The voyage continues (south)

So I've been home in Melbourne for the last couple of weeks... Staying with friends, couch hopping... But something is missing... Constellation is nowhere to be seen. Thanks to encouragement and support from friends, I've decided I must keep sailing, and arrive officially 'home' to Melbourne. I will pick Constellation up in early Jan, and sail nonstop to Sydney, and then hopefully nonstop to Melbourne. I don't think it's going to be a particularly enjoyable sail (due to weather and the nature of the Australian coast), however it must be done!

There needs to be more:

nick.

Entry, Constellation for sale

Nearing Australia, I saw another sailing vessel and radioed to ask if they knew whether Customs ran 24hrs or not. The radio crackled, "Customs? Where are you coming from, over?" ... "Tonga" ... "Tonga? Please repeat, over", "Tonga, in the south Pacific" ... "Oh." The message was relayed to the VMR station, and thankfully Customs awaited my arrival, as we flew into port at 7kts with a racing tide behind us. I radioed again to await direction, as you must be invited into harbour, you cannot simply sail in. I was given the all clear, and sailed in. Several people saw the yellow quarantine flag, and for those that knew, they realised I had come a long way. Some waves from other boats and many strange looks. I motored around and berthed, the Customs agents said "where is your welcome party?" and I said "You're it, make some noise!" ... And so after nearly two and a half years, Constellation was firmly tied up in Australian waters. There was no one I knew in Coffs Harbour, and so my arrival was like an arrival anywhere else... Somewhat lonely. In fact, it was much like my "official" departure from Holland, where I simply slipped the lines, said goodbye to the dockmaster, and began my 28,000km voyage to Australia in a small boat. Maybe it sounds a little sad to some, but actually, I think there is something mildly romantic about the idea of departing and arriving quietly, as if by secret from long voyages. It reminds me of Bill Tilman, undertaking enormous trips through Greenland, only to arrive as if nothing had happened a few months later and tying up at his berth in Lymington.

As Customs searched my boat, removed a lot of my food and a few trinkets, I watched on slightly nervously. Not because I had anything to hide, but because it's strange having someone go through your home. Everything was wet or rusty, but eventually the paperwork and search was over, and my latest problem arose: The tax and import duty on Constellation. I hadn't planned for such an expense - I thought I had 12months to go through the process, but apparently that wasn't the case. So the very next day, I was on the phone, calling, emailing, and researching the problem. By 4pm I had a customs broker working on the case, and 4 days later Constellation was imported. I had no money for such a thing, but, through the graciousness of friends and their credit cards... Constellation officially became Australian (well, from a tax perspective!).

Jack the filmmaker arrived some days later to sail south with me and film, but after all the tax problems and stress of the whole ordeal, I had to get off the boat and go home... So, on a train we went, and rather quickly, we arrived in Sydney. It's amazing how much faster you can get places, when you travel at speeds faster than 4kts...

So what's next? I don't know. Well, that's not entirely true, but, in regards to Constellation I'm not sure. I sent out a Twitter update a week ago exclaiming she was for sale - And she is. Many people messaged and said 'No, you can't sell her!' But unfortunately, that's really how things must end. I can't really justify the expense of putting her in a marina so she can be sailed around the bay on sunny weekends in summer... It's sad, and I wish I could just build a museum for myself, and put her in it, but alas, unless the six figure book deal and equally profitable film distribution arrangement appear from nowhere, that's it. The sale from Constellation is also what will fund part of my future ideas and projects... So for anyone interested, you can contact me, or just out of general interests sake you might be interested to see what's onboard in her for sale listing. Presently she is on the east coast of Australia, tax paid and would be suitable for an Australian, New Zealand or European buyer because there is nothing else you need to hand over for governmental revenue collection...

Tomorrow I will fly sail at 600kts upwind, and be in Melbourne for a month while I sort myself, my finances, and everything else out...

nick.

We're home at last. In 743 days.

