…we’ve got a full tank of diesel, half a boat full of water, it’s not windy and we’re wearing sunglasses. (Hit it)
If this has made its way to the blog, then I have successfully squeezed a little bit of internet from a mainland cell tower as we make our way to our last anchorage to clean the hull before we set off for the 15 week sail to Brisbane, via French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia.
Salty is a 46 foot Bavaria, ten foot longer than the Bavaria 36 that I am used to sailing on. It is very similar, just a lot roomier, and reassuringly has two toilets, solar panels and a big battery bank.
Having bought Salty in Greece (because boats are cheaper there), 52 year old Australian chef/photographer Geoff is sailing it back to Australia. He wants to go at a good pace as he too has a girlfriend waiting for him, as well as two daughters. Geoff grew up commanding boats of all types in Sydney harbour, which is to be Salty’s permanent anchorage.
Harry is a 30 year old log cabin fabricator, proudly from Pitsburgh, which I hadn’t realised was the centre of the civilised universe with everything a person could possibly want. Tomorrow’s 4,100 mile passage will be his first sailing experience, although he is smart and resourceful so we reckon he’s gonna be okay.
We originally intended to go to the Galapagos, but high cruising costs, restrictions and bureaucracy make it prohibitively expensive for the short period we would be going for. Ah well. I’ll have to tick that item off another time. Reading about the comparatively untouched off-the-beaten-track places we will hang our hats in French Polynesia, I am over it.
So our first leg will be Panama to Hiva Oa, French Polynesia, which is a journey of at least 4,100 nautical miles. At 120 miles miles a day, that’s 34 days at sea without land. Equivalent to 19% of the earth’s circumference, or just over a third of the entire voyage from London to Brisbane. We won’t be going in a straight line, as it’s most efficient to head south west, south of the Galapagos, to pick up the Easterly trade winds that should then be our carriage all the way across the Pacific. Those interested can look at windytv.com where you can see the band of very consistent winds coming from the east just south of the equator. But you’ll also see large areas of no wind – we must be prepared for periods of days of no wind and no progress… The current in that part of the world also happens to be going west so there’ll be a certain amount of drifting too. Failing that, we have around 120hrs of fuel, which we can use a little of to find some wind.
If you’re ever wondering how we’re doing, you can always have a look at the tracker, which is here: https://share.delorme.com/GeoffWARD
After Hiva Oa I should be able to update you again. The plan is to visit a few islands in French Polynesia on the way through to Tahiti for the 25th May to pick up another crew member, before checking out of French Polynesia in Bora Bora. After a little research, I think the landscape, marine life and friendly people are likely to make French Polynesia my new favourite place on earth.
French Polynesia is an overseas French territory, meaning that as an EU citizen I can be there for as long as I want! Geoff and Harry have had to hire an agent to manage their visa formalities. Seriously, what the hell have we done voting to leave the EU? I’m willing to bet there’s a direct correlation between those who travel and those who voted Remain. Especially when you start looking at the exchange rate change which has probably swallowed a fifth of my funds. I know that reasons for voting either way are as complex as they are varied, but all I can say is that it has been and will be bad for me, personally.
Following Bora Bora, we plan on visiting the Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji, and New Caledonia before the final jump to Brisbane. But apart from that eventual arrival in Brisbane, where my girlfriend, cousins, uncle and aunts all live, my mind is for now firmly on the passage ahead.
The first week is likely to be a test of character, trying to find the wind to take us south. But once we get to about 3 degrees South, the easterly winds should be so consistent that the sails may not need much adjustment for days on end. We’ll be keeping a constant watch – 2 x 3hr shifts and a 2hr shift every day – but other than cleaning and housekeeping, we’ll be unoccupied. Having left the last Spanish speaking country on the journey (having just got the hang of it), I’ll try to resurrect the 7 years of French classes that I hope are sitting on a dusty shelf in my mind, having borrowed some audio lessons from a fellow sailor. I’ve stocked up on books, including Kon-Tiki, which is about an anthropologist drifting this same route to French Polynesia in a balsa wood raft to prove that French Polynesia was originally populated by the Incas (took him 100 days). Also Mutiny on the Bounty and the two sequels, which document a mutiny on board a British cargo vessel in the 18th century that takes place in the same area. I’ve also downloaded a few hours of singing lessons and guitar lessons, so I hope to stop singing flat, master fingerpicking and learn all 18 minutes of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant by the time I get to Brisbane.
Food and drink
This was a big learning curve – buying enough food for 5 weeks is both expensive and time consuming. Aside from a couple of weeks of fresh food, we have many tins of food and jars of pasta sauce. Hot dog sausages, baked beans, black beans, kidney beans, tinned tomatoes… We heard that the best way was to plan our meals and figure out what ingredients we’d need. But we settled for estimating how much of each thing we’d expect to eat in a week and multiply that by 3 then 10, to safely provision for 70 days instead of just 35.
On water, we have around 400l in the water tanks, and another 400l in 5l bottles stashed around the boat. Geoff doesn’t have a water maker, which initially bothered me but I now see that we’d have had to buy all this water as a backup anyway.
All three of us like our booze a little too much, and we know we’d turn to drink when we are bored, so we’ve decided to be a completely dry boat when at sea. Which I think is a bloody good decision.
So much more I could say – preparing for this trip over the last three weeks has taught me a great deal, and learning how effectively we have prepared will probably teach me a great deal more! This first leg of the trip is a big step, and will test us all psychologically as we get fed up with the weather, isolation, food and, probably, each other at points.
Goodbye for now
For now I bid you farewell. It will be good to have a forced internet detox. It feels equal parts scary and exciting to be setting off, but I know that when we get there we will have gone practically half way. The rest of the trip is basically island hopping to Brisbane. But until then, this is likely to be the biggest challenge yet.