CRUISING THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Written by Rick on Emerald
Her voice crackled across the pre-dawn airways, wobbling with
a trace of controlled fear. “This is
the sailing vessel Scarlett O’Hara. We are about three
hundred miles offshore and have lost our rudder. I repeat, we have lost
With that for an opening, one of the first of the 2004 Puddle
Jump boats to depart from Puerto Vallarta had tersely called in a big
chunk of bad news. Luckily, in just a few more days, they were safely
bridled to a tow line behind a Mexican Navy ship, minus their spade
rudder, which had fallen out of its bearings and disappeared. A wave of
reality rippled through all the Puddle
Jump participants like a dose of adrenaline. But we all knew we would all
have to face such potential demons if we were going to make the trip. Our
resolve soon strengthened.
Around 3000 miles of ocean span between the Mexican Gold Coast and the remote Marquesas. This first landfall waits in timeless isolation to reward sailors who bond together annually on the coast of Mexico in a quest to share their talents and to exchange information before making this long passage. Beyond the Iles Marquises lies a wonderland of coral-studded tropical islands stretching a third of the way around the planet, offering a lifetime of tropical cruising. Heeding this call in 2004, sailors began to assemble mainly in Puerto Vallarta, while others prepared to leave from Cabo San Lucas, Zihuatanejo, and points in between.
In January a band of cruisers lined up in PV’s Paradise Village Marina, guided by marina manager Dick Markie. Since our numbers were greater here than anywhere else, this was considered to be the nucleus of the Pacific Puddle Jump in 2004. We shared safety concepts, chart catalogs, routing information, weather tips, rigging designs, provisioning ideas and set up radio networks. For two months we held weekly meetings, improving our knowledge base as our work load paced up to sleepless levels. Downtown, we daily recognized new friends who seemed to live at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Zaragosa’s Marine, and a dozen ferreterias. We rode buses, hired taxis, and rented cars to onload the crates of food, beverages, boat spares and lubricants needed to last at least three months. Latitude 38 graciously sent down a team to throw us a send-off party and to interview and photograph crews in PV, which was a welcome breather from the daily combat of running down lists, wondering if our overloaded boats would even sail, and finding new things to repair.
Finally the last of the cyclones in the South Seas had passed and the weather window of early spring arrived, signalling our time to leave. Scores of other vessels staffed by seasoned Euro-crews were certain to be on another track coming from Central America, and a few others would come in from California. In the end, about ten percent of registered Puddle Jumpers decided against going due to a change of heart or equipment setbacks, which was about average compared to past years.
In writing this article, it was my intention to gather
information about the individual passages made by each boat. We collected
data from scores of sailboats and interviewed a few coming via the
Galapagos and San Diego for comparison. This year, most boats were crewed
by cruising couples and nearly all I talked to said they would do it that
way again if given the chance. I heard few complaints about unexpected
fatigue or rough weather taking a toll on short-handed crews, not because
it didn’t happen, but because this year’s participants appeared to be
well prepared to face these concerns.
THE FIRST TO GO
The first to set sail from Puerto Vallarta was Mary C, a Catalina 36 single-handed by Fred Adam, a retired aviator turned sailor and poet. Just a few hours behind was poorly-fated Scarlett O’Hara. They confidently stood out into the wind in gusty Banderas Bay, carrying our hearts with them as they edged into the unknown, tackling one of the longest ocean passages in the world. Next stop-Iles Marquises
I had long
dreamed of seeing Fatu Hiva’s profile rising up out of the sea like a
black dragon just as Heyerdahl did even before his Kon Tiki days. Later, I saw that the dream of
cruising to the South Seas had a passionate grip on many Americans, and
had been a mania in Europe for centuries. The fire I recognized glowing in
the eyes of adventurers returning from the South Pacific was the same zeal
of the backyard boat builders of my youth who yearned to float down a
muddy Midwestern river to the sea someday. I was on the edge of realizing
the same lifelong vision.
