The Golden Shellback Voyage

Kona, Hawaii, to Majuro, Marshall Islands  
January 19 – February 11, 1999

The Journal
By William Yates               
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Introduction – When one crosses the equator at sea, he or she becomes a Shellback. When one crosses the equator at exactly the International Date Line, he or she becomes a Golden Shellback. These are King Neptune things.  I had learned about these on an earlier voyage and became intrigued with the idea of becoming a Solo Golden Shellback.  As the voyage planning for the sail from Kona to Majuro progressed, it occurred to me that I had never heard of another solo sailor ever accomplishing this.  I researched this question and became convinced it indeed hadn’t been done before solo.  This fact has been confirmed by the Museum of Yachting, Newport, Rhode Island.     

On January 19, 1999, I sailed out of Honokohau Harbor, Kona, Hawaii, bound for Majuro, Marshall Islands, via the intersection of the equator and the International Date Line.  Becoming a Solo Golden Shellback became the goal of the voyage; it gave a “purpose” to the passage other than going from A to B.  I did not set out to be first at anything; it just became an added enrichment to accomplishing the sail.

Obsession had been stored on land in Kona, Hawaii, for six months prior to the voyage.  When I put the boat in the water, the engine was hopelessly seized.  The folks at the boat yard in Kona shook their heads sadly and said I couldn’t go.  I said “Oh, yeah?” and sailed out of there.  I made the voyage without benefit of an engine.

Other than a one-time editing to correct obvious errors, the following is a verbatim transcription of my journal. 

William Yates  

DAY 1 – Tuesday, January 19, 1999 – 5:30 p.m. – 3.5 miles WNW of Honokohau Harbor.  I sail without an engine.  Got a tow out of the harbor at 3:15 this afternoon.  Great to be on my way finally.  Very busy day – very busy past few days fixing things mostly, and the final provisioning.  The mechanic was aboard yesterday and today, but the engine remains hopelessly seized.  So be it.  Who needs an engine?  It’s a sailboat, right?  The breeze is light and fickle this close to the lee of the island.  I’m sailing WxN in a mostly five-knot SW “wind.”  But we are at sea and pulling away from Kona.  It is very calm – 86º – hot – and the sun is getting ready to set. Doug – the wind vane self-steering device - is steering.  I have spent the past two hours working with Doug, hoisting the radar reflector, stowing lines/fenders, etc. straightening up below.  There is a Coast Guard cutter about and I wish it would go away.  I am still very close to land.  I hear and see the jets landing and taking off from the airport.  Lots of fishing boats heading in, too.  I don’t think I’ll find the trades until 20-30 miles out.  In the meantime, I put up with the SW breeze.  Trades should be 15-20 knots – then we’ll start movin’.  Now doing 2.7 knots and it feels like we’re tied to the dock.

7:20 p.m. – We sail on the moon glow path from the new moon ahead.  It’s a happy moon and I’ll enjoy watching it become a full moon.  We snake along between WSW and WNW in the constantly changing light breeze.  The sea is like a lake.  There are vessels about – all behind me.  I’m now west of the airport, making unwanted northing.  I’ve eaten dinner, spent some time in the cockpit enjoying the evening, listening to music.  Now a whopping 8.5 miles out.  No sunset tonight.  The horizon is murky, like smog – probably “vog,” as they call it here.  That’s volcanic smog.

9:10 p.m. – Very frustrating sailing, if you can even call it that.  “Wind” is now slowing to two knots and we move one.  A puff from the south, then a puff from the west, etc., etc.  NOAA radio says trades blowing 15-20 knots everywhere except here off the Kona coast.  This area is infamous for this.  An annoying little swell has come up, too, causing the sails to slat and bang.  We sail mostly NNW, which is not the right direction.  I continue to watch the airplanes land and take off 10 miles to my west, but it appears like it’s a mile.  At least the music’s good.

10:55 p.m. – This is going to be a long night, as most first (and last) nights at sea are.  The wind is from the WSW and we are “sailing” NW, as high as I can point in the light breeze/swell – a swell that continues to knock the wind out of the sails continually.  It’s beginning to get nerve-wracking.  Port tack, starboard tack.  Chinese jibes – round in circles.  The airport doesn’t seem to be getting any farther away.  

12:50 a.m. – One of those “earn every mile” kind of sails.  And it’s obviously going to be an all-nighter.  We’ve made 12 miles to the north – the wrong direction – but the closest route to wind.  Twelve miles should be enough to catch the wind blowing down the channel between Maui and Hawaii.  The “breeze” has shifted to northish, but remains very light – now three knots, which is basically no wind.  The ground swell remains the main problem, though.  The slating and banging is hard on sails/hardware/rig/skipper, but not much I can do about it except harden down, which I have done.  It’s the best I can do while also continually trying to keep Obsession on course.  Doug stopped working when the wind died – hours ago.  At least it’s a beautiful night with a partial planetarium sky.

2:30 a.m. – We continue to “sail” along to the accompaniment of the blam, blam, blam of the slating sails.  A little ground has been made.  Kona and the airport are now smudges of light.  The airport beacon is no longer is visible.  Now 19 miles from Honokohau.  The four-knot wind is from the north and we continue to make northing – now 14.3 miles – in search of real wind.  Mr. Weather Man on the VHF insists it’s blowing 15-20 knots in the channel.  Any minute now – maybe.  I’m catnapping now so I don’t get too tired and can’t wake up.  I don’t want to fall into a deep sleep; it’s still way too close to land for that.  Maybe more later, maybe not.  All is well.

DAY 2 – Wednesday, January 20, 1999, Noon – 19º43’ N, 156º34’ W.  Barometer 30.06 in, temperature 83º, wind S seven knots, sky clear.  The nasty swell runneth and we continue to flog.  We have sailed 28 miles since 3:30 yesterday afternoon.  Not exactly making any speed records.  1,814 miles to the intersection of the equator and International Dateline.  Our “speed” is presently two knots.  Have been to the cockpit a thousand times keeping the boat more or less on course.  The ride is not comfortable due to the swell, but the day is gorgeous.  No land in sight, but it would be if it was clear.

6:50 p.m. – The sun has set – no sunset – and happy moon is up – his smile a little bigger.  There is a vessel to the NE, has been there a while.  I dozed off about 3:00 to the slating of the sails.  When I awoke about 5:00, we were sailing!  The wind is blowing 15 and we’re doing five knots on a beat - port tack.  The wind’s from the SSW (!) And we sail WSW.  That’s normal.  Here we are in the NE trades and the wind blows from the SW – our direction of travel.  I should be on a run and instead I’m on a beat.  Go figure.  At least we’re sailing.  The swell remains.  We’re rolling between 0º and 20º, but because there’s wind, the sails remain full.  This is a good thing.  All three hatches and all ports have been open since leaving.  I feel slightly queasy, which his normal for me the first few days.  Also feel tired from lack of sleep.  Maybe I’ll be able to sleep tonight (?).  Now 45 miles from Honokohau – 110 miles SSE of Honolulu, 1,799 miles to the “intersection.”

10:20 p.m. – The wind has come SW so we sail W, sometimes WxN.  Oh, well.  The beat goes on, as Sonny used to sing.  It is a dark night – cloudy – no stars.  We roll the same.  The wind speed has decreased, too – now 10 knots; we’re sailing 4.5 knots.  I can accept that.  I am keeping a lookout – I know this is a fishing area, will be so for another couple hundred miles.  It is 77º, very comfortable indeed.  I am listening to Barney Kessel play jazz guitar.  It is an easy sail now.  Things feel good.  I feel good.  I’m glad I’m here.  All is well.

12:00 Midnight – I have been standing in the cockpit, facing forward, my back against the handhold, listening to the Baby Face CD on the Walkman, turned up as loud as it will go.  It is cloudy but stars show through in patches.  Obsession continues to roll in the cross swell.  The phosphorescence is thick and bright.  Deep, too, the deepest I’ve ever seen it.  It is like phosphorescent soup.  Obsession is sailing beautifully.  The wind has clocked even more and we sail WxN now.   I know if I tack south, the wind will clock back and I’ll end up going SE, and I don’t want any east in my course.  So I tolerate – for now – a little bit more northing.  Go figure this wind.  There are pinpoints of lights – vessels – off the starboard bow and port beam.  I figure these are fishing boats.  Another long night, but I feel okay about it.  Things could definitely be worse, that’s for sure.  I am alive out here.

3:45 a.m. – About 2:00 a.m. the wind died – I was hoping it would be the shift to the trades.  It was.  An hour later, the wind started to blow from the NE!  We are now on starboard tack, a broad reach, on course to the SW, headed for the intersection, doing five knots.  No other vessels visible.

DAY 3 – Thursday, January 21, 1999, Noon – 19º26’ N, 157º48’ W – Barometer 30.15 in., temperature 78º, wind NE 15 knots, course WSW 5.3 knots, sky scattered cumulus.  A beautiful tropical day.  Now 99 miles WxS of Kona, 112 miles south of Honolulu, 1,749 miles to the intersection, 2,173 miles SW of Morro Bay.  Just up for the day, a very long night and morning.  I’m tired but I’ll wake up fully shortly.  Lots to do today – mostly deck work.  Obsession is sailing beautifully.  Other than my slightly foggy head, I feel great.  Downwind tropical sailing.  Wow.  Spyro Gyra plays.

2:10 p.m. – I didn’t expect to get “it” until at least five days out, but it’s here and I’m bathing in it. I am overcome.  I go on deck to work.  Clipped at the mast, I go into a trance.  The sea could not be more beautiful.  Caribbean blue dotted with playful whitecaps.  The bluest-blue sky overhead.  Obsession is heeled 20º to port. The bright-white sails flutter lightly like a small bird.  I scan the horizon. The picture lifts my heart, brings a beaming smile to my mouth.  I shout out “Yes!” loudly.  I forget about deck/mast work and make my way to the cockpit and below.  I grab the Walkman and put on Tony Bennett’s Steppin’ Out and sit behind the wheel.  The sun is intense but the breeze makes outside very nice indeed.  I listen to Tony and dig the scene and bake my skin.  I smile a lot.  Looking forward down Obsession’s length, the sails, the sky, the magnificent sea, music.  I am a truly blessed man in so many ways.  I’m grateful for all I have – especially my family – this relationship I have with the sea, though, is extremely intense.  Strange.  But I love it.  Below now – no more sun for today.  My skin is going AARRGGHHH!  The night will come and I’ll go out there again.  I love the days at sea.  I love the nights at sea.

6:40 p.m. – At 3:15 the radar detector went off.  A few minutes later a ship appeared ahead – maybe eight miles – moving south to north.  Probably headed to Honolulu.  From?  Line Islands?  Tahiti?  Who knows.  Lots of sea birds about this afternoon.  Dusk now.  Wind’s up – blowing 10.  We’re doing 6/7 knots.  Not bad.  No sunset again tonight.  Very cloudy sky now.  And getting cold – 77º.  Brrr.

9:00 p.m. – A lovely night, although it remains cloudy.  I took a cold shower, the only temperature available without an engine.  Not so bad.  I feel clean for sure.  Busy past couple of hours with shower, dinner, trimming sails, odd jobs.  Haven’t had my contemplate-in-the-cockpit hour yet.  That’s next.  Sailing W/WxS now – a little north of course.  That’s okay, as long as we sail swiftly, and we are.  15 knot breeze, doing five knots.  Did six/seven knots for several hours earlier – was blowing 20-25 then.  Have sailed over 50 miles since noon – she’s pickin’ up the pace. 

10:25 p.m. – In cockpit/on deck working since last writing.  There’s something particularly exhilarating about going on deck at night.  Rigged the long preventor to the bow.  The main is now way out and we’ve picked up another knot.  Not the best trim with the main pushing the boat.  The jib is not working, so have it sheeted flat.  Tomorrow I’ll take down the main and put up the spinnaker.  Maybe a spinnaker run all the way to the intersection?  That would be amazing.  Better course now, too, with the main out.  Still slightly north of course, though – 1,692 miles to the intersection.  Almost there.  Obsession is set for the night, I hope.  I feel great.  I miss my family.  I write by red light.  All is well.

DAY 4 – Friday, January 22, 1999, Noon – 18º50’ N, 160º12’ W – Barometer 30.13 in, temperature 80º, wind 15 knots NE, course WSW, speed 5½ - 6½ knots.  Sky mostly overcast.  Sea – six feet, a shimmering gun metal blue.  240 miles from Kona, 1,621 miles to the intersection.  141 miles sailed past 24 hours.  It has rained – drizzled really – on and off all morning.  It is enough rain to have to close everything.  Then . . . talk about warm.  Fortunately, they haven’t lasted long, then I let the breeze flow through again and that feels goood.  I haven’t touched steering or sails since last night so sail plan remains the same under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule.  It is rougher today, but not bad.  Cooking, for instance, is becoming more of a challenge.  Still, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s about a 3½ .  Far from unpleasant.  My shoulders and upper back have that if-you-take-this-skin-into-the-sun-for-one-more-minute-it’ll-fry feeling, so I’ll remain cautious in that arena.  One more mile and we’ll be in international waters.  It is a nice day for sailing.

2:40 p.m. – We’re in a dark gray tropical squall now.  It’ blowing 30 knots and we’re flying downwind 7-8 knots.  The seas are bigger – 10 feet.  It is beginning to get nasty out.  Now it is pouring.

3:00 p.m.  – Whew!  An exciting 20 minutes, and it’s not over yet.  First she headed in a big gust – almost broached.  To the cockpit, the rain pouring down.  Got her back on course, below, dried off, and she jibed.  Repeat cycle.  It is windy, rough, nasty, squally, pouring rain.  Otherwise, the sailing’s great.

8:45 p.m.  – It is pouring the hardest of rains.  Lightening is flashing – close – all around.  The seas are over 15 feet and it is ROUGH.  Since writing last – at least until 7:00 p.m. – it was a struggle in the cockpit.  Gale-strength squall followed gale-strength squall.  The interior is soaked – not so much from the leaks – they are alive and well – but from the weather coming in the companionway.  It is blowing 40 now and the boat is a bucking bronco.  The lightening continues.  Anyway, terrible time in the cockpit with the continually changing conditions.  About seven, things seemed to be okay, so I dried off and crawled into my warm, dry berth for a nap.  I was tired.  Sleep did not come, so at 8:00, I arose.  Just then, she jibed, so that got me to my feet and out.  It was calm(ish), but that’s when I saw the lightening and descending black mass.  It became a race to see if I could get the main down before the storm hit.  I lost.  The main is down, but not furled.  It sits on the cabin top and will have to be dealt with when this ends.  We beat N/NNE, under eased jib.  The radar detector just went off.  Swell.  A ship about.  Perfect.  Just what I need.  The rain is so loud on the cabin top, I’d have to shout to hear myself.  Good thing I’m writing.  We sail on.  To the north!

9:45 p.m. – There was a lull in the rain so I furled the main.  Not a very good job of it, mind you.  But it is secure.  Also now have Obsession on port tack, on course (sort of ) on jib alone.  There is another lightening storm approaching.  Hopefully can stay on course, but if I have to heave-to, it will be a simple matter.  Hash on the stove.  I’m hungry.

10:35 p.m. – Ate dinner, then another trip to the cockpit for adjustments.  At least I didn’t have to go on deck.  A small mercy.  Dry and warm again.  Lightening further away now and no rain – at the moment.  Obsession has slowed without the main, and that, too, is merciful.  We are dead on course now doing 4-4½ knots.  Lost six miles to the north during the semi heave-to, but we’re getting them back now.  It was intense and very wet on deck today.  After setting the main and returning below, I poured a cup of water out of each deck shoe.  I almost fell once on the cabin top and once below.  Violent.  This stuff is what keeps it interesting.  Who needs all that perfect tropical weather anyway?  Now we roll and hobby-horse simultaneously.  It’s constant motion aboard Obsession.  Maybe the gales have passed (?).  It’s all been very invigorating.  Tower of Power plays.  Thinking a lot about the kids.  I write by red light.  All is well.

