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Report Six from the Otter: Passage to the Marquesas

Papeete, Tahiti
September 8, 1999

Dear Friends and E-mail Family,

In reviewing my journal of the passage to the Marquesas, Iím struck by the difference there is between life at sea and life in port. The transitions are always anxious times with the bittersweet regret of leaving a beautiful island or the same regret that a wonderful passage is coming to an end.

I left the Galapagos on Saturday, May 29th in the early afternoon. On the way out of Academy Bay I felt confident and excited about the 3,000 miles ahead.

Iíve found that when I start a voyage, songs come to me and Iíll sing them repeatedly at full volume, sometimes for hours. This time the song was "All Godís Children Have Shoes." Donít ask why, I donít know, but the "Gonna walk all over Godís heaven" sunk in deep. A few days later it was replaced by "Under the Boardwalk" --- "... and your shoes get so hot you wish your tired feet were fireproof."

I was still singing this one when Sandy arrived on July 13th in Papeete and gave me the second verse; Todd Peterson and I sang it in the showers at the Bora Bora Yacht Club. So on it goes . . .

The passage to the Marquesas took me 25 days -- only two more days to cover 950 more miles than the trip from Panama to the Galapagos.

The passage was like a dream -- winds from 10 to 20 knots occasionally up to 30 or 35k and occasional rain squalls -- almost no shipping -- alone for days on end in an area of the world where you are as far from land as itís possible to be.

Day followed perfect blue day in a hypnotic series that I felt would go on forever. A quieting peacefulness, a beauty that is deep poetry pervaded my bones. Iíd watch the water go by for hours. Iíd stand in a trance in the companionway for over an hour watching the colors of afternoon change to brilliant sunset to the varied grays of dusk to the gentle dark of deep, blue night with its visiting friends -- the Milky Way, Scorpio, the Southern Cross. Venus and the moon chasing each other across endless space.

The ancient priests of Polynesia observed in the sky and water the fall of meteors, the shape of clouds, the flight of birds, a primordial language of elemental beings which came alive to me in a way that connected with the voices of the distant past.

The landfall at Fatu Hiva was eerie-- I felt I was living in my own, actual dream of sailing to volcanic islands in moonlight. But Iím ahead of myself.

Following are excerpts from the journal:

Saturday, May 29 --

1:30 p.m. Anchor up, I motor over to say good-bye to Xiomarra and Oystercatcher. I power past Valsheeda. Just outside Academy Bay I set sails and turn to starboard. We only sail for two hours and the wind dies.

Engine on again, we power past Floreana to port where, in Post Office Bay, the whalers of the 19th century would leave mail in a box to be picked up by homeward-bound ships. Clouds hit its top. To starboard is Isla Tortuga off Isla Isabella, the biggest of the Galapagos Islands.

The moon is full and bright. The sea is glassy.

I bought an extra five-gallon diesel jug. The tank has 20 gallons; four jugs hold another 23 gallons -- enough for about 80 hours of motoring. I also have 50 gallons of water --more than enough for this passage.

At midnight we are far enough past the islands and the currents that surround them so that I stop the engines, set sails to the very light breeze thatís come up and start my first nightís sleep back at sea.

Sunday, May 30 --

Bright red sunrise. Itís Memorial Day weekend and I think of Sandy and our friends spending the weekend at Susan and Billís house in Gloucester.

Flat calm again this morning. Very frustrating. I can still see Isla Isabella behind me. When I take my new position, we have come 116 miles in this light air. We must have a very strong current helping us along.

Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day) --

3:00 a.m. The wind picks up and sails stop slatting. The full moon is calmingly beautiful and the boat motion gentle. Heavy dew on deck at sunrise.

I develop my New York to San Francisco state line mileages to put a structural overlay on this 3,000 miles. I imagine a cross-country road trip: right now Iím crossing New Jersey on my way down I-95 to Philadelphia.

I also decide to establish my work-week/week-end routine. With ten bronze portholes I can polish one per day: thatís two weekís work. Each one takes three hours to clean and polish properly.

