Sunday 21 May 2017

Almost at Tikopia (Days 8-10)


We are sailing under clear skies with lightning (go figure - it's hard to picture, but somewhere ahead of us and behind us there are thunder heads, even though it is very benign where we are) with less than 100nm to go before we might put our anchor down at Tikopia. I say *might* because our stay in Tikopia is weather-dependent. We have left the region of lagoons and atolls and returned to islands where we just nestle up close in a bay. The bay at Tikopia is more of a gap in the reef on the sheltered side of the island than an enclosed nook, so we will just have to see what it is like when we get there.

The last few days have been blissfully non-eventful. The weather has been very cooperative, with light winds interspersed with short periods of motoring when they dropped completely. We have had blue skies during the day and clear views of the stars at night. We have had a few squalls, but nothing like the ones earlier in the passage. The weather models when we left Majuro indicated that we would likely have 'sailing winds' throughout our passage, but that behind us a huge area of calm would be opening up (ie delaying our departure by a day would have meant little wind for most of the trip). This is pretty much what we have seen, and we may find ourselves in this calm as early as tomorrow. We will sail until we run out of wind, then we will motor. We are also now into the speed-time-distance management mode: we need to control our speed (including heaving-to for a few hours while we still have sea room if necessary) in order to time our arrival at the anchorage for around mid-day to have the best light to see the reef. If you check our boat speed on our blog, don't be too surprised if it looks like we have stopped mid-ocean - we may well have!

We had a funny moment two nights ago: I was on watch, and Max was asleep in the saloon. I started to hear a strange noise, kind of an intermittent clicking sound. When it went on for a couple of minutes, I peered into the saloon to see if I could see anything amiss, and was met by an unusual smell; my first thought was that something was burning. By this time, Max had woken up, and he opened the bilge to check the pumps. We were worried that one of the bilge pumps had somehow burnt out. Thankfully, the floor had been cleared of Lego and toys earlier in the day, and all he had to watch out for was one errant airplane. I shone the big white flashlight on the area, and we soon solved our mystery: there in the gap between the bilge cover and the starboard bench was one very startled flying fish!! It had taken the leap from the water, through the open hatch above Max's head, and landed on the floor of the saloon. Many people cook these surprise visitors, but we decided to send him back from whence he had come. The surprise for me was that Max actually expected me to do the honours! He grasped our friend with a paper towel, and instead of brushing by me to head upstairs to the rails, he held it out in my direction! It is well known on board that the fish I handle are well dead and filleted before they reach my hands, but clearly Max was looking for me to make an exception. Gritting my teeth, and mentally crossing my fingers that the 8-inch fish wouldn't get away and start flapping around the cockpit, I grasped it firmly about the middle and flung it to the sea for all I was worth. It gratefully swam away, and we all breathed a sigh of relief :)

Calmer seas have enabled a little more activity. Johnathan and Benjamin have been busy, either building things with Lego or creeping around the boat as 'good guys' sneaking up on 'bad guys' with life-sized Lego weapons in hand (built out of spare parts by Johnathan). Sometimes Johnathan is aided by Benjamin and sometimes he is aided by "Special Forces Spiderman": our friends in Kiribati gave us a hand-me-down costume, and it is getting good use :) We couldn't find the mask for a couple of days, and after hunting in all the usual places, we figured that it would eventually turn up. Benjamin was disappointed that we couldn't find it, but generally nonchalant. Imagine our surprise when it was Benjamin who found it - exactly where he had put it - in the little tool cubby beside the navigation table! For her part, Victoria has been working on various crochet projects, making little sea creatures with patterns she copied when we were in Fiji. Both big kids have been getting ready for their return to the land of other kid-boats by working on some shared worlds they are creating in Minecraft, and Johnathan surprised me the other day by showing me an entire aircraft fleet he had built with his own designs. I love the creativity that unfolds when they are left to their own activities (even if it is on an electronic device!)

We deployed our fishing lines today, but so far our flying fish is the only aquatic life to have come aboard. We re-deployed the water-towed generator just after dark, and it is making 2-4 amps as we sail slowly at about 4 kts. With any luck, we will catch something shortly before we arrive so that we have fresh fish at anchor.

Once again, I have spent much of this night-watch (2am til morning) just watching the bowl of stars above us. Sometimes, something like mist creeps up towards the boat (when it is black, it can herald a squall, but when it is white, it is generally benign; tonight it has been benign). I am reminded of night travel in times past, before the advent of headlights and street lights, when this encroaching and enveloping dark would have been the norm. After off-watches, where I can turn my back on everything and sleep, quiet night watches are my favourite time on a passage. They lend themselves to a sense of reflection and peace that is otherwise rare. As I feel the gentle breeze on my cheek and look up at the stars that guided so many generations of Pacific Island navigators over the millennia (wishing I knew the legends they told about them) the calmness and vastness around me seem to invite a similar calmness within. I am left with a feeling of immense gratitude - for the opportunity to be here in this place at this time, and for the family and friends at home who are in my heart as I voyage. We are all connected; we are all under the same moon and stars.

With love for your journey,


At 2017-05-04 5:38 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 10°55.58'S 169°08.47'E
At 2017-05-04 10:12 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 11°15.49'S 169°07.27'E

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