April 19, 2008
The passage is over, and I immediately begin to forget what it was.
I remember that for days the GPS in the cockpit was counting down the miles to Nuku Hiva. The favorable current kicked behind us and we could suddenly calculate how many more days the passage might last. During the day the sun was white and its light fell like knives on the sea. All the hatches and portlights were closed against blowing spray, and the cabin was an oven. We huddled in the shelter of our little electric fans.
The moon was growing full. After Elias was asleep we sat in the cockpit with cocktails. The stars were everywhere, the sails and waves illuminated by the moon. The cockpit heeled out over the water and we braced ourselves on the high side.
I remember Alisa saying that she didn’t want the passage to end, I remember that for days she looked surprised every time she told me how much she was enjoying the trip.
I remember that after weeks of tracing our wake across the sea the constant motion was part of us. We pulled tuna out of the water and ate them an hour later. Elias watched me fillet and learned to say “meat”. The boat travelled and travelled while the three of us stood still, sleeping in the same bunks every night and walking the same decks every day.
I remember that we had a strong sense of reaching the other side of something. I know that feeling was related to all the years we worked to save for the trip, the years we worked on the boat, and the months we travelled down a coast that we didn’t care to visit, trying to shoehorn our familiar lives into the new constriction of life in a space 37 feet long and eleven feet wide. The feeling had something to do with the dreaming and preparing, and then the doing, we finding ourselves competent in a new way of doing things and liking it, and suddenly feeling unbounded in possibility of where we might go.
The feeling of the passage had something to do with all that, but that wasn’t quite it. It might have just been something about how each day was built around the same schedule of meals and diaper changes and on-deck chores and ham radio nets, and therefore each so similar from one to another, but also how different each was in the details of fish caught and winds encountered and moods that suddenly swept through the little ship for no reason.
I think that we’ll have to go to sea again to remember exactly what it was, but we did get to the other side of something in ourselves.
Twenty-one days out of Cabo San Lucas, we sighted the island of Ua Huka. Our destination of Taiopae Bay in Nuka Hiva was about ten miles distant at night fall, and rather than enter the bay in the dark we hove to for the night.
That night gave us the only bad weather of the whole trip. Squalls had been moving over us for the last few hours of the day, the islands appearing between squalls and then disappearing again in the clouds. In the early hours the squalls intensified. Rain poured out of the skies, as if for the construction of a new ocean. Lightning surrounded us, thirty bolts in an hour.
In the morning the sky was yellow with anger. We bobbed along, still hove to, then sailed the last ten miles downwind. Tradewind swells smashed themselves to a heaving nothing on the lava islands on either side of Taiopae Bay. And then we were through.