DAY 5 – Saturday, January 23, 1999, Noon – 17º55’ N, 161º40’ W – Barometer 30.14, temperature 84º, wind E 15 knots, course SW, speed five knots.  Sky scattered cumulus.  Swell 10 feet – rough.  295 miles from Kona, 1,523 miles to the intersection.  Obsession remains in a rather violent state snap rolling/hobby horsing.  Otherwise, it is a beautiful day.  Today is Ryan and Danielle’s wedding.  I am thinking of them and sending happy thoughts.  Haven’t done much this morning except eat, trim sails/steering, straighten up the cockpit.  Down below remains somewhat in disarray and I have to clean up.  Also it’s battery-charging day.  So some hours of work ahead.  Still sailing on jib alone.

2:30 p.m. – The new Honda generator is purring on the bridge deck, fueling the batteries.  It is a gorgeous, blue day.  The sea is down a little but we’re still rolling, but not as bad.  I’ve been busy with “housework” since last writing.  All cleaned up.

5:40 p.m. – Sea is back up over 10 feet, but it is gorgeous.  It is a happy sea.  It’s blowing 25 now, but only 20 apparent because we’re sailing downwind.  The jib does all the work.  We’re scootin’.  About 2:00 decided to have lunch. A perfect day for Obsession Salad.  I couldn’t get the quart jar of hearts of palm open, so I gave the jar a tap on the galley counter.  Presto, half jar of heart-of-palm juice on the counter.  The boat performed a quick snap roll and the juice was everywhere.  Clean, clean, clean – all cleaned up.  What a mess.  I put half the jar of hearts in a bowl.  What next?  Hmmm.  Marinated artichoke hearts.  Perfect.  Damn, the jar won’t open.  I tapped it on the counter and the jar gushed forth its oil – on the counter, on the sole, and on my feet.  Yuk.  Clean, clean, clean – all cleaned up.  What a mess.  I dumped the jar into the bowl.  No problem, plenty of oil left.  Now what?  Perhaps some olives.  I opened the overhead locker and a can of corn fell out and dropped into the bowl – oil splashed everywhere.  I cleaned that up and settled for hearts of palm and marinated artichoke hearts.  It was delicious.

8:00 p.m. – So an hour ago I was hungry again and decided on shrimp Top Ramen.  Mmm.  Prepared – with a can of shrimp added – I went to pour it in the bowl.  All looked safe.  Nice smooth ride at the time.  Soup in bowl, Obsession takes a roll, and so does shrimp Top Ramen.  Everywhere.  Shrimp.  Clean, clean, clean.  I prepared to carry the remains to the dining table – the chart table.  Obsession was bouncing but I’ve done this maneuver a thousand times.  I’m there, at the chart table, holding the bowl level as I always do.  Then I took my attention off it for a split second.  Boat rolls, soup spills.  Everywhere.  Shrimp.  Anyway, I got it cleaned up and consumed what remained.  It was still hot.  Next time I’m hungry I’m sending out.  Then . . . while still in the galley, I went for a kitchen utensil in the middle drawer.  Uh oh, water – an inch of water in the bottom.  It tastes like salt water.  Kitchen utensils in sink, rinse with fresh water– the drawer, too.  I’ve traced the leak to a drain “T” connection directly above the drawer.  The drawer above is short – this plumbing is directly behind it and dead center over the next drawer down.  Anyway, I haven’t found the exact spot of the leak – there’s a lot of old solder that has to be cleaned away.  Hopefully, the whole thing won’t fall apart on me when I go to clean it.  If it does, that’s why they invented epoxy.  It is dark now.  I learned all this by flashlight.  Tomorrow.  Other than that?  Well, it’s raining and it’s blowing a gale 35 knots.  Otherwise, the sailing’s terrific.

11:45 p.m. – The gale (squall) passed and no others came.  Back to 20-25 knot wind/semi-clear sky.  Happy moon is now between quarter and half and is bright.  The sea remains big, but we’re sailing nicely.  Much better with jib pulling the boat instead of the main pushing.  Much easier on Doug, too.  There was a ship ahead about an hour ago.  Coming right at us.  Red and green lights were clear.  I tried to call but she turned and disappeared.  Go figure.  Probably somebody’s Navy and they didn’t want to deal with me. Salt water blisters appearing so I took a shower, changed sheets, slathered myself with aloe to see if I can’t stop this in its tracks.  Making good speed, especially considering jib alone – 5½ - 6½ knots.  It’s a beautiful night, albeit a bit rough.  Things can change in an instant out here, though.  Now 385 miles from Kona.  We are “out there.”  The voyage continues.  The lights shine at the mast head.  I wish Ryan and Danielle a happy life together.  All is well.

DAY 6 – Sunday, January 24, 1999, Noon – 16º39’ N, 163º15’ W – Barometer 30.1 in., temperature 82º, wind ENE 15 knots.  Course SW, speed five knots, swell from the east 10 feet, otherwise another gorgeous tropical day.  447 miles from Kona, 1,405 miles to the intersection.  To sleep at 1:30 a.m and slept through till 8:30 this morning.  Didn’t get out of my berth until 9:30.  Luxurious.  It’s Sunday so I took the morning off.  Have been listening to gospel and classical.  After this, have to go to work – lots to do.  It’s been an enjoyable morning.

4:00 p.m. – A busy, exciting afternoon so far.  The wind shifted to ESE putting us on a broad reach, so it was time to raise the main. I put Obsession into the wind and crawled to the mast.  Now it’s blowing 20 into 10-foot breaking seas.  The boat pitches like a wild horse and tons of sea water came over the bow.  It was drenching and hoooold on.  Naturally everything went wrong – halyards twisted, reefing line jammed, 10 trips back to the cockpit.  But I did it.  The main is up with one reef.  Rigged the preventor on the starboard side as we’re now on a port tack.  Tightened forward lower shroud on starboard side.  It was too loose and was thwanging.  I hate cotter pins.  Have the generator running again because I wasn’t happy with the charge I got yesterday.  I turned up the charger.  Down below is in disarray again.  And I still haven’t dealt with the leaking drain pipe/galley sink.  But I’m having fun.  I think.

6:30 p.m. – I think I’m “finished” for the day.  You never know for sure.  Because I was drenched – several times – today, I knew I had to at least rinse off because of the salt-water sores.  The generator purred on the bridge deck.  A light bulb went off.  I’ve got an electric water heater.  End of battery charging.  Time to turn off the charger and turn on the water heater.  I’ve never used it with 110V, but it is “supposed” to be hooked up.  When I turned the heater switch, the generator didn’t sound like it was taking a load, but I let it run 20 minutes anyway.  Into the head and I turned on the hot water.  Something resembling liquid dirt came forth.  Guess the hot water heater needs a clean out, which I save for the ‘morrow.  In the meantime, I had a dandy cold-water rinse off.  I can’t really complain, the water’s about 75º – not exactly freezing.  I sit here now, lots of work accomplished, Obsession sailing with the grace of the sea birds that are always nearby, with a clean(ish) body and a happy heart, feeling that I have my surroundings “right” and I’ve settled into life at sea.  Oscar Peterson is playing for my Sunday evening enjoyment.  Life could be worse.

7:15 p.m. – It is dusk.  The sun has set behind the cloudbank that obscures the sky at the horizon.  Huge billowy cumulus nearby are backlit a bit. The sea is not too big – eight feet – but it moves swiftly.  It’s a delight to be sailing downwind, but would be misery to be beating in these conditions.  A sea bird – white with gray-tipped wings – one of these days I’m going to have to get a book on sea birds – soars around the boat.  I stand in the companionway to stay out of the salt spray.  Soon enough I’ll have to go out there.  The bird circles and swoops and glides stationary 15 feet above the cockpit and turns and performs a lazy eight.  It’s like he’s entertaining me.  I call out my usual “Hello Bird” whenever he’s nearby.  He didn’t look at me but has to know I’m/we’re here.  Has to.  Then, as if a magician had conjured them up, six more birds – the same kind – appeared.  Presto.  And they all started this same routine around the boat, only in different directions.  It was amazing.  Now they’re gone.

8:00 p.m. – Just sitting back, listening to Oscar play – it’s a two CD set – long.  The red light glows over the chart table.  Obsession is movin’!  She has that airliner-coming-in-for-a-landing-on-a bumpy-day feel.  Kind of jerky.  We’re doing seven knots.  I can feel the speed, picture the fullness of the sails.  A pretty sight.  KERPLOW – the big wave hits.  It’s a canon boom.  Then she rolls on her side – 40º probably.  The roar of the wave passes under the boat.  Glasses, utensils, flashlights, books go flying.  Water cascades on the cabin top and down the decks.  The cockpit is drenched.  I say aloud, profoundly, “Wow!”  Obsession stands up, shudders, and continues with her landing approach.  Only seconds have passed.  I climb the companionway to see the spectacle of the mammoth wave, but like the birds, it is gone.  In the darkness, the sea looks peaceful.  I pick up – it only takes a minute – I’ve done it a million times – while Ray Brown plays a solo.  It is an exciting night, sailing-wise.

11:20 p.m. – The reefing line parted.  BAM.  Don T-shirt, shorts, shoes, harness.  Ease preventor, take in main.  To the mast, lower main.  To the cockpit, rig new reefing line.  To the mast, raise main.  To the cockpit, ease main.  To the mast, crank in reefing line, coil lines, take in luff line.  To the cockpit, adjust main sheet, take in preventor, adjust course.  Thirty minutes, and all going downwind.  Not a drop on me, except now I’m sweating.  It’s 77º out.  A wave just broke over the boat.  Lucky me.  The moon is a half moon and shines a moonglow path on the ocean.  The scorpion’s stars shine, framed by clouds.  I’m looking forward to seeing the Southern Cross.  What direction would I look to find the Southern Cross?  Hmmm.  Still doing a steady seven knots.  I like that.  Eric Clapton is wailin’ the blues.  We sail onward.  To the intersection, a mere 1,340 miles ahead.  I miss my family.  All is well.

DAY 7 – Monday, January 25, 1999, 1:00 p.m. – 15º16’ N, 165º25’ W – Barometer 30.01 in., temperature 83º, wind ESE 20 knots, course SW, speed 6-7 knots, sea 10 feet, scattered cumulus, a carbon-copy day of yesterday: stunning – 597 miles from Kona for a 100-mile-a-day average so far.  1,257 miles to the intersection.  Didn’t go to sleep until nearly 4:00 a.m. – slept through until 12:30!  Wow, a mega-sleep.  Busy in the cockpit after last writing last night.  Several jibes, but all went perfectly while I slept.  I’m hoping for an easy day.

6:00 p.m. – And I’ve had one so far.  Stayed below until 3:30 then went outside.  Just came back below.  Adjusted a few things, but didn’t have to go on deck.  Sat back on the steering seat – Walkman plugged into my ears – and allowed myself to become enchanted with the scene: the sea, sky, boat, sails.  Man, a killer day.  I am completely at peace with the big seas.  After a while, I sat on my knees facing aft, arms on the stern pulpit, the wind vane working easily, silently next to me.  I watched the oncoming waves for an hour.  I was hypnotized, mesmerized.  Too grand, too beautiful.  The sea is running 10 feet, but every so often – maybe every 10 minutes – a set of bigger ones comes along – a couple of 12-footers with a 15-footer for a grand finale.  An elevator ride – up, down, up, down.  But each wave different from all the others.  It is 6:10 now.  Sunset soon.  Maybe a good one tonight?  A new sea bird this afternoon.  Brown with a white belly and a notch in each wing.  We had eye contact a couple of times.  Yesterday and today’s birds are different from those I’ve seen before.  As I near Howland and Baker Islands, I expect to see some new kinds, too.  Obsession is sailing wonderfully.  We have a special relationship, this boat and I.  A lot of miles under our keels.

7:10 p.m. – A minor milestone, just passed.  Just entered a new box, the intersection lies on the far side of the third box ahead – takes three days to cross a box.  So . . . “should” get there in 9-10 days.  It could be eight days if we keep this speed up (?).  Then again, we could get becalmed for three weeks.  That wouldn’t be much fun.  Ah, the unknown of it all.  Plain vanilla sunset again tonight.  Spray coming in cockpit now so I’m below for the night, I guess, unless I get called out, which will likely happen.

11:15 p.m. – It has been squally, rainy the past few hours.  Frustrating winds.   But we are coping,  Obsession and I.  Winds have been fickle at times, particularly between the squalls.  Some have been filled with rain, but no wind; others filled with wind but no rain.  Go figure.  They seem to have passed for now, and we are back on course doing six knots.  Lots of trips to the cockpit.  Have to close up down below – normally I keep overhead hatches, some ports, companionway open.  It gets stifling fast when I close everything.  It’s 78º out.  Now the breeze flows through and “perfectly comfortable” would describe how it feels.  1,202 miles to the intersection – almost there.  It has been an A-plus day.  I’m a happy sailor.  I miss my family.  All is well.

DAY 8 – Tuesday, January 26, 1999, Noon – 13º50’ N, 167º10’ W – Barometer 30.7 in., temperature 85º, wind E 15-20 knots, course SW.  Speed 6-7 knots.  Another day exactly like the past few.  Gorgeous.  Enthralling.  Continues rough but I’m used to it.  726 miles southwest of Kona, 1,125 miles NE of the intersection.  We continue to fly.  To sleep at 1:30 a.m.  Up at 3:30 and 4:30 to deal with jibes.  Otherwise a great sleep.  Up at 9:30.  Almost back to “normal,” sleep-wise.  So far I haven’t left the cabin or done anything.  To the cockpit now for daily preventative maintenance, adjustments, and enjoy the day.

5:00 p.m. – Another kickback day.  Gosh, I hate these.  Spent two hours in the cockpit digging the scene.  A sea bird tried to land on the masthead, gave that up and tried to land on the spreaders.  The mast is whipping around like an amusement park ride.  He never had a chance of making it.  But he gave it about 20 tries before giving up and flying away.  It was comical.  That’s the only bird I’ve seen today.  The sea is magnificent.  Unbelievable, the grandeur, the immensity, the power, the beauty.  I still have to go on deck to deal with preventor chafing.  I’ve been putting it off.

6:20 p.m. – Went out on deck to take care of chafing problem.  Naturally, a big wave came and drenched me.  It felt great.  It’s the tropics!  As usual, found other things to deal with while I was out there, mainly recoiling halyards.  It is exciting working on deck in these challenging conditions.  I love sailing.  It is Tower of Power hour now.  I rinsed off with fresh water after my foray on deck, and am slathered in aloe.  It blows 20-25 now.  Blowin’!  What an incredible sail the past few days.  Advanced solo sailing for sure.  The moon has been showing all day – a daylight moon.  It is a three-quarter moon now.  I forgot to report on leaking galley sink drain pipe.  I filled both sinks and let them drain.  No leak.  So I figure it was pans of water I kept soaking that were sploshing between sink and counter and leaking into drawer.  I’ve stopped leaving water in the sink and the problem has stopped.  Presto.  Just call me Mr. Plumber.

7:20 p.m. – It is dusk now.  The sea has become rougher and water comes over the boat.  I am shut in again.  No sunset – again – hasn’t been a good one so far this voyage.  Feels like it’s going to be a rough, wet night.  Blowing steady 25 now. 

8:45 p.m. – It is absolutely wild right now.  We are in a squall – a large one, I think.  It is blowing 35, the rain is pelting down, the sea feels like it’s being churned by a Mixmaster, wave after wave is crashing over the boat.  But, so far, I’ve stayed snug here below.  Man, there was a big one!  It is howling’!  Otherwise, the sailing’s great.  Ah, the tropics.

1:05 a.m. – Man, what a night.  ‘Bout 10:00, the boat went off course – headed toward the wind – not a particularly unusual thing.  But Doug wasn’t bringing her back on course.  I checked him with a flashlight from below.  I could see he was trying, but Obsession wasn’t responding.  Out to the cockpit, looked over the stern, and there – dragging in the water behind the boat – was Doug’s rudder.  Luckily it is secured to the boat by a line and I fished it out.  The coupler – a stainless steel tube that secures the rudder to the wind vane – had broken.  This piece is made weaker than the other parts of the vane and rudder – it is meant to break before anything else.  Maybe a wave hit it and broke it, or maybe 130+ sea days and she gave up.  Who knows.  In any even – broken.  Kaput.  In half.  Gonzo.  I have a spare coupler, but could tell it wasn’t going to be a fun job as it’s located a few inches above the water.  Mark Schrader replaced his in the Southern Ocean during a BOC race.  I figured if he could do it in the Southern Ocean, I could do it in the tropics.  It had to be dealt with tonight.  It isn’t one of those things I could put off until tomorrow.  I self-steer – somewhat – and duck below for tools, the spare coupler tube, and return to the cockpit.  Then the next squall hits.  Bam!  Intense.  Mega rain.  The rain against my hood sounded like a hundred popping popcorn machines.  I hand-steered for 30 minutes until it finally, mercifully passed. 

