We're at sea, two-thirds of the way between the Marquesas and Tuamotu Archipelago. Our destination is the north pass of Fakarava Atoll. The Tuamotus are famous for riproaring tidal currents of 6 to 9 knots in the entrance passes. That and the fact that most of the archipelago's real estate is submerged reefs make these atolls worthy of very careful navigation. If we arrive at the pass during darkness or when the current's ripping, we'll have to sail back and forth for a few hours outside until it subsides. A bunch of our sailing buddies are hanging out at Fakarava's south pass, a place where, we're told, hordes of friendly sharks let you swim with them. Two adjectives about sharks in that sentence: hordes and friendly, just don't match anything my brain can yet accept, but so far none of our friends who've been there diving every day have reported any missing limbs. I once believed a story about a purple shark. Maybe such things as friendly sharks exist. Sure they do. Heeeere, leetle tourist!
A sea passage is like a slice of life; sometimes it sucks, other times it's glorious. We've had two nights of squally sideways rain and two days of perfect trade wind sailing. At the moment it's a post-card perfection of 4 to 6 knots downwind. As before on passage, Jim and I are like ships in the night, sleeping and standing watches 4 hours on and 4 off. There's plenty of time to think. Passagemaking isn't always fun; in fact it's more often tiring and difficult. At least most of our passages so far have been tiring and at times quite difficult. But it forces you into the present tense, as I've said before. Somehow the boat's ceaseless motion manages to toss out all the extraneous noise and clutter in my mind, the endless loops of critique, opinion and perspective, stuff that keeps me out of the singular newness of the current moment. Around day 3 it's just me and my internal terrain contemplating sky-blue questions on a spectacular morning that makes the tiresome night squalls fade like bad dreams. It's hard to find this state of mind so quickly anywhere else.
The at-sea visual: a maritime color palette with as many blues as Ireland has greens; The tactile: a cool breeze on the skin, to be savored before it melts into the day's heat; The memory: wondering what friends are doing right this minute and wishing I could call them; The amazement: look at how well this little champ of a boat is sailing!
We needed a real trade wind passage to restore our faith that it's not always a matter of tooth-and-claw for every mile gained, which was how the crossing of the Pacific felt far too often. So far, this passage is delivering on the promise. Our trade wind sail rig is a combination of reefed mainsail let way out and held with a preventer, plus staysail sheeted in fairly tight, and genoa. Right now the genoa is poled out to windward, but we also use it in standard configuration when broad or beam-reaching, both of which we've done on this passage. The great thing about this arrangement is that when a squall hits you just reef or roll in the genoa like a windowshade, leaving the staysail to give the boat power forward. It has worked so well we often haven't had to adjust the steering vane, either. We've toyed with the idea of poling the staysail out to leeward, but it seems to be playing an anti-roll function when sheeted in tight, and neither of the other sails is affected by its presence in the middle.
At times like this I get one of those Holy Crap, willya look at this! moments. I stare at the sails, the rig, the wind vane, the sparkling sea; I think back to all the preparation and hard work to make this happen, and then it hits me with a big smile: It's working! Just as we thought it would!
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