Independence Day

Far more time has elapsed since our last post than we originally intended, but such is life. As a result, we have that much more to share, so here goes.

Our course put us into the doldrums almost exactly as predicted. We had been extra careful to conserve energy since departing Hilo, and had not run the engine at all in over 10 days, either for battery charging or driving the boat. When we started it up, we had the presence of mind to check the primary fuel filter. To our dismay, there was a substantial amount of water in the filter. It is not unusual for water to find its way into fuel tanks, but this was a lot of water. Most likely water had entered through the vent hoses in rough conditions around Hawaii, and unfortunately we neglected to monitor the filter in our hurry to get in and out of Hilo. Purging the secondary filter showed that it had gotten in there as well. Could it have passed into the engine? Might it damage something in there beyond repair? Was it the reason we were hearing lower revs than we should have given the throttle position?

These worries came at a rather inopportune time. It was late afternoon on a Sunday, and the next day was Independence Day. The chances of getting a professional on the phone seemed slim for the next 36 hours. We decided to take a break for the night, and continue troubleshooting steps the next day. At this point we had to consider the possibility that our engine was damaged beyond our ability to repair, which would seriously impact our trip, or worse, end it altogether. Even though we faced that looming threat, at least one crewmember was stress free: Zara. For her 11th birthday she enjoyed a whole can of cat food and went to bed purring happily. The quiet wind and waves meant a night of drifting and relaxed watch schedule. It was refreshing to face the next day on more sleep than we usually saw in one chunk.

The morning’s procedures went so smoothly that we were motoring with no troubles before it was noon. The relief was so great that Paul decided to put out the hand line and go fishing in celebration. He hadn’t even finished letting all the line out before we had a strike! A 3-foot yellow fin tuna had been lurking behind us and was promptly processed into all our favorite fish dishes. For many days hence we enjoyed large quantities of sushi, sashimi, ceviche, grilled steaks, fried steaks, fish tacos, and tuna salad. Even Zara had lots of fish in her favorite style: boiled and shredded.

The time since then has been a mix of smaller ordeals and laid-back periods. When we suddenly came to the end of the first fuel tank, it was late enough in the day that we spent another night adrift before diving into a morning’s work of removing the water from the second tank. There was one night where it poured rain for hours on end. In between there were a few rough days of larger swells and stronger winds, and many days of light breezes. We even spotted several ships at night passing in the distance. The most interesting occurrence was one night where we removed more than 25 flying fish that became stranded on deck over the course of about 6 hours!

As we approach the end of this passage our thoughts are turning to islands and activities enjoyed near land. But the mindset of being out in the ocean on our own is still strong. Every problem that we face is a reminder of the independence inherent in this lifestyle. Even with the consolation that we can call for help, at the end of the day we’re the ones that must fix what breaks and live with the limits of our circumstances. The occasional trying times are a small price to pay for the unparalleled freedom we continue to relish.

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