Long Haul - Sailing 6000 km to French Polynesia
1 May 2008
Ocean > French Polynesia > Marquesas
All. How was your month?
We've finally arrived to the Marquesa Islands after the
33-day passage from the Galapagos! It's hard to describe
all the thoughts, feelings, moods, sights and experiences
we've had along the way, but let me try.
Sailing from the Galapagos Islands (of Ecuador) to the
Marquesas Islands (of eastern French Polynesia) is a passage
of about 3000 nautical miles, or roughly 6000 kilometres.
That's like taking a horse-drawn buggy from Thunder Bay
to Dawson City - at about 10 km/h - with nothing in between.
In those 33 days, we encountered 4 other sailboats, 2 ships,
and 1 jetliner overhead. This is untamed wilderness!
Sailing double-handed on a 34-ft boat all this distance
has been a unique experience;
it blends all the best parts about isolation, namely no
cellphones, money, rushhour, or media, with all the worst
parts, namely a lack of privacy, very few creature comforts,
possible claustrophobia, and worst of all, no beautiful
women to look at.
If you are unable to sit for hours on end, letting your
mind go blank, staring at nothing in particular.. perhaps
ocean sailing is not for you. Or at the very least you would
need to bring along an iPod and a whole crate of comic books!
Bringing along a spouse or significant other definitely
has its advantages. Some sailors just drink a lot.
As far quality of life and meals, every boat is different.
The most modern boats and "less rugged" sailors
now enjoy all the comforts of home; air conditioning, e-mail
access, movies hot showers, even dishwashers and washing
very simple and macho and about 30 years younger/poorer
aboard "Aries Tor", so a bucket of sea
water serves as dish water, bathing water, clothes washing,
and even a cup or two adds flavour to instant soup. Otherwise,
all we have is our ham radio.
For grub, we eat with 2 knives, 2 spoons and a can-opener.
we trail a fishing line and have even had some luck - hauling
in a Yellowfin tuna and a Mahi-Mahi fish, in epic bouts
of hand-to-fin combat to the death! Otherwise, some nights
I collect flying fish that land on the boat's deck to fry
up for breakfast. It might be the equivalent of scraping
bugs off your car windshield and mashing them into burgers,
but it's good, free-range protein - wash it all down with
oatmeal and a big mug of freshly-squeezed Tang!
So anyway, here are some random semi-deep observations..
Day 6: The Night Sky of the Duldrums
The night sky is amazing - just like I imagined it. The
dramatic being those nights with no moon but ten thousand
stars surrounding us, from just above the horizon to directly
overhead. Every constellation is there, but I make up a
few new ones anyway. Below, millions of phosphorescence
in the water light the surface as we ghost by, sometimes
an explosion of light emits as we excite a drifting jellyfish
- which look like nebuli. It feels as though we're floating
through space. Where does the water end and sky begin?
Day 14: No Turning Back Now
really out in the ocean now, the closest land being 1500
kilometres away! At dinner, I said to Rob, "Well, there's
no turning back now".
We both agree on an interesting phenomonen; our brains
refuse to acknowlege our position as being in the middle
of nowhere. You can "sense" land is just on the
other side of the horizon! In reality, the horizon is only
about 10 km away - so the closest shore is at least 150
times that! Maybe picturing land just over the edge is a
coping mechanism. It's kind of like why people used to believe
the earth (when it used to be flat) ended with a giant waterfall.
Or when I was younger, I imagined a huge wall at the edge
Day 22: Hearing Voices
I can hear voices! Luckily, that's common. The boat rigging
and wind often make sounds similar to voices.
I guess after 3 weeks, you become eager to hear some other
humans. I suppose I wouldn't notice the sounds otherwise,
or think they sounded human.
Sometimes you get startled by it - it sounds so real -
like someone is yelling for you, off in the distance, maybe
in a liferaft or a passing sailboat. But of course.. noone
is there. Kind of disappointing actually - but then you
laugh it off.
Day 24: Perfectly Normal Catastrophes
As far as glitches go, technically speaking, we have broken
our fair share of gear - radar reflector, mast light, topping
lift, jib halyard, battery charger and a sink strainer accidently
thrown overboard. Our most major foul-up being a snapped
forestay (note: the wire that helps hold the mast upright
and from falling into your lap). We juryrigged a solution
to get us these last 500 miles. I had the special privilege
of climbing up the mast 3 times, which is like strapping
yourself into a trebuchet and getting launched across the
sky - but the view (when you're not hurtling towards it)
is incredible; seeing just how tiny the boat is below you
and how big the ocean is around you.
Day 26: Personal Development
so easy to seek mental shelter by slipping into a pissy
or withdrawn mood. And of course disagreements are bound
to happen in such a confined space, but I feel like I've
failed so far in the expectations I've given myself for
personal development. This really is an ideal place to deal
with them though. This adventure has been about adaptation,
learning patience and humility from the get-go and there's
plenty of time to get it right.
Welcome to Polynesia!