During my workday I break out my French tapes and repeat along: "Bon jour, Mssr. Dupont." Feeling much more energetic than the previous leg.

Tuesday, June 1 --

Wind is picking up. Set out spinner on the water generator. Six-foot high swells 500 to 800 feet apart appear like the long rolling hills of Iowa. Wind feels like the Trades. Sky is clear. Spectacular sunset --- gold and orange sun dropping under light-edged clouds.

7:00 p.m. Xiomarra calls me on Channel 16. They left Sunday and have caught up to me. We talk a long time.

The orange moon coming up over the horizon behind me is cut by two clouds. I mistake the long, bright-orange rectangle for a shipís light bearing down on me - the adrenaline pumps before I figure it out.

I pray each night now at sunset for a safe night, and again when I go to sleep, for protection and remembrance of loved ones. And again, when I get up in the morning, a thanks for bringing me safely to the new day.

Wednesday June 2 --

Moving fast. Our noon position gives us 144 mile run. Our best yet.

Polish third porthole. Ring clamp on the monitor steering control cableís drum breaks and it takes me an hour to fix it. I start listening to the OTO-net, a radio chat-group of about 14 boats, mostly British, that are in transit to the Marquesas.

Brian, on his red, steel-hulled sloop OTO, is the moderator. They come on twice a day, in the morning and again in the evening. I become addicted and organize things so I can listen at the right time. Since I only have a short-wave receiver I canít call in or reply, but Xiomarra and a few other boats Iím familiar with check in each day, so I can plot their positions.

Brian always asks, "Whatís your position? Whatís the wind strength and direction? How is your night/day? Is everything OK on board?"

I develop pages in my notebook with every boatís name and their crew names in columns on the left and columns for their answers. It becomes like a radio program with lots of different personalities. Some boats are bright and positive each day; some have constant problems.

Brian is unflappable and some of his little phrases become oceanic verities. During one stormy night, Brian describes a wave that totally soaks him while he is making a sail change on the foredeck, then adds, "But itís all part of the game."

In my small world, this takes on guru-like depth. Sailing becomes like a board game, with rules, chance, rewards, and penalties -- all to be encountered and passed through at various times. Yes, itís one of the parts of the game, and whenever after that I get wet or something requires a bit of effort to set right, I tell myself, "Itís all part of the game".

Brian is an engineer and has a thing with symmetry: His boatís name was created because of its mirror-image, palindromic symmetry. It means nothing in particular.

The OTO-net becomes the two pillars of my days Ė even though I never see another ship, I donít feel alone.

Thursday, June 3 --

Beautiful sunrise.

I set the clock back one hour. Every 15 degrees of longitude I cross a timeline. Iíve penciled and shaded these passages on my chart -- it gives me a twenty-five hour day, and as I go around the world I will acquire an extra twenty-four hours. But I will pay them all back at once when I cross the international date line and give back an entire day. It will just disappear. I wonder which day it will be.

The sun rises now at 5:30 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. As I travel west, the sunrise gets gradually later and later until I cross another timeline 900 miles further on and reset the clocks again.

On the OTO-net, Xiomarra says thereís a peace accord in Bosnia. Iíve been so out of touch - no newspapers radio or any media since last November I decide to tune in the BBC news for a while.

I listen to a list of bombings, rapes, killings, and atrocities. I feel Iím polluting this beautiful environment, I feel physically sick and turn it off after 15 minutes. Back into eternal rhythms of wind and wave and silence.

Time rushes by my small, self-contained world, which I view through newly polished brass of the portholes: A shiny frame for a sparkling blue.

Friday, June 4 --

Last work day before the weekend: The row of five shiny portholes on the starboard side look very pretty now.

Cross from Ohio to Indiana today.

Lunch. My stove doesnít work and all my meals are creative mixtures: one can of tuna with one-half scoop sandwich spread, one-half scoop Miracle Whip, one-half chopped onion, one-half cucumber, two small tomatoes, one squeeze of lemon, some vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, grated Romano cheese, garlic salt, pepper, and powdered garlic. Really great!

Some Tang that Dominic gave me really helps this bleached tank water.

