Published March 31, 2014 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2014 Susan Scott
PAPEETE, TAHITI » Last weekend I flew to Papeete because I left my sailboat Honu here in October to sit out the southern hurricane season. That being over now, it’s time to pack the boat with brie and baguettes, cast off the mooring lines and sail on.
When I mentioned this upcoming voyage to friends and acquaintances back home, the first thing they asked was, “Are you sailing alone?”
No. I sail alone on short trips, but I don’t go offshore by myself for one simple reason: It’s too scary. But it’s not the open ocean that scares me (usually). It’s the boat.
Cruising sailboats have most of the appliances we have at home, all the machinery of our cars, and an IT worker’s nightmare of computer-driven nautical systems. Towering above all that is an elaborate assortment of ropes, poles and wires supporting flexing masts and flapping sails.
We cram this mass of specialized gear into a small space (37 feet by just over 12 feet in this case) and sprinkle it with salt water while shaking and pounding it for weeks on end.
The sailors’ old joke that the definition of offshore cruising is repairing your boat in exotic places is only funny if you’re good at fixing things. I am not.
But no worries. I’m sailing with my husband, Craig. It will be just the two of us, but having a man who’s been sailing since he was 6, and is good at troubleshooting and repairing all manner of marine systems, is like having an engineer, navigator and sailing instructor all in one.
Oh, and he cooks, too.
The other questions people ask about concern our destination, route, distance and timing.
Craig and I plan on sailing to the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia, where we will leave Honu in a marina and fly home to work. We have two months for this voyage, about 3,000 miles due west. This may seem like plenty of time, but when your vessel averages 5 mph, timing is a concern.
I want to leave Honu in New Caledonia for a while because it seems that whenever I see a photo of a fantastic new (to me) marine species, the location credit says New Caledonia. We shall see.
To answer another question, yes, I’m planning on writing my columns while sailing, sending them through my satellite phone email system — providing the satellite phone, computer and battery charging systems all keep working. I live in hope.
Satellite phones are marvelous inventions but they don’t transmit photos. I’ll try to paint pictures with words.*
The route Craig and I will be following is nicknamed the Coconut Milk Run because the prevailing winds come from behind the boat, making it an easy downwind run. In theory. I sailed this course in 2006 with two friends and had contrary wind directions and, of course, several boat system failures. Fortunately my friends were good sports and clever repairmen.
Now I get to again make the run with Craig, who on the boat is cheerful company and consistently optimistic. And, even given my deficient repair skills, he calls me captain.
Thank you, dear readers, for your caring questions and sincere best wishes. Stay tuned.
*Susan’s web guy, Scott, was one of the crew on the 2006 voyage and will try to use pictures from that voyage to augment Susan’s painting with words.
Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com
©2014 Susan Scott