. I was fighting sleep at 2100 hrs, panicking at the thought that I would have to do this for over 21 nights. I still don’t love it, but I have adjusted to it. I’ve had a full moon, phosphorescent waves, balmy evenings. “The stars upon the Bowl of Night.” etc. My Walkman is my salvation. We brought several audio tapes from Canada and have exchanged others with friends. Listening to a book is a fantastic way to pass the time. We have an eclectic collection, Proust to Judy Blume, but find that the best are classics or excellent contemporary literature. Unfortunately, we are running through the collection too quickly. I’ll soon have to return to “Gzowski’s Last Show”, a sentimental favorite!



Once I wondered if I’d ever be able to sleep below, with the bouncing and rolling that occurs. Veteran sailors assured me that I’d fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and they were right. Unfortunately for me, awakening from sleep is excruciating. However, once on deck I know that it will be light in an hour. I get all the sunrises and they are usually magnificent. Then I just sit and think for a while. This is my alone time and I treasure it.

I have done more writing in the last few years than I had for decades. (Muse inspired by aberrant circumstances?) Once I thought I could never create on the computer, that I needed the magical stimulus of a lead pencil. But I have realized that I do my writing when I am scrubbing the deck or snorkeling or walking down a street. When I sit down to the computer, I am just putting the words I have memorized onto paper.

During the past two years, I have written nine chapters of an “Agatha Christie-style” murder (nautical motif); regular articles for The New Edinburgh News; several short but pithy reflections on Life at Sea; as well as a roughed-out plot about a woman who advertises in the Personal Column to find a partner for her husband, who wants to sail around the world. I’ve even returned to poetry writing for the first time since soppy adolescence. It’s faintly depressing to admit that my passionate poetic expression should be entitled “Ode to a Pressure Cooker”. Ah well, youth’s torrid emotions must be channeled into more prosaic areas.

By the time morning net was over, it was time to think about lunch. Dining and wining have always been rituals central to our existence. A lot of readjustment have been necessary since we became “Boat People”. For a while, I tried to produce the kind of meals I made at home: meat with a sauce, three kinds of vegetables, a salad…It just doesn’t work on a rocky boat. The stove is gimbaled; there are devices to keep a pot from reeling too far afield, and many boats have a security strap for the intrepid cook.

Nevertheless, one often risks life, limb and the poached chicken while cooking underway. I have realized, not without a certain sorrow, that “one pot” meals do best: a casserole in the oven or a dish cooked in the pressure cooker. I cannot tell you how I have resisted “cooking under pressure”. It seems that most people of my generation recall cowering in the corner of the kitchen as the pressure cooker blew its top! My experienced sailing buddies assured me that “they don’t blow up any more”, but I found a lot of delaying techniques before I finally assembled my new pot.

I must admit that my first production convinced me of its value: ratatouille in five minutes! I have done great soups, modified my chicken casseroles and regularly steam vegetables without drama. Cooking is one of my few creative outlets and it was depressing to think I’d have to curb my style. However, this is a life of compromises!

Related to cooking are daily chores: looking into the storage bins to sniff out rotting potatoes etc. (Doesn’t take a rocket scientist!) It makes my day to find weevils in the flour, necessitating major extermination measures.

I do not knit, quilt, polish the silver or sprout mung beans. In time, I may dabble in water colours, work on Spanish translation or make bread. I should do sit-ups, edit my videos and give myself a manicure. I read voraciously. Good books are important, because their spirit lingers.

Okay, what about running the boat? In my time, I have taken several courses where they tried diligently to explain that complex combination of sheets, strings and sticks that work together to take us the longest distance between two points. But just when I was beginning to tell a jib sheet from a forestay, Das Boot was equipped with a set of electronic and mechanical support systems to rival Apollo 2000. Now I have to learn to push buttons and I covet a Fisher-Price wheel to grip; ours turns by itself.

Furthermore, we have embarked on passages where we stay on one tack for a week. Hugh spends a lot of time fine-tuning the self-steering wind vane, which we generally use. His previous career experience makes him the better-qualified to plot the course (I used to go from downtown Ottawa to Kanata via Hull) so my principal responsibility on deck is to look out for traffic. Not too demanding, considering that we saw three vessels in three weeks. Nevertheless, it only takes one close encounter of the worst kind! Hugh does a walkabout several times, usually obeying my exhortations to wear his harness. As well, each day he checks the engine, runs it when necessary to recharge the batteries or run the water maker.

As for the Most Frequently Asked Question: “What is it like to spend all your time alone together on a boat?” That is best left for alternative publications!