REASON VERSUS IMPULSE AND INSTINCT: TAKE HOME A TAT
Where did this dream originate in the first place? I think we owe a piece of it to the French circumnavigator Bougainville, who made wide South Pacific explorations in the 18th century. Not long after, the French writer Diderot took Bougainville’s methodical logs and juiced them up. Writing an emotionally-charged epic, the Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage, he helped to change the way the world was viewed; as a result society began to drift away from its fixation on Reason and began to place equal value on impulse and instinct. A growing romantic era energized a new utopian myth: the island societies to the West were wiser and more genteel, sexuality was unrestricted. Life was simple and free.
Thus started our modern fascination with the primitive life, a perennial attraction that even today ripples through the generations. Evidence is all around us: our current body-piercing craze, fascination for the Survivor TV series, and a feral Tom Hanks living a hermit’s life in blue lagoon country. I was further convinced of this phenomenon when at least eight members of our Puddle Jump group, some retired professionals, lined up in Marquesan tattoo huts to have intricate designs forever etched into their leathery hides after mingling with the first ornate islanders they met. The message was clear: If you can’t join ‘em, at least take home a tat.
Tossing off the complexities of modern culture and committing
our fates to the east wind in early 2004, we Puddle Jumpers had all made
the decision to chase our own personal myth, only to discover a grander
vision in its place.
FACING THE PLANETARY PULSE
Once we shoved off, weather became an obsession. Info shared
on radio nets, Summer Passage Radio, and weather fax and grib downloads
were worked into an outlook for the days ahead aboard each vessel. A group
of boats leaving twenty hours ahead of our boat, Emerald, enjoyed
steady winds for 1500 miles. Yet we glided along in light airs for the
first week using a cruising chute or a reacher-drifter trying to chase a
receding pool of wind. Sail changes became exhausting as we struggled to
maintain six knots. Close behind us, a region of dead air kept a dozen
crews at anchor for ten more days as they ate through their provisions in
frustration. Our conclusion
was that if there is a window of fresh wind beckoning and you’re 95%
ready, shove off and do the last projects underway if safety is not at
stake, for a pulse of strong wind that can take you well off the mainland
is a great blessing.
This year there were few reports of rough weather, with some
major exceptions. Most of us experienced an uncomfortable rolling broad
reach through indigo seas through a gauntlet of intermittent choppy
squalls for about ten days, then a variable experience in the ITCZ
depending on the presence of convection cells. Finally a steady push in
the southern trade winds carried the majority of us all the way to the
beckoning green islands, according to our interviews.
Camira :“We finished the first part of the passage- the wash cycle, and we got through the ITCZ, or the rinse cycle. Now we’re in the fluff and dry cycle in the southern hemisphere. The last few days have been a dream, close to broad reaching, the seas have been very calm and the skies clear”.
Alii Kai Too: “We were surprised how cool the passage was; didn’t stow fleece until 5 degrees North. Who would think that just clouds, water and sky could have such variety and beauty?”
Island Sonata, “It was a sweet run. Make sure you have a good light air sail, even if folks say it’s strong wind in the trades. We used a 3.5 oz drifter most of the way.”
Danseuse de la Mer was less sanguine: “The crossing was not as fun as we’d expected due to rough seas a majority of the time and lack of sleep.”
Gumbo Ya Ya: “What we didn’t expect was the constant rolling motion due to the swell direction in spite of the light winds we expected. That got really old really quickly.”
Spiritus Invictus: “Aside from doldrums near Socorro and past the equator, the weather was quite nice, making decent sailing. It was great fun to dodge squalls and use their wind to propel the boat more quickly.”
Splashes: “At first
we had 35 knots and big seas off the beam. Splashes was awash for
several days. Later, it was a
piece of cake, and the trade winds were great on either side of the
equator. The trip far exceeded our expectations.”
Aboard Emerald, our dream of riding the wind through a
chain of mystical nights while the Southern Cross hung from the port spreader like an
amulet finally became a reality as a magical landfall with Fatu Hiva
satisfied our quest. But chilling radio messages began to bounce across
the Pacific from far away while we rested at anchor.