Saturday, June 5 --

Teak oil on all woodwork below decks. Itís not really Ďworkí this weekend, itís "home improvement chores." Repair broken whisker-pole and think of writing to Forespar about their cheesy engineering on a very expensive piece of gear.

A large bundle of anchor rode aft over the spare fuel-jugs makes a great chaise lounge where I watch the world go slowly by. A perfect day. The only thing missing is "A Prairie Home Companion" on the radio.

Sunday, June 6 --

2:30 a.m. Up to change sails and adjust course. Canít get back to sleep -- it may be the MSG in the corned beef I had for dinner last night. Read to 6:00 a.m., sleep from then until 9:00 a.m.

Moving well, gentle motion. Take cockpit shower - short Sunday service, read a few hymns and read a passage in the Bible. Twelve oíclock position at 988 miles puts us one-third of the way at eight days out. Can I count on a 24 day run? I tell myself not to count chickens.

6:02 p.m. I see a tiny green blink (green flash) as the sun sets. My third.

Monday, June 7 --

2:30 a.m. Wake to the radar alarm going off. Get up, look out, and scan horizon. Rain squall off the port beam. Radar says it is two miles away. We are too high at 210 degrees and moving fast. The wind has shifted and increased.

I turn the monitor vane slightly to bring us back toward course farther downwind, then put on my harness and go forward. There is a half moon hiding behind some passing clouds. Itís light enough so I can see on deck. I think of Sandy sleeping in our bed at home. I think about all the times my Mother worried about me when she thought I was in danger when I was a teenager away from home. Iím very careful going forward.

The wind is pushing the rail under -- weíre overpowered. I drop the staysail and furl it. Back in the cockpit I adjust the reefed sails and head farther downwind toward our course. Below I rig the clear curtain I had made in Panama to protect the navigation station from rain blowing in the companionway.

As the squall passes by in front of us thereís very little rain. Windy all day, 20 knots plus. Weíre running dead downwind. With the waves at six feet, weíre very rolly. Spend a lot of time adjusting sails.

Tuesday, June 8 --

Windy day Ė 20 knots with gusts to 30. Very bouncy. The bow swings 40 degrees-plus as we surf down the waves. Double-reefed the main and 3/4 Genoa.

Wednesday, June 9 --

Wind continues to increase -- 25 knots gusting to 35. Double-reefed the main, took in 3/4 of the Genoa -- only 1/4 still out. Set lower washboard in companionway.

Spotted a sea turtle swimming northeast. In eight-foot seas, he disappears over the top of the next wave.

Cross another timeline, set back clock one hour.

Todayís noon position gives us a new best dayís run of 145 miles. Amazing to think Iíd struggle for four to five days to make this mileage on the way to the Galapagos.

Surfing again. The occasional crest will slam the hull and spray will come into the cockpit. I put up all three weather cloths on the lifelines around the cockpit.

Iíve been working in the cockpit on assembling the Jordan series-drogue that Dad shipped to me in Panama and not doing my brass polishing: Being below with all hatches closed in this bouncy sea is a bit claustrophobic.

Tomorrow I should finish the drogue and stow it in the cockpit locker ready to deploy. Itís comforting to know itís on board.

I dream of the cruising Iíll do when I get home up the coast of Maine in the fall with my new cabin heater going. Odd that in Long Island Sound I dream of the Pacific, while in the Pacific, Iím dreaming of New England. I remind myself Iím in my dream now.

Itís sobering to look across the white-capped landscape and think Iím as far from land as you can get.

I think of Joshua Slocum, who sailed from Cape Horn past the Marquesas and on to American Samoa. When he put his anchor down, the women who paddled out to see him asked why he came there. He replied, "To hear you beautiful ladies sing." Maybe itís that simple.

Iíve had a small brown bird visit for the last five or six days. He comes by again this afternoon.

Iím afraid for a while tonight. Nothing wrong with the boat. Weíre moving fast and waves hit the hull with a deep thud. Weíre okay, I just feel very small, very vulnerable, very far away from any help if I need it. Very, very alone.

