Crossing the Equator

by Brian "BJ" Caldwell

"There is no solace for us,
For such as we,
Who search for some hidden city
we shall never see...
Instead there is only the road.
The Dawn and the Wind and the
And the Watchfire under the stars,
Then sleep...
And the road again

- John Masefield

My philosophy is to never fight against nature but to fight with her. The fastest way around is to achieve a relaxed harmony and accept the powers that be, in this non-confrontational manner...The sea is infinitely more powerful. Understanding where you fit into the scheme of things; anticipating Mother Nature, will get you further than knowing how to fix everything...Reefing the sails before they blow out, wearing a harness to keep from going overboard, watching for squalls even on the clearest of nights, all reflect a single-handers best quality - anticipation.

I was constantly making small adjustments, envisioning how I could improve my union with the extension of myself - 'Mai-Miti'. Its amazing how even the smallest of things, can make a difference in the long run. Repositioning the bulk of my provisions to the weather side, gave me another quarter knot of speed...this equates to days around the world.

It was a necessity to make use of the squalls. I'd hand steer through cold wind driven rain for hours, flying maximum sail to extricate ourselves from the grasp of the doldrums.

Sometimes the sailing was fantastic. It would often look like you were entering hell itself as the 'mother of all squalls' bore down on us. So long as she didn't catch you with your 'shorts down' (full sail up) you could fly along with forty knots of breeze on a perfectly flat sea. The great plus of furling is that I could wait until the last minute before reducing the sails.

Just when it seemed the breeze was steady, I'd set the wind-vane to go below-decks. After toweling off, I'd boil water on my single burner stove for yes, some more of those damned instant noodles...only to hear the sails rattling as the wind died or switched directions. This was labor intensive sailing. It was a miracle to finish my meal without having to charge top sides to adjust things...

Tonight, there's absolutely no wind. The scene outside looks pretty ominous but it's nature's 'paper tiger'. Even the huge black squalls aren't moving, maybe they take the day off on Sundays? So I lie below, sweltering in the equatorial heat. The SSB radio fills the dark cabin with voices, most several thousand miles away.

The mundane problems of every day life seem light years away far to sea. Distant wars, the death of thousands, could be on another planet. Life aboard is centered around the weather, daily maintenance, what to eat, keeping watch, enjoying a book or just dreaming. The most trivial activity can occupy a whole afternoon. You've absolute freedom, your time is to spend as you choose.

There's no criticism, no idle chatter, no barking, no television, no automated sound to speak of, just the friction of flesh and machine trying to become one. Its fascinating to listen to the distant voices of humanity. The problems on the world report prove to show how self-sufficient this single person is, far beyond any other fellow human-being.

If there's one thing you learn in sailing, it's that if you wait long enough, weather conditions will change. After a couple days of quality 'thinking' time, a light breeze filled in.

So, I reveled our progress as we crossed the Equator and descended into the South Pacific. After four years north of the Equator, I was back in familiar waters. The exploding bow wave sang praise to the building southeasterly trades.

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Copyright 1996 Brian "BJ" Caldwell
Published electronically by HoloHolo Internet Publishing, all rights reserved