05. Equator's Line

The same name doesn't always mean the same thing. Even in the same country, climate and culture can vary dramatically from place to place. Similarly, the vast waters of our planet, whether called seas or oceans, each have their own unique character.

After crossing the equator, Aomi and I found ourselves sailing in waters that were completely new to us.

pacific climate
-- This is a real story. --
fine weather sailing

On the day Aomi crosses the equator, I see a red line on the sea.

Like the equator on a map, the red line stretches from east to west, as far as the eye can see. It's amazing to see such an imaginary concept appear so clearly in reality. But when I look closely, I notice that the thickness of the line varies from place to place, breaking at some points. Surprisingly, it's a dotted equatorial line!

While crossing the line and breathing in the strangely fishy air, I reach out an arm from the deck and scoop up water with a ladle. I see the tiny red balls, a school of fish eggs floating on the boundary of the ocean currents.

 

A month has already passed since I left San Francisco. Aomi continues southward across the South Pacific. The trade winds of the Southern Hemisphere are now blowing head-on at a force of five to six, making Aomi rock uncomfortably.

The Southern Cross, shining in the night sky, rises higher and higher each day. I like these bright stars because they don't line up in a perfect cross but tilt. Thousands of miles away from the city lights, more stars shine in the night sky, filling the gaps between them. The galaxy overhead is a vivid band of light.

Initially, when I started my voyage, I mistook the Milky Way for a band of clouds. However, I eventually realized that it was a galaxy because I saw it in the same place every night. I could clearly see with my eyes how the beautiful river in the night sky split into large branches.

It's no wonder that people in the past named it the 'Milky Way.' This is the starry sky everyone looked up to until the invention of electric lights about 100 years ago, which made the night brighter.

I grab my binoculars and point them at the galaxy. How many countless stars shine in the sky? How far away is each star?

As far back as five hundred years ago, during the Age of Exploration, people bravely sailed on sailing ships into the unknown sea, where demons might await them in a vast ocean that seemed infinite to them.

There must come a time when people will sail to this endless sea of stars in ships called "spaceships." People will be excited by the mysteries of the universe that will be discovered one after another, and they will send their hearts to even more distant stars.

An era of such space exploration may still be several hundred years ahead. There is no way I can live until then. Moreover, there is no guarantee that humanity, with its exploding population, will survive.

 

Aomi's destination is Chile, a South American country. It is a long, non-stop three-month journey from San Francisco in a small sailboat, merely 7.5 meters in length.

In the cramped cabin, I somehow managed to fit fourteen 10-liter plastic water bottles. Still, that is only 1.5 liters per day. I use this water to cook rice, make miso soup, drink tea after meals, and brush my teeth before bed.

However, I use seawater to rinse the rice before cooking. I cook three cups of rice once a day in a pressure cooker, which can save both fuel and water. Sitting on the deck, a gentle breeze around me, who could resist the taste of hot, freshly cooked rice mixed with the sea air? It is so delightful that you can empty a large rice bowl with just one Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum).

The vegetables on Aomi last a surprisingly long time. The potatoes, onions, and even the carrots and cabbages seem somehow less damaged than on land. This might be due to the good ventilation or the boat's rocking. Even without a refrigerator, I can eat raw eggs for three weeks after departure, perhaps because I have coated the shells with petroleum jelly (Vaseline).

When fresh vegetables run out, I put mung beans in plastic containers and start making bean sprouts. Every morning and evening, I sprinkle a little water on the sprouts. After four days of growth, I stir-fry the white sprouts for miso-ramen noodles or simply bite them to enjoy their fresh taste.

I also try a vegetable salad bought in the United States, one of the canned foods prepared for the nuclear war people feared. Simply open the can, add water, and you'll have a raw vegetable salad with cabbage, carrots, and celery ready to eat in a few hours.

In San Francisco, I also stocked Aomi with useful foods such as powdered butter, powdered eggs, dried meat for cooking, packaged tofu that would last for a year, and instant rice. From my experience crossing the North Pacific, I already know that the most enjoyable thing at sea is eating. I have also learned that my tastes change from those on land.

food strage on a yacht

 

After 80 days alone at sea, Aomi's destination, the South American continent, is now just a few hundred kilometers away. There, I encounter the Peru Current, a large cold current that runs northward along the continent. The blue surface of the water around Aomi suddenly turns green, and the sky is covered with thick, gloomy clouds.

A few mornings later, a strange landscape surrounds me. Milky-white and rust-colored disks more than 50 centimeters in diameter dot the green sea as far as the eye can see, all the way to the horizon. The number is astonishing. Tens of millions of jellyfish must be abnormally formed. Will any species, including humans, with an exploding population eventually reach its limit and have to perish?

Aomi floats in a soundless jellyfish sea when a calm starts. I am surrounded by an eeriness, an unknown fear, and, for some reason, a deep sense of loneliness. It is the first time I feel lonely at sea.

After about two days, Aomi gets out of the jellyfish swarm and continues toward the impending South American continent. Since entering the Peru Current, the sky has been covered with thick clouds, and I have had gloomy days even during the day; it is as dark as in the evening. Without measuring the sun's altitude with a sextant, finding my location is impossible. I wonder where Aomi is heading for.

According to my calculations, Aomi should have reached land by now. I look for the lighthouse all night, hoping to see its light tonight or at least in an hour. I keep searching the black horizon, but there is nothing.

Strange. The currents might have pushed Aomi back. How many more days until landfall? I only have three cups of drinking water left.

Anxious night after night passes, with the midnight moon completely hidden behind the clouds yet casting an eerie, pale white glow across the sky.

When morning comes, the water around me has turned into a big zoo full of birds. Several species fly back and forth, left and right, in all shapes and sizes. Pelicans also fly in powerful formations.

Some birds suddenly freeze in the air, as if hit by a gunshot, and drop vertically into the sea. It takes me half a day to realize that this abrupt action is their way of catching fish.

The countless birds in the sky clearly indicate that the land is near. At night, I see white dots of light on the horizon. I grab my binoculars and watch carefully. They are not the navigation lights of ships. The regular rows of lights are unmistakably those of a road.

This is the first glimpse of land I have had in three months. Before me lies South America, a world of complete unknowns to me. I can neither speak the language nor imagine what awaits me there.

After navigating through the Patagonian Archipelago in South America, the long-awaited, legendary Cape Horn is finally within reach.



pacific map track of Aomi

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