EXECUTION DAY WAS NOT SET YET
Far to the east, a portion of the fleet sailed into the jaws
of stormy weather around April 18th. A gathering of furies
about 300 miles north of the equator coalesced to form a very messy sea
described by Don Andersen of Summer Passage as a series of mini
cyclonic low pressure cells near the ITCZ not unusual for that time of
Michael of Djadarra said, “We were hit by a severe
gale on our twentieth day out and were running off after broaching with a
32 sq ft staysail only. We had waves filling the cockpit 3 times and then
at 4AM we took a direct hit on our stern that completely submerged our aft
end. Swimming underwater for four seconds, I emerged to find our bilge
totally filled down below. All three of us were injured and exhausted so
we deployed a sea anchor and we sat on it for 27 hours. The winds were
sustained 55 knots, with gusts to 62 and the seas were 25 feet at five
seconds. Our companion Sowelu
had not been heard from for days so we relayed through Summer Passage
to notify the Coast Guard.”
Sowelu had not foundered, but owner Boja Kosmak was very busy
managing a host of problems. With their SSB radio down and a mainsail
furler jammed on the second reef point, they were overcanvassed in the
violent wind. He said, “We could do nothing with our main and so we went
for a wild ride. Do not forget, we did not have a working engine, either.
The winds continued to build, peaking at 59 knots. Seas were immense, over
30 feet most of the time and now and then there arrived those monsters
from nowhere going in a different direction. Some were up to 50 ft high.”
His wife Mai, who had escaped from Viet Nam aboard a tiny
boat many years ago, said, “It was scary. I was praying like crazy. I
felt that Sowelu could handle that, but I was scared that some of
the cables holding up the mast could break. I also hoped that nobody from
our fleet was in it.”
Boja with dark irony: “How we felt might be similar to a person on death row, being sentenced, but the execution day was not set yet. Your lawyer is appealing with the governor, but you do not know what will be the outcome. Yet we were calm and tried to go through it just like it was just another sail.”
Mai: “At the time we were not sure if a life raft is a wise
investment, since we cannot imagine how we would board it in such
conditions. Yet, the next day it was sunny and we relaxed and Boja dove
under the hull to check the propeller. Would we make this crossing again?
Not far away, Gypsy Wind thundered through building seas under a murky sky on April 19th and Ellen was busy dressing an infection in Len’s finger. It had started with a simple barnacle scrape in Mexico over two weeks back. A severe staph infection had blown up nearly as large as the gale itself, despite high doses of oral antibiotics. Now they were facing a galloping storm and Len’s right hand was useless as the infection tunnelled painfully into the bone. Later, surgery and IV antibiotics in the Marquesas would save his hand, but just barely.
Ellen: “On April 19th we had been sailing through one squall after another. That night we saw a very black cloud behind us so we shortened sail further. Len’s hand required a conservative sail plan anyway, since he’s right-handed. When the wind hit us it blew the cups off the anemometer somewhere above 47 knots. Then it picked up even more. Sometime during the night the staysail halyard parted, ripping the sail apart down its leech. Later the line came out of the main traveler. Then the top third of the mainsail blew out. The tallest seas we saw were 40 ft high, and in hindsight we should have hove-to to save wear and tear. We are now quite conservative about what looks to be a squall coming up behind us. We also suggest that you beware of any cuts you get from sea life. Take them very seriously. With what we now know we might have returned to Mexico for treatment. ”
These experiences emphasize that this long passage through time and space throws a variety of ocean states at those who cross it, but fortunately most of us saw only moderate seas and occasional squally gusts. The chance of encountering heavy weather remains very slim, and is manageable with preparedness.