I undid the weather cloths and hung over the stern with wrenches until I got the top part off the vane.  I wired it to the frame, just in case I dropped it.  I didn’t and brought that piece aboard.  After a struggle, I had the new coupler attached to the rudder.  Now all I had to do was bolt the rudder assembly back into the vane at water level.  It weighs about 20 pounds.  In the end, with much struggling, gnashing of teeth, some cursing – okay, a lot of cursing - all hanging over the stern with a tiny flashlight in my mouth – I got her bolted back on.  Not an easy task, but I conquered it.  Then redid the steering lines, a trip to the mast to adjust the reefing line, and we’re back sailing again.  Two-and-a-half hours.  It is blowing 27 knots right now and we’re doing seven.  Hopefully nothing else will go wrong tonight.  Probably more gale-strength squalls.  There’s been about eight of them tonight.  In the meantime, Obsession is sailing swiftly again, headed for the intersection.  It’s only 1,050 miles ahead now.  I feel great.  I feel like a blue-water solo sailor.   I miss my family.  All is well.

3:45 a.m. – Still up.  Just checking in.  No more squalls (so far).  Killer beautiful night the past couple of hours.  Three-quarter moon was bright – it’s now set.  Starry now.  Just been enjoying myself and my surroundings.

DAY 9 – Wednesday, January 27, 1999, 12:45 p.m. – 12º02’ N, 168º50’ W – Barometer 30.3 in., temperature 82º, wind ESE 30 knots, course SW, speed six knots.  Another day like the others, only windier.  866 miles from Kona, 980 miles to the intersection.  Up until 6:00 a.m.  After last writing, things kicked up again, and I was busy keeping the boat sailing.  Up at 9:00 to deal with a jibe.  Then slept till 12:15 (another jibe).  I am short on sleep and feeling it.  It has been very rough, very intense sailing past eight hours.  Down below is in shambles – again.  So what’s new?  Strange, it is blowing so hard yet the barometer stays up and it is beautiful outside.  It is very salty in the cockpit – and didn’t it rain just last night?  I must admit it would be nice to have a calm, 15-knot day.  But I better be careful what I wish for.

1:05 p.m. – Just put “X” the on chart.  We are 285 miles south of Johnson Atoll, 550 miles northwest of Palmyra.  Basically, in the middle of nowhere.  “Out there.”

5:25 p.m.  – A tranquil afternoon interspersed with “crisis mode” whenever she heads up – in the gusts – or jibes – in the lulls.  Wind 25 now with “lulls” to 20 and gusts to 30.  Big seas – lots of water coming over the boat all the time.  No outside time except when I have to go out, then I always get wet.  The Pilot Chart doesn’t mention anything about these conditions.  So much for Pilot Charts.  We continue to fly, but it’s rough, that’s for sure.  On a broad reach, almost a beam reach, but not quite.  Natalie Cole is singing Route 66 in my ears on the Walkman.  This is some of the most challenging sailing I’ve ever done.  Not a piece of cake, but far from horrible.  I’ve missed outdoors time today.

9:25 p.m. – Did spend some time – hour and a half – outside.  Working, but it was outside.  This sail is chewing the gear up.  I have to move the preventor and the vane’s steering lines every day because of chafe.  24 hours and they’re half chewed through.  The sails, the rig, the sheets seem to need constant attention.  I’m always on the lookout for something to break, and dealing with things that need attention now.  Everything is working so hard, but holding up well (as long as I stay on top of things). 

Me, I’m black and blue and red all over.  Just kidding.  Do have some bruises.  That’s normal.  I banged my shin in the cockpit this morning.  That hurt.  A bone bruise.  And have bruised a rib bone.  Don’t know how I did that.   I’m not as brown as fudge, but I haven’t burned and don’t worry how long I stay out in the sun anymore.  I think I’m going to be pretty tan when the voyage ends.  The seas are the same – big.  Occasionally – every 20-30 minutes – a cross sea comes along.  I watched a couple earlier.  BLAM, it hits the side of the hull sounding like a score of heavy sledge hammers had hit the hull hard.  Then two seconds later: Niagara Falls.  A big one brought water down the companionway earlier.  Not the first time it’s happened.  It is a wet ride now.  I will rinse off shortly, but why?  Soon as I do, I’ll have to go out.  Going out equals getting wet.  No way around it.  I’ll shower because it will feel good.  I have to go on deck first, though; another turnbuckle needs to be snugged up.  Every time I go on deck, I find something else that needs to be attended to.  Such is the life of a sailor. 

Down below remains in a state – things are getting pretty knocked about down here.  Then there’s the towels and paper towels all over the place to deal with the water.  In a word, it’s a mess.  Not as bad as it gets during a storm, though.  The wind indicator says it’s blowing 20, but it still feels like 30.  It’s the seas.  I’ve always said, it’s not the wind that gets you, it’s the seas – and this is/has been a nasty, breaking, swift-moving sea – although beautiful, awesome.  Jack would call these conditions “snotty.” 

My hands have really hardened up – they’re like a farmer’s.  I’m taking care of them with Neutrogena.  Neutrogena and aloe vera – those are what’s keeping me healthy, wealthy, and wise.  We are halfway to the intersection now.  About 925 miles to Kona, 925 miles to the intersection.  Definitely “out there,” or what we sailors sometimes call “on the high seas.”  “High seas” means, I think, “out there.”  Use ‘em interchangeably at will.  I’m going to turn on the spreader lights and crawl on deck and deal with my favorite things: cotter pins.  I’ll be back.

10:30 p.m. – Turnbuckle snugged, steering lubricated, cabin sole picked up.  We’re back on a regulation broad reach – wind from the east, we’re sailing southwest.  I have her sailing “in the groove,” at least for the moment.  I think everything is dealt with – also for the moment – except my body and clean sheets.  That’s next.  Big wave just hit.  Pow.  Splush.  Gurgle.

12:30 a.m. – Exhausted.  Going to sleep (hopefully).  Never got shower/sheets.  Such is life.  I miss my family.  All is well.

4:05 a.m. – Had to get up at 3:00 to deal with a jibe.  I couldn’t stand myself any longer, so took a shower, washed my hair, changed sheets, aloe’d.  A new guy until I go outside and get drenched.  Wide awake again, but know I’m real short on sleep.  Boat requires a lot of attention.  I’ll stop the boat for eight hours if I have to.  Hate to do that ‘cause we’re making tracks, but will if necessary.  All remains very well.  And clean.

5:20 a.m. – Still up.  Don’t know why.  Know I’m exhausted; I can feel the bags under my eyes.  Yet I feel wide awake.  Go figure.  Hopefully soon.  Conditions appear to be moderating.  This past couple of hours wind is down to 15 and steady from the east.  The boat’s motions have that familiar sailing-downwind-to-Hawaii feel.  We are dead on course, not wavering, which means the wind is steady.  That’s merciful – fewer trips to the cockpit.  And the water has stopped coming over the boat.  All positive signals.  It all feels good right now.  And we’re still scootin’ – 6½ knots, 880 miles now to the intersection.  I feel great.  I write by red light.  All is well.

DAY 10 – Thursday, January 28, 1999, Noon – 10º16’ N, 170º45’ W – Barometer 29.92 in., temperature 84, wind E 20 knots, course SWxS, speed six knots.  Yet another beautiful day.  1,020 miles from Kona, 825 miles to the intersection.  Set ship’s clock back two hours.  Hadn’t taken care of this small chore.  Now done.  Have slept maybe six hours, all in one-hour naps, so I feel tired.  Maybe (?) a nap this afternoon.  Wind up a bit but sea remains merciful.  Obsession flies.

1:20 p.m. – The generator runneth.  It’s like having a lawn mower aboard.  I think it’s been six days since I’ve charged, and both batteries were only in the middle of the yellow zone – about 11¾ volts.  Not bad.  Excellent, actually.  Know what a sailor is called who hasn’t crossed the equator?  A slimy wog.  That’s me: a slimy wog.  Ate a great Obsession Salad for lunch.  The sun is shining, the sea is sparkling, the sails are full.  Life is good.

5:45 p.m. – Forgot to mention.  The decks were covered with flying fish this morning.  Well, not covered, perhaps a couple of dozen.  A school of them must have “flown” by and – whoops – a few got caught on Obsession’s decks and cockpit.  Francis Chischester used to collect them each morning and fry them for breakfast.  Yuk.  They are slimy and they stink.  Not for me.  No thanks. A steering control-line block – a double cheek block – exploded a while ago.  BLAM.  Obsession immediately headed into the wind and began to take water over the bow.  I’ve had the hatches open because of the improved (improved for downwind sailing) sea conditions.  Man, the water poured into the boat.  Oh well, I’m used to it.  Sopped the water up, left the hatches open, and the boat is already dry.  Changed the block – $60 – and we’re back on our way.  Also other cockpit/deck work – all preventative-maintenance stuff.  I’d like to take the sails down to check the halyards, but it’s still too rough for that.  I don’t want to lose a halyard.  Man, we are rolling like crazy right now.  Didn’t finish generator charge – too rough/wet.  Did get 1¼ hours which will last two to three days.  Another unspectacular sunset tonight.  Not one really good one so far.  What’s the deal with that?  It is nearly a full moon already, and the sky is scattered with small cumulus, so it will be a bright night on the water tonight.  I saw the sun rise this morning.  Was in the cockpit to deal with a head or jibe – forget which – and there was the sun coming up.  I usually don’t see this particular phenomenon because I’m sleeping.  Anyway, it was just like sunset only in reverse.

9:00 p.m. – It is a bright night indeed.  The moonglow casts shadows.  A while ago, I thought I had left a light on in the main salon it was so bright in there.  Only a handful of stars are showing in the lighted sky.  It’s cool.  And the moon isn’t even full yet.  Took another wave a while ago.  I could hear it rushing toward the boat through the hull, then BAM, the sledge hammer thing, then water.  The hatches are now closed.  Been having wonderful “head trips” today – fun, positive stuff.  No great insights, though.  That will come.  I love the mental part of solitude.  Every day new boxes are opened and explored, new ways of seeing things are discovered.  It’s a different mind set after a week at sea, for sure.  It’s liberating, insightful, and a lot of fun.  One thing’s for sure: you either have to be totally mentally together or crazy to do this.  That’s a joke.  Solo sailor humor.

11:50 p.m. – I’m yawning.  It has rained twice tonight.  The first time, a very light rain – a drizzle.  The second, heavy and it blew in the companionway. I shut the door/hatch and galley port while it rained.  The temperature in the cabin rose one degree every 30 seconds.  Finally it ended and I opened up.  Ah, fresh air.  A wave rushed under the boat at the beam causing a snap roll.  The snap roll caused the main to spill its air which caused all the water in the reef-tucked sail to be spilled on the cabin top and through the galley port.  The galley is now soaked for the tenth time today, and that’s fine.  Who needs a dry galley?  I like my galley wet, water everywhere.  Other than that huge excitement, I’ve just been sitting here listening to music, contemplating contemplations.  I did go out and stand on the bridge deck for ten minutes.  The cockpit is soaked, takes a wave every now and then, and is not inviting.  It’s a mysterious night when it’s not raining.  The sky is overcast with a swift-moving veil of clouds.  The moon is visible through it.  Obsession sails to the southwest at 6-7 knots.  The wind stays at 20 knots.  We are on a broad reach which is – hands down – my favorite kind of reach.  Obsession sails gently save the once-a-minute whiplash snap rolls.  Everything feels good.  760 miles to the intersection.  I am entering the zone of the equatorial counter current, and isn’t that interesting?  This is definitely going-for-the-gusto sailing.  Very exciting.  I hope I get some “quality” outside time tomorrow.  I missed that today.  I think a lot about my family.  I miss them.  I write by white light.  Fooled you.  All is well.

DAY 11 – Friday, January 29, 1999, 1:15 p.m. – 8º51’ N, 172º15’ W – Barometer 29.9 in., temperature 88º, wind E 15 knots, course SW, speed five knots.  A gorgeous, tropical day.  1,141 miles from Kona, 703 miles to the intersection.  Didn’t finally get up until 1:00 p.m.  I think I have caught up on my sleep.  Up a number of times – eight? – to deal with the boat.  Twice we were hove-to – could have been for a couple of hours, so probably lost some time.  So be it.  This isn’t a race.  The boat is in shambles, again, so have to clean up today, deck work, cockpit work.  In a while.  I’m still half asleep.   Spyro Gyra is waking me slowly, nicely.  More flying fish on deck this morning.

5:30 p.m. – I was just thinking that I would say what a laid-back day this has been, and I remembered all things I’ve done today as well.  I guess I’m into a routine.  In any event, the day has not been a strain, though I’ve done a lot.  I’ve also kicked back a lot.  I did clean the galley – washed/put away yesterday’s pots/pans/dishes, cleaned the counter, stove, sole.  Moved the steering lines as I do every day.  One day and they’re half eaten through, so I move them four inches.  Now the poor lines look pretty pathetic.  But they haven’t parted.  Yet.  Moved the taped preventor line where it chafes on the shroud.  Cleaned flying fish off the decks.  Inspected rigging.  Adjusted steering a hundred times.  The rest of the time?  Music and head trips.  Still having so much fun with my mind, I haven’t cracked a book.  Just got hit by a wave – water over the boat – first one today.  Ha, the hatches were closed.  It’s warm here.  I really took notice of it today.  I woke up sweating and continue in that sticky state when down below.  I’ll change sheets tomorrow – that’s after only three nights.  I’ve got plenty.  Just be a big laundry bill when I get there, that’s all. 

I was standing in the cockpit doing what I do best: digging the scene –  in the breeze but still sticky – watching a rain-filled squall approach when the obvious hit me.  I went below and closed the hatches – that’s why they were closed when the wave hit – and returned to the cockpit, checking the temperature on the way: 84º.  Of course, with the wind chill factor here in the trade winds it only feels 83º.  I watched the rain approach.  When it was 100 yards from the boat, I closed the companionway and stood on the bridge deck.  The gray, equatorial squall hit.  The wind increased and Obsession headed, but Doug held her down.  It began to pour heavy, warm rain and I stood into it, barely able to keep my eyes open.  It was magical.  It felt like a 25-cents Magic Fingers in a Motel Six bed.  A gentle but stimulating massage.  Water ran down my face, chest, legs.  My hair, by this time, was soaked.  Obsession, heeled over 20º, threw gallons of water from the fold in the reefed mainsail when she pitched.  I stood on the bridge deck and turned my back to the squall. 

In the distance, to the west, the sky was painted electric blue with billowy bright-white cumulus.  The water on my backside felt even better than the front.  My legs continually flexed to the boat’s motions.  Continual exercise, this sailing stuff.  After ten minutes, the rain stopped and the squall proceeded downwind.  I toweled off below, then finished with an air dry in the cockpit.  I don’t feel sticky anymore.  The sun has set – it is late dusk.  There will be more squalls tonight.  There were lots last night.  An incredible day.  I am loving this sail.  The intersection is dead ahead – only 675 miles.

10:50 p.m. – We continue to fly.  It has turned rough again tonight.  The boat is getting thrown about rather violently.  It’s rained twice more, and one squall – a 35-knotter – hit without rain.  These often appear unannounced – seemingly out of nowhere.  In a couple of hours we will dip below 8º North – that’s getting down there.  Tomorrow I’ll see where our latitude is in relationship to other places.  I’m sure we’re below the latitude of Panama.  That’s as low as I’ve been before.  We sail onward.  It’s been a terrific day.  I miss my family.  All is well.

