OtterNews.com -- the full on-line record of the 1998-2003 round-the-world voyage of Brec Morgan aboard the Otter!

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Also, see photos of the St. Maarten Yacht Club's March 17th celebration of Brec's return.
The ceremonial "Tossing of the 'Voyage-End Dock Lines'" went off as planned at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 17th.
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Report Fourteen from the Otter: Passage from Rarotonga to Niue

Wednesday, October 13 --

3:30 p.m. I cast off stern lines, pull in my anchor, and carefully pay it into the chain locker.

4:00 p.m. Otter is through the pass. Thereís a good breeze and I let out the Genoa as we run downwind. Rarotonga is getting smaller in the late afternoon sunlight.

This departure is really tough for some reason. Thereís a knot in the pit of my stomach as I watch the Green Jewel with strong light and shadow on the mountains drop gently under the rolling waves.

The passage theme song comes to me, and for the next few hours I sing "On the Street Where You Live," from My Fair Lady.

6:30 p.m. At sea again, itís getting dark. First night anxiety. I say a prayer for the voyage and this night. I go to sleep early -- 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 14 --

7:30 a.m. With the sunrise I say thanks. Breakfast is a half of a coconut scone with boysenberry jam (sing with me, "Iím a ĎCitizens for Boysenberry Jamí fan!") and an orange.

12:00 noon Position check records 70 miles from Rarotonga. Motion, rolly; sky condition, hazing over. I sit in the cockpit reviewing all the work to be done in New Zealand. Feeling woozy; first-day motion tiredness. Nap in the afternoon.

Friday, October 15 --

2:00 a.m. Wake. The wind is up Ė trim sails, adjust course.

Write letter to Linn and Larry Pardey about my experience with my parachute anchor three days south of Block Island in a storm last November. Douglas on Calliste in Bora Bora encouraged me to write to them. He had attended their seminars and had gotten to know them. He said they wanted information on how gear actually worked for their future publications. The Pardeys live now for a part of the year in a home they have on a small island north of Auckland.

8:00 a.m. Up again after four hoursí sleep. Check position and clean cabin.

The wind lets up in the afternoon. There is a deep ache above my ankle that comes and goes. Iíll check it in New Zealand.

10:00 p.m. Dead calm. Furl Genoa. Tie main down tight to slow the slatting noise. Drifting with no steerage. Heading in all directions.

Saturday, October 16 --

2:30 a.m. Wake. A 10-knot wind finally fills in from the southwest. Weíve drifted for 4-Ĺ hours.

7:30 a.m. Check course -- only traveled 18 miles in the last 12 hours.

12:00 noon 68 miles Ė slow day.

12:15 p.m. A loud report startles me. A boom, or an explosion, filling the sky, rumbling out of nowhere in this empty sea. A warship over the horizon? A jetís sonic boom? Nuclear testing? A meteorite? Extra-terrestrials? My imagination? God burping? There is no answer.

Iím living in two pair of comfortable ratty shorts and two T-shirts in similar condition. On warm days I wash one set and when they are sun-dried and warm I change.

I havenít bought any clothing except the occasional souvenir T-shirts for almost a year. I wonder if I can stretch it to two.

Sunday, October 17 --

Wind up to 18 knots, moving nicely. Totally overcast and gray.

While reading a Sun magazine, I flash on seeing an old childhood friend, Brent Mohr, fall slowly out of the tree again.

When I was seven, our family lived next to a farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. Another family came to visit and their oldest boy Brent, about 11, went off across the field to climb an old dead tree at its far end. He was a long way up when a branch he was holding broke. I watched him fall slowly, forever, to the earth. He got up and walked back to the house unhurt. He said he relaxed when he fell and that it had saved him from breaking anything. The odd memories drift by.

11:00 p.m. The wind is up to 25 knots and seas up to seven feet. Otter is rolling side to side, rushing down the waves. Iím tired.

Itís been gray all day. The hatchboards are in the companionway. Itís raining. The wind moaning in the rigging and blowing down the dorade vents. The generator line spins its low whir going down the waves as it speeds up.

I havenít showered since Wednesday. I havenít made a hot meal. Below is dry but close. Iíve seen no birds. Feeling mostly low energy and lazy. Just ticking off the miles Ė no excitement. The patterns of the foam-spray from the bow-wave being blown downwind with the boat are interesting to watch, in this otherwise dull, gray world. Too many bananas . . . time to sleep.