It was a long final passage from Tonga... I don't really even know how long. I left sometime in October, and I arrived yesterday. I don't count days anymore, and I think in this last passage I made my peace with many things. I spent several hours every single day just staring at the sea. I have a pose in the cockpit of Constellation... I don't know what it's called, I haven't named it. But I stand bolt upright without holding onto anything, and surf the boat for hours at a time, just looking at the horizon and thinking. It's clearly meditative, but not in an intentional sense. It's simply a hypnotic trance one is drawn to without any real thought. I've been scared of the sea for a very long time. I came close to drowning once; I was pulled out beyond the breakers by a rip. I gave up, and sank to the bottom, and my feet touched the sand. Instantly I regained my composure and came back up to keep fighting. I was rescued.

When I was nineteen, I went surfing with a good friend, and I turned the body of a drowned swimmer face up who was not so lucky in a rip of his own. I pulled him to shore, and nearly drowned myself out of exhaustion in doing so. He was heavy, I was tired, and his family screamed at me because I couldn't hold the man's head upright out of the water when his waterlogged body was dragged ashore; even though he had clearly been dead for upwards of twenty minutes.

Everyday for the last two and a half years I have been scared of the sea. Every night on passage, I would get into my bunk, turn the light off, and wonder if I was going to wake up. I would get up regularly to maintain a semblance of a watch; glance out of a port hole, see the familiar and wondrous scene of rushing water, stars, whitecaps and silvery reflections, and put my head back on the pillow, again wondering whether I was going to wake up. I wondered many times what it would feel like to be hit at sea. I've played the scenario over in my head a million times. Some nights I would sleep with my grab bag.

And so last night, after several days of difficult weather, I arrived on the shores of Australia. I had no real idea what I would feel. Excitement? Depression? Sadness? I guess a bit everything really. But at the heart of it, I felt a fearful weight shed from my shoulders. I've maintained an intense personal motivation to keep moving, even when I didn't really know how. There is no particular point to any of this. And I've known that since day one. What is the value of crossing oceans in small boats? To prove a point? Reinhold Messner would say it was the sign of a degenerative society. For some things, there is not always an eloquent or sensible explanation. Often times those concepts are best left to simmer.

Am I depressed? Is this a rambling flurry of post-adrenal thought? No, not really. I've never felt more overjoyed and elated; wondrous, and the exact opposite of all those things...

I did my very best to take everyone along with me on this trip, through the web, via my sporadic and sometimes random writing, videos and twitter updates. And the surprising result is, I've had the most incredible outpouring of support over the last three years - More than one could possibly imagine. I guess I'd just like to point out, that I really, genuinely, I could not have come this far without the hundreds of people who showed their support in many different ways: I've received literally thousands of satellite SMS messages over my two ocean crossings, full of encouraging words; hundreds of positive comments across multiple networks... People have given me their own hard earned money for no other reason than to see me succeed. Companies have given me things and supported me with equipment. People have written me messages and said I've inspired them to leave their lives of ordinariness and lead more fulfilling ones. The list is endless... I've not really done any of this alone; solo, singlehanded or otherwise. I'd be arrogant to say I had - I may have been the helmsmen, but that's it...

Thank you so much, to everyone who has shown any interest at all in this endeavour. This isn't my last post, but it is certainly the last post of an era...

nick.

Next stop Coffs Harbour

The sailing thus far, has for the most part been idyllic. I say for the most part, because the last 48 hours have verged more on the miserable scale of things than anything else. Passing 160 nautical miles (around 300km) south of New Caledonia, I decided to ask the weathermen how they thought the stretch of ocean spanning onwards to Australia might play out over the next seven days. It had always been my intention to skirt close to New Caledonia in case the weather was going to be foul - I don't think I've heard of a single pleasant crossing to the mainland as yet... In fact, I came across three other boats headed to the east coast of Australia, that were going all the way to Vanuatu, and crossing from there to Cairns to avoid this very crossing. The weathermen told me to expect winds between 30 to 40kts (60 to 80kmh) within the next 24 hours. I was so disappointed, as the day had started so perfectly - We were literally flying (a relative term...) on a flat, grey sea. Alas, things worsened as the afternoon took over, and I lessened sail with every gust. Before long, Constellation was shipping green water over the deck, and progress was futile. By 6pm I hove-to (stalled the boat), and lay below, listening to the crashing, and watching as waves rose through the companionway. I get a shiver down my spine when the wind hits a certain note, at sea, and now even on land. There is an equally nervous feeling in my stomach when the foam begins to streak across the surface of the water. The physique of the ripples change in shape to a hard chine, creating a louder 'slap' with each connection to the hull.