Thursday, June 10 --

Up all night with guard alarm going off as rain squalls rush by one after another.

7:00 a.m. Wind and seas moderate. Weíre not surfing any more. I release the Genoa furling line and let out 100% -- our speed picks back up to over five knots.

On OTO-net, Brian says he sailed through a fleet of fishing vessels last night. I plot their position on the chart. Iíll keep an eye out when I get there.

Xiomarra misses their second check-in in a row and thereís some concern over whether theyíre all right. I have visions of a daring rescue where I pick them up from their life raft and we sail the rest of the way to the Marquesas Ė my Walter Mitty is working overtime here.

Noon position: weíre dead on the rhumb line and reached the halfway mark. Every day now is downhill.

I keep thinking of the question my son Scott in Los Angeles asked me during a phone call when I was in the Galapagos. He said his friends asked him, "What does your Dad DO out there for a month at a time?"

I ask myself the same. What DO I do out here? The time slips by so rapidly, but it is filled by:

Task  &  Time

Sailing the boat and small repairs: one to four hours

Boat work: one to five hours

Food and eating: one hour

Cleaning me and the boat: one hour

Read: two to three hours

Stare at ocean and clouds: two hours

Thinking--just stop with wheels still spinning, thoughts run on: one hour

Navigating: one hour

Journal writing: one to two hours

Calisthenics and stretching: 1/2 hour

Sketching: one to two hours

Meditation -- sitting type, and prayer: one-half hour

Sleep: seven to eight hours

So there it is. The days go by and I seem to have little to show.

"So what are you DOING out there?" I tell myself Iím slowly untying the knots in the fabric of who I was to see if I can find out who I am.

So far I see clearly that:

  1. Iím always living in the future (mostly)
  2. Iím mostly anxious about the present
  3. Iím never doing well enough, or enough of enough
  4. Iím often critical of my actions, thoughts, and desires
  5. I rarely abandon myself to the enjoyment of the present
  6. Those things I say I enjoy most, writing and drawing, cause me the most anxiety
  7. I feel Iím constantly behind and late

And on and on it goes, this voice of the critic, while all of these knots are being slowly and gently untied.

Thursday night, June 10 --

Each evening before I go to sleep, besides setting the radar-guard alarm-zone and the watchman, I call on VHF channel 16 to "any ship" to see if anyone is in range (about a 16-mile radius) and if so I tell them to please watch for me - as Iím going to sleep. I give my position - I almost never get a response. Tonight I do.

Constanta, a Norwegian vessel, a 42í Alpha, is about eight miles behind me. They think they can see my masthead light. When we sign off I go out and shake out a reef in the main and open the Genoa to full -- Iím getting competitive with a 42í boat in the middle of nowhere!

I think to call them back to let them know the position of the fishing fleet Brian had mentioned, and have a very long talk with Theresa Hyerdahl, whose grandfather is Thor Hyerdahl of Kon Tiki fame. They are going to visit Fatu Hiva, which, she reminds me, is where her grandfather spent over a year back in the early 50ís and later wrote about in his classic book.

She and her husband Morton were married at sea on the way to the Galapagos by the first mate, who was made Captain for a day so he could officiate. This is their honeymoon. Very romantic. A wonderful long chat after days of silence.

Friday, June 11 --

Xiomarra still hasnít checked in. Brian thinks itís probably an antenna problem and since there have been no EPIRBs reported going off, the best thing is to wait until they are a few days overdue on their ETA and then notify the authorities.

Finish assembling the series-drogue and stow it away.

Saturday, June 12 --

5:30 a.m. A flying fish in the spray curtain by the navigation station wakes me with its fluttering. Heís leaving scales everywhere. I grab him in a paper towel and toss him back. I wonder if he thinks of his return as a fish-world miracle.

Sunrise is beautiful. A single large bright golden cloud rises over my head. A cloud in front of the sun near the horizon sends fanned rays of gold into the soft blue.

Today I enter Colorado on my road trip.

12:00 - noon. After doing a small load of laundry in the cockpit I feel very weak and shaky. I recognize it as heat exhaustion. I go below, drink as much water as I can hold, take some salt, and have a light lunch. Sleep for two hours.