DAY 12 – Saturday, January 30, 1999, 1:30 p.m. – 7º8’ N, 173º46’ W.  Barometer 29.95 in., temperature 81º, wind ExS 15, course SW, speed 5-5½ knots.  A dreary, drizzly/rainy, gray day.  1,275 miles from Kona, 566 miles to the intersection.  Up and down all night fighting the squalls. At 6:00 this morning, the overcast took over the sky and it has remained that way.  A constant drizzle with a ten-minute rain every half hour.  It is dreary.  Never got more than an hour uninterrupted sleep.  Was up for several hours this morning but caught another hour, 11:30 - 12:30.  Woke up from that sleep in a funk.  Was famished, even though I’d had cereal and juice earlier.  So I cooked a big, hot lunch and ate that and still feel in a funk.  Maybe overtired, maybe it’s the day, or maybe it’s just one of those days.  Hopefully it will pass soon.

5:05 p.m. – It did pass.  Think it just took me a long time to wake up.  Brought the jib down – had two small tears at the head.  Not surprising as it hour-glasses there constantly.  Patched the tears and the sail still lays on deck – but ready to raise.  Want to give the patch material time to – as the sailmaker’s say – “weld.”  Problem is, sunlight is the welder and there’s none of that around today.  That jib has had it.  I think this will be its last sail. Went to charge the batteries and the   brand new Honda generator won’t start.  Have checked everything but the spark plug (I have a spare) and all seems okay.  I have the old one for a backup, so I should be okay.  In the meantime, I gave up and brought it below because a squall approached.  Squalls and generators don’t mix.  The wind is down to 10 knots, and with the jib down, we are only making four knots.  I’ll put the jib back up after a while, after it has some more “weld” time.  It is hotter every day.  Today, very hot – sweating – on deck, and it is completely overcast.  Overcast is merciful.  I think the squall is passing behind us.

9:15 p.m. – A squall approached.  It looked like it was headed right for us.  I grabbed a cake of Ivory soap and climbed to the cockpit.  It was a big squall.  Black and nasty-looking and filled with rain.  It got closer.  I could see the surface of the sea boiling from the pounding raindrops.  I gripped the soap – ready.  The drizzle started, but the heavy rain stayed 100 yards astern.  Then it was a 100 yards a beam.  Then it passed.  The soap wasn’t even damp.  I came below and took a shower.  The jib is raised again.  Did it all by moonlight – not even a flashlight.  And the moon hides behind a veil of clouds.  But it’s full and it’s bright.  Didn’t really pick up any more speed, but we’re not rolling as much.  Hauled out the old Honda generator – it came with the boat – filled it with gas, pulled the cord, and it putts away in the cockpit as I write.  I have left the reef in the main.  It needs to come out, but my gut says leave it in.  I’d rather not be reefing at 3:00 a.m. with it blowing 35 – so it stays for now.  Actually, it’s perfect for spinnaker right now, but I’m not putting it up for the same reason the reef is staying in: I think it will blow later.  Nice smooth ride right now.  The seas and wind are down – but for how long?

10:50 p.m. – After a half hour it started to drizzle.  That shut down electrical generation operations.  God, it’s precarious enough dealing with gasoline, electricity, carbon monoxide.  Both generators say all over them: DO NOT USE IN THE RAIN.  DO NOT USE NEAR WATER.  Do not use near water??  Whoops.  It is still drizzling, and we plod along at barely four knots in a barely 10-knot breeze. This is exactly how equatorial weather is described in the books.  Overcast, squalls, calms, etc.  But I didn’t think we’d be in equatorial weather until further south – say, 2º.  We’re still at 6½º – almost 400 miles north of the equator.  Go figure.  Guess this is why nobody sails down here.  You never hear a sailor say, “Hey, let’s go do some equatorial sailing.”  Never.  Wonder why?  We are now below the latitude of Majuro, which lies about 865 miles to the west.  Now we begin to sail away from our end destination.  It is raining real rain now and the cabin is closed up.  It gets warm in a hurry like this.  It is so-o-o refreshing when I open up again.  The moon is no longer visible – hasn’t been for a while.  But it is still bright out, the overcast backlighted by the full moon.  It’s been a very challenging sail so far – very challenging.  But I sense the real challenging sailing lays ahead.  I feel super.  I’m glad I’m where I am. I think of my family constantly.  I dreamed about Graham last night.  It was a very good dream.  All is well.

DAY 13 – Sunday, January 31, 1999, Noon – 5º49’ N, 174º54’ W – Barometer 29.87 in., temperature 88º, wind ESE 10, course SWxS, speed 3½-4 knots.  A beautiful, blue, hot tropical day.  1,377 miles from Kona, 462 miles to the intersection.  Just up half hour ago.  Stayed up ‘till 3:30 a.m.  Why?  Yes, that is the answer.  Guess I’m just a night kind of guy.   My, how the weather changes down here.  Today is great, but we need more wind.  There’s always something to whine about.  The barometer is down today.  My experience tells me this means the weather will either deteriorate, improve, or remain the same.

1:30 p.m. – Wind is down to 7-8, speed barely three knots.  There is enough of a swell to knock the wind out of the sails every five seconds.  I’d try the spinnaker, but I’m sure there’s not enough wind to keep it full with these sea conditions.  The reef is out of main – not sure if that hurts or helps.  Every hatch and port on this boat are open – it is 84º in the cabin.  Rhapsody In Blue is playing now.  I never tire of that piece.  It must be Sunday.  A fresher breeze is coming.  I can feel it. 

4:35 p.m. – A fresher breeze did come.  I was right!  Then . . . it went away.  Hoisted the spinnaker – at the time, conditions seemed perfect.  Then the breeze decreased and the swell increased and we rolled and rolled and rolled and the poor spinnaker couldn’t keep its air, so I took down.  Back up with the main and jib and we continue to roll.  Such is the life of a sailor.  Honda generator is toiling away in the cockpit sounding like the gardener set down his leaf blower and went away.  But this should finish charging for five days or so.  Off the classical, now it’s Steely Dan Gold.  The sea is aqua blue – aqua, that’s odd – and very inviting.  The sun’s rays descend into it at angles. The water is clear, like tropical waters should be.  There have been lots of schools of flying fish around today.  Oddly, none on deck this morning.  And, as I expected, some new kinds of sea birds.  I’ve enjoyed spending some hours outside.  It’s a great day.

7:00 p.m. – Weather-wise, the past 2½ hours have been squirrelly – had a little bit of everything.  Lots of squalls, fair amount of rain.  One of the squalls, it blew 30 – only for about five minutes – but it was intense with full sail up.  I watched a squall appear in slow motion, out of thin air – like a movie fade-in.  Had a rainbow for a few minutes – a wide colorful one.  Had calms, the boat wallowing, the sails slating.  Still drizzling right now a bit, but we’re sailing very comfortably right now heeled over five-degrees, a gentle motion – like a cradle - clipping along at 4-5 knots, red light glowing, music in my ears through the Walkman.  This is my kind of sailing.  Hell, it’s all my kind of sailing.  Anyway, I have a good feeling, a very good feeling, a high state of joyousness.  I suspect, though, that this will be a busy night.  I can take it.  For now, though, the “weather” appears past.  To windward: billowy alto cumulus (the kind that bring more squalls) backlighted by the moon.  Lots of clear sky.  Downwind: nasty, black, so long to that stuff.  For now.  During one of the squalls, I tried to get a rinse.  I got wet, but not washed off.  So I came below and rinsed off in the shower. 

After, I noticed the water wasn’t draining from the shower well.  Obviously, the strainer was clogged, so I picked up the duckboard to clean it and found several tiny (2 inches) flying fish jamming the drain.  Oddly enough, they were dead.  Poor things.  They had flown in through the head port, almost always open.  First time for that one.  Flying fish, other schools of small fish, bigger fish jumping, lots of sea birds – the ocean is very alive and very pristine here.  Haven’t seen one piece of garbage – not one – nothing – since leaving Kona.

9:35 p.m. – It continues to be an idyllic, near-perfect sail.  It is calm.  The seas are about four feet and spaced far apart.  There’s hardly any whitecaps.  The moonlight is so bright you could (practically) read a book.  The moonglow path on the sea looks like a flowing, sparkling river.  Gosh, I just hate this.  Awful.  The sea is go grand.  I love it out here.  Still doubt if I’ll get through the night unscathed.  Boy, conditions change fast down here.  I could take it just like it is the rest of the way – all the way to Majuro.  Pretty slim chance of that happening.  Such is life.  The breeze blowing through the boat feels so good.  Everything right now is near nirvana.  I’m thinking of my family.  I miss them.  All is well.

DAY 14 – Monday, February 1, 1999, Noon – 4º28’ N, 176º03’ W – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 85º, wind E 12 knots, course SWxS, speed five knots.  Another strikingly beautiful, blue/blue, hot, tropical day.  1,481 miles from Kona, 357 miles to the intersection.  Another long, tiring night filled with squalls, calms, wind shifts.  Didn’t go to “sleep” until after 3:00 a.m., then up and down another half-dozen times.  For a while, it blew from the SW.  SW!  How rude.  Sailing nicely now – a near-perfect day, albeit a touch warm, just a touch.  I’m not complaining – better too hot than too cold.  Lots of flying fish flying near the boat this morning.  I feel great – alive.  Today is Mom’s birthday.  Thinking of her today.

12:35 p.m. – We are now in the last box.  Actually got here at 3:00 a.m. this morning.  It has been taking three days to pass through each of the last few boxes.  So . . . three days?  Time will tell.  Now about 200 miles north of Howland Island – the island Amelia Erhart was supposed to land for fuel – but she never showed up.  A famous island in Amelia Erhartism.

4:10 p.m. – Wow!  A fantastic day, mostly pretty laid back/music/fine dining.  The wind shifts fairly regularly so adjusting steering a lot. Big deal – 60 seconds.  It is another window of calm, fair-weather sailing.  The sea, sky, clouds: gorgeous!  I still watch the flying fish a lot.  They’re everywhere, all the time, flying two feet over the water for 100 or 200 feet, then dive back in.  They’re in schools – hundreds of them.  And they’re in singles, too.  Only a couple of birds around today.  It is a mellow day – so far.  I think I’m in for another busy night again, though.  I can feel it.

9:30 p.m. – So far, so good.  We continue to sail gracefully in excellent conditions.  Knock on wood.  The easiest day so far.  Usually I pay for easy days.  That’s okay.  Another bright full-moon night.  Moon rose late so had a while with only stars, but no more.  Wind is/has been SSE so we’ve been on a close reach for hours. Seas, however, are from the NE.  A phenomena of some kind.  It has been a music/contemplation day.  A very good day.  Could use a few more of these.  I am a happy sailor.  I miss my family.  All is well.

DAY 15 – Tuesday, February 2, 1999, Noon – 2º52’ N, 177º17’ W – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 88º, wind SSE 10 knots, course SW, speed 3½-4 knots.  Another perfect blue/blue, tropical calm-sea day.  1,600 miles from Kona, 237 miles to the intersection.  There was a red-sky sunset last night – think I forgot to report that.  “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.  Red sky at night, sailors delight.”  Proves true more often than not, and we certainly have a sailor’s-delight day today.  It’s incredible.  Anybody would enjoy this sailing.  To sleep at 1:00 a.m. and woke up at 9:00 a.m.  Slept through.  Not up once.  Woke up feeling great, refreshed.  After breakfast, headed for the great outdoors.  Been in the cockpit 2½ hours, Walkman in my ears, enjoying the morning fully. 

Some negative thoughts crept into my mind when I got out there.  Stupid stuff, anger I hold towards others mainly.  Dumb anger, really.  The first time it happened, I made the thoughts into a golf ball and drove the ball over the horizon.  The next time they crept back in, I made them into a skeet pigeon, said “Pull,” and shot them to smithereens with my imaginary 12-gauge.  No more negative thoughts.  They’re not allowed on this voyage.  It is officially a very happy day, no question about that.  SSE wind has remained over 12 hours now, so must declare we are sailing in the SE trades.  This makes sense as they are supposed to blow as high as 4º this time of year.  Also explains the shitty weather.  Where the NE and SE trades collide, squalls, calms, wind shifts occur.  So, hopefully, that should be behind us until we turn north and have to go through it again on the way to Majuro.  I can take another week of this kind of sailing.  Easy.  It’s for days like these that I do sail.  No flying fish, no sea birds today.  Odd. 

12:30 p.m. – While writing last words, a chirping sound came from the cockpit.  Nothing unusual, there’s always odd sounds on a boat: squeaks, chickens clucking, dogs barking, cocktail party background noises, knocks, pings, etc.  So I didn’t take much notice until it kept up.  I went outside and there, flying at spreader height, was a small black sea bird chirping like he was trying to get my attention.  He’s still out there chirping.  There’s another sea bird out there with him.  Looks like the same kind of bird, only white.  This one doesn’t talk.  I haven’t seen this species before, and assume they come from Howland or Baker Islands, now only 120 miles away.  Small, desolate, treeless, reef-surrounded, flat pieces of land where upon unique species of sea birds reside.  So I was hoping/expecting to see some new kinds of sea birds around these parts.  There you go.  Looking at the big chart I see we are in the widest part of the Pacific east/west wise.  9,000 miles across.  Turn left: Ecuador, 4,500 miles.  Turn right: Borneo, 4,500 miles.  We are definitely “out there.”  Not a lot of ship traffic around here, I’ve noticed.  I am in a place where hardly anybody ever goes.  I like going places like that.  Gosh, in the southeast trades.  Although still in the northern hemisphere (barely) we sail in the vast South Pacific tradewind belt. That’s very cool.  Not as cool as Golden Shellbackism, but cool just the same.  Obsession sails like an albatross, music fills my world, the bird chirps.

7:45 p.m. – A delightful afternoon spent in the cockpit.  Didn’t come below until 6:30.  A great day.  Sunned, musiced, read, communed with the sea birds.  A perfect day weather-wise.  I hated for the day to end.  Moseying along here.  Not making great speed – four knots – but I’m not complaining.  I can take lots of days like these.  It’s beautiful out here.  Cold tonight, though – 79º.  Excuse me while I grab my parka. 

9:20 p.m. – Continued fine sailing, but there are squalls about.  There will be work tonight.  The moon is squashed – no longer a full moon – but still very bright when there’s not a cloud obscuring it.  It is two weeks ago today I left Kona – another ten days if all goes well.  Now 196 miles to the intersection.  We’re getting there!  Chirping sea birds still out and about this late.  There’s about eight of them now that continually circle the boat.  They sure seem to be having a good time.  I like them around.  I miss my family.  I love having their photographs around me.  And now, signing off for tonight, from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this is the United States sailing vessel, Obsession, declaring: All is well.

DAY 16 – Wednesday, February 3, 1999, Noon – 01º21’ N, 178º42’ W – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 88º, wind SSE 15 knots, course SW, speed 5½ knots.  A carbon copy of yesterday only slightly windier.  It is beautiful outside.  1,723 miles from Kona, 112 miles to the intersection. Up at 9:00 – only up twice during the night.  A good sleep; I feel rested.  I’m looking forward to another day in the cockpit.  Have to be careful, however – got sunburned a few places yesterday.  The sea birds are still around the boat, squawking and chirping.  If the wind remains steady, should reach the intersection in the morning.  I figure 20 hours from now – that would make it 8:00 a.m.  We’ll see.  In any event, we’ll be under 100 miles to go in a couple of hours.  Navigation/steering critical now, as it is reaching any destination.  Looks like another great day.

6:35 p.m. – Another perfect do-nothing-but-enjoy-the-sail day.  It has been unbelievable the past few days.  Perfect weather, perfect sailing, no breakdowns.  That’s my kind of sailing.  Red sky sunset tonight so hoping for another perfect day tomorrow.  Tonight, however, shows squalls far away.  Last night worked out okay – hopefully tonight will, too.  Wind has dropped to 10 knots and speed to 4½-5, so am amending ETA intersection to between 8:00 a.m. and noon.  This means arrival time will happen outside this range.  My predictions are seldom right.  Now 75 miles to the intersection.  My plan is to take the intersection at a 45º angle, like this:  



This way I become a Shellback, Golden Shellback, and Royal Dragon (one who has crossed the Dateline) simultaneously.  Anyway, it seems like the correct way to do this.  The correct way being the way I say it is.  The point is to cross the equator at exactly the dateline, “exactly” being defined as within a half-mile – my definition.  Within a half mile – I’m calling that close enough.  I’ll bet the Navy doesn’t do any better than that.  It is Golden Shellback Eve.

