– 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
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.
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.
– 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
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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
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
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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
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
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
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.
– 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
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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
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 –
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.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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).
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
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.”
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
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.
12:30 a.m. – Exhausted.
Going to sleep (hopefully). Never
got shower/sheets. Such is life.
I miss my family. All is
– 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
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
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.
– 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
They are slimy and they stink. Not
for me. No thanks. A steering
control-line block – a double cheek block – exploded a while ago.
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.
– 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.
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.
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
– 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
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.
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?
– 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
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.
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.
– 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.
– 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
– 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.
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.
– 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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
has been tacked and we now head northwest.
GPS shows Majuro 675 miles ahead.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
a.m. – The squall continues. It
blows 40 knots. We are getting
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 (?)
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
p.m. – Wednesday, February 17, 1999 –
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
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
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
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.
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.
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:
to RRE. If
can be of service,
let us know.
the signs, everywhere – even the Capitol Building – look like this.
Marshallese is a very distinct language.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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