My recent posts have been rather anguished. I've been in a very odd state of mind, there is no doubt about it. Someone left a comment on my last post saying I was sounding more and more like Moitessier. And he wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing... Well, having recently watched Deep Water (maybe not the best film to be watching at sea...), at least I was not likened to Crowhurst! There is a certain something that happens when you place yourself in solitary confinement: You often wonder why you're torturing yourself. However, the quirk is, in this form of torture, there is always the possibility of experiencing something divine, and simply told, that's why people do it. I don't necessarily mean a spiritual divine; the simplest things at the oddest moments can make their ranking: Days of hard weather, and the taste of coffee in a dwindling swell can be enough to light the spark. Anyway, I'm out here now, after 778 days of voyaging - It's the finishing leg to Australia, and my little handheld GPS is pointing right towards that sunburnt continent where I was born.
Hauling up the anchor in Vava'u was miserable. I could barely muster the strength to do it. It was a perfect day, the wind was blowing south east, and I'd just spent two really nice days with my new friends Rob & Sarah at anchor - Spearfishing, talking, drinking local rum, and all those good things that can be done in the company of others. Not only was I hesitant about leaving for a potential month of solitary confinement, but my time in Vava'u had actually been quite social: I met a few young sailors with their own boats (a rare sight), compared notes with a couple nice fellow singlehanders, and even had a connection through a friend of a friend at the infamous and great Aquarium Cafe. The 'cruising community' was quite large, maybe the biggest I've been part of so far. I seem to have sailed a very different route to everyone else, and often just out of season: Many of these sailors had met months ago on both sides of Panama.
After the first 24 hours of sailing, my worries disolved into the sea ahead, and the wind switched direction. I beat into a light south west wind for a few days; but frankly, I didn't care - I was so happy to have broken my spell and let go of everything. The weather at these latitudes is much cooler than most of my Pacific sailing thus far - At long last I was able to lay in my bunk and enjoy readng again. The heat previously had been so much, the sweat so prolific, all I could do was feel my brain melt and my organs evaporate. Now, I was back! And with such a catalogue of great books, my confinement finally produced some cerebral activity beyond that of trimming sails and eating cans of chilli.
Two days ago, to my great excitement, Constellation and I found ourselves on the exact opposite side of the planet to England. We had sailed so far west of Greenwich, we were now east of it. I remember crossing zero degrees longitude, with Johannes Erdmann as we tried to sail to Hamburg. I watched in wonderment as the GPS slowly ticked over to 180degrees 0minutes 0seconds. In a flash, it was gone, and the seconds of longitude began to decrease, as the unit started the countdown back to zero degrees.
Of the books I've read so far, the book by food critic Ruth Reichl has been the most torturous. The finest food on this dry ship, is three cloves garlic and two miserable looking tomatoes. As I read about lobster risotto, or latte cotto, a light lemon custard served with marinated berries, my mouth flopped open and vowed never to sail again. So I got to the chapter on a Japanese sushi restuarant, and decided to go fishing.
Thanks to Rob and Sarah, my fishing knowledge doubled (from nothing to something), and they even donated several lures to my cause. So, listening to music in my bunk, I hear the the handline spinning. I jump outside and catch the 400 pound line with my bare hands, cleat it, and watch in wonderment as the largest Dorado I've ever seen is jumping a mile high into the sky. I was trying to catch Sashimi for one, but instead I had caught enough for an entire restaurant. Constellation literally slowed down under the power of the fish. Terrified, I rolled in the genoa to make battle.
With the fish swimming under full thrust, I couldn't hold it, even after I put on a pair of gloves. So I decided to let it tire, and watched miserably as it thrashed about. All I could think about was that this was tantamount to killing an entire cow for a single steak. So I decided to catch and release, if only I could get the damn thing near the boat... Eventually I could reel the fish in, but, due to my poor knowledge of such things, the fish sounded, and came up on the other side of the boat in an instant. I tried to let slack out, but it was too late. This thrashing enormity broke the line on the keel, and vanished, forever to have a very large pink plastic squid stuck in its mouth. And so, I decided fishing once more, was not for me, and read a book on Alexander Von Humboldt: "... Yet what we feel when we begin our long-distance voyage is nonetheless accompanied by a deep emotion, unlike any we may have felt in our youth. Separated from objects of our dearest affections, and entering into a new life, we are forced to fall back on ourselves, and we feel more isolated than we have ever felt before."
(Thank you everyone for your SMS messages and nice comments to my posts. I receive them all out here. And to answer your questions, no I haven't seen Jessica Watson, but, I think we are probably very close to each other right now. My radio has terrible range, and we could pass within 20miles and not see each other... But, it's nice to know she's out here, and I have a good feeling that she's going to take the record from Jesse, with gusto.)