8:15 p.m. – The moon is on the other side of the earth.  The sky is clear, so there is a planetarium sky tonight.  The sky is so thick with stars it’s difficult to find any black spaces.  It is wondrous, and I’m going to stare at it some more tonight.  The phosphorescence is pretty showy tonight also.  And it is 80º outside.  All in all, a nice night.  We are now (have been) 12 hours ahead of Meridian Time, Greenwich Mean Time, Universal Coordinated Time, Zulu Time – whatever you want to call it.  When we cross the dateline tomorrow, we will be 12 hours behind Meridian Time – and it will be yesterday.  That’s where the day goes.  I like the idea of sailing into yesterday.  And the best part: the time will the same so I won’t have to change clocks!  It’s all so amazing.  Do you think John and Paul were singing about the Dateline in Yesterday?  I guess not. 

10:20 p.m. – Boy, did I screw up.  Big time.  I’m so embarrassed.  We do not sail into yesterday, going west, we sail into tomorrow.  Whoops.  So at least I got it right before we crossed the line.  Do you think Annie was singing about the Dateline in the song Tomorrow in the play Annie?  Probably.  The moon is up erasing all but the brightest stars.  A three-quarter moon.  Or, as the celestial navigators like to say: a gibbons moon.  It is 79º outside – and, in the breeze, comfortable beyond belief.  I thought the equator would be hotter than it is.  It is very pleasant weather here.  No palm trees here, though.  55 miles to go.  I am constantly making teeny adjustments to the steering to keep us on course.  I only have a half-mile-wide slot to sail through.  I don’t want to have to come back and do it again.  I am loving this sail, everything about it.  I miss my family.  All is well.

DAY 17 – Thursday, February 4, 1999, 7:50 a.m. – Didn’t get to sleep until after 3:00 a.m. – don’t know why – and up at 7:30 this morning for the big “moment.”  I felt it would be poor seamanship to sleep through the crossing.  We are now at 0º3’ North, 179º58’ W – or exactly 3.71 miles to the intersection.  The breeze is light – eight knots – the sea is calm and the sky is clear.  A perfect day for an intersection crossing.  The temperature this morning is 82º – not much different than the middle of the night.  B.B. King is bluesing the ship this morning – perfectly appropriate line-crossing music, I think.  I was hoping there would be something like an aircraft carrier here to witness this historic event but, alas, I am alone.  I go forth now to present myself to King Neptune.

8:50 a.m. – It is done.  Official time 8:35 a.m., February 4.  Or, actually, where I am now, it’s February 5, so did I cross on the 4th or the 5th??  Let’s see, if I’m going east to west and . . . the B.B. King CD had ended so I crossed to Eric Clapton’s From the Cradle.  This is an important detail.  So I stood in the cockpit, naked as a canary – as I’m prone to be these days – and said something to the effect: “King Neptune, I am William Yates, captain of the sailing vessel Obsession.  I have sailed nearly 2,000 miles to present myself to you with the humble hope that you will admit me into the order of Golden Shellbacks.  I bring gifts, King Neptune.  First, a silver coin to add to your vast treasure chest.  (I tossed a quarter into the sea.)  And from the sprawling almond plantations of the San Joaquin Valley of the great state of California, I bring you almonds, dipped in chocolate and sugar-coated the color of the sea.  (I tossed in a handful of blue almond M&M’s.)  And finally, I offer you a drink of very Special Old Pale brandy distilled by the fine people at the E&L Distillery in Modesto, California.  (I poured a shot of brandy into the sea.  Isn’t Gallo in Modesto?).  And now I anoint myself with your pristine waters.  (I poured a bucket of seawater over my head.  It felt wonderful).  King Neptune, I am a mariner worthy, I believe, of your blessings.  I know you can’t talk, so if you are displeased with me, show me a sign in the next 60 seconds.  If no sign, I shall take that to mean you have accepted me into your family.  (I waited 60 seconds.  Nothing happened.)  Oh, King Neptune, I thank you.  I am humbled by your presence.  I will remain your faithful servant the rest of my days.”  And it was over.  Pretty silly, huh?  But there had to be a ceremony.

I then came below and opened the package the kids had sent to be opened at the Equator. It is a golden King Neptune wearing a gold shell and a congratulations card from them and the cats and the goldfish.  Thank you all.  I love it and will keep it forever.  Well, that’s that.  Now I turn the boat over onto a starboard tack and head for Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands.  For the moment, however, I am sailing in the Southern Hemisphere.  True, I’m only 2½ miles south of the equator, but it’s still Southern Hemisphere.  Now I can say I sailed the South Pacific.  I better go turn the boat around or I might end up in Tonga.  Tonga, hmmm.  Just kidding.  I am now a Solo Golden Shellback, probably the only Solo Golden Shellback in the world.  That’s a trip.

9:30 a.m. – Obsession has been tacked and we now head northwest.  GPS shows Majuro 675 miles ahead.  That should  be about seven days’ sailing – give or take, depending.  Made the Kona-intersection sail in 16 days, 19 hours.  I’ll call that 17 days.  Not bad.  I figured it would take 20 days.  Also, we are now 3,920 nautical miles from Morro Bay.  That’s a ways.

Noon, Friday, February 5, 1999 – 0º04’ N, 179º52’ E – Barometer 29.92 in., temperature 84º, wind NE 10 knots, course NW, speed four knots.  I don’t think a day could be any more perfect than this one.  666 miles to Majuro.  Hey, what happened to Thursday?  Well, it’s over there to the east, eight miles.  That’s where you’ll find Thursday.  Here, it’s Friday.  Been working: housecleaning, deck, and cockpit work.  Paying for doing nothing the past three days.  Imagine, having to work on Golden Shellback Inauguration Day.  But, as I heard an aging mariner espouse one day, while sitting by the dock of the bay, he said, “Such is the life of a sailor.”  And that’s where that saying comes from.

God, the ship was a real shit hole, but I’m getting it straightened out.  Still have more deck work, and the generator runneth.  I don’t hear it right now, though, because I have Leonard Skinner blaring away in my ears through the Walkman.  Northeast breeze.  Hmm.  Could it be we’ve sailed back into them without going through the rain/drizzle/squall/calms zone?  There’s no chance – and I mean NO chance – we’ll get to Majuro without getting our butt kicked again.  That won’t happen.  That’s the nature of sailing.  There’s always a price to pay for perfect days.  And I’ll pay it.  Gladly.  I don’t think I could feel much better than I do right now.  I hate feeling like this.

3:15 p.m. – The sun is intense, but it’s very comfortable in the shade of the mainsail or under the dodger.  The sky overhead is blue like the outer core of a welder’s spark; at the horizon it lightens to a vivid powder blue.  The sky is filled with shreds of white clouds.  The sea away from the sun is tranquil – about a two-foot sea – and is deep cobalt blue.  Towards the sun the sea sparkles as if scattered with sequins.  In the distance, under the sun, the sea is solid silver glitter.  The breeze blows eight knots, pushing us peacefully along at four.  Marvin Gaye is singing Let’s Get It On.   The generator is long silent.  If there is ocean sailing in heaven, it must be like this.  This is the payoff.  Fairly nice day.

DAY 18 – Saturday, February 6, 1999, Noon – 01º9’ N, 178º36’ E – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 84º, wind NNE 15 knots, course NW, speed six knots (at the moment).  A perfect tropical day at sea.  Miles to Majuro: 558.  Fell asleep at 9:00 p.m. last night so didn’t get my end-of-the-day entry logged.  All was well.  I was a tired man.  Slept through until 8:30 a.m. this morning.  A mega sleep.  Felt great.  Slow going through the night, but we still managed to do about 100 miles past 24 hours.  I’ll take that.  The wind has been north since getting up, now just clocked to NNW, so we have been BEATING.  I’m not supposed to have to do any of that, but what am I going to do?  Go to Tonga?  Tonga, hmmm.  Just kidding.  The seas, though, remain calmish so the ride’s not too bad.  The cockpit, at least, is dry.

4:35 p.m. – There are hundreds of sea birds flying and squawking around the boat.  I’ve never seen this at sea.  It’s a trip.  The day progresses.  It’s a fairly mellow day.  Obsession has sailed six knots all afternoon.  It is different (1) beating, and (2) being on a starboard tack after 17 days on a port tack.  But I am adjusting.  Problems with the wind vane’s control line all afternoon, but I think I have it solved now.  I feel great – very happy – but feel down somewhat from my “high state.”  Don’t know what that’s about, but think it’s normal.  Can’t stay up there forever, I guess.  Still, everything feels very good – very nice.  It has clouded over past hour, had cloud cover last night, too.  Wind now from the NNE – and I wish it would go all the way over to east.  But . . . such is the life.

9:40 p.m. – The sky is still overcast, but a few first-magnitude stars burn through, as does a touch of backlighting from the moon.  We remain on a beat, but a relatively fair-weather beat.  The cockpit remains dry at any rate.  Our speed, too, has been excellent: six-plus knots – not bad for beating.  The ride is fairly comfortable – a lot more comfortable than, say, ten days ago.  We are still under full sail, and Obsession doesn’t seem the least bit overpowered.  So the sail is very good.  More problems with the vane’s control line, but I really, really think I have it solved now.  The birds didn’t last long – 30 minutes and they were gone.  It was cool while it was happening.  It has been a fairly easy day and has stayed “mellow.”  I don’t mind mellow.  494 miles to Majuro.  I’m beginning to feel like we’re on final approach – starting to plan arrival, reviewing charts, etc.  In the meantime, we sail on.  I miss my kids.  All is well.

DAY 19 – Sunday, February 7, 1999, Noon – 02º43’ N, 176º43’ E – Barometer 29.88 in., temperature 86º, wind NxE 10 knots, course NW, speed five knots.  It is a perfect, blue, calm, tropical day. Miles from intersection: 255.  Miles to Majuro: 411.  147 miles sailed past 24 hours, a very good run.  But, the wind has decreased this morning and we have slowed.  This is okay.  The sail remains beautiful.  It is Sunday – a day of rest.  I’m going to take the day off.

3:15 p.m. – The wind has decreased a few more knots (6-8 knots now).  It is HOT – the hottest day so far.  I am dripping, but I don’t mind.  Hauled the plow anchor out of the foc’sl and have it secured in its roller on the bow.  And I have the rode ready for flaking.  I’m ready to anchor – 400 miles to go and I’m ready.  You can’t get these things done soon enough, I say.  Wind has slowly clocked from N to NE through the day, and we have gone from beat to close reach to beam reach.   Hope it stays there – or goes even further east.  That would be okay.  Even with light wind we’re still making four knots.  It’s a great day.

6:30 p.m. – I have been lounging on the spinnaker bag in the cockpit since last writing.  Just the sea and the boat and Tower of Power and my head.  A wonderful, delightful time.  Then came a light shower just heavy enough to drive me below and close up the cabin.  It’s now over and it has left us becalmed.  I think this will be short-lived, though – hope so.  It looks like there’s some wind headed our way.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, we are wallowing in the swell and the sails are banging back and forth.  It feels like one of those moments before a wind shift.  Time will tell.  It’s been a great day so far.  Outstanding.

7:50 p.m. – A light NE breeze is upon us and we glide along at four knots.  The sea is still calm(ish) and the ride is easy.  Planetarium sky overhead, but horizon all around is obscured.  It’s a beautiful, tropical night.  Tried the radio – we’re only 250 miles from Tarawa where there’s surely a station.  It’s night, so I figured something might come in, but there’s only static everywhere on the dial.  I’ll have to settle for Eric Clapton.

10:00 p.m. – The wind has decreased again and we sail at three knots – sometimes 2½.  And the sails slat and bang again.  Oh well.  At least the evening has stayed nice – very nice.  We’re not going to have a very good run this 24 hours, and so be it.  I can take it.  Spent some time in the cockpit since last flattening the sails, adjusting steering – cockpit piddling – and enjoying the evening and the stars.  We sail on.  I miss my children.  All is well.

DAY 20 – Monday, February 8, 1999, Noon – 04º01’ N, 175º23’E – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 86º, wind East 15 knots, course NW, speed 5-5½ knots.  Another one of those fabulous days.  300 miles to Majuro.  The wind came back at 3:00 a.m. and we’ve been scootin’ since then.  We’re on a broad reach in an east wind.  Rigged a new preventor this morning.  The old one finally gave up.  That’s the same preventor I used from Morro Bay to Hawaii last year.  It lasted a long time but was thread-bare and it finally parted.  No luck on the AM radio again later last night.  Tarawa is probably five watts.  It’s a very nice day for tropical sailing, but no longer calm.  Roughness not bothering us much because we’re sailing downwind.  I like downwind.

4:25 p.m. – Took a nap for an hour this afternoon.  A good use of an hour.  Piddled in the cockpit some more getting ready to run the generator.  It is a blowin’ out!  And sailing downwind it is windy inside the cabin.  Feels great.  Second day of Tower of Power.  I think I like that band.  Now about 140 miles east (xN) of Little Makin Island, one of the Gilberts.  I would like to go to the Gilbert Islands one day.  For now, I’ll settle for the Marshalls.

7:55 p.m. – It is a balmy-yet-breezy night.  The sky overhead is clear, showing the planetarium.  The seas are up a little so the ride’s a little jerky.  The wind is now out at the ExS, so our course is north of where it should be.  Oh, well.  If the wind doesn’t come up some tomorrow, I’ll tack.  Either way, we’re going to get there.  Finished generator – that charge might (?) get us in.  I’ve spent some time in the cockpit with the Walkman so I didn’t have to hear the generator.  And some time below straightening up.  Going to go to the cockpit again for a while.  Kick back on the spinnaker bag and dig the evening.  It’s a good one.

10:30 p.m. – Below for the night.  Enjoyed my time outside.  Wind’s the same and still sailing north of course.  Such is life.  There was a flying fish in the cockpit tonight.  Dead, I’m afraid I have to report.  He was a big one – about ten inches.  I almost stepped on it.  That wouldn’t have been fun.  Saw a new sea bird this afternoon – new as in another new species for me.  This one was big – much bigger than the ones I’ve seen past couple of weeks.  This one was the size of an albatross, only sleeker and white and black.  A soarer like an albatross.  It was a pretty bird.  Because of my course, I’m now heading for the Keats Bank, a dot in the middle of nowhere where the water goes from 2,000+ fathoms to eight fathoms.  These areas are always rich with fish and attract, oddly enough, fishing boats.  So, unless the wind shifts tonight, I’ll tack over westerly tomorrow to give the Banks a wide berth.  I know there’s a large fishing fleet in Majuro.  I’ve weaved through working fishing fleets before and I don’t like it.  So I’ll let them have the Banks to themselves. 

Then, the following day – that would be Wednesday – I’ll come upon the islands (atolls) and will have to weave myself through them trying very hard not to run into one.  A couple of these reefs extent out ten miles.  Reefs are another thing I don’t want to run into.  It’s a policy.  So, if I don’t become becalmed or some other unforeseen whatever, I’ll be up all night – Wednesday – getting through the islands.  “Should” arrive Majuro Thursday.  If it’s late Thursday, I’ll have to stand off until the next morning before attempting to enter the lagoon.  I’ll be one tired, worn out guy if that happens.  I hate sailing near land and reefs, but that’s part of the deal.  Like the pilot who loved to fly but hated landings.  It’s part of the deal, no way around it.  Boy, the weather here is nice.  I may just go back outside again for a little while.  It feels good tonight.  Basia sings.  All is well.