IF MARS STILL HAD OCEANS
Our boats should be designed by the Martian Rover Engineering Group gone aquatic. Three weeks’ of twisting, shearing, tugging and chafing on everything from your masthead crane to your tailbone will assure an inexorable appointment with breakdown. Rubber will melt and crack. UV will munch your sails and running rigging. Add to this metal fatigue from age, electrolytic corrosion, immersion and temperature cycling in the hot sun and in your engine compartment. It’s important to be armed with the materials and skills necessary to fix or swap just about anything on the boat.
The most common failure was with autopilot and wind vane systems. Nearly a fifth of the Puddle Jumpers experienced this, and most owners dug into their spares and rebuilt their systems while underway. We discovered two reports of bad luck, however.
Spiritus Invictus, “ I had two dead tiller pilots and one wind vane repaired four times underway before it finally became irreparable. So, the last two weeks of the passage were tough ones. I felt everything from fear and depression to elation as I went through endless repairs. If you go, you are likely to experience a wide and intense range of emotions, so expect it. Don’t be afraid of it.” Nancy, a seasoned sailor on Gumbo Ya Ya didn’t let the death of their autopilot ruin her attitude, even though they apparently hand-steered for the second half of the trip.
Standing rigging also failed. Interlude : “630 miles out, the rain was cold and horizontal and then at 11PM a big boom announced the parting of our upper port shroud from the chain plate and so began a four hour struggle to save our mast from coming down around our heads.” It was a depressing decision to make, but they ended their cruise and turned back to the mainland.
Tackless II reported a lost upper intermediate shroud more than half way
across. Performing an emergency repair at sea was not easy, and even
though Gwen and Don are both seasoned professional captains, she still
suggested, “Before departing, we had done nearly everything to be sure
our rig was in top shape, yet we missed damaged areas on both sides of the
rig UNDER the spreader boots. Advice: Pay for a thorough rigging survey by
a knowledgeable second eye and look under those boots annually.”
Ascension, on its first turn to weather after three weeks of running under deep wind angles, blew out a new forestay after approaching the Marquesas: “I had my forestay re-rigged in a prominent PV shop as a precaution, even though it didn’t really need it. The riggers in Puerto Vallarta did this so hastily, I should have known. I suspect they used the wrong-sized cone for the wire. The sad news is they aren’t taking any responsibility for it, so we had to pay for it twice and lost four weeks on our visa waiting in Taiohae Bay for parts to arrive. But our having a Spectra halyard on our foresail probably saved our stick.”
Many boats suffered torn sails, broken furling systems, sawed halyards, parted running rigging, and snapped stanchions. Some watched their headsail suddenly crash into the water, often followed by at least one wild trip to the masthead in a bosun’s chair on the open sea. Sowelu made six such visits.
Three diesel engines drank seawater during the tumult of the
crossing. In each case, an antisiphon valve was the culprit, although this
is just one of several ways that an expensive motor can convert to a block
of rust while we doze away the days in the blue latitudes. After tedious
drainage of cylinders, injectors and turbochargers, a close series of oil
changes is part of the fix, so double extra engine oil and filters should
be aboard just for this possibility. Engines should be warmed up daily for
Besides these setbacks and the impairment of a few watermakers and refrigeration systems, electrics suffered a predictably high mortality rate, including trolling generators, engine alternators, gensets, nav electronics, computers, modems, and an anchor windlass that was bathed to death during the passage.
Equanimity : “This is the ultimate shakedown. Not in terms of brute strength like you’d test in a storm, but in terms of longevity and endurance. It’s amazing how things can wear out from the constant vibration and chafing. You must be vigilant, constantly checking and fixing early everything you can while en route.”
BOAT BITES AND CURSES
Most of us, prepared by taking courses to face medical emergencies at some point in our cruising careers, were not asked to use our untested skills as the spinning dial of bad luck passed us by. And because we made our passages in moderate seas this year, there were few injuries reported, although aboard Gypsy Wind, a mere barnacle scrape had nearly reached critical mass.
