Passage Hawaii to Vancouver - Day 20 - LANDFALL!
30 July 2013
It's Tuesday morning. We are immersed in thick pea soup fog. The wind has died. The seas are calm; there is no horizon; only misty whiteness all around. We could be flying through a cloud bank. Our AIS system shows 25 active targets: that is to say other ships that are out here with us milling around in the fog. We have dodged a few freighters and one large fishing boat. They declined to change course for us. We are but a mere sailing vessel amidst these steel behemoths.
A few minutes ago we ran over a drifting bed of bullwhip kelp. A strand continues to trail from the rudder behind us. Earlier this morning Beth spotted an enormous log. Hewn from the Coast Mountains, destined for a saw mill, the log had somehow escaped being converted into 2 x 4's and had run away to sea. Perhaps there are more out here. A humpback whale just emerged from the fog; a shadowy leviathan escorting us as we approach land.
We have taken down the protective BUBBLE of TRANQUILITY. The plastic panels were coated with dew, restricting visibility. Beth and I are taking turns now, watching intently for boats, logs, whales and other hazards of seafaring in the Pacific Northwest. With Ucluelet and landfall just a few hours away, we are taking no chances.
Despite the damp and foggy conditions the excitement level aboard Sarah Jean is high. We are stoked! We are ready to arrive! The ritual of preparation has begun. Dock lines have been dug out. Anchor pins have been removed and the windlass tested. Passports have been located. Flags have been run up the mast. As Beth said yesterday, this will be one sweet landfall!
Thank you for joining us on this long passage; for keeping us company. Our journey is not quite over. We will stay in Ucluelet for a day to see friends and then head to Victoria's Inner Harbor where we will meet more friends. On Friday we will officially end our trip from New Zealand when we pull up to our mooring in Campbell Bay on Mayne Island.
In other news, when we left Joanna, she had been swept out to sea in a tiny dugout canoe, her fate unknown. This next installment of our story will take a turn as we meet Jim and Katie who are cruising through the islands of Vanuatu aboard their sailboat, Vision Quest. Do you see where this is going? Written between naps and night watches, my plot is not too complex.
Watch for Chapter 11 - Homecoming - the climatic finale, to be written and posted in a few days as we journey down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, when not watching for logs and whales.. This will be where I clumsily attempt to pull everything together and produce a satisfying conclusion for you.
VISION OF JOANNA - A Continuing Bog Adventure Set in Vanuatu
CHAPTER 10 - Vision Quest
Spray flew into the warm morning air as sailing vessel Vision Quest cut through rolling sapphire sea; her sails pulling her urgently forward, her long varnished bowsprit shining in the sun, pointing the way southward towards Ambrym.
Jim stepped out of the companionway into the cockpit carrying two cups of coffee. "That was quite a storm last night; pretty intense! I never thought we'd be down to a third reef in Vanuatu!"
Katie was curled up on a cushion by the helm. She looked up from her book. "Yeah, I know. The wind hit 30 knots on my watch! Glad that's over." She uncurled her legs and stretched. "This morning's forecast looks really good though; light winds for the next four or five days. It's perfect for visiting Ambrym! The anchorages there are so exposed."
Jim sat down beside her, scanned the horizon for boats, and took a big sip of his coffee. "I can't wait to get there." he said excitedly, looking forward through the rigging as if searching for land. "I've been dreaming about this for years. I hope Abraham Komo is still there in Ranon. I think that's the village where he lives. His work is amazing! That one piece I had in the gallery last year was exquisite!" Katie smiled, nodded and went back to her book. Jim always got so excited about meeting a new South Pacific artist, especially a wood carver. Jim continued, "Ambrym is a pretty remote place, Katie. I bet the locals there could use some of your nifty spectacles. They'll be a flotilla of canoes paddling out the boat to see you!" Katie smiled again. She knew he was right. Like Jim, she couldn't wait to get there.
Jim, a retired high school art teacher, had always loved the rich and vibrant artwork of the South Pacific, each culture with its own unique style. His personal collection had led to the establishment of a small gallery which had blossomed into an emporium of South Pacific art treasures. In just five years Jim had establishes himself as an expert; the person to see in New Zealand. And Vanuatu, its culture raw and primordial, was proving to be quite the treasure chest; the boat was filling higher and deeper with each new anchorage they stopped at.