DAY 21 – Tuesday, February 9, 1999, Noon – 05º23’ N, 173º50’ E – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 86º, wind E 15 knots, course NW, speed 5½ knots.  The day is the same as yesterday and that’s fine with me.  176 miles to Majuro.  Sometime this afternoon we’ll move onto the Marshall Islands chart.  It’s getting close then – final atoll weaving.  Now 110 miles southeast of Mili Atoll – the first obstacle.  Then another 65 miles to Majuro, passing between Majuro and Arno Atolls – a nine-mile-wide channel.  Then west along the top of Majuro to the channel, into the lagoon, then a 10-mile windward sail to the east to the “city.”  The lousy thing is it looks like I’m about 36 hours away from the eastern end of Majuro (before the two 10-mile sails) which will put me there about midnight tomorrow – at the channel entrance about 2:00 a.m. Thursday.  I cannot enter at night, so I will either stand offshore until light or try to slow the boat down today.  I guess a third possibility would be to heave-to between Mili and Majuro and wait for my timing.  My, my, all these decisions.  In the meantime, this is my last day to enjoy, so that’s what I’m going to do.

6:15 p.m. – And enjoy I have, mostly loafing and a one-hour nap.  Now officially on the Marshall Islands chart.  About 80 miles east-south-east of Mili Atoll.  Keats Banks is about 20 miles off the starboard beam.  More birds about today – many different kinds.  That’s a sign of getting close to land.  Long night ahead – long two nights ahead.  Still weighing options of how to time arrival.  The answer will come.

7:40 p.m. – The night is clear and starry, but the wind and seas have picked up considerably the past hour. Wouldn’t you know it, when I want to slow down, the wind picks up and we sail faster.  I’ll probably heave-to tomorrow to let some time pass, then the wind will die altogether – such is the life.  It is rough now and we’re sailing fast – seven knots. Also wind now out of the NE, 20+ knots.

11:15 p.m. – Busy night. Steering line on the vane broke, so had to rig new lines.  Always an interesting challenge steering the boat while rigging new lines, but I got it done as I have a hundred times before.  Out to the lee deck for more chafe protection on the new preventor and re-secured the upper shroud chaffing gear.  It is exciting working on the deck when it’s blowing hard.  The sailing has gotten intense so things are breaking or getting ready to break.  No loafing any more.  We’re back to the big boy stuff.  Seems it’s always rough/intense right before a landfall.  Why is that?  Cut my finger with the rigging knife on deck – blood everywhere.  But it was just – luckily – one of those tiny-yet-bloody nicks.  I put rubbing alcohol on it.  That should cure it.  Now 46 miles east of Mili Atoll and 111 miles south-east of Majuro.  Tomorrow I’ll heave-to for a number of hours to try to time my arrival for about 9:00 a.m. Thursday.  These things, though, seldom go as planned.  So, more work tonight trying to keep this boat going straight and not jibing, heading, or broaching.  I’ll sleep tomorrow during heave-to time and sail through the night again.  That’s the plan anyway.  I don’t mind this intensity.  I was ready for it.  I’m having fun!  Thinking a lot about my children.  I love having their pictures around me.  I miss them.  All is well.

DAY 22 – Wednesday, February 10, 1999, Noon – 06º33’ N, 171º55’ E – Barometer 29.90 in., temperature 88º, wind NE 20 knots, course W (just altered from NW), speed six knots.  The day is gorgeous, tropical, windy, with eight-foot seas.  43 miles to Majuro (plus 20 miles sailing to channel and back to town).  Now 18 miles north of Mili Atoll.  Except for the birds, you would never know I was near land.  No land sighted – not surprising since the atolls are only about four inches above sea level.  Not a peep from the radio since leaving Hawaii, nor have I seen another vessel.  But, according to my navigation, I have atolls north, south, and west of me, so I guess I’m here.  Still way ahead of schedule.  Just turned the boat due west to get into position to heave-to, which I will do in 2-3 hours.  Then I’ll sit for 12 hours, then go for it hopefully arriving off the atoll about 8:00-9:00 a.m.  We’ll see how this works out.  Stay tuned.

2:25 p.m. – Still sailing west – another hour or so before heaving-to.  Been doing “get ready for getting there” jobs and cleaning.  Still more to do but am on break having an Obsession Salad: hearts of palm, crab meat, artichokes, and mandarin oranges.  Looking forward to getting in and talking with my kids, but have to admit I will miss the solitude.  I have enjoyed this sail a lot.  Still all quiet around here.  No boat or radio traffic at all.  I don’t think there’s a lot happening in the Marshall Islands.  I’m running the generator again – not that I need to.  Just seems prudent to be fully charged going in.  I don’t know what I’ll have to run or for how long.  Unfortunately, it is noisy – it shatters the peace.  I think that’s why they invented the Walkman.

5:30 p.m. – I was lying back on my berth – this was maybe two hours ago – thinking of writing in this book.  The generator was still running and Tony Bennett was Steppin’ Out with His Baby in my ears when the boat started to head.  When this happens, it is from either (1) an increase in the wind causing the boat to “head,” or turn into the wind.  This is the usual cause and usually I wait for a few seconds to see if Doug will bring her back.  If not – that’s when the wind is too strong – I go to the steering station and get the boat back on course.  When the boat gets headed she heels over far and picks up speed like crazy.  Sometimes the G-forces are intense.  The other cause can be (2) the vane has broken and lost control of the boat.  Anyway, I’m sitting back thinking about writing in this book when the boat got headed.  You know when this happens.  It is a drastic change in the attitude of the boat.  So I started to wait my obligatory few seconds to see if Doug would bring her back when over on her side she went and the G-force went through the roof.  I threw off the headset fast – didn’t even turn the Walkman off or pass Go and collect the money.  

I was outside in, as Sterling would say, a jiffy.  The wind was howling and had the boat in a grip.  A glance told me it wasn’t the steering, it was the wind.  I crawled to the steering station and released the vane to try to get control.  Behind the boat the blackest, nastiest squall was approaching – fast.  We weren’t even in the damn thing yet, and, with full sail up, the boat was nearly impossible to steer or control.  It’s been such a beautiful, sunny day, so naturally every port, every hatch in the boat was open.  The generator sat there pouring out electricity.  The boat’s at a 60º angle trying to break the sound barrier.  I’m at the wheel struggling – trying my best – to get control.  The rain now was only 100 yards away.  It was a black curtain.  It did not look friendly.  “Sail the boat, Bill,” I said, rather calmly I thought.  I got the boat on a run and locked the wheel.  I jumped forward and shut down the generator and close the companionway.  That was the only thing I hoped to close.  I’m away from the wheel three seconds.  BLAM, she jibes, and before I can gain the wheel, she’s over 60º to starboard – the opposite way.  Because of that, the companionway door opens by itself.  The rain hit – torrents – and with it more wind.  I locked the wheel and again went to shut the companionway door.  BLAM, she jibed again, but I got the door shut and it stayed shut.  I knew I couldn’t leave the wheel again or we’d be in trouble. 

So I stood there, at the wheel, in the driving rain, contemplating the water that was pouring in the open hatches and ports, steering the boat. I got her on that “edge,” the edge between jibe and head, that perfect run where the boat is running before the wind in harmony with the wind and sea.  This takes constant steering.  But I got her there and kept her there for 30 minutes – until it passed.  It was beautiful, in the tropical squall surrounded by blackness sailing the boat perfectly.  I was, for that time, “at one” with the boat, and it was wonderful.  The squall passed, the wind moderated, the black tempest marched forward downwind.  I turned and put all my weight, on the outside of my left heel, upon the broken steering vane connector tube – the one that had broken way back when.  Well, the two pieces had remained on the cockpit grating snug in a corner, the same corner whereupon I stepped.  The broken edge of the tube – it’s about 1½-inch-wide heavy stainless steel tubing and is razor-sharp where it had broken - and it cut into my heel a three-quarters-inch deep and two-inches long.  Blood?  We’re talking blood here.  It didn’t hurt – still doesn’t – but it was/is bloody.  I engaged the vane, and sat down.  There was a clean, though wet, towel nearby and I held it against the wound for 15 minutes.  Waiting, hoping for the bleeding to stop.  It subsided. 

I tacked the boat over, sheeted the sails in tight, headed her back into the wind, locked the wheel down, and we were hove-to.  The boat is basically stopped.  In reality, we are moving to the NNW at about one knot.  Running around the cockpit, however, caused my cut heel to bleed again.  I knew that would happen.  Using the towel as a steeping stone, I made my way to the med locker and pulled out the cuts-and-wounds case.  This is filled with gauze, bandages of all sizes, butter flies, tape, sutures, etc, etc., I spread the contents out on my berth and settled for 2-inch x 3-inch gauze pads – taped on.  First: rubbing alcohol.  AAAAHHH.  That was fun.  Then Neosporin, then I taped the bandage on.  It probably needs stitches but I’ll see how it looks tomorrow.  In the meantime, the gauze is bloody and I’ll have to change it often.  When I sat down to tend to my wound, I put on some music, which still plays.  The boat is riding gently in her hove-to state and I bring this story to a close.  We are 29 miles south of Majuro now.  Probably will start again about 2:00 a.m.  Ow, that’s late.  This will be an all-nighter, for sure.

7:00 p.m. – I have reefed the main, leaving red splotches of blood all over the cabin top, but it is done, and I feel the boat is much more secure.  Now we bob for seven or eight hours.  Maybe (?) I can get some sleep.  Not very likely.

7:30 p.m. – I have kept my foot raised and the bleeding appears to have stopped.  Now I’ll try not to walk on it for at least another hour.  I’m sure it will open up again when I walk on it, but hopefully it will get better each time.  I’ll spend a little more time in this journal reflecting on the voyage.  If I don’t do it tonight, it probably won’t happen because these journals always end abruptly at the conclusion of a voyage.  I don’t know why that is.  Just not a good journal keeper except when I’m at sea, and even then, I think I’m mediocre at best. 

There’s still not a vessel, light, or radio crackle.  It’s like I’m a thousand miles out at sea here.  A loose end or two: I have never seen the Southern Cross this voyage.  Maybe it’s the wrong time of year.  The patch job on the jib has remained perfectly intact.  A good job it was.  I’ve never tried the brand new generator since it stopped – been using the rusty old one ever since.  My rib bruise and shin bruise have both healed.  Of course, now I’ve got this heel wound.  I feel good about the voyage; it has been positive in many ways. 

A big part of these solo voyages is the voyage I take in my head.  I only read one book this sail – Dave Berry.  The rest of the time I have been inside my mind.  That’s what I censor, I guess.  There’s so much going on in there it would be difficult to write it all down.  And so much of it’s personal – I don’t want to write it down.  Then there are the insights – I’ve had a few this voyage.  Insights, too, are personal.  Additionally, insights take time to see if they’re real or not – sometimes they are, sometimes not.  So I keep most of these things to myself. 

I will share I have given a lot of thought to my responsibilities: making money, our store rooms, the house.  Also my relationship with family – how I can be a better father and husband.  I’ve thought a lot about how to do that well – and be a sailor.  That’s a tough question.  I’ve thought a lot about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, why I have to do this.  Again, tough questions, the answers to which few would understand or accept. 

I talked with Joel Walker one day on this subject.  His answer was simple: “Bill,” he said, “we beat to a different drummer.”  I hate it that my sailing hurts the kids, and I would hate it if I couldn’t do this.  Conundrums.  My thinking is, for the overwhelming most part, very positive.  Of course, I work at keeping it that way, and why shouldn’t I?  I don’t want to be angry or depressed out here, I want to be UP – so mostly I am.  What these sails do for my heart, mind, and soul, hopefully, comes through within these pages.  If not, then I have failed to express those feelings well.  All of my voyages have been positive experiences I wouldn’t trade for heaps of money, even the worst of them.  This is where I find myself, the real me - alone at sea.  Sailing alone on a tropical ocean is a beautiful thing, for me anyway. 

And what about the danger?  That part of it?  I believe there are some of us who need that in his/her life in order to live.  A gene thing, maybe.  The other night when I was working on the lee deck by flashlight, the sea rushing by my feet, the boat pitching and rolling, surrounded by blackness, it occurred to me how terribly dangerous it was – and it felt fabulous.  I was alive doing what I love to do, having a ball out there.  Sure, I think about things like falling overboard, major injury, that kind of thing.  But I don’t dwell on it.  Death is the ultimate risk, and I am at terms with death, I think anyone who adventures successfully is at terms with death, otherwise you flip out from fear.  I have never felt fear out here because, I believe, I don’t fear death, and if you don’t fear death, what’s there to fear?  I like staring down death, I guess.  Again, it makes me feel alive, and I like that feeling.  Besides, it’s not adventure if you don’t put your life on the line.  I don’t mean to infer we should do this stupidly.  Playing chicken with a speeding car, motorcycle jumping 27 Greyhound buses, standing on the center line of the highway – those kinds of things.  I am a good sailor – very competent.  Obsession is very seaworthy and well equipped.  My voyages are intelligently planned.  For instance, I might have gone to the South Pacific this voyage except it is the height of typhoon season there now.  That would be stupid.  So, I feel the odds are in my favor.  I do this well; I like doing this well.  That doesn’t mean I won’t die before reaching Majuro, now only 26.5 miles away.  And if I do?  I was willing to pay that price.  Anybody who’s not willing to die shouldn’t solo sail, or long-distance balloon, or polar explore, or climb mountains.

9:00 p.m. – Changed my bandage.  It is nasty looking.  It’s going to be very sore.  I may have it looked at at the hospital tomorrow.  We’ll see.  Handy having a hospital nearby.  Land ho tomorrow!  Actually, I’ll probably see land late tonight – not land, per se, but lights.  That will be the first time in three weeks.  Tomorrow will be the first time in three weeks I’ll have spoken to another human being.  Then when I get there, the first thing I have to face is the bureaucracy – Port Director, Customs, Immigration, EPA, and who knows what they mean by “other interested parties.”  It’s so much easier to arrive by plane, but that’s not my arrival mode, so I shall tolerate it.

11:35 p.m. – My heel is still bleeding.  Not a lot, but it bleeds.  This is, I believe, because I am walking around – something I have to do.  We have traveled eight miles the past six hours since heaving-to, so we are making 1¼  knots.  It’s okay; it’s in the right direction.  Now 22.3 miles to Majuro and still nothing in sight.  These atolls are low.

DAY 23 – 7:00 A.M., Thursday, February 11 – 14 miles south of Majuro.  Still hove-to.  Had alarm set for 5:30 a.m. but slept through it apparently.  Radar detector woke me up about 20 minutes ago.  No vessels, no land in sight.  It is blowing 25 knots.  My foot hurts, but only when I touch it or think about it or laugh.  Getting underway now.

7:30 a.m. – Underway.  Beating.  Sailing fast.  Heeled over 25º.  It is rough, pounding, water over the boat.  12 miles to Majuro, 12 miles to Arno – and no land in sight.  It is a shitty day.

7: 45 a.m. – Land ho!  It must be Arno – a low – very low – strip of land – or tops of trees – off the starboard bow.  Bumped my heel in the cockpit – OUCH – and now it’s bleeding again – a lot.  Blood all over the cockpit.  Majuro now 9¾ miles – still not visible.  We’re getting there.  It is ROUGH/WET.

8:20 A.M. – Arno clearly in sight but still no Majuro.  Only seven miles to mid-channel between the two atolls. Still rough/wet.  Just put on swimming trunks.  First “clothes” in three weeks.  A record since the womb.  Cabin closed up because we’re taking water.  It’s like an oven down here. 

9:20 a.m. – I am in the third blinding rain squall past hour.  No land in sight when these are happening.  Now 1¾ miles off the east end of Majuro.  I‘ve seen it clearly when not in a squall.  Need to reach Port Director on radio but no answer.  Blood everywhere.

9:30 a.m. – The squall continues.  It blows 40 knots.  We are getting hammered.

9:50 a.m. – The squall continues unabated.  It is very intense.  My navigation, even though visually blinded, appears good.  I am between Majuro and Arno headed north.  Just where I’m supposed to be.  This will end soon (?)

11:00 a.m. – The squall has moderated, though it still drizzles.  Majuro clearly visible now to port.  I’ve turned the corner, now sailing west, towards the channel entrance – 12 miles ahead.  Not able to raise anyone on the radio.  Will only attempt sailing the channel if the weather is clear – that’s two hours from now.