I slept on and off through the night, until all at once, we were hit so incredibly hard by a breaking wave, things that had never fallen out of their places, flew across the cabin. Immediately after the hit, there was a loud hissing sound, and with alarming calm, I heaved out of bed to assess with my feet how much water was entering the boat. I noted there was no water as yet, and made a mental checklist of what I needed to get to abandon ship: Grab bag (containing offshore flares, flare gun, EPIRB, and some chocolate. Actually no, there is no chocolate, I ate it in a fit of despair...) and lifejacket. I then made another quick mental note to get my survival suit because I didn't trust the liferaft. As all this was going through my head (the time-scale was milliseconds), I reached for the red navigation lamp, so I could see, but not destroy my night vision, and saw to my amusement and relief, there was in fact no water at all entering the boat, or even a hole in sight. The hissing was from a self-inflating lifejacket that had had its release cord caught on the wet locker clothes hook, and sprung to life when the boat jerked.

This might all seem overly dramatic to you, but the sailor leans a great deal on his or her sense of hearing: An almost sixth sense develops and notes every single sound that is deemed 'normal' on the boat - Anything that deviates from that list is immediately cause for great concern, and even in a deep sleep, one is often alerted to any acoustic change in the environment. I remember a similar incident in the Atlantic, when a flying fish flew through the hatch, and lay sputtering and flapping on the cabin sole - To my dimly awakened state, it was the sound of the electrical system short-circuiting...

Fortunately today, things have calmed down, and my frayed nerves are regenerating with each cup of tea. I have decided, and I must apologise to Brisbane, that I will in fact be sailing into Coffs Harbour - The northern most entrance into NSW where I can clear customs and quarantine. This decision is based mostly on the fact that my trajectory seems to naturally be pointing me that way, and also it appears to be a much easier entrance than Brisbane, or even Sydney: Just a simple breakwater on the coast, and a buoy to hang off of and await clearance. I am trying to sail home, and in a fit of anger a few posts ago, I declared Brisbane was it - But, I've come this far; I will sail as planned into Melbourne, and land hopefully in Docklands Marina. I hope to see some familiar faces there... Ones ready to stay up all night and paint the town red. I think I'll call the party 'Shore Leave.'

And so, we soldier on, 14 days out of Tonga. I don't like to predict my landfall, because there are many things which hinter progress (namely, weather), but, with 550nm to go, it would be nice to be seeing land within five or six days...

Australia is on my chart

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."

nick.

(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.)

Final leg, Tonga to Australia

Tomorrow I haul up the anchor, and set sail for Australia, nonstop from Vava'u, Tonga. The counter on this website indicates that I've been doing this sailing thing for 765 days. That sounds like a lot. In fact, it's so many days, that I'm going nonstop because I'm out of money, out of energy, and it's time to call it a day. I've said from the beginning that I was going to sail from Europe to Australia, and I'm going to fulfill that promise - To myself, and to the thousands of people that have emailed me, left comments, encouraged me, and supported my efforts to keep this dream alive.

I can't tell you the number of times, in the worst moments, where I've just wanted to give up. Where it seemed impossible; where the sacrifices were too great... To do something like this takes a great amount of selfish endeavour and single-mindedness. Relationships are strained, severed, mistreated and broken. Friends come, go, and are lost after years of neglect... Family worries and wonders... Yet the vast expanse of ocean; those moments of the sublime are fought for and held onto by tooth and nail... I cannot explain what this is about, what it means, why it has to be done - It is what it is, and soon it will be complete.

