The Rose--Dreams and dreams...
25 June 2015 | Futuna to Vuda Point, Fiji
24 June 2015 Tadra dreams Tadra ca bad dreams
Dear Friends and Family,
We slipped into Futuna as in a dream sailing softly to the steep volcanic shoreline lushly carpeted with rainforest disappearing upward into thick mists and behind that a brilliant sun rising. Anchoring in the narrow south facing harbor, we jumped into our dinghy and made for the customs dock where we saw a rust eaten ladder extending down into the water from the high dock used for supply ships. The wind was projected to be building to 25 knots by noon and the swell was already rolling into the harbor impressively so we got straight to work tethering the dinghy to the tire hanging beside the rusty ladder and clamoring up onto the rough dock then making our way walking the kilometer along the shoreline to the gendarmerie which serves as immigration. They were friendly and checked us in and out in one stop. We made our way back to customs who did the same. Then we thought we could squeeze in a quick visit of the island but on inquiring customs assured us no cars were available but there were lots of churches and we would probably hitch a ride in the back of someone's truck. We started walking and soon found a supermarket of sorts, more like a convenience store by U.S. standards but having the French cheese John sought. After a look around we gathered 2 cheeses and a bottle of French wine only to find that our paper Polynesian Francs were last year's model and were no longer accepted. Pawing through our substantial supply of change we managed enough for one cheese but nothing else. The storekeeper only shook her head in response to my questions in broken French about exchanging old money for new and also about the location of a bank so we continued on our way. On exiting the store we noticed the bank was directly across the street but it looked vacant or at least uninhabited and without hours posted. It seemed although we were willing, Futuna would have none of our money.
Continuing on we stretched our legs walking about the bay to the far side where we had noticed a high steepled church. Inside it was simple, well worn traditional Catholic but spacious with a capacity ironically to hold more people than we could imagine on this entire island. Accompanied by an ever changing variety of neighborhood mutts, we tromped through many muddy puddles on the narrow cement road heading back to the boat and passed a procession of cars apparently on the way to a feast of some sort for the pickups were loaded with taro leaves and a live pig lying subdued on his side all four feet tightly bound.
By 11:00 we had made our way back to The Rose with a steep and lively swell now near breaking into the harbor. We hoisted the dinghy onto the foredeck and secured her well, stowed anything else which might shake off a shelf or fly from a cupboard, brought home the anchor and set off on our way back to Fiji. As predicted, the wind was building fast and we found ourselves crashing along with 25 knots on a close tack, lines straining and groaning and swells slapping us this way and that. We double reefed the main and soon followed by rolling in about a third of the jib but still the boat leapt and surged and we had to hold on to stay upright even in the cockpit. At tea time the gimbled stove was flinging itself wildly from one extreme to the next and unfortunately often came up hard to a sudden stop on its extreme range sending everything including the tea water abruptly off onto the galley floor. The boiling water splashed all over me and down into the nooks and crannies of the wildly swaying stove, streamed down into her bowels and out onto the floor beneath. The floor was now wet and slick despite my attempts to dry it. Every time I reached under the stove to soak up the puddle she would lunge at me attempting to catch my arm between her corners and the floor. I generally enjoy cooking on passage but my usual limit is when I must hold the pots over the fire by hand in order to get the meal cooked. The next step is to tie oneself in to a grab bar along the front edge of the stove. I have happily cooked on passage while literally repelling from one ingredient to the next. But on this occasion the chaos of the swell made the movement below sickening. The sharp edge of the stove swung up against the grab bar in a fashion which would have made a great amputation device. What a plan, put the grab bar right where the sharp edge of the heavy gimbled stove swings and makes short work of any fingers there clinging! Why am I doing this I wondered? In the midst of changing into dry clothes-a feat in itself as the floor launched me this way and that-- I caught a passing thought reminding myself to put on clean pants and my best undies in which I would want my body found when it washed up on the beach. Later I looked about the disarray of the dinette area and again the thought snuck in about what all this would look like floating in a half sunk sailboat on salvage. Ridiculous! The boat was in no distress. The wind was less than 30 knots mostly, the sea only two meters and she was handling it with ease. This is what fatigue does. All the great manipulators of history know this and use it. Fatigue makes us vulnerable to suggestion and fear follows creeping into any dark corners even when it is not at all warranted. This is important to notice and remember.
There are two general categories of jumping horses-- hunters and jumpers. Hunters take obstacles with ease and grace, strides long and neck stretched forward. Hunters are all about style. Jumpers on the other hand jump high, classically with head up, eyes bright, ears perked forward, fighting the bit, legs pounding against any restraint like pistons before hurdling themselves straight up over the highest obstacles. I've always been partial to the jumpers. That is the way The Rose was handling the steep swell. She seemed to power up to the waves like a freight train and hurl herself over them. Sometimes the steep waves would fall away beneath her as she cleared the apex and then she seemed to free fall down the other side often into the unfriendly arms of the next steep swell which would pummel her soundly before releasing her on her way.
As darkness slipped in, we changed to our smaller staysail and reefed her by a third to prepare for the night. All night the wind blew and all night the seas crashed and all night we sailed onward never-endingly. John managed her alone before my watch while I tried to catch some sleep and found myself abruptly left midair over the bed and crashing back to the mattress every several minutes accompanied by the sound of waves spraying and water running like rivers down the deck. He took the brunt of it and I didn't envy him. My watch from 11pm-5am was a bad enough dream of darkness and howling and blowing wave and rain and crashing sounds which seemed an eternity. Wave after wave sprayed over the cockpit and the air was full of water. When I scanned the horizon for traffic I had to grip the dodger structure tightly with both hands to prevent slipping on the slick cockpit cushions while the boat swayed and jolted dauntingly and staring into the churning dark sea as it roared by I knew if that happened it would be the last of me. In the midst of all this angry torrent I happened to rest my eyes on that roaring darkness and to my surprise noticed large chunks of shimmering bioluminescence dancing past. Also pulses of bright light shown deep like a lightning storm in the depths of the sea itself. In that moment, these lights were like angels reminding me that in that great incomprehensible balancing act called life, despite appearances, all was right in the world. And so in the midst of all that tumult I smiled. As Hafiz wrote: "I am but the flute the Christ's breath blows through. Listen to this music!"
I was tired and nauseous or perhaps hungry but too tired to eat. Finally I dug from my hiking pack a granola bar and crunched on that. I slept in 15 minute increments between checks leaving my harness and epirb on against disaster and dragging a synthetic fleece blanket over my damp sticky feet to chase away the chill. With the arrival of morning I felt better but the situation was unchanged except for the light filtered through the heavy cloud cover. John came on watch and I slipped off to sweet sleep. Shortly thereafter we began to come into the shadow of the Fiji islands some 35 miles distant to the south and enjoyed some protection from those steep and sloppy seas. By noon the sky had cleared to blue and the wind reduced to the high teens and low twenties. The night seemed as far away as another lifetime.
Now we are sunning ourselves in the cockpit after lovely omelets and tea successfully delivered without incident. The boat is rolling along easily. The sunlight is twinkling on the sea ripples as the merry breezes playing horse and cart take turns drawing us onward and Fiji though not yet within our sight is nearing. By tomorrow morning we should be rounding the northwest corner. We may need to slow down in order to have the light requisite for discerning the tricky reefs along that northwest corner but that will only ease our night's passage which presently promises to be a different temper from the last. Perhaps tonight I shall practice playing Bridge on my Ipad. We are almost home. All is well, Pat and John s/v The Rose