…and around lent too. How biblical. I don’t think I have ever given up so much for lent, which seems an apt theme to describe this journey of around 7,000km from Panama across the Pacific to here, Hiva Oa, French Polynesia.
Each of us have our alcohol dependencies, and for reasons of cost, safety and likelihood-to-have-a-breakdown-and-murder-each-other, we chose to leave the booze in Panama. Exceptions included a sneaky prosecco celebration on the equator and half way points, as well as when a guy called Barry on a catamaran passed us about 25 days into the trip and donated us half a tuna he had just caught and a litre of wine. We actually managed to get drunk on that, gleefully guzzling sashimi with wasabi and soy.
This had the biggest effect of all. We held conversations without flicking up that blue and white screen in lulls, having speculative discussions with no way to check the facts, like in the old days. Reading books, playing guitar, journalling, baking… All these things replaced the waste of time and harbinger of discontent that is Facebook scrolling. Although I am happy you found this blog… Everything in moderation of course.
The aptly named Sailing Vessel “Salty” has no water maker, unlike most other boats cruising this way. While we harvested rain water, we didn’t have enough for the luxury of personal hygiene. So wet wipes it was – it was like Glastonbury but much closer to a toilet all the time…
I can now tell you the shelf life of most fruits and vegetables! Without a freezer, we were tin fed vegetarians except when we had caught a fish, which was about half the time. We actually ate better than usual, with veggie chilli, fish and chips, Thai fish curry, fresh pizza and calzone, dorado masala and paratha, fisherman’s pie, sashimi, tuna steak… We must have got through hundreds of pounds worth of fish.
Common sense and international law requires boats to keep a constant watch to avoid collision, but also watching out for storms and wind shifts etc. With 3 of us we took 3hrs each, meaning you were lucky to get 5hrs sleep in a row. Yes, I can hear the parents telling me that I don’t know I’m born, blah blah… I noticed how much sleep and hydration affect your mood.
Salty is 46 feet long, by about 13 wide. There isn’t such a thing as your own space. But, those 3hrs in the middle of the night were just me, the stars and the sea, giving headspace I rarely get back on land.
The others won’t mind me saying that you do want to speak to other people after that amount of time. You find yourself telling and hearing the same stories…
The trade off is worth it. I can see why a 72 year old I met this week is on his 4th single handed circumnavigation and hopes to be on the helm when his time comes.
The stars are an incomparably bright ceiling to your world, especially when you’re from London. You feel more connected to them as you ponder the Polynesians that used just stars and birds to navigate thousands of miles, the explorers making this trip centuries ago, or the planetary scale of the journey you’ve embarked upon.
But you don’t feel the distance, just the time. There is no changing scenery, you occupy the centre of a circle of water and it doesn’t feel like you are moving at all. And time to read a number of books, time to play guitar for three hours, time to just sit there and think about nothing in particular… It was a psychological test for the first half, in anticipation of the potential horrors lurking ahead. But most of all it was healing to be able to get away from the stresses of life that are mostly self imposed, and free up some time in my day and space in my head.
Halfway across the Pacific now, there are now just over seven million metres left to Brisbane. But in between are the wonders of the South Seas – French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia.