Published May 12, 2014 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2014 Susan Scott
In 2006 my friend Scott helped me sail Honu from island to island across the South Pacific.
“When I signed on for that trip,” Scott says, “I imagined baking bread and reading novels under sunny skies in a gently swaying boat.”
Me, too. But that summer the Pacific Ocean didn’t cooperate with our daydreams. Blustery southeast tradewinds and the resulting 8-foot seas made even standing in the galley an ordeal, and drenching squalls barred books from the cockpit. Both above and below deck, we hung on, longing for landfall and wondering who on Earth named this stretch the Coconut Milk Run.
Now I know. It was a sailor who had passages like the one Craig and I are enjoying right now.
We left Fiji nearly a week ago. Because that country’s entry and exit laws make visiting outer islands difficult for those of us with time constraints, we didn’t stop at any of the picture-perfect islands and atolls we passed while sailing to and from Suva.
Instead, we ate in Suva’s many good restaurants and visited the famous open-air market and museum. I don’t know why it ended up in Fiji, but the Bounty’s rudder, retrieved from the ocean floor off Pitcairn Island, is there, a thrilling sight for us sailors.
After a week of city life (and, yes, some boat repairs), we left busy Suva Harbor in a rainstorm, maneuvering between islets and around reefs toward our final destination, New Caledonia. The warm rain was a squeaky-clean relief from the salty state that we cruising sailors usually live in.
The wind was strong enough to sail but not so strong as to build up the seas. Enjoy this, Craig and I reminded one another. It won’t last.
But it has. For five days now Honu has been sliding smoothly downwind at 3 to 5 mph, sometimes propelled only by its billowing green and black sail called a spinnaker. It’s been so mild that I even hauled the boat’s soft salon cushion and our bed pillows to the cockpit, usually risky business for material that isn’t waterproof. Craig calls my cushy corner the princess bed.
With seas so flat, the marine life at the interface of air and ocean is crystal clear. As if shot from a gun, flying fish burst from the water, sculling along the surface to escape the tunas below. We know the predators are tunas because in their pursuit, they too leap clear, their heavy bodies splashing back to the water with loud belly-flops.
The commotion attracts booby birds and shearwaters, which appear like magic, snatching up the unfortunate fish trapped between carnivores above and below.
At night we have our own planetarium, with moonlight glistening on the water half the night and meteorites zooming across the pearly Milky Way the other half.
Honu’s running lights attract raucous sooty terns that announce their arrival by screeching their nickname, “Wide-awake! Wide-awake!”
With bunny rabbit clouds drifting over our rock-a-bye-baby boat, we’re devouring Kate Atkinson novels (highly recommended) and thinking that the Coconut Milk Run is well named.
All we need now is Scott to bake us some bread.
Scott in the galley of Honu, cutting warm bread; starfish potholder.
Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com
©2014 Susan Scott