Everything in the last three years has been given up to do this trip, and it's terrifying to think that in 1900nm I will have made good on my promise... So I thought in honour of the "Bigoceans, Tiny Boat" ethos, this final leg will be like all my others others - Long, wet, and full of terrible food. I remember all my long passages well: Three days across the Bay of Biscay on 9 hours of sleep. Ten days of perfect sailing from Lisbon in the middle of winter to the Canary Islands. Thirty days to the Caribbean powered by pasta, twenty eight days to New York City on ramen and rice... Twenty seven days from San Francisco to Hawaii, seventeen days to Palmyra Atoll, and thirteen days to Western Samoa full of canned beef stew.

It simply wouldn't be right to finish this project any other way.

Nick.

Tsunami affected Niuatoputapu

Departing Apia, Samoa at 11am, I rounded the island of Upolu and sailed through the Apolima strait as the sun set, slowly drifting south until the water glassed over, and an enormous harvest moon rose over Western Samoa, the smell of woodsmoke curling across the deck. I lit up my strobe and tri-light, and went to sleep, waiting for wind. An hour later the British ensign started flapping, a perfect easterly breeze arrived, and Constellation took off towards Niuatoputapu. After a textbook sail, for once we arrived at a reasonable hour, early in the morning, and navigated the channel into harbour. The charts were slightly off, and radioing for navigation assistance, I lined up the range markers, motored through the reef, and set the anchor. The scene onshore was devastating. It took sometime before I could hitch a lift in, as my dinghy is on it's last legs. Eventually on land, I walked to 'the capital', along a road of destruction... With army tents and families living under tarps, pigs ran around alongside undernourished dogs, open black water pits and small children. It's one of those times you can just stand there and watch, completely detached, unable to truly comprehend. Thoughts of sadness run through ones mind, coupled with deep feelings of utter selfishness, as if peering at a spectacle from the comfort of a lounge room sofa. The worst off somehow manage to consistently get the raw end of the stick... I also cannot help but remember all these islands of delight and sailing lore, are actually very small third world countries already on the edge. These people have been plundered by westerners since the days of ancient whalers and explorers, leaving behind diseases of the body, and those of the mind through missionary saturation - I was unable to understand my own presence, even though it was altruistic (to bring what supplies I could afford and store) and non-exploitative. I've never felt so out of place, and so aware of who and what I am, and where I come from.

I woke up to the haunting sounds of Christian song, bellowing from the nearby church, the pews mangled on the front lawn. On the one hand it's a beautiful sight and sound. On another my heart sinks. I spend the day helping boats ferry supplies onto shore. Brynne, a half Canadian, half Samoan woman I met at the Red Cross in Samoa heard of my sail down to Niuatoputapu, and helped donate supplies. All in all, I carried what I could, but it sat there in the cockpit and looked like a pittance in comparison to what was needed. I must say on a positive note, that the combined supplies brought in by many cruising yachts was a wonderful sight. Some boats were able to bring down huge quantities of provisions, most of which was privately funded. I handed out what I had to the Red Cross for distribution, and later helped distribute supplies from other boats via the town hall.

I still don't know how I feel about it all, I really don't, so I try to avoid thinking too much about it by worrying about my own petty problems, like the heavy amount of sailing that is still required to finish this voyage. Yes, I'm closer than England, but I still feel just as far away, now even more so. This goal of completion lessens in meaning every day.

I don't feel there is much more need to write... So below are some photos. I am now in Vava'u, Tonga after a wretched sail, in miserable conditions. Thank you so much to everyone who Paypal'd donations to help buy things for Niuatoputapu - Help was grossly hindered by the high cost of anything in Samoa, and the size of my boat, but I did what I could.


Boxes of nails, lavalava's, rice, noodles, tarps, crackers


A toppled truck, and cement water tank that drifted from the other side of the town hall









Nick.