Monday, October 18 --

4:00 a.m. Wake and take position. We are 30 miles from Beveridge Reef, a ring of coral about six miles wide that lies close to the rhumb line between Rarotonga and Niue.

In daylight, in good weather, yachts have entered its one pass and anchored in shallow, calm waters over a sandy bottom. There are no motus or small islands, only a line of coral below the water waiting to snare the unwary.

In the days of celestial navigation it was seldom visited and given a wide berth. With the weather bad, my only desire is to stay out of its way.

As I finish plotting our position on the chart, we heel hard to starboard and donít come back up. I put on the harness and go on deck. The wind is up and we are rushing down wind. The main is out to starboard and the preventer is on. When the wind picks up, it unbalances the boat and pushes the bow up into the wind, increasing the lateral pressure.

I turn the wheel and there is no response. In ink black, I grope forward to the mast and it takes 20 minutes to put a second reef in the main. The motion feels much better. We hold our course.

5:30 a.m. Hard rain.

7:00 a.m. Wind up more. Take in entire main, leaving only one-quarter of the Genoa out. Wind gusting to 38 knots. Raining Ė Iím soaked.

Check position every hour. We pass to the north of Beveridge Reef by eight miles.

10:00 a.m. Extremely hard rain pounding on the cabin top and flattening the seas, which are up to nine feet. Visibility is down to 500 feet or less. The seas look smoky. Itís a rough ride.

The rain continues to increase, a deluge. It starts blowing in the small crack between the hatch cover and the dropboards. Below is getting wet.

11:00 a.m. Even harder rain, visibility less than 50 feet. The wind dies to a dead calm with totally confused seas.

Otter turns in circles and is rolled rail-under on both sides, plus some bow and stern plunging. Below itís difficult to move or do anything. I attempt to nap. This lasts for four hours.

4:00 p.m. By now the wind has picked up again to 20 knots. The motion has become mercifully stable. Reset double-reefed main and partial Genoa. Clean up below and wash my greasy hair.

This evening small patches of baby-blue sky appear in the torn gray.

11:00 p.m. The sky is clear and a windy moon lights the crests of the waves.

Tuesday, October 19 --

The days go by like gray soldiers, anonymous, faceless, forgotten, an army of them marching by with no discernable difference. A bird here and there. One flying fish very small on deck the size of my little finger. Gray and rain and damp for days. I read and nothing strikes my soul. Itís pass-time plagued by the gray, the gray.

I become concerned since a week has gone by, Iím approaching Niue, and yet there is nothing in the journal except the ordinary. The ordinary sail changes Ė balancing the boat Ė checking position Ė keep moving Ė deal with bad weather Ė stay fed Ė get rest Ė keep the batteries charged Ė record water use. The journal has gaps. The journal sounds gray Ė nothing touches me deeply. I plod on Ė like a gray soldier.

Itís time to wash the breakfast bowl as the sun finally appears.

1:30 p.m. I see Niue, long, low, and light blue. The island grows clearer as we approach.

It is flat with no mountains, a 200-foot high coral slab in the ocean. Itís the worldís smallest country.

The wind is up and Otter is still surfing the nine-foot waves. As we get closer, I can see the waves dash on the black cliffs, spraying up in tiny white puffs. As we round the southern point and head north toward the open roadstead opposite the town of Alofi, the seas moderate and the wind decreases in the lee.

2:45 p.m. Iíve started the engine to keep our speed up at five knots. I contact Niue Radio and am told I can take one of the available moorings. The roadstead is 80-90 feet deep and there is scattered coral on the bottom making anchoring difficult.

Tamoure comes on the VHF and says thereís a mooring near him. Whatís my ETA? Heíll help me. Itís good to hear Peterís voice.

The sun is bright now with puffy white cumulus, a postcard afternoon.

Four hours later I motor-sail around the last point and see a half dozen yachts. The sails are furled and Peter is there in his dinghy to thread my bow line through the mooring-line eye.

The Rarotonga gang is here. Itís great to see them all and Mauvin has drinks and dinner for Tamoure, Theta Volantis, and Otter that night as we trade stories, watching the sun sink to the flat sea behind us.

End of Report Fourteen

 

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