Greetings from the gale! I write to you all today at 1846 on December 12 off
the northeast coast of East Cape on New Zealand's North Island. After leaving Napier a few days ago we have settled back into the rhythmic pulse of sea life. We stand watch, enjoy the gift of a warm meal made by someone else when we are tired, rest in the comfort of our own bunks, and spend time talking, laughing and reflecting together as these days continue on. So much of learning how to sail is not only just the technical aspects of ship operation but also learning how to think. Tuning our attention and focus to the slight shifts in the clouds, the sea, the movement of the water and of each other. Living and learning at sea is a volatile experience and I have been thinking a lot about what makes this as rewarding, joyful and challenging as it is. I think back to a dawn watch early on in this trip. As I walked out on deck, going out into the cold and wet felt deeply unpleasant. I stepped out and was met by a piercing star filled sky where the constellations stretch down to the horizon. Out there under that blanket of pinpricked light, amidst the roar of the wind and swirling, rolling inky black water every sense in your body is heightened. The stars are so shockingly beautiful, few places on land offer a night sky so clear and bright as the one offshore. Over the past couple days as the novelty of this experience wears off, many of us have felt the challenge of the watch schedule, seasickness, and of having so little personal time and space. It makes little challenges feel that much more. But, if I turn my face to the sun, watch the strong majestic soaring of the albatross, and look out across the waves into the deep royal blue of the ocean I feel energized by gratitude and excitement. This is the reality of life at sea. Visceral hardship and challenge live right alongside stunning beauty, joy and accomplishment. Like any true adventure, the line between "this is epic" and "this is horrible" can be so thin. The sea asks of us not only to be strong mentally and physically but to enjoy the constant swinging between calm, chaos, discomfort, and joy all in the same moment. In this phase of our trip, we lean into one another more, making each other laugh, lending our help and feeling more confident in our growing knowledge of shiplife. This morning tested us all with some of the most exciting conditions we have seen yet. When A Watch took the deck at 0700 we were greeted with 4ft seas and about 15 kts of wind. As the watch progressed, the wind built strongly out of the west mounting the seas and coming from the exact direction we wished to go. Not ideal. We struck the jib at the watch change and within a few hours found we were all getting wet as waves crashed over the science deck. With only the stays'ls and a strong current we were making about 2 kts when it was decided to set the storm trys'l. Set on the main mast, the storm trys'l is a boomless sail meant to be used in "sporty" weather to aid in steering ability, stability, and speed. It's a sail many of us thought we would not get to the see, and A Watch rejoiced in the excitement of setting it. The weather and wind continued to build and we decided that with the sea state and sail situation, slowing down to do our morning science station was not realistic, we needed to make ground and monitor the wind. A Watch spirits were soaring high as we rode the thrill of the big waves, embraced the challenge at hand, and watched the raw power of the South Pacific firsthand. By the end of the watch, the seas had built to over 12 feet with winds gusting over 45 kts and Captain Allison called it, we were going hove to. With help from some others, we struck the storm trys'l, carefully gybed around and found ourselves hove to for the day and into the night. Getting "hove to" is when we backwind the sails and turn the rudder such that we "slide." It is the closest thing to stopping and a safe way to hit the pause button. We move about the ship more carefully tonight, laugh in the athletic endeavor of the shower experience, and pack ourselves into our bunks to keep us from sliding around. Here on the Bobby C, stoke is high, centers of gravity low, and we will go again soon to attempt to round East Cape under a cloudless, sunny New Zealand sky. Yahoo, Annie Grace McGarry Middlebury College P.S. Hi Family! This is epic! I am alive and living well! I am tired, but so happy and so excited. I continue to love this, the seas, the people, the birds, the food, the sails, the boat, the engine room, the wind. I cannot wait to tell you about it all. You are not allowed to worry about me, I am doing awesome most of the time right now. Definitely some winter exped moments out here, but it is all adding to the story. The sea is strong and so am I! I love you all and miss you so much, I'll be home in less a month!!