Decisions, decisions.

We are in the south.

1st March 2024

03_01 Playa Grande, Isla San Hose, Isla Pearlas, Panama – 00 00S 087 29W

As a child you agonised over difficult decisions all the time. Would you have peas or beans with your fish fingers? Who was cooler, Luke Skywalker or Hans Solo? Is the Rally chopperor the Grifter the wheels to be seen on? We hoped that leaving Panama these would be the levels of decisions we’d have to make, but as the miles ticked down we had difficult decisions to make and agonised over every one.*

Our first difficult decision was when to leave. We were anchored in the most beautiful bay where waves lapped onto the white sandy beach and palm trees gently swayed in the breeze. This was picture perfect paradise. Anila and Mindelo had the same idea to stay here and to make their final preparations for crossing the Pacific and we were happy to have their company.

We then watched as they pulled up their sails, lifted their anchors and gently sailed towards the horizon in the gentle afternoon breeze. That was enough to cement the decision for us. With our final checks made and Ruffian converted into offshore mode we trailed in their wakes and headed out to what will be our longest passage, in the biggest and loneliest of oceans. The Pacific. We’d now spend the next 30 days doing what we had prepared so long and hard for. Cross another ocean.

The sailing was idyllic in the extreme. The seas were flatter than a freshly plastered wall and the wind so gentle it felt like it was lovingly caressing our sails. Ruffian was silent and sleep came easily. This was great below decks but not quite so welcome while on watch as there was no traffic to keep us alert, no varying breeze setting off alarms or land to be aware of.

As the days rolled on we saw Anila and Mindelo disappear into the distance (they had bigger fuel tanks and were bigger boats) as we wrested with the question of turning the engine on. Our diesel was precious and had to sustain us for 1000’s of miles, but we knew that if we lingered then areas of no wind would form around us leaving Ruffian bereft. Each and every time we pushed the start button we questioned ourselves and each time we turned it off we relished in not burning our precious commodity.

Life on board was simple and Ruffian was like a little self sustaining island in the middle of the ocean. The water maker produced water, Ampie streamed out of our stern giving us power and our new crewmember, Peter, started to pull his weight by steering. Coaxing Peter into action was as much art as science.

In his first deployment we simply couldn’t understand why he was not co-operating. Iain glared at him menacingly while Fiona got out the manual and started reading. Unsurprisingly, Iain’s approach proved fruitless and Fiona found the solution. Iain had rigged the ropes the wrong way around, he’d put too much tension in the system and set the sail incorrectly (so he almost got it right!!). Under Fiona’s guidance Peter was now steering.

For days we wrestled with the question of going north or south of the Galapagos. If we went north we would have a lot of current helping us, but worried about no wind and squalls. If we went south then the current would disappear and once again we might run out of wind. Our minds changed hour by hour, with every weather update and with each contact we had with boats in front of us. In the end the decision was taken out of our hands. One quick phone call to weather guru Chris Parker and decision was made. We were heading south and towards the equator.

We watched our Latitude slowly tick down and looked forward to crossing the equator. Once we crossed we would graduate from being Polywogs to Shellbacks. Thankfully as Neptune was not on the boat and no Shellbacks present, who have already earned the right inaugurate Polywogs into their club, we simply made a toast to the sea, a toast to Ruffian, a toast to each other and a toast to a safe passage and splashed some of Fiona’s boxed wine, 2024 vintage, into the sea.

So far we have grappled with difficult questions and the miles have slipped under Ruffian’s keel. None have been as difficult as the Skywalker/Solo or Chopper/Grifter but we have created answers for ourselves and these have been the right ones.

* As they have far reaching consequences for the following thousands of miles at sea.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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