Katie was a retired optometrist; an eye doctor. She had accompanied Jim to remote tropical islands of the Pacific on many of his art seeking expeditions. She had always come away from these trips appalled by the inadequate eye care available - the challenges of many seniors and children who had no access or could not afford it, even if available. Five years ago she had decided to do something about it. Selling off her lucrative optometry practice, she had set out to find a solution.
After several frustrating years of experimentation Katie developed a whole new concept in eye wear. She named it Kiwi Kwik Glasses. In the end, the idea was very simple; heavy duty low cost plastic frames coupled with mass produced off the shelf standard prescription lenses that could be snapped into the frames with a special tool. Inexpensive prescription eye glasses could now be built in minutes! The finishing touch was to make the lenses photo sensitive so they would darken, becoming protective sunglasses in the intense tropical sun.
Katie had the rugged frames made in three standard sizes: men, women and children. For each she ordered a huge stock of snap in lenses, enough to last an entire season in the tropics. Katie planned to refine her new system in the field, spending a complete season in the remote villages of Vanuatu, prescribing and fitting Kwik Glasses. If the idea worked as Katie hoped, she would look for investors to expand her fledgling company. Her dream was to provide low cost eye glasses in poor countries around the world. It was a huge undertaking that sometimes excited her, and sometimes terrified her when she considered the risk she was taking investing all their savings.
The final piece of the puzzle was to get a boat; a means of transportation to the Pacific islands and a place to live with a built in eye examination room where Katie could prescribe and build her Kwik Glasses. Jim wanted a boat too, but a big one so he could safely store his art treasures for return to the gallery in Auckland. And so the search had begun. They finally found their boat, a 43 foot Hans Christian ketch, washed up on a beach in the Bay of Islands where it had been torn off its morning in a savage winter storm. Battered, broken and full of sand and mud, it was purchased for a song. Jim spent three years restoring the nearly destroyed yacht, fitting it with an examination room for Katie, complete with a big swivel chair and countless drawers for her lenses. Another cabin had been fitted out with special shelves and bins to store Jim's art treasures. With a dark green hull, matching green canvas and gleaming teak work, the restored Vision Quest was a beautiful ship in which Jim and Katie took great pride.
On the day she was launched, as Katie held the bottle of Champagne, she turned to Jim and said, "You know, you really are an artist. You've created a masterpiece for us!" Then, holding the bottle high above her head she cried out, "I name you the good ship Vision Quest - may you bring us swiftly and safely to wherever our hearts lead us - and may you help us to make a difference in the lives of every person we meet along the way!" Katie lowered the bottle and the cork was popped. It had not seemed appropriate to smash it against the freshly painted hull. The adventures of Vision Quest had begun. That naming ceremony had been two months ago. And now, here they were, in the heart of Vanuatu, about to make landfall on the magical island of Ambrym.
A gust of wind hit the boat. Vision Quest heeled over, her long keel biting into water. Jim got up, a big grin on his face. "I love it when she digs in like that. She sure is a solid boat!" Stepping out of the cockpit he said "Think I'll go up on the foredeck for some fresh air". Katie, immersed in her reading, did not respond.
Jim stood at the bow leaning against the pulpit, peering into the distance, hoping the mountainous outline of Ambrym would soon start peaking over the horizon. He scanned to the left and right, as was his habit, always on the lookout for other boats and dangerous debris. And then, in the distance, off the starboard bow, he spotted something floating. It looked like a log. Raising his binoculars, to his astonishment, he saw the distant object was an empty dugout canoe!
Jim turned and shouted, "Hey Katie, look over there off the starboard bow. There's a canoe. Looks like a real tiny one. It must have blown off a beach during the storm. Let's go check it out!"
Returning to the cockpit Jim helped Katie to drop the mainsail and furl in the genoa. They fired up the engine and changed course directly into the wind towards the canoe. Jim was at the helm. Katie stood on the deck, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun with her hand. Jim guided Vision Quest alongside the bobbing canoe for a better look.
Katie looked down into the tiny craft and let out a blood curdling scream! There, in the bottom, lay the body of a child, dressed in tattered shorts and a dirty white T shirt! She wore one pink flip flop.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . FINAL CHAPTER IN A FEW DAYS!