Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shiriri Saga #43. Tahiti Ahoy.

                                      The Wind.

We find a light SE wind just outside the Manihi pass and haul out a sail that gets little use, the gennaker, and this pulls us along until dark when we bring it down for safer night sailing. We have a passage between two islands waiting for us up ahead and we are a little nervous: the currents are unpredictable and the islands hard to spot. Fortunately it is a bright moonlit night and the island on the left hand side shows up plainly,- the waves crashing on the reef, the palm trees..... Wait a minute, they are way too easy to see! We have been edged off course. The reef soon begins to recede however as we exit the channel and find more open waters.

Our passage this time will be only four days long with light winds (because we are in the middle of a high pressure cell), but we do catch a spectacular four foot long dorado which Heather cans in the pressure cooker - and vows never again while at sea, as she greenly comes back on deck. On a moonlit night watch she sees the first aircraft we have seen since Mexico coming in to Tahiti not far over the horizon. On one of my watches I see enormous flares over the southern horizon and instantly think of a ship in distress. But really they are too high up and must be in the trajectory path for space junk re- entering the atmosphere and burning up somewhere east of New Zealand.

It is seldom that the wind is just perfect: too much, too squally, or too light as at present but one thing is for sure, we are always hyper aware of it and its subtle variations. Even asleep below we catch the exact tone of the wind in the rigging and are up for a look around if the tone turns to moan. Like in many other aspects of our life on this sea voyage we have developed a personal relationship with this constant companion: it is the invisible force that wafts us across the ocean distances. This deep sense of connectedness with all aspects of the oceanic world will be the most difficult thing to convey to shore folks we meet along the way and often we give up and say that it is an experiential thing - you had to be there. The essence of our experience is so ephemeral and yet so powerful.

From the Journal:
May 21, Day 4. Heather is the first to see land ahead. I crawl out to change watch at 6 am and see her outlined against the rising sun excitedly pointing ahead. At 9 am I start the engine as we need to charge the batteries in preparation for a period at anchor and a little boost in speed will get us in well before dark. Twenty miles to go!
am. At this distance we can see the shapes of valleys and rocky cliffs but no houses or roads. I imagine Captain Cook making this same landfall and seeing just what I see! Or Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian of the Bounty. History never seems in the past at sea.

pm. As we coasted past Point Venus and closer to Papeete a very big squall came chasing up behind us. We ended entering the Papeete channel crab-wise, angled against the wind to avoid being swept onto the reef.

After that, Anne conned us through a tricky piece of lagoon channel navigation to this anchorage past the airport. Scaldis, Wylie E. Coyote and Francis are close by.

Tahiti in one piece. This feels like a great achievement. 7000 miles from Victoria.

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