Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rub a dub dub three crew in a tub

Ask me two years ago to join you on a crossing from Panama to New Zealand and I would have told you to waste your time on someone else. And, well, as i gaze out at the beautiful turquoise blue water, the amazing coral clearly visible just below the surface of the water, disturbed by schools of fish all the colours of the rainbow, on one of the remote islands of the french Polynesian Islands called nuka hiva, one of the many islands of the Marquesas and one of the worlds most remote islands in the world i cant help thinking to myself -isn't life full of surprises!

Meet Cashtoki...
(Pictures at the bottom of the blog)
Shes a gorgeous 43ft Hanse yacht who I decided to help crew one of the longest ocean passages in the world, really jumping in the deep end not having any real sailing experience and i am trusting her to get me safely  across the Pacific to New Zealand.

I joined Cashtoki in Saint Maarten, a half French half Dutch island  in the Caribbean, a few months ago after the little hiccup with the immigration authorities in Panama causing me to 'jump ship' literally, jumping from one boat to the other (flight compliments of the captain). And the crew and I have been working hard getting her into tip top shape to get us safely across to the Marquesas on the month long passage, which we just completed!

Saint Maarten to panama through the panama canal to the las perlas islands and now in the Marquesas!

5000 Miles
37 days
27 days without land and other life,
100s of shooting stars
100s of suicidal flying fish on deck
100s of curious birds pooping on deck
50+ dolphins jumping out of the water dancing in the bow waves of the boat
27 Bruises from the boat
10 whale sharks
6 whales
2 flying fish hit me
2 Fish caught along the way (we didnt try very hard)
1 shark bite in the toed generator

Its hard just to comprehend just how big this distance is. Let me simplify it and make it clearer. The Pacific is so big that if you got all the continents and placed them in the Pacific there would be room for another Africa. So we just crossed over a quarter of the way around the world SO FAR (we havent even made it to New Zealand yet) and we were travelling on average 11 kms per hour!  (5.5nm/hr)

Sailing is almost like camping. Kind of like camping if your tent is a small tub constantly rocking about bruising your body, where even the smallest mundane task like getting a glass of water is such and effort that inevitably ends in a huge mess (usually all over yourself) the glass on the other side of the room, a few more bruises added to the collection and you feeling battered and defeated. Or when you just manage to get sleep and a wave tips the boat over sending you slamming against the wall on the other side of the room. Or to find your bed soaked in salty water from a leak (but I cant complain, it is a water sport!) The nearest shop is thousands of miles away and your nearest neighbour apart from the odd bird or flying fish that wanders lost on deck is over the horizon, out of sight.

Its a lonely world out in the "big blue." You start to miss life's simplest pleasures, as simple as the colour green or being able to walk more than 5 steps on a stable surface. But nothing is more agrivating than having the ocean all around you, and not being able to swim. Its cool enticing waters off limits to those who value their ticket to paradise and not to be mistaken for shark bait,(although we did have a halfway mark swim, as you can see in the photos below! )

But if you let it, it can charm you and you soon fall into the meditating spell of the ocean, so many poets, writers, seafarers and explorers have so often have talked about. The limitless horizon offering many adventures and opportunities, the rolling clouds as they deliver various winds and bouts of rain or offer a sunny afternoon sky that rolls into a picturesque pink and orange sunset as the sun melts into the onward horizon. The only sounds are the wind, the gentle sound of the waves carrying the boat and the familiar creaks and moans of Cashtoki as she diligently works on without a fuss. It's difficult not to fall under its charm. Like Che Guevara said...

“For me the sea has always been a confident, a friend absorbing all it is told and never revealing those secrets; always giving the best advice- whose meaningful noises can be interpreted anyway you choose… It signifies an infinite number of paths to all ends of the Earth.”

At night its another world. The sky is illuminated with thousands and thousands of stars, unobscured by any nearby light pollution, you can easily see 10 shooting stars in one night. Almost as if the ocean's surface is mirroring the sky, the phosphorescent s come to life as the boat stirs the water in its path, the glittering organisms dance in the wash looking like stars fallen from the sky.

Sitting under an illuminated sky and above the mysterious glowing world below you realise how small you are in the big world, and how much more there is to explore.

Now this is not to say our passage was a comfortable breeze, so to speak. 

It was always a little nerve racking hitting some big thunderstorms along the way sitting out on my nightwatch wearing a flimbsy pvc rain suit to protect me from the rain and wind, thunder so close and loud it feels like its rattling against you rib cage thinking, 'we are the tallest thing out here for miles',  a definite target for lightning

After a cold night out on watch the first thing you want to do is take a long hot bath, but there are no such luxuries and a hot shower is even a treat. Most of my showers were either on deck with a bucket of salt water, or if I was lucky a shower in the rain, as you can see in the photo below.

Probably the worst difficulty of all came just over one week into our 27 day crossing from Panama to the Marquesas when our toilets stopped working. If there's one way to damage crew moral its by eager and curious aquatic life getting stuck in the plumbing (or so we think) and blocking the toilets. So we adopted luxurious bucket facilities on deck (as  shown in a photo below) which was rather challenging as the boat surfed waves and pitched up and down, but what a view!

But difficulties aside it is a challenging and overwhelming experience, where when you throw yourself in the deep end you come out truely deserving of every little bit of the reward!

Look where I am now!
And the journey doesn't stop here. We are continuing on through the tuamotus, society islands and tonga until we eventually arrive in New Zealand by the end of November...

I really am taking the long way home!

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