The owners of Esprit aborted their trip four hundred miles out and headed back to shore because they were both laid up for days with a flu virus, while their eight year old son was left unscathed. A few days later, in the heaving seas of a nameless night, a crunch vibrated through Whisper’s hull; Duncan shot up to the cockpit out of a deep sleep, catching his foot under a step, and saw Robin being showered under a smelly fountain blasting out of an angry blowhole alongside as their hull rode up on the back of a whale. Their solid boat lost only its speed transducer in the impact, though he would be limping for weeks with a sprained toe.
It is a rare sailor who has not tangled with the abyss of the companionway at some unlucky place in big heaving seas. The hull of Tackless II slid down a large wave, tossing Gwen down into their galley, bruising her ribcage painfully. And on Djadarra everyone aboard sustained nasty injuries in the storm they faced, including severely sprained fingers and facial bruises from slamming into the binnacle as their stout boat nearly pitchpoled.
Bob aboard Twixt suffered a notable malady, and he stated in rosy hindsight, “I sunburned my bum and had to make a dress so that I could be on deck. Very painful.”
LOOKING BACK; LOOKING AHEAD
Many cruisers offered advice, some specific and some general, for those readers who are thinking about doing the Puddle Jump. Following are just a few tidbits.
C’est la Vie: “ It is very hot out there; have some form of cover for the cockpit that works while under sail and be sure it’s adjustable as the sun transits the sky.”
Dikenja: “ Relax. Enjoy. What’s the hurry? The only difference between 25 and 30 days at sea is your attitude. I heard not a single cell phone ring while enroute.”
Djadarra, after facing an ultimate storm: “ Have a sea anchor fully ready to deploy. We used ours, and once it was in the motion was comfortable enough to clean, cook, sleep, and recoup.”
Splashes: “What a blessing Summer Passage’s weather guidance and steady confidence was out there. We listened and talked with him several times a day.”
Freewind: “ Don’t spend thousands of dollars traveling back to the US to get visas. We sailed without them and landed in Hiva Oa and simply checked in with the Gendarmerie. We paid our bond, bought a visa stamp and that was it. Approved for 90 days.”
Island Sonata: “ Get your rain catching system built prior to leaving.”
Matarua; “ Have light downwind sails. We were equipped for heavier weather than we encountered.”
Second-timer Stardust: “Another thing we did differently this trip that made it MUCH more enjoyable was setting a watch schedule that allowed each of us a six hour stretch of sleep. Lastly, don’t get stuck! We had lots of friends who had the dream who nevertheless never made it out of Mexico. It seemed to us that everywhere we went just kept getting better and better.”
Emerald: “Most of the boats this year were crewed by couples. We wouldn’t have changed that a bit in our case, but make your life easier if you have a freezer and a microwave oven by pre-cooking all your main meals before you leave, instead of having to cook at sea. It made our passage a delight.”
Spiritus Invictus:, “ If you have any doubts about your gear, replace or rebuild things before you go on a passage of this magnitude. Have spares for your spares kits and expect things to fail. Keep things handy so you don’t have to tear the boat apart to get them. Try to stop and take the time to rest before tackling a major repair. Absolutely know how to heave to.”
Equanimity: “ A crew with a positive attitude is everything. Don’t sweat small stuff and just keep the big picture in mind. Pay attention to rest, nourishment and running the boat.”
Even though this passage traversed the open deserts of the Pacific Ocean, encounters with shipping and fishing vessels were common. Dropping one’s guard for even a short time could be disastrous, since radar and visual targets popped up deviously. We aboard Emerald watched a sleek ship maneuver to a position dead ahead of us around midnight. Then it heaved-to, appearing to wait for our convergence and then darkened its deck lights. When we changed course, now using our engine, they matched our moves time after time. With only a half-mile between us we pleaded again on VHF for recognition, to no avail. We urgently reversed course with our engine racing and they finally prowled off into the darkness under re-brightened deck lights. Was it a Navy ship playing games, or a modern fish factory?
Whisper: “At 5 North, a rusty ship raced toward us to check us out. We were a bit suspicious. Nine guys were on deck. We waved and took photos, and they waved and sped away.”
Other cruisers reported visits from a mysterious black military chopper with no markings except skull and crossbones nose art.
