… is impressive. After 21 days at sea, and only 1 ship sighted in the past 3,000 miles, I was ready to subscribe to the flat earth theory. The Pacific ocean just goes on and on. It feels endless. And then here comes Hiva Oa. It’s a bit like finding a large oak tree planted right in the middle of lane 2 of the Pacific Highway.
Just like that oak tree, there is no warning. This thing just pops up. It is jagged and young and magnificent, the work of some angry Nordic God; a giant underwater mountain that burst through the sea to stick its head up. I wouldn’t want to run into it at night in a square-rigged ship.
It is sunset as I sail in the bay. Wow – it is small. And crowded! Lots of very tired looking boats – smaller, long-distance cruisers. An Aussie guy says g’day as I motor past. Chatty. They say it is a rolly anchorage, but I doubt anyone cares. I know I will sleep well tonight.
Hans and Astrid have not yet arrived. They emailed me sweetly to check what time sundowner drinks end, worried they will be late for our date. I wrote back and said sundowners is from 6am until midnight, but if they are later and midnight they should come anyway. They have been an amazing company right through the trip and I am hugely excited to see them. They are 50 miles behind, though, so I think they won’t arrive till the wee hours.
I know that I will need the answers to the twenty obvious questions – what was it like?… were you scared?…would you do it again?….. I am not sure I am really ready to answer. I do know it has been an incredible experience.
Overall I am feeling great, although tired – I have eaten well, done enough exercise, experienced some incredibly beautiful moments and been tested with a couple of sailing challenges that remind me what it is to be alive. I now know that sailing alone is very different from sailing with others. There are no watches, no safety briefings, no ritual sundowners, no menus, no roles. Being on your own strips back sailing to a rawer essence. It really is just you and the boat, and you’d better figure that out. I have huge respect for my boat and for the sea. It truly is humbling. I am glad to say Ressie is super fit. I could sail back out the bay right now and onto Australia. I literally have everything I need, and there is no maintenance on the boat that is urgent or important. That is such a testament to designer Chris White’s brilliance.
During the last ARC, the gurus and I were sailing near Madagascar when Donald Trump won the US election. We sailed for another week before we got too much news, and in the meantime, land-based friends and colleagues went through a collective grief cycle, majoring on disbelief and anger. We arrived to be assaulted by the news. This time, the news is from Christchurch, an antipodean disaster that puts even Port Arthur in perspective. The emails I am receiving are filled with the collective horror of what happened in that beautiful town. From the middle of the Pacific, it feels almost impossible to comprehend. How can society create such an outcome? Modern society makes a lot less sense once you have a bit of distance on it, and recognising that is possibly one of the bigger gifts of the trip. To be able to see from outside for a while can’t be bad.
And now? The next few days are quiet – time to sort out the boat, clear customs, re-provision and hang out with Hans and Astrid until they leave for Tahiti. I am hoping that this French protectorate will have baguettes? What luxury. And then the ARC fleet will arrive. The front runners are hurtling along and should arrive by the 20th, and then I suppose the celebrations will begin. Cup arrives on the 26th, just in time to greet the tail-enders and do some more partying.
Bring it on!