Even an hour in the midday sun can be like a sledgehammer. I think it would be nice to surprise Sandy with no tan lines, but odd parts of me are getting sunburned, so I change my sun bathing habits.

Sunday, June 13 --

7:45 a.m. Spot a fishing vessel ahead to starboard. Try to raise it on channel 16 - no response - our paths do not cross.

Stays gray with occasional squalls all day.

Today is my daughter Lauraís birthday. I hope she got the corny tape I sent her of me singing "Happy Birthday," and then reading a book called Sea Bird for her three kids.

Iím in pain. I pulled a muscle in my right hip, behind and just below the waist, by pulling too hard on the Genoa furling line. Itís really draining my energy.

Monday, June 14 --

Slept well -- the boat motion is gentle again. Cool wind coming in the companionway, dry. I dream itís a sunny morning and Sandy and I are in a hotel room in New York City holding each other; a beautiful warm feeling. I see her smile and it lights every part of me. My eyes fill as I hear her call me Mr. Sobhead. I wake.

The passion fruit Dominic picked for me in the Galapagos are ripe. Theyíve turned yellow. I have 20-30 of them the size of lemons. For lunch I cut open six of them and scoop the runny centers full of black seeds into a bowl. A touch of honey mixed in to offset the sour. The seeds are crunchy. The taste is complex, between bitter sour and sweet with a subtle, sweet-edged aftertaste. I take stock of my other fresh fruit: six grapefruit and eight apples left.

Clean and fix a leak in the head today.

Use a full gallon of water for a cockpit shower. It feels good to be clean.

Tonight, an extremely dark sea. The stern light picks up an occasional flash as a flying fish shoots by.

Tiny fingernail of a new moon tonight with Venus over its shoulder.

Tuesday, June 15 --

Surfing all night Ė fast, dark, windy. Slept 10 hours -- dream of hiking toward a mountain Iíve seen in my dreams before (I wonder if Iíll see it when I get to India). I feel a deep heart-soul yearning and wake.

My back feels much better. Noon position gives us the fastest day yet - 148 miles!! Amazing!

Wednesday, June 16 --

3:00 a.m. Wake to rushing sound and extreme heeling. Look out the companionway and see spray whipping by the stern light. Put on the harness.

On deck, the wind is furious -- gusting to 40 knots. I furl the Genoa to nothing. With the rail still in the water, I claw my way forward to the mast and take in the second reef. It all takes a while.

By the time Iíve finished tying the last reef knot, the wind has abated. I decide to leave the reef in for the rest of the night. Reset 1/3 Genoa. Dry off below, thinking, "Itís all part of the game."

4:30 a.m. Heavy rain -- the first downpour since Malpelo Island.

7:00 a.m. Another squall passes, putting the rail down. I refurl the Genoa.

7:15 a.m. Rainbows bracket the bow, port and starboard.

The rest of the day is windy and squally. Make a repair to the monitor steering vane that requires leaning way over the transom -- an edgy experience, even with my harness on.

Today I stand by the mast a long time, looking across the water, trying to imagine the size of this ocean, and me and Otter small on it.

Thursday, June 17 --

Turn back the clock again one hour today. Lunch is chicken a la king from a can - not too bad. If not great cuisine, I have no pots, pans or dishes to wash; just rinse the can opener and spoon - thatís it!

Read my Lonely Planet French Polynesia Guide. As I prepare for sleep, I have a strong feeling of another presence on board - a little spooky. The door to the head slams open on a roll. I think someone (thing?) did it. I see a shadow in the dark off the side of the boat - a cloud?? I tell myself this is no place for this and to stop imagining things.

Friday, June 18 --

Sunrise from behind the clouds is beautiful. Sunrises, sunsets Ė theyíre all Iíve drawn or photographed for weeks. If the stern is in the picture, itís a sunrise. If the bow, itís a sunset.

I feel rested. Dream of a sail on the horizon. When I get up itís the first thing I check, but thereís no boat there and Iím surprised - surprised my imagination hasnít taken over more. My death-grip on ordinary reality hasnít weakened much.