Matarua : “A military helicopter circled our boat at low level three days out. They had scanning devices and were so close we could see their faces. Waves were exchanged and then they flew away after circling for five minutes.”
Ex-Navy pilot Fred Adam explained it: “They’re just practicing intercepts, and were using sophisticated sensors and your tax money to look for what some bored pilots at sea are seeking: naked sailorettes in the cockpit.”
Mag Mell: “ We had been in VHF contact with Maajhi-Re’
for a week without actually
seeing them. Finally we came close enough to take photos and I tossed them
a fresh loaf of French bread, hot out of the oven. This was the first time
we had met.”
FISH STORIES AND SEA LIFE
Bringing fish aboard did not happen much by accident. Those who kept to the task of changing lures and reading bird activity were rewarded with catches of tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo. Some of the strikes were so strong that 300 lb trolling lines snapped with a sharp report. Others reported tough hooks straightened out like wire. And as usual, luck was a big factor.
Waking Dream on the radio: “ Lots of flirtation right now with our lures, but no one is willing to commit yet.”
Sound Decision: “ In 18 knots of wind I heard my drag line zing. Looking aft, I saw a big fin turning hard left. It was a Dorado over 5 ft long. Alone at the time and without a gaff, after 20 minutes of struggling wildly as the boat rolled, I was able to grab it by the gills and throw it aboard. It weighed 75 pounds and filled our freezer.”
Anjuli: “We caught 3 Mahi. The biggest was four feet. And a 20 pound yellowfin. All on a white tuna clone on a hand line.”
Maajhi-Re’: “We ate tuna for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When Sujata allowed me to put the lines back out-bang! Two Yellowfin. After that, we hooked a four foot Dorado. We feasted on more premium sashimi during those three weeks at sea than we did living in San Francisco for five years.”
On most mornings, our decks were littered with the corpses of dead squid and flying fish, as if the dogs of the night had overturned a trashcan of sea food. It was not uncommon to have a soaring flying fish slam into a sail or even into our bodies.
Tenacity, “About sixty squid flew into the air at once and the entire school hit our boat, inking us big-time. Several sailed in through our open port lights and into the cabin. We thought about renaming our boat Dalmatian.”
Spiritus Invictus: “I heard a bizarre wavering singsong through the hull. I searched the entire boat for the source, finding nothing. Then a whale sounded just 20 feet away. I realized that a male whale had been courting my boat with song.”
Mag Mell, “ Our whale encounter was early-on. As we
were leaving Banderas Bay, we felt a crunch against our hull and saw a
large humpback whale roll away out of the collision with no damage to
either of us. We were very lucky.”
Birds were spotted all the way across: albatross, tropic birds,
boobies, terns, and frigates. On Emerald, we were able to teach a
bow-riding booby which way to sit to avoid pooping on our anchor. Two days of light butt-whacking
whenever it perched the wrong way finally made a brain cell impression
that lasted. I was sad to see it depart.
SHELLBACKS AT LAST
If you ever make this passage, by the time you get to the equator you will be gripped with monotony. On the night before arrival in the magic land of zeros, you might feel something like you did as a kid on Christmas Eve. Once there, crews made the transition from ‘polliwog’ to ‘shellback’ by toasting King Neptune with a dollop of grog tossed overboard with incantations and costumery.
Alii Kai Too; “a glass of chilled champagne. A little tossed to Neptune. The rest finished six days later in Hiva Oa.”
Antares: “ Offerings to Neptune, of course. But Anna performed a Puja Ceremony at the bow, and soon a pod of pilot whales dropped by.”
Mary C radioed ahead to Gumbo Ya Ya: “ When you cross, Nancy, be sure to set out a bottle of chilled champagne on the line so I can pick it up. I’m just a few hours behind you.”
Maahji-Re’: “On glassy waters, we offered champagne to Neptune, and milk to Vishnu, for Sujata is Hindu and we thought it best to please all gods. Then we had a quick swim in the warm clear water.”
