Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Crossing to the South Pacific, Part 3


This one's for you Jeremy!  ;)
When you do a crossing like this, it’s all about getting there.  What time of the day will we arrive?  How many more days until we see land?  How many more nights of sleep deprivation until we finally get there?  Crossing off the miles, one by one – knowing that you are that much closer to reaching your destination and wondering how that arrival will go can take up a lot of time.  Will it be a nice, easy, middle of the day arrival with lots of light or will it be a last minute call to sail around for one more night because you just missed making landfall before dark? 

So after sailing for weeks we were down to the last 36 hours of our journey and had been struggling with the decision to either slow the boat down or give it everything we had.  We were unfortunately in that fine zone of arriving JUST before dark if all things stayed equal……which of course they never do! 

"Tag alongs" goose neck muscles on the stern.
While we were currently flying along, we would have to match or beat some of our BEST day’s mileage to make it before dark the next day.  So do we purposely slow down and wait through another night of darkness (and  long watches), or do we sail “balls to the wall”, trimming our hearts out, hoping the winds stay favorable, praying we arrive before dark?  If we go for it, we could miss it and have to spend that 12 hours hove to, being tossed around just off the coast of Hiva Oa.  But if we make it?  Sweet anchors down and a real night of sleep in our own bed.  Of course we chose option B! 

So we prayed to the wind gods, changed sails like true racers, tweaked lines endlessly and sailed as fast as we could.  We watched the chart plotter count down the “hours to arrival” and nervously calculated the time difference and how many minutes twilight would last.  Could we squeak in before darkness descended?  Everyone knows you never make landfall in the dark!  As the hours dragged on (because there is nothing like being that close, but still that far away to make the hours REALLY drag!) we kept calculating and running the numbers and it was just going to be impossibly close.  With 24 hours to go, more nail biting and sail tweaking ensued.

At noon on the 18th of April, I ran the numbers for the umpteenth time and told Brett we just weren’t going to make it – we had too far to go and not enough daylight.  He looked at me, smiled sweetly and said…..”Honey, it’s just too late to stop trying now!”  So we kept going, sweating it out mile after mile as the minutes to sundown ticked by.  

Land Ho!
At 2pm…..”Land Ho!!!!!” we finally can SEE the island of Hiva Oa.  It’s right there in front of us and after 20 days at sea we can almost SMELL the dirt!  We are so close to blissful hours of sleep in our own bed I can hardly stand it.  Please let us make, it I silently pray.

It’s 4:00pm and we’re still a couple hours away.  I’ve run the numbers 100’s of times and with a slight drop in the wind it’s now looking like we might not make it.  Can we really be this close after all this time and NOT MAKE IT????????  Will we have to sail in circles just outside the harbor for the 12 frustrating hours after all this time?  We HAVE to make it!

So close, but twilight is upon us!
At 6pm we are just 2 miles outside of the harbor entrance.  Civilization is within our grasp!  The sun has long since gone down and we are full on into twilight, which is starting to fade with a vengeance.  We’ve made contact with our friends on Cherokee Rose – letting them know we may need some assistance in finding a place to rest our weary bones and they’ve confirmed there is room directly next to them.  They’ll be standing by to help deploy our stern anchor (it’s a tight and full anchorage of course!) upon arrival.  We are giving new meaning to “down to the wire”.  Who could have imagined that after 19 days, 10 hours and 32 minutes we would be so close to arriving in the dark???  But as we stow the sails and start the motor in the darkening twilight, we are fully committed – there is no turning back now.

As we enter the harbor at Tahuku Bay on Hiva Oa, there is just a scarce few minutes of twilight left.  Cherokee Rose is signaling us with a laser pointer (which is scarily easy to see) so we know exactly where we need to go.  We carefully thread our way through the multitude of boats, anchor lines and dinghies in the increasing darkness – the first we’ve been around in 3 weeks – and drop our trusty Rocna anchor about 60 feet off the port side of our friends.  Carefully we draw back, setting the anchor in about 22 feet of water and hand off our stern anchor to Michael who is standing by in his dinghy.  As he drops the Danforth about 80 feet off our stern, we quickly pull in the slack and set ourselves neatly beside them like people that actually know what they are doing as the very last bit of light fades away.  That is what I call a VERY exciting finish to a VERY long journey.

It’s time to break out the rum as WE HAVE OFFICIALLY MADE IT ACROSS THE SOUTH PACIFIC! 

Damn, arriving feels GOOD.


Offering some champagne to Neptune after crossing
the equator, just after midnight on April 14th!


3 comments:

  1. Congratulations! Oooh, I bet it feels SO good. A great accomplishment.

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  2. Congratulations! I can only imagine what it feels like. Bliss.
    Lorraine
    S/V Changes

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