On the OTO-net, Pacific Eagle has heard from Xiomarra. They are one hour outside Hiva Oa and they did have problems with their antenna. They could hear but not send.

There is great relief in the fleet. Most of the British boats have arrived and are partying in Fatu Hiva. Itís agreed that crossing the Pacific is a big accomplishment. I envision marathon-style medals given out by the Port Captain in Hiva Oa. Maybe Iíll get an earring even though I havenít rounded the Horn - I decide to get a tattoo.

I decide to change my landfall to Fatu Hiva and replot my course accordingly.

Iím starting to realize that my entire voyage will probably be spent visiting highly touristed areas filled with other cruisers. Very little of the type of encounter cruisers experienced just 10-12 years ago when people in a village would welcome the only yacht to arrive in three-or-four months with much warmth. I think Iíll be just another face in a crowded anchorage.

I can see the end of this voyage closing in and I have a desire to just sail on and on.

Saturday, June 19 --

Another good sleeping night with more dreaming. Iím living in my bed and feel like I never have to get up again. A little like John and Yokoís "bed-in" against the war when they stayed in bed for weeks.

7:15 a.m. Iím on deck extending the whisker pole and looking up. I spot a freighter, of all things, dead astern about four miles away. I havenít seen a freighter since halfway to the Galapagos. Iím really surprised.

I raise him on channel 16. Itís the Sea Maestro going from Tampa to Brisbane carrying fertilizer. He says the sailing directions give this as his course from Panama. My pilot charts show no shipping lanes here, so Iím surprised. I usually am especially alert in shipping lanes.

He asks where Iím going. I tell him. He says, with a slight Greek accent, "God bless you on your voyage." Heís impressed. It makes me feel good. He passes two miles to port.

Tonight I sit on my stern seat in the anchor-rode "lounge chair." Warm wind lightly fills the sails, gentle motion, the half-moon shining bright on the water. A deep, deep, sense of peace, quiet, and dark beauty fills me. I sit for almost an hour.

Sunday, June 20 --

4:00 a.m. I wake from a dream that there was a large, slow-moving ship coming toward us. I remember I didnít reset the guard alarm after a rain squall passed last night, so I decide to get up and check.

I see a very bright light to starboard. I reset the radar and see itís a ship about five miles away. It comes within two miles. Itís a large fishing factory ship, with all of its lights burning on its many decks. I hear the deep humming of engines and generators. By 5:00 a.m. it has passed. I thank God and the Grandparents for the dream that woke me.

7:45 a.m. Breakfast with the OTO-net. Catch up on the news. Iíve passed St. Elmo and am now 80 miles ahead of them. They seem to have had a string of bad luck - gear failure, torn sails. I passed them a few days ago but was not close enough to call on VHF. Passing a 40-footer, even a crippled one, feels good.

8:45 a.m. I inspect the line with which I tow the water generator spinner. The knot that I tie off to the spinner has silver duct tape on it to keep it from spinning loose. A fish has been gnawing at the line just forward of the duct tape, probably thinking itís another fish. The line is bitten halfway through. I fix it and put blue masking tape over the new knot.

Today is my granddaughter Brechinís birthday - she is eight years old and I remember every one of her birthdays. I havenít missed any. The photos Sandy sends show sheís growing fast and the little girl will be gone by the time I get home.

 

I realize this passage has had a regularity, a constancy. Fair nights full of stars. Sunny days that seem to end just after they start and the ocean, an endless blue.

I live in a sixteen-mile-diameter hemisphere that moves slowly westward at five knots. Sometimes itís enormous. Sometimes Iím just running up Long Island Sound with a bit of haze obscuring land, and I run up Long Island Sound for 22 days. I donít see another boat for weeks; when I do, it seems congested.

I marvel at Otterís ability to move on and on and on.

So how big is the Pacific? So far, 22 daysí worth and much shorter than the eight stormy days I spent getting to Bermuda.