12:25 p.m. – Man, we just got knocked down by a rogue wave – right on our ear.  Things went flying that hadn’t moved the entire voyage.  Between the knockdown and the squall earlier, the cabin is in shambles.  The sea here is INTENSE.  Now five miles from the channel entrance.  It’s sunny now but blowing 25.  Some morning.

2:15 p.m. – I’m in the lagoon.  It is blowing 25 and it’s rough in here.  I think I expected smooth sailing in the lagoon.  Ha!  Reef block broke a mile outside the channel entrance. Tense time getting a new one rigged.  No way I could sail in here without the main reefed.  Can’t control the boat under full sail past 20 knots.  9½ miles to go.  Then all I have to do is figure out how to anchor with it blowing like this.  This is heavy duty sailing today.

6:35 p.m. – I am here.  Man, what a beat up the lagoon – blowing 25 all the way, water over the bow, boat heeled way over, lee rail under water.  Tiring.  Found the anchorage, dropped anchor – and it didn’t hold.  Tried to pull it back up, but with the wind it was too hard.  Another cruiser – a couple – came up in their dinghy and pointed out a nearby available mooring for rent – $30/month – so I tied a buoy to the anchor and let it go.  I’ll retrieve it tomorrow – or the next day, or the day after.  I raised the main, but in the blow, I was losing ground.  I was getting ready to raise the jib when another cruiser came alongside and gave me a tow over to the buoy – where I am now.  This is great – a great, secure place to leave the boat.  I am one tired sore man tonight.  It was hard just furling the sails.  I am worn out.  It was a very intense day, but the kind, when it’s over, I wouldn’t trade.  God, my back, my hands, all my muscles ache – not to mention my foot.  The guy who gave me the tow looked at it – I can’t see it very well because the wound is on the outside-bottom of the heel - says it’s not infected, but it’s open.  I’ll get it looked at at the hospital tomorrow.  Have to stay on board tonight because I missed Customs/Immigration.  Not allowed to go ashore until I’ve cleared.  That’s okay except for not being able to call home. 

There are only four or five other cruising boats here, and one is leaving tomorrow.  From my vantage point, it looks pretty third-worldish.  Monday is Marshall Islands Independence Day.  Traditional canoe (with sail) races all around Obsession.  Good timing.  Man, it is blowing like crazy here.  I’m glad I’m on a mooring. 

The voyage took 22 days.  I made amazing time – amazing – even the cruisers here think I made good time “from Kona,” and they don’t know I went to the equator.  It is 675 miles to the intersection, 2,041 miles to Kona (straight line).  I sailed 2,850 miles.  It is 4,073 nautical miles to Morro Bay from here – that’s almost 6,000 statute miles. It is 7:20 p.m. here now.  I’m going to straighten up the cabin some, take a shower, put clean sheets on my berth, and go to sleep.  This voyage is over. 

9:30 p.m. – Well, I’m still up – but not for long, I don’t think.  I still hurt all over, but I’m okay with it all.  I feel like I should feel after a day like today.  At sea, I probably would be asleep now (if I could).  But after last writing, the goddamn-I-just-sailed-from-Hawaii-to-the-Marshall-Islands-and-I-sailed-to-the-Equator-and-now-I’m-a-Solo-Golden-Shellback glow came over me.  The usual glow at the end of a voyage.  And I’ve been reflecting on the voyage and how cool it was and the meaning it holds for me.  These are all very good feelings.  So I am still awake.

I have gotten a bunch done, though, during all this glowing and reflecting.  I cleaned up the lines on the mast, coiled the sheets and preventor, coiled some other lines I used for God knows what that were in the cockpit, wiped the cabin sole down with fresh water, took a looong, luxurious shower/washed hair, changed sheets – which is actually “sheet” because I don’t use a top sheet – too hot – cleaned the chart table, straightened up a little in main salon.  Still tons to do cleaning wise.  But I took a bite out of it.  Listened to some music, blew-dry myself in the cockpit while checking out the night-time waterfront scene.  It’s not much, but there’s an oil tanker nearby and people hanging out on the pier, and lights – but not tons – and a few cars go by.  Peaceful, serene.  I haven’t heard any shouting or laughter from the people, and I am downwind from them maybe 200 yards. These people, I am told, are very reserved and very religious.  I don’t think there are any rowdy saloons here. I’m looking forward to getting on the island. 

Tomorrow morning I go to the Capitol Building to visit Customs and Immigration.  I have to wear long pants and a shirt with sleeves.  Otherwise, they send you away to change.  Apparently they take this dress code seriously – this is for town and especially the government district and especially the Capitol Building.  The people here whom I’ve seen on shore: the men wear solid-color long pants and a solid-color shirt.  The women wear Mother Hubbards. 

More on this afternoon: when the first dinghy/cruising couple came up to the boat, the first thing they said was: “No engine?”  When the second dinghy came up to the boat, the first thing he said was: “No engine?”  I have forgotten the cruising couple’s names, but their boat is named Myst.  They’re an older couple, very nice, very helpful.  The other guy’s name is Tavi – he’s from Vancouver and cruising with his wife and son.  They have a big, $, boat – yellow – named Lasqueti.  I’d say he’s about 35, a very nice guy.  I heard him on the radio a while ago talking about me: “A single-hander from Coos Bay, Oregon.”  I laughed.

It just occurred to me I haven’t eaten anything all day since cereal this morning, so I put some ravioli on the stove.  Now actually eating ravioli and writing simultaneously.  You can’t do that at sea.  Back to Tavi and Majuro: Tavi stood on the bow with me and basically pointed out town.  “There’s the grocery store, and upstairs in that building they have great pizzas, and the hardware store is right next door.  And there’s the Capitol Building,” he pointed to a bright white two-story building a half-mile away, if that.  “And right behind the Capitol Building is the hospital.  They have first-rate doctors here.”  He said you pay a $17 fee – “register” – and from then on doctor visits, hospitalization, drugs: free – all free, even for us foreigners.  There are no private doctors or pharmacies here. 

Well, I’m worn out for now.  Obsession is peaceful, resting.  Majuro – downtown Majuro, that’s where I am – is a very quiet place.  I am a happy sailor.  I miss my family.  All is well.

9:45 p.m. – Saturday night, February 12, 1999 - On board Obsession, on the mooring, Majuro, Marshall Islands.  At 9:00 a.m. yesterday, Tavi showed up in his dinghy and took me ashore.  He walked me to the “main intersection,” about 150 feet from the dinghy dock, and gave me another pointing tour.  He was shirtless, so I began to take the dress code as myth, but quickly he said he had to go, he “couldn’t hang out here dressed like this.”  So I guess it’s okay to be shirtless/shorts if it’s not for long, just don’t make a habit of it.  Seems reasonable to me.  So Tavi ended his pointing tour quickly, which would have ended quickly anyway if he’d been talking in slow motion.  There’s not a lot to point out.  It was just like the pictures and video I’ve seen of the same scene.  Dusty, rustic, tropical, small, hot.  It is windy here most of the time, I’m told.  The buildings, signs, cars, all have that worn edge of taking a constant sand-blasting.  You can tell they make an effort to maintain things, but it’s a losing battle to the elements.

ROBERT REIMERS ENTERPRISES dominates because it is the largest store with the largest letters on the largest sign, and it happens to be across the street from the ROBERT REIMERS HOTEL with an equally obvious sign.   Ramsey Reimers, the heir to the Robert Reimers Enterprises, also owns “the” restaurant/bar, the car rental agency, a wholesale distributorship, operates the only dive tours to Bikini Atoll, etc., etc.  You get the picture.  Anyway, Ramsey Reimers is Mick Bird’s – the solo rower – sponsor on Majuro.  He made arrangements, took care of Mick when he was here, is storing his boat in one of his warehouses.  I want to meet this guy.

Back to the street.  There is a fairly constant stream of vehicles going by.  Most are tiny Japanese cars with “Taxi” signs atop.  Tavi explained that to get around, you just flag down a taxi going in your direction and he stops.  With that, he put out his hand, a tiny car pulled over, I got in, and Tavi said to the driver: “Capitol Building,” and I was off.  Fifty cents, no tipping.  That’s the public transportation around here and it really works good.  The cars are rusty, dirty, no air-conditioning, open windows.  They stop along the way and people get in and out.  Nothing is very far, but farther than you’d want to walk, especially in this heat, but the system is very efficient.  The people in the taxis don’t talk to each other. 

The Capitol Building is perhaps a mile away.  Most of the road is gone – not there – not a trace of real road.  Occasionally, a manhole appears in the middle of the road sticking 10 inches above the road.  The road is pot-holed and rocky, so driving is rather slow. Still, the rides never take more than 10 minutes, or so it seems.  The atoll is a 20-mile oval.  Land at its widest part is only 400 yards.  There are many, many places you look one way and see the lagoon, look the other way and see the ocean, and you could throw a rock in either.  Not wide.  


We arrive at the Capitol Building.  These following facts will contradict earlier writing.  I know that.  Reality changes.  The Capitol Building is perhaps four stories tall, a modern, cubist, fifth-rate Frank Lloyd Wright kind of design, the cubes receding as it gets taller.  There is a circular drive, a portico, an expansive front lawn area that is brown dirt, and a line of flagpoles like the UN Building in New York.  No flags on any of them.  It is large for Majuro, but small, very small, compared to the very smallest state capitol building.  Although grand in design, it, too, has the worn look of everything else.  The building doesn’t appear very old.  I approached a security guard sitting behind a folding banquet table and he pointed out the door to Customs, which was right next to me. There was a huge, brand-new soda vending machine across from him.  Very classy for a capitol building, I thought.

Inside the Department of Customs was a counter with five computer-equipped desks behind.  The desks were the very cheapest.  Simple Sears & Roebuck type – chipboard with wood grain contact paper.  Two people were there, one looking at papers, the other talking to a Japanese boat captain.  The two Customs men glanced at me, but without any acknowledgment.  I waited 20 minutes without impatience.  The man looking at the papers had a manila file before him containing two pages of some kind of list – a manifest of some kind, I reckon.  He spent the entire 20 minutes looking at the two pages.  The top page, the bottom page, back and forth.  I could tell he was in another world.  I didn’t care.  If it took 100 hours I wouldn’t have shown a hint of impatience, a flash of unfriendly eye.

Finally, a Caucasian man came in from another office and asked - in the polite tone of a clothing store salesman – if I’d been helped.  I said I hadn’t and he went over to Mr. Two Pages and told him to help me.  He rose and approached and I told him who I was and that I wanted to enter.  He gave me a blank look and looked to the other man, the clothing store salesman.  The salesman, it turns out, is Don Ellings, Chief of the Department of Customs.  He’s from Australia – a very nice guy.  Don had to walk the other guy through the entire process, which involved a lot of silly paperwork.  They didn’t even have all the forms – “Still waiting to get them back from the printers” – so they would have to search for one.  This involved rifling through drawers and looking through stacks of papers until they came up with one, then they would Xerox a copy to use.  The ceiling held air conditioning vents, but it didn’t work.  The doors were kept open and a floor fan hummed in the center of the room.  It was hot in there.  As I said, the process took a long time, but everyone was friendly.  At one point, Don looked at me and said, “I’m sorry this is taking so long.”  I smiled and told him, “I only have all day,” and he laughed.  Finally, all the papers were signed, all the boxes checked, all the official stamps applied/affixed, and we were through.  The local guy asked Don, “You wanna look at the boat?”  And Don said, “Naw,” with a scoff, and we were finished. 

Then I had to see Immigration, but Don told me she was out of her office.  I said I’d wait and stepped outside the entrance to smoke a cigarette.  A minute later Don shows up with his own cigarette and we got to chatting.  He said the Immigration lady could be five minutes or five hours, “You never know.”  Then he added, “If she doesn’t come back soon, you go and come back next week.  She knows you’re here.  What are they going to do, lock you up?”  And he laughed heartily.  He told me his history and how he ended up there and gave me a rundown on the atoll.  I enjoyed his company.  Finally, Patricia, the Immigration lady, showed up and I was in her office.

Her office had three desks, all stacked with papers, many with passports clipped to them.  I wondered how she ever found anything.  There were no drawers of files anywhere – nor in Customs.  She was friendly enough, but with a projected shyness/arrogance of a young West Indian woman.  No small talk with this one.  Another long process involving her leaving her desk several times.  Whenever she left her desk, she slowly rolled her chair back about eight feet, sighed, stood, and shuffled out of the room. Finally, my passport was stamped and thankfully returned to me. 

It is now 11:40 p.m. and I feel a need to close, so I am going to flash forward.  After bureaucracy, I ended up taking a room at the Robert Reimers Hotel.  Called home, had lunch and dinner there, stayed up till midnight at the bar – no, it was 1:00 a.m.  Met lots of people, had an interesting time.  There are lots of stories to tell about the people I met.  Watched cable TV for a while and went to sleep.  I was in bed — asleep except for the ten times the housekeeper knocked on the door – until 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.  Oh well, said I, another night in the hotel.  I took my time and went to the dining room at 5:30 and hung out – had a chicken caesar salad.  I sat there, in the hotel dining room, my own room down the hall with a real bed and a television and a shower – but I missed my boat.  It became overpowering for me to return to the boat, to be aboard her, to sleep on her.  So about 8:00, I got a lift back to Obsession wherein I am writing.  It was almost a relief to be back aboard.  It was like “Yes!  This is where I belong.”  It was odd; I’ve never experienced that before.  It’s always been okay to sleep ashore in a hotel.  Are you kidding?  But not this time.  I’m aboard now till I leave.  Obsession is where I’m comfortable.  I love this boat.  I’ve only been up for eight hours, but I am tired and hope I can sleep.  It doesn’t matter.  My highlight ashore was talking to the kids.  That was fabulous – special.  I miss them.  I am happy otherwise.  I feel great.  I have lost weight.  I have biceps.  My foot is still bandaged, but it is healing.  I went to the hospital but didn’t get treatment.  That’s a whole ‘nother story.  All is well.

5:30 p.m. – Wednesday, February 17, 1999 – On board Obsession.  Sunday came and passed aboard the boat. I still hadn’t checked out of the hotel.  I tried and tried to call them on the radio – they have one in the office – but no answer.  So I found myself with a hotel room for another night and me stranded on board.  Stranded?  Yes, my little rubber-ducky dinghy will not row against the persistent 20-knot wind: I lose ground. So I had no transportation.  It bothered me that I was paying for another night in the hotel and not using it.  Finally, I put out a call to the cruising fleet: “This is Obsession and I don’t have a dinghy and I’m stuck out here and if anybody is going ashore, I’d sure appreciate a ride.”  I added that I was embarrassed to make the call, thanked everyone for listening, and signed off.

A few minutes later, a boat named Awesome called and offered me a ride – 15 minutes later they pulled up to Obsession.  Their names are Dick and Prill and they’ve been here two years aboard Awesome – a 50-footer.  A very nice couple – she’s mid-fifties, he’s mid-sixties.  On the way to shore, they offered to loan me an old rowing dinghy they have and I gratefully accepted.  I invited them to lunch the following day.  Got to the hotel about 6:30, had dinner, and went to my room.  I was miserable.  Again, I wanted to be aboard Obsession, but I stayed the night and checked out properly the next morning, then waited for noon to come along and my lunch date.  Dick and Prill showed up at 12:30, which is noon Marshallese time. We had a long, leisurely lunch and got to know one another.  They are from California – Tustin.  Dick built the boat himself – it took seven years.  They have been together 20 years and are not married, but are obviously in love. They were formally in the printing business.  He looks ten years younger than his age – not a gray hair on him.  She’s a vivacious six-foot blonde who also looks younger than her years. 

After lunch, they took me on a dinghy tour of the atoll – only a couple of miles, not the entire atoll.  We went by the container dock, the copra processing plant, the famous Outrigger Hotel, the President’s residence, and among wharves with derelict vessels.  Majuro is not very clean.  There are piles of scrap steel at the water’s edge, and junk boats and building material.  The entire atoll needs a major clean-up.  Still, there is a definite beauty to the place.  After the tour we went aboard Awesome and visited for a while, then Dick and I assembled and launched his rowing dinghy.  By then it was 6:00 p.m., so they invited me to dinner ashore and I accepted.  We towed the dingy to Obsession, then went ashore – back to the same dining room I’ve had all my meals ashore.  The Robert Reimers Hotel. 