Matarua: “ Joyce wore her South Pacific gear with a lei around her neck, singing and dancing. We would have swum across, but it wasn’t inviting at 2:17 AM.”
Solstice: “ Our favorite Mexican liqueur, Damiana, was shared with Neptune along with a piece of cheesecake. Then we asked Neptune for a safe passage south.”
Island Sonata; “We wore jeweled and monogrammed crowns, compliments of Burger King, and we had on our royal capes. John sported a trident. Champagne Mimosas were in order. Then we read a prepared poetic toast. In the morning, John literally had shells growing on his back. We have pictures to prove it.”
IT’S A FOOT-LONG HOT DOG
When interviewed, cruisers seem to focus on how-to-do-it topics as Bougainville probably would have done. We’re guarded about discussing the feelings we experienced during three or four weeks in solitude. However, romantics cannot hide. This is where Diderot speaks.
Still in her twenties, Flo on Flocerfida on seeing land at last: “I lingered on the moment and the emotions that erupted from a very secluded corner that I did not realize could exist. How could it be that we endured 31 days at sea and live to tell the tale? I know that from this point on I’ll be walking around in a haze of ecstasy, elation, triumph and glory until it fades. How long it will last, I don’t know.”
Gumbo Ya Ya : It’s some of the most pleasant and easiest sailing we’ve ever done. We were really proud of ourselves that we made it without injury to boat or body, and that we had a good time doing it. And even after being married 32 years, we felt this voyage made us even stronger partners.”
Antares I: “It was all I had hoped for but I was saddened to see the trip end. I would have happily continued with this dream come true.”
Fred, retired pilot on Mary C, “Coool! 3000nms and NO JET LAG.”
C’est la Vie: “Once past the equator, nights were magical, the boat feeling like a magic carpet sailing under a canopy of stars in perfect temperatures. The isolation brought into crystal clear focus the absolute and daunting self-sufficiency required. Our thoughts turned to whom and what is important in our lives and what we wanted to do about that.”
Camira’s log: “ If our lives are a movie, right now it’s somewhere between the Wizard of Oz singing, ‘We’re out of the dark and into the light’ and Wagon Train where there’s still miles and miles of mind-numbing prairie to go. I only got mad once, and had lots of time to design in my head a darkroom, a poodle breeding business called Poodle Paradise, and a walled garden complete with roses.”
Waking Dream, “ Intriguing was the smell of soil as we approached our first landfall. The scent of the earth, flowers and fruit were a delight to the senses accompanied by the amazing visuals of the Marquesas.”
Equanimity, “This puts your mind and spirit in a place that is hard to describe, a confidence, a knowing that you can face your fears and the risks and do it anyway. You get thrown around and beat up sometimes, problems come up and you solve them, the sea gets angry, then calms again; you can get really tired so you adjust your priorities, but you just keep moving along mile after mile, day after day.”
Mary C, again jested, “It’s a foot long hot dog, but you only get to eat half an inch a day. Tasty, but not very filling until the last bite.”
Finally the sweet perfume of shore wafted downwind into the magenta night. It blessed our salty sails and drifted into the cockpit. Before sunrise, we watched a dark massif heave up out of an ocean that had worked its way into our souls over seemingly endless days. Fatu Hiva at last. Nearing land again, we suddenly began to sense time. There was an urgent longing to smell tree bark, a flower, and a handful of earth. To weep with tears long suppressed. To linger in a falling cascade of fresh water- our lost whispering lover. And to see the joy burnishing a broad Marquesan face over our chance meeting.
Stretching our minds up into the fading starfield which sprawled
above our insignificant lives, we tried to catch a bit of meaning that we
could sacredly set down as a centerpiece of life for our allotted days yet to come. I was
sure that I saw the spirits of Diderot and Bougainville dancing in the
fading Milky Way. Corbie and I both knew that we would be forever changed
and suddenly we knew why we had come this way. We had purposefully chosen
to do the irrational so that we might somehow be made more whole.