Volunteering, Red Cross, Samoa

I'll leave the photos and video to do the talking, but I'm sticking around a little longer here in Apia, Samoa to volunteer with the Red Cross. I took this media while out today, volunteering on the worst affected area: The east of the island. Thank you to Weide, Stuart, Mark, Benjamin and Lidia for their donations to the sailing kitty - I will be using the donated money to cover the costs of staying longer here in the marina. I cannot stay long, due to the weather situation (I'm always... Late in the season). However I will stay for a bit longer, and think about departing early next week.



The start of my second day with the Red Cross





Recovering a body


More photos online here. Nick.

Tsunami in Western Samoa

As Constellation rumbled, I jumped out of my bunk at a well practiced speed. I can pull myself up and out with one hand, and be on deck in seconds from a deep sleep... Usually it's because Constellation is getting slammed or a squall has snuck up at night, and we're blasting upwind as the windvane struggles, but this was a new sensation... I stood in the cockpit and watched everyone else in the marina doing the same - The marina pylons rumbled, the docks shook. It seemed to last minutes, and then nothing. I meandered around the dock to talk with an Irish singlehander about his trip, thinking a tsunami was unlikely, as did everyone else. Then the alarms sounded, and the streets of Apia began to flood with people, as everyone jumped into any car heading to higher ground. I ran to Constellation, got my passport and wallet, and ran out of the marina. Eddy's began forming in the marina, as I considered taking Constellation out into the bay... But I knew there was no way my engine could move against that surge. My decision to stay was sound - I would have knocked around the marina in the surge and simply damaged other boats. Two large yachts departed under full engine - They strained, and began to go backwards on the second surge, as Apia harbour began to drain. The surge reversed, and thankfully the boats then rode it out of the channel to safe water. I sat near Aggie Grey's hotel, watching. It was not high ground, and in hindsight, not the most intelligent of decisions. I guess the feelings I experienced were those of people watching fires approach their homes. To go or stay? I watched the harbour recede several times, but with every surge, the danger seemed to lessen. Eventually Police drove by and said they would arrest me for disobeying orders, and demanded I seek higher ground. So I went to the third story of the hotel and waited. I had my laptop and desperately wanted to get online to see some real data. The hearsay was absurd, with nobody having any real information. Internet access across the island went down, and so I waited... Eventually things seemed to go back to normal, and the hotel gave us free breakfast... I walked into town, and was told to leave again - The town was deserted, except for what seemed like potential looters loitering around. I returned to the hotel and waited. No taxis, no people, no internet, and my visiting parents were on the south of the island, staying virtually at sea level in palm huts. Eventually data networks came back online, and I researched the USGS and other government sites for real data. I saw where the earthquake pulse came from, and realised the south of the island would have been most affected. Many locals said there was no damage on the south, but the reality is - It was chaos and no one had any idea what was happening, and with no major media, there was no real news. I attempted to call the resort of my parents, only to get a disconnected line. I returned to the marina, and heard the south was devastated... I ran to my local friend, and we immediately drove south. Everything seemed relatively normal, until we got to sea level. The wave had come at least 150ft inland. Driving along the dirt road to the remote resort, it was clear the water had come in high. Local houses and boats were trashed, rocks strewn across the road. We talked to locals who said everyone had been evacuated to the local church, and so my parents were found safe, but bruised and shaken. While we can pack up and leave, our condolences go out to the family of Virgin Cove Resort, who must now return to lost homes and businesses.

The large reef that surrounds most (if not all?) of Western Samoa offered some protection to the wall of water that hit my parents. The palm huts they were staying in were run down, as my dad was swept into the jungle, across volcanic rock. My mum sought refuge above a cistern as water rushed around her. They were interviewed by an Australian newspaper - Online here.

Thanks to the generous Aggie Grey hotel, and also to Bruce, the regional sales manager for Virgin/Polynesian/Pacific Blue - Who gave up his personal room and drove my parents to the airport this morning at 3am.

I am trying to figure out a way to assist here with Australian aid workers, but, it seems nearly impossible to figure out how to help here... There must also be remote islands who have suffered and will not receive help... If anyone knows aid organisations that are accepting volunteer help, please contact me.

