Sunday, March 8, 2009

South Pacific Dreaming

You're not going to believe this, but...

We are sailing to Tahiti!!!

At this point, you're probably thinking I've had a little too much Mexican sun or muy mucho tequila. But no, we really are going to sail to the South Pacific and French Polynesia. How did this little "side trip" suddenly come about? Here's a brief recap:

After our trip down and up Mexico's 'Gold Coast', we started sailing back to PV and discovered there's a "puddle jumper discount" at the marina in La Cruz. ("puddle jumper" is a nickname for those who sail across the Pacific to Polynesia.) To get the ridiculously cheap rate of $0.40 per foot ($14 per night for this beautiful, brand new marina), you simply had to be a member of the Puddle Jump database on Yahoo. Done.

We pulled into our deeply-discounted slip and were greeted by our neighbors, Bob and Caryl on the boat Sisiutl. Bob's first words were, "so, you joining the fleet on the sail across the pacific?" Not wanting to blow our cover-- and our discount-- we say, "uh, yeah, we're certainly hoping to." Bob says, "well, there's a whole bunch of seminars and a party here this Friday." Turns out that Bob has logged more than 50,000 sea miles and has made the trip several times, and even organizes many of the activities.

Over the next week or so, mainly for kicks-- but also to learn a little something that might prepare us for future cruises-- we went to the seminars on topics like "Diesel Mechanics" and "Preventing Chafe in Your Rigging" and "Provisioning for Weeks at Sea" and such. Next, we went to a meetup and slide show put on by Tahiti Tourisme. The excitement in the room was palpable...there were probably 25-30 boats are all getting ready to make the jump, and everyone was eager to meet everyone else and make new friends in preparation for the journey.

Here's where things began to get a little crazy...we started to get totally caught up in the whirlwind excitement of it all. Visions of Bora Bora and the Marquesas started filling our waking and sleeping dreams, and all these little snippets of conversations we'd been having roosted in our heads and wouldn't leave, repeating themselves endlessly: "you should do it now, while you're still young!" and, "you've got a good boat, why not go?" and "it's paradise on earth! Just do it!"

Several times over the next few days Naomi and I looked at each other and said, "should we go? we should go!" The impulse to sail off into the sunset to the South Pacific was strong, and our resolve was particularly fortified whenever we'd had a couple beers...We could almost smell the bougainvilla coming from the distant shores. We decided to "try and make it happen, and if we can do it, we'd do it". So we sat down with a list of everything that needed to be done.

Then reality set in. I woke up several mornings with an absolute knot in my stomach. Our Islander 36 is a fantastic boat, but we had outfitted it for a 6-month coastal cruise-- not a major open water ocean crossing. We would need lots of diesel and water jugs and we'd really need a Single Sideband ("SSB") radio to be able to communicate and get weather forecasts-- not a cheap or easy installation. Other issues began to pop up too, the biggest of which was: what to do with the boat once we got there? Our options were to either keep going 'round the world (or at least to Australia), or make the difficult passage up to Hawaii and then over to California-- a route that often sees violent storms. Dealing with our apartment, dog, and life back in California was also a big issue.

Around this time, I was hanging out on my boat when I saw a new boat come in to the marina, attempt to dock, then abort. He swung around to make another pass, and I called out, "need a hand"? and jogged over to help him with his docklines. I met the captain, Mike, and then he met Naomi at the rooftop puddle jumper party. He was further encouraging us to go-- threatening to tow us halfway out to the ocean while we slept. We got on well, and a new idea started to take shape-- what about crewing on his boat?

To make a relatively long story short, after much discussion, negotiation, and "getting to know you" dinners, we agreed to go with Mike and his girlfriend Veronika and his dog on his boat "Apple" a beautiful Jenneau 45. Now we are in the arduous process of preparing the boat for the trip, provisioning for weeks at sea, and getting ourselves 'mentally ready' for such a huge open water passage.

Speaking of, the psychology of it all is an interesting thing, mainly due to the distances involved-- it's the largest open body of water on the entire planet that a boat can sail through without seeing land. I go through a cycle each day, where I wake up almost a nervous wreck thinking about the journey, then I gradually get more and more excited about it all day, then by the evening I'm really excited to go and can't wait. Then the next day the cycle starts all over again.

It will be about 3100 miles to the first landfall-- the remote and mysterious Marquesas-- then another 1100 or so through the Tuomotu archipelago to Tahiti. But in actuality is is even longer since we can't really go in a straight line...basically we make a gentle "S-curve" by riding the Northern Hemisphere trade winds west, then we cross the equator and ICTZ (doldrums) by going due south until we catch the southern hemisphere trade winds. In an ideal world it will take 3-4 weeks, but it could take much longer.

Despite some pre-game jitters, we are really excited about this trip. On the one hand, it is a great relief to "not be the captain" and to not have ultimate responsibility for every little thing on the boat. It is a brand new boat, with sails, rigging, engine--new everything-- and it has lots of critical safety gear. On the other hand, I worry about what it will be like to be out of sight of land for 3+ weeks, and also about sharing a small space with some people we don't know that well.

But overall we are thrilled and grateful for this's a bit surreal to think that shortly, we'll be sailing off to french polynesia! I'm just chalking it up to an "adventure" as defined by, "it will have it's rough patches, frustrations, tiring moments, etc but also its glorious ones that are earned..." The adventure easily lends itself to the romantic notions of the South Pacific paradise that has captivated the western world since the time of Captain Cook. And in the end, I'm sure we will look back on it as a major accomplishment 20 years from now.

Stay tuned-- we'll be sure to have a complete rundown with lots of pictures before you know it!


Dee Dee said...

YEAH!!!!!!!! So awesome!! Congratulations on making the decision!! Have fun and keep us posted on the crossing!!!

Bill, Maribel, Martin,& Rumi said...

Hey Nathan & Naomi- Way cool! Hope Hurulu's holding up well. I've been working by an Island Packet Cat and each time I look at it I think of you Nat... West beats bashing north anyday!

Diana Benedikt said...

Too bad you're not stopping in Hawaii - sitting on the beach right now. Was keepg an eye out for Hurulu but you must be nearing the Marquesas by now. Have fun guys!

~ CONTINA ~ ~ ~ said...

hi nathan and naomi....
we are also dreaming of the south pacific but not sure about our dog....
what experience did you have???
dorit with oscar the dog