This article has been provided courtesy of the Bluewater Cruising Association.

Insun - AC ProgramPredictWind.comZhik AkzoNobelb 660x82

Related Articles

May Rendezvous – Sail-ebrate Canada 150
Come for the fun, the food, the camaraderie, the splash of red-and-white (flags, sails, attire, bunting, decorations) Mark your calendar for May 20 – 22: the May Rendezvous, Poet’s Cove, Pender Island! Arrive Friday evening or anytime Saturday before the 1600h Happy Hour. The official Rendezvous agenda starts at 1600h on Saturday. Come for the fun, the food, the camaraderie, the splash of red-and-white (flags, sails, attire, bunting, decorations, etc) and the music!
Posted on 25 Apr
World ARC in the atolls of the Tuamotu
The departure to the Tuamotu archipelago had a good start, with privilege of crossing paths with visit of vessel HOKULEA The departure to the Tuamotu archipelago had a good start, with the privilege of crossing paths with the visit of the Hawaiian traditional sailing vessel HOKULEA, in Nuku Hiva. The fleet had a touch of our counterparts from the past, whom populated the whole Pacific Ocean in sailing vessels, guided by their knowledge of the stars and the sky, the movements of the sea
Posted on 25 Apr
Debbie says the 8thP with Insurance is Patience (Pt.II)
We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance. We looked at what it was like to come into a disaster zone and now we see the evidence of those that did the right thing, and how the area is already on the road to recovery.
Posted on 25 Apr
The best laid plans of mice and sailors...
We knew that buying a boat wasn’t going to be easy; our budget was tight, and our needs specific... We knew that buying a boat wasn’t going to be easy; our budget was tight, and our needs specific, even if both of us spend our working days surrounded by boats, and undertaking complicated negotiations. But neither of us were prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that awaited us, and the many disappointments that we would have to overcome in our search.
Posted on 24 Apr
Coral reefs fight rising seas, leaving people at risk
Caribbean/Hawaii researchers found sea floor eroding in all five places and reefs cannot keep pace with sea level rise. In the first ecosystem-wide study of changing sea depths at five large coral reef tracts in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii, researchers found the sea floor is eroding in all five places, and the reefs cannot keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.
Posted on 22 Apr
Flares and distress signals
Visual Distress Signals are part of your boat's safety equipment. Check them before you leave harbor for condition Visual Distress Signals (V.D.S.) are part of your boat's safety equipment. Check them before you leave harbor for condition and if they have an expiration date, be sure they are current. Their intended purpose is to summon help should the need arise and should be displayed only when immediate or potential danger exists. Visual distress signals can only be effective when someone can see them.
Posted on 21 Apr
Race for Water will stay in Madeira for three days
After beginning its five-year Odyssey on April 9, the vessel, Race for Water, arrived in Madeira on Thursday, April 20 This first stopover will allow the crew to make a preliminary assessment of the energy mix and review the first tests with the kite on this ambassador vessel of the Race for Water Foundation.
Posted on 21 Apr
Chilling out in Carriacou
Carriacou is a delightful backwater in the Caribbean, peaceful and relatively undeveloped, with beautiful beaches We feel like we earned this place - after sweating it out in Trinidad for several months, Carriacou is a delightful backwater in the Caribbean, peaceful and relatively undeveloped, with beautiful beaches. The local population is only 8,000 folks, a mix of African, East Indian and European decent. It’s a simple place, where people greet you on the bus and welcome you to their island.
Posted on 20 Apr
A 180 degree turn
After a wonderful Bon Voyage party, our family came down and tossed off our bowline. There was so much excitement After years of dreaming and planning, we are finally at the ‘Doers’ stage. In September, our Alden 44, Lemanee, and her crew of three set sail southbound. We were heading to San Francisco via Roche Harbour and Neah Bay. After a wonderful Bon Voyage party, our family came down and tossed off our bowline. There was so much excitement and pride at all we had accomplished.
Posted on 20 Apr
Fifteenth blog from on board Perie Banou II - BVIs
I am on the yacht. Back on air with the iridium. Paul Stratfold, with his partner Shiralee, plus owner and his friend I am on the yacht. Back on air with the iridium. Paul Stratfold, with his partner Shiralee, plus owner and his friend (another Paul from Hawaii). Are on the specially constructed 60ft catamaran named 'Gizmo'. Carbon fibre hull, carbon fibre mast, carbon fibre rigging, carbon fibre sails. There are no turnbuckles with the rigging (holding the mast up). Just Dyneema lashing.
Posted on 19 Apr