And so now... Constellation and I have experienced tropical waves, towering swells at sea, dodged hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

And we're still not home yet.

Nick.

Western Samoa

The trip south to Samoa from Palmyra Atoll afforded steady trades, and good sailing, with only a few days of wind that might have tended on the 'too strong stop spilling my coffee!' side. Constellation averaged 110nm days, and I know she could do another 20nm a day, however as I always have, the sailing was more about conservation of the boat, and comfort for her crew than speed. During nights, I reef the main, roll in a bit of jib, and soldier on through the dark nights. Signs of life all the way from Hawaii were scarce: One tuna clipper, and one airplane. It felt lonely out there. Nearing Samoa, the wind died, and as I normally do, I became antsy and irritated. Thankfully after a bout of heavy squall activity, the wind re-appeared, and destroyed my entrance schedule into Apia, Samoa (perfectly timed until the wind stopped...)- We entered at 02:30am. Nervously listening to the waves crash upon the reef to starboard, the port authority directed us to anchor, and after 32 days, we'd officially made it to a south pacific island. Unable to clear customs and forced into the marina (cheekily, anchoring and staying at the marina costs the same...), the quarantine flag flew, yet security didn't mind me going into town without clearance - I would have died, sitting on the dock watching people eating real food, and drinking cold beer after so long at sea, bound by the gates of the marina. As Monday rolled around, we were visited by five state departments: Immigration, health, customs, agriculture and the port authority. All those names might seem intimidating, but really, you just write your name, address, and boat name on five different pieces of paper, holding different titles...


Arrival, Apia, Samoa

For the first time in awhile, Constellation was not the smallest boat in the harbour. There lay, a boat registered in Copenhagen, a 25ft yacht. I was livid! Yet after that particular boat left, life went back to normal, where Constellation was dwarfed by what seems to be a dominance of 40ft+ boats - Many registered in Australia, and New Zealand - Home seems just around the corner.... The shops are full of Maggi Two Minute noodles, Milo, Vegemite, Tim Tams... (Apologies to non-Australians, none of that will make any sense). It's beautiful here, and the people are extraordinarily friendly - The Samoans appear to have held onto their culture more than any other place I've visited, and it's refreshing to be on an island that hasn't been completely overrun by colonialists. It isn't devoid of missionary success though, however I guess that's another discussion best saved for my non-existent blog covering geopolitical musings and island theology... !

I've experienced much of the island with the friendly help of local Samoan, 'Time' (pronounced ti-may), having the opportunity of seeing a Samoa not everyone gets the opportunity to experience - This weekend I have been invited to a local wedding, and even a spot of night bat hunting! Yet as with every landfall, it isn't long before ones mind starts wondering to the next port of call. I feel a tinge of melancholy and excitement about seeing the east coast of Australia on my Pacific charts. The official two year anniversary of this voyage passed on the 17th of this month, but really, this is all I've done for three years (the first spent paying for the boat, among other things). While I'm sure it will wear off very quickly, I often yearn for a dose of my former reality: The ability to lay in a bed and bend my legs completely, to buy a coffee on a whim, or see long lost friends. I know some of you are sitting there, scoffing at that idea, but what can I say - I do know wanderlust will hit me again like a freight train soon after this is all done, but I have to be somewhat honest - I am getting tired. Not tired in a bored sense, but tired in an emotional sense. Thankfully the very thought of these beautiful islands and my distance from home, keeps my motivation strong, even on the worst of days. Anyway, I think you came here to hear about paradise in the south Pacific, not the idle whimpering of a palagi... Here are some more photos.

So, the next stop is Fiji. I will leave next week, and after that... Who knows. Maybe a straight hop to mainland Australia. Or maybe I'll scrap all that and visit Tonga en route... Or Wallis Island, or Norfolk Island, or maybe even Lord Howe. There is a lot to see, but limited time as another hurricane season follows me around the globe. Every boat I seem to meet is high-tailing it to New Zealand - I would love to touch the north island of NZ, yet it would mean waiting another several months before I could make my passage across the Tasman Sea...

Nick.