Monday, 30 April 2012

Innocent Afloat iv

4. Dead Reckoning

This is (iv) in a series on the voyage that could only have been my first. Part i is here


Day four, with two sails blown out, and a pathetic, dehydrated, hungry crew, the sea calmed. In the stablised cabin I could focus on the Sat Nav manual. I opened it. Some years previously I'd scraped my maths 'A' Level, and was clinging to this fact in an attempt to boost confidence.

What I hadn't reckoned on was my inability to string thoughts together. I hadn't seen anything familiar since we’d lost sight of the north coast of New Zealand. My body hadn't stopped its counteractive roiling for days. I'd slept for a few hours on and off. All reference points were contained within the forty foot space that was the boat. All conversation was limited to the same. Thinking had become a process of reaction not analysis.

As I read the manual, words lost what they’d once been attached. They had sounds, made shapes but held no significance. They hung on the white page without context. I was reading a musical score and trying to relate it to a small red machine with its digital display. Trying to match up these flashing numbers to the contour lines on the ten or so A4 copied papers that made up the South Pacific chart didn’t help. I felt like the architect on the Tower of Babel.

Day five, I run over and over the manual's introduction enough times to establish the Sat Nav would only locate us if I typed in co-ordinates five nautical miles within our actual position. According to the A4 chart I’d selected as most relevant to our position, we were approaching the International Date Line. I spent more rolling hours trying to calculate what this did to local time before I realised local time was relevant to the sextant, not the Sat Nav. I only needed actual hours travelled and a direction to dead reckon a position within stabbing distance of where we were. As Chikako served up more soup, the Sat Nav announced our location.

I couldn't eat with relief.

The relief didn't last more than 24 hours. Sometime between day six and day seven the wind died. As had the engine battery without us realising. Another thing I'd not thought to ask about when I first boarded was the battery situation. Meilani had only the one battery. All our cabin and nav electrics had drained it. Bye bye Sat Nav. This time I set up a log book to record our course and turned to the more challenging instruction booklet for the sextant.

Meanwhile Les and Chikako hove the boat to. There was nothing for it but to drift on the current, until the wind picked up.

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