Fatty Goodlander wrote a piece about his mother who had raised him on a boat traveling around the world. She was 90 and hospitalized for a broken hip. His love for her is palpable. Timmy, as she called him, paralleled her life with a trip he had recently made from Galapagos to the Tuamotus. It was a great crossing and he didn't want to stop when his boat "Wild Card" arrived at Makemo, but he did because it was time. Every journey ends, but as he says, "it's the sweetness in between that makes the birds sing and the flowers bloom". As I sit here beneath a brilliant blue sky and watch the Pacific stream by en route to Niue, my appreciation for this life and what it has brought, never very far away, is re-energized. Particularly, the last 19 months of personal passage has been incredibly sweet.
Later, as dinner of red beans and rice, pork loin and salad is half finished, wind shifts so much that main has to be swapped to starboard for wing and wing to maintain course within 30 degrees of destination. During this process wind nearly dies, rain begins and a fish starts reeling out line like he wants to make Beveridge Reef by dark. Tighten drag to slow his progress and, to give the boat some way, crank engine which promptly stops. Recrank, restops. Notice cushions, AKA bedding for the evening, are getting soaked, so move them and begin closing side curtains when fish makes another run pulling rod holder horizontal. Run to grab pole as it begins to slip out, then with free hand hammer holder back into position just as line goes slack. Meanwhile, wind has veered so much that track is 90 degrees to intended course demanding that drifter be snuffed and redeployed to starboard side... or could just wait to see if wind returns to its previous direction sometime soon. Opt for that second thing, but wind keeps moving right, taking boat toward California, and so, not wanting to work foredeck in rapidly falling darkness, perform maneuver in cloud darkened twilight. As heavy rain falls, wind indeed works its way back around toward original direction and I wonder how the glow of first paragraph could go so wrong.
PS Fatty's article was in the November '09 Cruising World, page 36. Beautiful.
Shipmates restless as promised wind has proven perversely illusive. At least foul current has wandered elsewhere, possibly permitting Beveridge Reef arrival at sunset in flat light. Otherwise will have a look at dodging calcified critters on entry with 3/4 moon, GPS waypoints and supreme navigational virtuosity. What could possibly go wrong? Crew admiration muted.
SSE three knot zephyr has boomed up to ESE howler at seven and a half. Meticulous calculation shows speed over ground has leaped by .013 knots knocking 90 seconds off ETTD (estimated time to disas... destination). Crew unimpressed.
- Early Afternoon
Consummate leadership skill has thus far forestalled acrimonious confrontation with mutinous crew as arrival at shark infested reef nears. Opining that a quick, gory end is preferable to succumbing to dehydration after days of bobbing around in a life jacket has, however, been poorly received and largely unhelpful.
- Late Afternoon
South wind filled in to 11 knots reaffirming original decision to purchase sails. Increased boat speed is partially negated by return of adverse current. Unmollified hands remain in surly mood and bear watching.
Entry through pass and advancement across lagoon to opposite reef as accomplished in ever deepening nightfall just in advance of a squall was uneventful. Crew, awed by masterful helmsmanship, have become embarrassingly obsequious.
Ships complement buoyant in rum infused afterglow of successful anchor set inside what would have been an atoll had there been any land nearby. Excitement runs high in anticipation of next leg, tomorrow, not early, maybe the day after, whatever, to Niue.
Hate to wax rhapsodic (pretty sure that means something), but last night was the most beautiful sailing in a year, just enough sea to make the boat rock gently, little heel with double reefed main and drifter off the wind making 5.5 to 6.5 knots in 10 to 13 apparent. Plus the boat was almost going in the right direction.
Alas, that circumstance is, as of mid-afternoon and after actually going in the right direction for most of the day, at an end. Wind backed to the northwest, not a bad thing, then kept going until it was right on the bow. Sea remains at an easy meter. Dreaded sounds of a diesel powered mechanism permeate the universe. Have convinced gullible crew that anti-clockwise movement of strengthening breeze will soon allow peace and tranquility to again reign.
Enervating gentle motion of sailboat through calm sea created a vegetative state today that preempted any thoughts toward writing this mouse doodle. Would have stared at navel, but too debilitated to remove T-shirt. Snarkiness, earnestly promised yesterday, will await another day.
