01 June, 2006

a letter to a friend

This is part of a letter that I wrote to my friend Martina, whom none of you know, which is a shame as she is so amazing and a great friend.  We met on a train in France.

Hey there!


I’m listening to Simon and Gar.’s “the Boxer”.  I’m floating in the most beautiful anchorage of my life, a bay surrounded 360 degrees by ridges and high, extremely steep cliffs with great runnels (Nuku Hiva Island, Tai Oa Bay).  I am eating a fine pasta meal with bucoos of garlic.  The only other boats in the bay are those of my friends: Sea Cor, Laurabelle (formerly the Noble Cause), Aguja, Bamboo, and Thistledown.

I could hardly be in a better mood.  They are all drinking on Laurabelle and I wanted to eat and enjoy a little solitude.  I’ve been too much around people recently, not enough time alone.  Strange, huh?  The solo sailor needing more solitude.


Now I am where I have been striving to be.  Somehow Atuona wasn’t it.  It was a crowded anchorage.  I don’t know—something wasn’t right.

Now all is remedied.  The sail here was wonderful, loads of wind, a bit rough, but great sailing.


Man this is amazing!  The stars are so bright, the Milky Way so vivid and clear.  And how lucky am I to have such great friends to spend my time with.  They are so giving of everything they have, even if it mostly rum and mixer.  Paul is particularly boat-savy, seeing as he is a professional delivery skipper.  Jim on Aguja is real good at engines and tried to help me resurrect mine, to no avail. He wouldn't let it go til he had done his best to help me out.  An opportunity to help is rarely missed around these guys.


You asked about sleep and land and that sort of thing.  Let me explain.  A passage is a stretch of ocean with no safe anchorage—which means that you must sail continuously from point A to point B.    That is why it is so tricky to be alone. I have to sail constantly.  But I also have to eat, sleep, and relax—this is why a windvane or other self-steering devise is so so essential.

The passage I just did was 2625 miles.  No land in sight.  22 days.  I didn’t talk to a soul.  I didn’t see a thing other than flying fish and dolphin—for 22 days.  (And 22 days was fast—the fastest trip of my friends.)

However, now that I am in an archipelago, I can sail from bay to bay.  From Hiva Oa to Nuku Hiva was only about a 26 hour sail.  Not so bad.  Today I sailed from one harbour (where I checked in) to the next (where a huge waterfall is) in only an hour.


Sometimes the sailing is very peaceful and fun, like today.  Sometimes it is rough and frustrating.  But the anchorages and the parts of the world you can access make imperishable memories.  It is nearly impossible to get where I am by any other means.   But, my lord, it can take a lot of work.  We've all worked for years to be here doing this and we aren't complaining. 


As to my group—we are six boats: Aguja, Laurabelle, Bamboo, Sea Cor, Thistledown, and Araby (me).  We are all close.  Aguja is a father and daughter from California—an awesome boat, called a Westsail, very strong.  Martine is a good cook and makes us sourdough pancakes.  Jim’s her dad.  Laurabelle is the boat that Tilikum bought in San Fransicso, then sold to Matt in San Diego, and now bought back from him this week.  Tilikum is a friend of mine from Port Townsend, was born on a boat in a storm.  Matt used to look after my dog Widge in Idaho, but had to be back home for personal reasons.  Sea Cor is a boat bought by Paul and Laura to sail to then sell in Australia.  Paul is the 25 year old delivery skipper I mentioned earlier.  Laura is a lawyer in London.  Thistledown is my friend Brian’s boat—we met on the Appalachian Trail back in ’98.  Bamboo is Herbert’s boat, a trimaran.  Herbert is a forty year old Austrian, lived in Taiwan for years teaching English.  Tilikum was his crew, so now he is solo along with Brian and me and Tilikum.  We have no hangers-on.  We  are all cozy.


So that is our group.  We may stick together as far as Tonga, but that would be a stretch.  We’ll lose Tilikum.  She needs to sail north to Hawaii.  Herbert wants to sail northwest toward the Philipines.  Aguja will go where ever Sea Cor goes and I will likely stick with them and then make for New Zealand. 

Right now—everything is perfect.  Gotta enjoy it while I can.


I’m planning on hauling the boat out in New Zealand and spend the summer (our winter: Oct – Feb ??) there working on the boat.  Come March, I don’t know.  Head back to the South Pacific Islands for a bit, Fiji, or start heading west to S. Africa?  I will take an accounting in New Zealand.



My life is changing so much.  My emotions are all tangled and my expectations skewed.  I am sort of delirious in a way.  I am happy yet looking for ways to move forward.  I am thinking of buying a new boat.  I met some folks who did not enjoy their crossing and now want to drop their boat.

It’s a better boat than mine, more roomy, and they are forced to sell it super cheap because we’re in the middle

of nowhere, no market.  So I could swap out somehow.  Just sail hard for New Zealand and put my boat up there then come back here and by their boat.


This would be tenuous seeing as how I don’t have the money for such a venture—but it would be a great steal of a deal.  Then I would feel more comfortable having company and friends come visit.  My boat is really small inside.  And I don’t know if it is what I need to take to Antarctica which is my goal.

It has done a great job and is everything I need at the moment, but things change.  I am trying to look forward.






Sorry for the cluttered last entries.  This is a better slice of life, I think.


So the next time you hear from me I'll be safe in Tahiti, on the south side of the Tuomotos.  Tahiti will be the most civilized place I've seen in two months or more since leaving La Paz.

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