“Indian Ocean High, In The Arabian Sea”

Day 11: A Little Bit Closer to Oman

16 44 N, 66 37,

The title to today’s entry is sung to the tune of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.” If we were feeling clever we’d pen the whole blog to his lyrics, but we’re feeling more punch-drunk than lyrical.

630 miles to go, 755 down. We’ve motored for the last 24 hours. We don’t have quite enough fuel to motor the rest of the way, but we see that the winds are forecast to pick up and come out of the west and southwest for the next several days. That will require us to tack back and forth to get the trip done. So, with slight winds again today, we’re pushing to get as much westing as possible before the westerlies set in. If they are particularly uncooperative, the last 500 miles of the trip could easily take as long as the first 1000. We can only be patient and take it day by day.

All continues to be fine mechanically and otherwise.

We have set the radar alarm up at a healthy ten-mile circumference, and we sometimes nod off while on watch.

But it is a light sleep.

Today, in the early morning hours, Sima was on watch when the wind picked up a little. To determine if we could shift from motor sailing to sailing, she adjusted the sails and then throttled down the engine to see how Leander would lie to the wind.

But we have now become acutely sensitive to even the most minute changes in engine pitch, tone, or speed. If the speed suddenly dies, for example, it often means that the fuel tank being used has emptied, and a valve must be switched to draw from a different tank. One wants to do this immediately, because if you let the engine run dry, there is a possibility that you’ll have to prime to get fuel back to the internal injection pump. (Westy Westerbeke is actually SELF-PRIMING, and we typically need do no more than switch the tank and turn the ignition switch, if it does run dry; but you don’t want to risk it.) We usually switch the tanks over before they get close to the point of running dry, but on this trip we wanted to make sure that we’ve used every last drop in our big tank three, and the gauge on that one is not reliable as the other two tanks; so you’re not really sure if you’ve got five gallons left or, say, two.

Paul, lying asleep, heard the engine speed suddenly decrease. He was awake with a start in an instant, and swung his feet onto the floor to advance to the engine room. “It’s OK,” Sima yelled from the cockpit, “I’m just trying to sail. Go back to sleep.”

One would think that such a sensitive internal alarm clock would be foolproof, but it isn’t.

On another occasion, Paul had drifted off to sleep after battling the sails and a strong wind during a particularly difficult night-time beat. Asleep, he dreamed of working on a computer at his parents’ home. For some reason, it wouldn’t stop beeping. Paul wandered into other rooms, talking to his family, but the beeping computer kept on calling him back. Why did it not seem to bother anyone else? Can’t we do something about it? Stupid beeping computer, thought Paul — I might as well leave this dream.

Awake, Paul realized the source of the annoyance — a ship, of course, was steaming through the radar zone. In fact, it had been steaming about in there for some time. It was still a comfortable distance away (Paul will deny that he was awoken by the smell of diesel fumes or the sound of an engine), but it is yet another lesson that even the best technology is not foolproof.

Wonder if they sell radar alarms with a wooden mallet or a squirt gun. Or one that sings John Denver tunes. Now THAT would wake most people pretty quickly!

End of the day, Sima’s making crepes for dinner, and all is well aboard Leander.

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