Left V-berth hatch open yesterday morning when disembarking to slay fish. It did not rain all day, but (and this is my favorite part) at bedtime, discovered that wet bedding could have been avoided by closing the hole after return to boat for the evening when a shower came through. Usually one can count on crew to catch these little snafus, but mine is typically lazy and inattentive. Slept on settee while fan blew overnight on damp mattress.
Edward came late with chain, rope and floats to reset his mooring, so finally got working around 0930. Wound chain under three big chunks of coral assuring that a fair bit of bottom would lift up this time before a boat could run for freedom. All these things are set within meters of a sharp ledge that drops straight off to forever. Almost spooky, but this depth has allowed humpback whales to come very close. Way cool. Finished checking seven others sucking fumes allowing borrowed tank to go unused. Finally cast off at 1300 after two of the family leaders came by returning borrowed DVDs to say goodbye. Unique and interesting place.
With delay, it will be iffy to arrive Beveridge Reef with sun. Won't try entering in darkness and reluctant to heave to overnight, so may continue on to Niue. Meanwhile sailing is ideal with gentle sea, balmy breeze and good angle on a north wind that is unlikely to last. Hard to complain.
PS If this leaves your, as it does my, snarkiness expectations unmet, will endeavor to atone tomorrow.
Contrary to expectations fishing took all day, two hours to catch and most of the afternoon to filet and wrap, so re-mooring ops will occur bright and early tomorrow before departure, tentatively, toward Beveridge Reef.
Although the behavior has never been observed in deeper water, parrot fish school on the reef flats as tide begins to ebb or flow. After a sighting, net streams from small boat as it is pulled in a semi-circle, then two or three people (Bert and I) run like deer (old, lame deer) and flail about pulverizing the water with sticks to chase quick, but dimwitted fish into it. Hapless captees (incorrect, but more evocative than 'captives') are strung on lines dragged through the water until next roundup. As exsanguination is prominent, aforementioned activity may be referred to as chumming for sharks. This is a useful occupation for children and why so many are necessary. Not for want of trying by amateur participants, there were no bites, broken ankles or infelicitous encounters with jagged coral or spiky sea creatures.
After slow, ham-fisted and wasteful attempts at filleting were cringingly tolerated for a short time, the erstwhile herders of fish were ignominiously relegated to observation. We rinsed our salt drenched exteriors and went walkabout until time for belated lunch.
A supply ship, first in six months, is scheduled (that word is rather nebulously interpreted) for next week, so pursuit is in full swing to top off over 8000 kilos of freezer space. This volume, sold at around $15 NZ per kilo every three months (usually), probably explains all the boats, motors, satellite dishes, DVDs, ATVs, etc. that abound. Plus they live in paradise.
Errata: "Boree" inhabitants are Bert and Ingi. Palmerston population is currently 67 including 27 moppets. As Ingi recently observed, the condition of being male and a fisherman, makes me a cheat and a liar, but as I love each and every one of you like a brother or a sister, you may trust everything here written as gospel.
Marsters Grave and Host Edward
After a few check-in formalities were attended on Anthem, Edward took the German couple from Boree, Burt & Ingee, and me to shore at high speed through a channel in the reef not much wider than the lower drive of his outboard. How this is done at night is a wondrous mystery.
Must say that yesterday's drivel was a tad harsh and I apologize. We met many of the inhabitants from all three families and they are warm, charming people. All the cruisers (six boats) had lunch with their respective host (and nibbles from the others), toured the well-maintained island including a school that operates for the 29 children (about half the population) on a home schooling model, and visited until after 1700. Very enjoyable day in a unique place.
Also, the moorings are set and maintained by cruisers as no one on the island dives. Speaking of which, in the morning after helping Simon, Edward's brother, fish (the primary source of income here), will attempt to reset one. All resultant lawsuit plaintiffs may contact my attorney, Hughie Louie Dewey, at Dewey, Cheetham and Howe. (stolen from Garrison Keelor)
One may have noticed reference to seas of four meters (that's 13 feet for the metricly challenged). In the shallow waters of Florida Bay this would allow the incautious sailor to see the face of God, but in the deeper Pacific, it brings forth the visage of, at best, a Clarence level pre-angel. The fun really commences with swells from one direction and 25 to 30 knot wind driven waves from another allowing one to glimpse cherubim and the odd seraphim in what appears, in the sleep deprived state that inevitably occurs after a few days, to be Cheops sized pyramids of water. All great fun and easily avoided by sitting under a tree.