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17, 2003-front page
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c/o John R. Morgan
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event the e-mails are returned from the above addresses --
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
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
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
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
Check position every hour. We pass to the north of Beveridge Reef by eight
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
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
End of Report Fourteen