Wednesday, September 17, 2014


The ocean is calm enough this morning, and I am short enough on sleep, that I can feel my inner mediocre writer wanting to commit a prose poem:

"Mother earth, father ocean, spirit sky... Boat of our dreams, cast out upon the lonely ocean, bearing us across the bitter waters of today to the distant shores of our longing..."

Or some such rubbish. It might be a lot funnier when it runs through your very sleepy brain while rigging up a new lure at your 8-year-old's request and topping up the oil in the donk, all before the first cup of coffee.

The fact remains, though, that this is a very beautiful morning. Some of the finest days at sea are mostly useless for actual sailing. Expanses of miracle-blue water barely ruffled by the breeze. The long swell like the body of some vast animal breathing in its sleep. And as far as the horizon, nothing but the ocean, and the clouds, and our little boat, miraculously at the middle of it all.

It's so wonderful to be out here, alone alone alone, independent and (touch wood) capable, that you wonder why the marinas of the world aren't ghost towns. This is the thing, right here, the golden chalice of going where you will, as you will, through the magnificent world that is the blue surface of our aqueous globe. You wonder why everyone with a boat doesn't drink of it. But there it is - buying a boat is one thing, setting sail something altogether different. Life has a way of getting in the way.

Each passage really is a journey into the unknown. The calms of last night and today are a contrast to the sloppy headwinds we had while crossing a front on our second night out. We've used these fronts a lot this season as tools to get us conveniently from one place to another - the winds blow in opposite directions on either side of the front, which can be very helpful to a sailboat. Each time we've had nothing more threatening than some overcast skies as we crossed the front, but this time I wondered if we were going to finally pay for our insouciance. You can cop awful weather.

But our good fortune held yet again and the worst we had was us cooking along in the middle of the night, hard on the wind with a reef in the main, making 8-9 knots into the drizzle. Actually kind of awesome.

And then, if we had been relying on the copy of C-map on this laptop that is our primary chart, we would have gone splat in the middle of the night.

The atolls of Nukutepipi, Anuanurunga and Anuanuraro aren't on C-map. Unluckily our friend Tim on Candine learned that lesson for all of us about six years ago when he plowed up on a reef en route from New Zealand to the Australs. (All unharmed and Candine reached Tahiti for repairs.)

So we navigated through the night and the drizzle and the atolls with our 1:3.5 million paper chart. The radar, which we installed for its watchkeeping abilities at night while on passage, and for its help in the higher-latitude realm of our in-a-year-or-two dreams, was very reassuring. Good to know that the pencil mark between the two little dots on the xeroxed chart corresponds to a safe course in the real world.

And that's us. The boys have very enthusiastically been dedicating the morning to crafts, and are now dedicating themselves to the coconut Alisa pulled from the fridge. These days at sea are giving us time to transition - the Tuamotus are very fond memories, and Raivavae is an anticipation. I picture something like the Marquesas, but without the hundreds (thousands?) of yachts passing through. The Marquesas though have their cultural resurgence, which is one of the very attractive things about that loveliest of archipelagos. Raivavae may have gone through an even more apocalyptic post-contact period than the Marquesas, and I've read that the cultural loss was even more severe there. We will see.

And fruit...After the sandy soil of the Tuamotus, we're all looking forward to lots and lots of fruit.

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