Yesterday – Tuesday – I stayed on board until 2:00 p.m., and then rowed ashore.  I had two goals: (1) call home, and (2) get a haircut. My hair and beard by this time made Grizzly Adams look clean cut.  I asked at the hotel if I could make an overseas call – collect.  I figured since I was a former guest they might let me, but they politely refused.  No one lets you use their phone for an overseas call – even collect.  Calls to the states are $2 a minute.  I guess they’ve been burned too many times.  So I took a taxi to the Communications Center, and they were “temporarily closed.” Why?  I don’t know.  Islands.  Dick had told me where the “barber shop” was located - “just past the Outrigger” - so I hailed a cab and told him I wanted to go to the place where they cut hair just past the Outrigger.  He dropped me off at the Outrigger.  Okay, close enough, I figured.  I started walking.  The road is dusty and there are piles of rubble piled everywhere from the road reconstruction project that is underway. It is very hot walking anywhere here. 

A half-mile later, or so it seemed, I found the “hair salon” located in one-half of a small shack.  The building was about 10x15 feet and had a covered porch.  Half of the shack was a grocery store of sorts, with a window – an opening – to the porch.  The store sold Spam, Top Ramen, Japanese toilet paper, a few other things – I doubt if there was $100 in stock.  Nothing refrigerated.  The beauty salon was tiny, naturally.  Three plastic chairs for waiting customers.  The walls and ceiling were painted plywood.  The walls had a few black and white posters of hairstyles – the models were Oriental.  There was also a mirror on the wall with a lighthouse and a sailboat with spinnaker painted on it.  The customer sat on a rolling desk chair in front of a huge office desk covered with a sheer cloth.  A plastic salad bowl held the stylists tools.  There was a Marshallese woman in the chair when I arrived and she and the stylist – Dave – chattered non-stop in Marshallese.  When Dave wanted to show the woman the back of her head, he took the lighthouse/sailboat mirror off the wall and held it so it reflected on another mirror that leaned against the wall on the back of the desk.  After about a half-hour, he finished with the woman and it was my turn. 

As I sat in the chair, six people came in – half children – and sat down and stared at me curiously.  Dave, a gay Marshallese, said, “Just a trim?”  My bushy hair nearly reached the ceiling, my beard my knees.  “No,” I said, “I want a haircut.”  He argued with me about the length of the cut for a minute and went to work.  The people stared.  No one spoke.  Dave cut and cut and the hair piled up on the floor - then he trimmed my beard.  All with scissors.  Electric cutters were not in evidence.  The process took about 45 minutes and my hair and beard were short – a very good haircut – very good. The crowd never took their eyes off me, and their eyes were big as platters.  When Dave finished, I turned to them for the first time, beamed a big smile and said, “Different, huh?”  And they all smiled and nodded approval and agreed.  They were gone before I had paid Dave.  My haircut had been their afternoon entertainment. 

The cab ride back to town took 45 minutes.  They stop a lot and often stop for a few dollars worth of gas.  Gas is $2.50/gallon here; they usually put in $3.00.  Got to the bar at the Robert Reimers Hotel and met up with another cruising couple, Jim and Leslie from Blue Moon.  They are also from California – mid-forties.  Jim was drunk – had been drinking beer all afternoon.  We chatted for a while.  I met some other people – locals.  At 6:30, Jim had an errand to run – “someone to meet” – said he’d be back in an hour.  Leslie tried to talk him out of it, said he wasn’t in any shape to meet anyone – he wasn’t – but he took off anyway.  Naturally, he didn’t return.  I wanted to return to the boat but didn’t feel I should abandon Leslie, so we waited in that bar until 10:30, with her getting more worried by the minute.  Finally, we left the rowing dinghy with a note for Jim and she brought me back to Obsession and she went home to Blue Moon.  I loaned her my hand-held radio in case she got in any trouble. 

This morning, at light, she called and asked if I could see the rowing dinghy at the dock, and I told her it was still there.  She was freaked out, was going to go ashore and start a search – police, hospital, etc.  A while later, she towed the rowing dinghy to Obsession and returned it – she still hadn’t found Jim and she was scared; she returned to shore.  About 10:30, I saw Jim making his way to Blue Moon in their dinghy – so he was found and is apparently safe.  I’d say Jim has a drinking problem.  Leslie called a while ago and said she would return my radio sometime tonight.  I have spent the entire day aboard Obsession and don’t have any plans to go ashore until tomorrow.  My only concern is I haven’t called home for five days.  That’s too long.  I have a letter written and hopefully I can get it faxed tomorrow if I can’t call.  It is 7:00 p.m. now, dusk. 

7:30 p.m. – This afternoon I heard laughter on the water.  This was unusual because you don’t hear laughter, shouting, chickens crowing, dogs barking, horns honking, etc., here.  I was in the cockpit and looked out and three small, colorful outriggers – each with two women paddling – were approaching Obsession, and the women were laughing, having a ball.  They were using Obsession as an outer mark, circling the boat before heading back to shore.  We exchanged smiles and greetings, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking their picture.  A while later I was below and they circled the boat again.  This time I got a couple of shots through the galley port.  

I went to the hospital last Friday to have my foot looked at.  The line to get in was long, and there was a crowd inside, so I gave it up.  The hospital is single story, long – probably former military.  It doesn’t look like the kind of place you’d want to be hospitalized.  In fact, the cruisers say do not allow yourself to be hospitalized there, but they say the emergency service is excellent once you wait past the line and actually get to see a doctor.  In any event, I left.  Two of the women cruisers – namely Prill and the lady on Myst (she’s a nurse) warned me about the prevalence and seriousness of staph infections here.  The nurse advised I stop using Neosporin on the wound – apparently it simply doesn’t work in the tropics – and use iodine instead, which I have been since last Friday.  A few days ago, I also put myself on an antibiotic treatment – Ceftin – and I continue to cleanse, alcohol, iodine, and bandage it.  It is a bad cut, but so far no sign of infection.  It hasn’t healed very much, though, as wounds don’t heal very fast in the tropics.  I’ll continue to take good care of it and stay on antibiotics.  It was a week ago today I cut it.

11:00 p.m. – Thursday, February 18, 1999 – On board Obsession.  Jim – the “missing man” – called about 10:00 this morning and came over to Obsession 15 minutes later.  We chatted in the cockpit for over an hour about inter-island shipping, then went ashore.  He towed my borrowed rowing dinghy behind his outboard-powered dinghy so I didn’t’ have to make the 20-minute windward row.  I was grateful.  He took off on his bicycle and I headed up to the Tide Table Restaurant located just off the tiny lobby of the Robert Reimers Hotel.  I called Dick on Awesome on the hand-held radio and invited him to join me for lunch, but his engine room had flooded and he was up to his neck in work.  I went to the dining room alone.  It was busy, but I got the remaining window table in the corner over-looking the lagoon.  All the meals I have eaten ashore – I imagine that’s eight or nine meals – I’ve eaten in this room.  It is literally the only place to eat other than the Outrigger Hotel.  Nobody seems to go the Outrigger except for big parties or special occasions.  A couple of the cruising couples went there for Valentine’s Day Brunch, for instance. 

The local, local places?  No one has recommended any, no one seems to go anywhere else, and the local places just appear too – how shall I say it? – earthy.  It is very obvious they don’t have a health department here.  So the Tide Table Restaurant and Bar in the Robert Reimers Hotel is it.  Period.  It is a modern, air-conditioned, second-story room with two walls of glass overlooking the lagoon.  The view also overlooks the main intersection of Majuro which perfectly frames in the Robert Reimers Enterprises store.  This store, incidentally, sells groceries, electronics, jewelry, cosmetics, clothing, toys, auto parts, etc., etc.  It is the size of a small supermarket.  The day I was in there there were only a few customers.  Two checkers with folded arms stood chatting by cash registers.  The air conditioning didn’t work, so it was hot.  One of two 20-foot-long, open-top freezers wasn’t working and lay empty, and shelves commonly had eight or ten feet of shelf space, top to bottom, devoted to one product.  It is remote atoll “modern” grocery and general store personified.  All the signs in the store are in English and Marshallese:



Welcome to RRE.  If

we can be of service,

please let us know.


Akbar tonu abar

abua pumjab ak

laplok emoj etan

jerbal wokwok.


All the signs, everywhere – even the Capitol Building – look like this.  Marshallese is a very distinct language. 

We now return you to the dining room.  I sat in the corner table overlooking the lagoon, Robert Reimers store, the dock-side Mobil Oil sign, Robert Reimers waterside yard which contains two MATSON LINES containers, and – in fairness – some palm trees.  It’s not an unpleasant scene – I can see around the atoll and follow it west until it disappears.  The lagoon is way too long to see the other end.  The wharf is nearby and in view.  There is an assortment of working vessels there: a rusting-but-still-working copra ship, a Korean fishing boat, a local fishing boat (100+ feet), some others.  All large, all in some state of disrepair, but all active.  Across the lagoon, a mile or two, is the copra and container dock.  The copra ship moved over to the wharf yesterday to allow dockage of an Australian container ship which is docked over there now unloading containers.  It is not a postcard view, but I like it.  It is different here, very different.

I order a cheeseburger and iced tea and look at the view and watch the dining room scene while I eat.  The glass in the two windowed walls are double-pane glass.  Half of the panels have failed, filling the gap between the panes with fog and dripping condensation.  I always try to not sit in front of one of these panels.  Along the back wall, there are four or five booths, and at the lagoon/window end, a ten-stool bar with stem glasses hanging upside down overhead.  Beer signs frame in the bar end; local handicrafts – pandana mats, baskets, etc. – the dining room end.  It’s all one room, though.  The tables are high quality, wood-trimmed (edged) Formica with wood captain’s chairs.  The room is carpeted.  A CD player behind the bar provides constant music.  Jimmy Buffet played today. 

The crowd is half “rebelled” – the local word for ex-patriot, foreigner, howle – and half upper-end Marshallese – business leaders and high government officials.  Three tables down from me sat the President, Imata Kabua, presiding over a table of eight senators.  There are 32 senators in the 60,000-population Marshall Islands, and each atoll additionally has a mayor, and there are more “ministers” – Minister of Education, Finance, Agriculture and Fisheries, Public Works, Telecommunications, etc., etc., – than there are palm trees.  The President likes his cocktails.  Before I left about 2:00 p.m. he had consumed five vodka martinis straight up and was sipping a beer as I walked out the door.  I’ve seen him several times there.  The first time he was totally sloshed and was sitting with Ramsey Reimers.  He would spew two minutes of Marshallese and end with “So don’t fuck with me, Ramsey!” in a loud voice.  I was embarrassed for the Marshallese people.  The next time I saw him, he was at a large table like today’s - dead asleep in his chair, martini glass before him.  Today he appears in control – but it’s early. 

Danny Muno, a rebelle who came in 1975 and never left, came in and sat down with me.  Danny was one of the people I stayed up late with at the bar my first night ashore.  I’ve seen him since then, too.  He is a happy man in his mid-forties, single (always), well groomed, sports a moustache that curls down over the corners of his mouth, and has a perpetual twinkle in his eyes.  He runs a wholesale business – candy mostly – and is active in the Chamber of Commerce.  I have no idea what the Chamber of Commerce does here.  I have a feeling they’re not too active.  Danny told me about the government and how corrupt it is – over $100 million pours in here every year and so little of it reaches the people.  “But they try,” he said with a smile.  Danny finished his lunch and we said goodbye.

I went to the street, and after a ten-minute wait caught a taxi to the Communications Center.  Once there, I waited patiently in line for my turn at the telephone and called home.  It was a relief to reach them.  I was sure they were worried after six days not hearing from me - and they were.  I was sorry to have missed speaking with Graham, but it was great talking with Alisha and Heather.  There is more to my day, but again, I have become fatigued, so I fast forward.  Got back to the Tide Table at 5:00, Jim was there and we talked for a while, and then he left.  I had a pizza at the bar and talked with Calvin, a stone mason from New Zealand here laying block on the new high school; Charles, the man who runs Air Marshall Islands, which is known as perhaps the worst airline in the world; Danny whirled through; a guy named Jon Bain, a 29-year-old captain of Robert Reimers’ inter-island boat.  A most interesting guy – enjoyed him a lot.  Met two husband-and-wife teachers – that’s common here.  A few others.  It’s all very friendly at the bar.  I was back on the boat at 8:00.  It is now 12:50 a.m.  The wind is blowing; it never lets up. The halyards are slapping the mast.  I am lonely and I’m ready to go.  But otherwise, all is well.

10:15 p.m. – Monday, February 22, 1999 – On board Obsession.  It’s been a few days since I’ve written.  In the evening, I just haven’t felt like writing – I’ve lost my relationship with this journal.  That naturally happens at the end of my voyages.  But this is my last night here in Majuro and I feel moved for a final entry. 

The wind has remained 20-25 knots until today, when it moderated to10 knots.  Actually, it moderated last night with a south wind.  I hadn’t experienced a south wind here before.  It is back to easterly now, but with it only blowing 10, it feels calm.  Dick helped me move the boat over to the new mooring Saturday.  We waited for the rain to pass, then started the move – his inflatable with 15-horsepower outboard rafted to the quarter.  Naturally, as soon as we started, a squall came out of nowhere and beat down a blinding rain.  So the move was interesting.  Wet. 

I’m now snug on the new mooring using the mooring’s one-inch line and I’ve shackled a nylon anchor rode directly to the chain for a safety.  I feel Obsession is safe, even in a big blow.  The mooring is only 150 feet behind Awesome, and right next to another boat – Rejoice – also only l50 feet away.  Blue Moon is also over here about 300 feet away.  So Obsession has security and I trust all these people.  Dick, though, is the one I’ve put all my trust in.  My gut says he’s a good guy and I’m going with that.  He wants to try to get the engine going and I’ve told him “great.”  Today we spent about an hour going over the boat, mostly going over the engine.  He’s a special guy – Prill’s special, too.  I don’t think I’ve misjudged their character.  Hope not. 

They had Leslie and Jim – Blue Moon – and me – Obsession – aboard Awesome night before last for dinner.  Dick barbequed yellow-fin tuna, and it was heavenly.  Last night and tonight I have enjoyed cuisine de Obsession aboard the ship.  Dick and Prill and I went to the Outrigger for Sunday brunch yesterday.  It was a typical Sunday buffet – scrambled eggs, greasy bacon, sausage, potatoes with green onions, an omelet/waffle bar, and a bunch of local dishes.  It was good.  They all rave about it around here and “good” is the review I’d give it.  The President was there hobnobbing.  He is one very visible, casually dressed, unprotected President.  This is the Marshall Islands.  Other local big-wigs were in and out and Dick and Prill pointed each out and told me their story.  These are the guys who run the country, along with some assorted ambassadors.  Apparently anyone who is anyone goes to Sunday brunch at the Outrigger.  It is, by many miles, the nicest place here. 

We went over there by dinghy, about a 10-minute ride.  Lagoon rides are fun and strikingly beautiful.  I’ve had one or two more meals at the Tide Table, and other than those things, have stayed aboard.  I like being aboard Obsession the best.  Since brunch, I have been readying Obsession for my leave, and she is fairly together now.  Still a couple of loose ends, and I haven’t packed yet – but I’ve started packing and I don’t see a too stressful day tomorrow pulling the last few strings together.   Hope not.  Tonight is special in that it’s the last night.  It’s okay – I’m ready to go – there’s no sadness.  I’m just very aware that it’s my last night aboard as I am on all last nights aboard.  But I’ll be back and sail out of here this year.  I want to be with my family now, though.  I miss them. 

Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands.  What a trip.  A great place to base a book on.  That could be hilarious.  The best, the very best, though, of this voyage were the 22 days at sea.  It was fabulous – the 22 days passed too quickly, as days at sea – or anywhere else – do.  But I take from it some gifts, I believe.  Some new ways of seeing things and understanding things.  All positive stuff I believe.  This was a positive voyage in many, many ways.  And very memorable. 

Eric Clapton is wailing Someday You’ll Be Sorry.  It is peaceful here otherwise, here in Majuro of all places.  I write by red light.  All is well.

- end -   (See more photos!)

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