There are only two days left and Iím disappointed itís ending. I remember having the feeling of no water behind me in Panama - now I have almost 4,000 - a fair chunk.

Confidence, maybe unwarranted, is growing. I donít recognize the face in the mirror - the hair is longer, the beard bushier, the skin darker and thinner.

So how large is the Pacific? Very large. And very small, now thatís almost over.

9:30 p.m. The night is magical. I feel as if Iím in a storybook illustration -- moon path on the water, the sails are moonlit white. The sky is a deep, deep, blue-black with star-points, and there are magic, huge, floating cloud-groups hovering a few hundred feet above the water with white moonlit puffy tops staying together as units - like presences gently drifting in the moonsong wind. And Otter and I floating just below the clouds - just above the water - suspended in the center of it all, a feeling of floating, of weightlessness, of flying gently, like the clouds - down the waves - two white wings outstretched. Truly magic.

I stand entranced as we glide directly down the path of silver shed by the lowering moon.

This night is perfect.

Monday, June 21 --

Another beautiful, sunny day. Another slight touch of heat exhaustion. Another 128 miles gone. Another 155 to go.

Tuesday, June 22 --

6:30 a.m. Check position -- only 81 miles left; change to larger-scale charts. Study them and read the cruising guides for Fatu Hiva: it looks like weíll arrive well after dark tonight.

Otter and I have a heated discussion about entering a strange bay after dark. She thinks itís OK to at least try. I say itís out of the question. Weíll leave it till daylight. Iím not going to risk it and, dammit, Iím in charge! Iím the skipper! Otter sees it my way - grudgingly. She wants to stop as much as I do.

11:45 a.m. Landfall! I spot Fatu Hivaís faint outline under long clouds.

3:00 p.m. The island is getting larger. Iím getting excited. I try to nap because I know Iíll be up tonight.

5:00 p.m. Shower in the cockpit, and put on fresh, dry clothes. Untie the bow anchor - ready to go.

Beautiful late afternoon - warm, soft seas. Fatu Hiva is blue. The ends of the island are starting to take on a definition.

I made a painting that my brother John has of sailing toward a dark island in moonlight.* It was painted from a dream I had in my 20ís. Iím struck that all conditions are right for me to enter that dream tonight.

7:00 p.m. Itís way too much like Christmas eve for me to get much sleep in my naps.

Wednesday, June 23 --

12:00 - Midnight. Sail past the southern end of the island, beautiful and rugged in the moonlight.

Iím in my dream.

Turn north toward the Bay of Virgins, on the leeward side, the only anchorage in this eight-mile-long island.

I see a waterfall in the moonlight and hear its rushing sound. The wind dies, the water is flat.

1:00a.m. I start the engine

2:00 a.m. Iím just outside the bay when the moon turns orange and sets below a cloudless horizon. Itís now totally dark and the shapes of the island are only defined by the stars at their edge - a flat black cut out pasted on black velvet with silver sequins.

I ignore my earlier conversations with Otter and keep moving closer and slower.

Radar on. I move into the bay slowly. As I feel the points of land start to enclose me to left and right, I hear waves against a black wall to my left. I dare not go closer.

I see boat shapes barely visible. I donít know how near. Radar shows everything very close.

When the depth sounder finally comes up from 900í to 112í I go forward and let out all of my 180í of chain - less than a 1:2 ratio - not good but it holds. I take bearings on the two land points behind me - in slow reverse they donít change. I turn off the engine.

Everything is perfectly still. I collapse and tears come.

I canít believe how relieved I am to be here. How wonderful to be still and level.

Black mountains surround me. A deep absolute black.

I straighten up the boat. I celebrate by having two cups of cold Ovaltine.

I say a deep prayer of gratitude to God and whoever Ė whatever - is listening. Gratitude for being safely here.

4:00 a.m. With a citronella candle in its red glass container casting a warm glow in the still cabin, I lay me down and fall into a deep, satisfying sleep

Iíve arrived in the Marquesas.

 

End of Report Six

 

 

* The painting Brec refers to is titled "Sailing in a dream" and dated 5/26/89 Ė I have it on a

wall in my home.

 

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