Sailing The World's Oceans

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Tuesday September 18th, 2012 -  02:57 Port Vila, Vanuatu, Local Time


I know it’s been about 2 months since I’ve been able to get anything up here on the website and YES I’M STILL ALIVE.  I also have near 900 pictures that have been taken that have not been uploaded either.  Internet access for the most part has sucked.  And internet access where I can upload photos is non-existent.  I’ve also learned that internet capabilities will continue to be challenging until I get to Australia.  Whenever I do get unrestricted data and a good connection poor Brenda will finally be inundated with large quantities of photos to upload.  I didn’t have the foresight to send pictures back with her when she visited Jake and Jackie or with John when he left last week.  The truth be told I have had little time to even go through them. 

John spent a month with me and left here a little over a week ago.  During his time I did zero writing but instead spent quality time with a dear friend.  His trip this time was the polar opposite of his visit to Rarotonga.  We had an incredible month together.  Diving, snorkeling, swimming, and hiking were just a few of the many things we did that were always punctuated with laughter along with heart to hearts about life.  But so much has happened even before John’s arrival, one of which so far has been my favorite sailing day ever.

After my last update in the Bay of Islands I continued to spend a few magical days alone.  An idyllic location where I absorbed the beauty that surrounded me.  And it was during these days that I concentrated on being alone and embraced that single aspect of this voyage.  I also heard the echoes of other single handers that I have met in the past and tried to pull from what they said.

One thing I’ve learned from other single handers is a lot of them sail naked.  Well I don’t.  I’ve never been one to walk around the house without any clothes on or to even go skinny-dipping except when enticed by the beauty of a woman.  I just haven’t had that make up in my genes.  I don’t know why, perhaps it’s from being raised in the puritan society that makes up a big part of northern Virginia.  Well when you are all alone you mindset changes.  I figured What the hell?  Time to go skinny-dipping in this incredible place and take in all its beauty el-natural.

After a beautiful wonderful swim I climbed the back of the boat to shower off.  My showers these days continue to be on the aft deck of the boat but in the past always while wearing a bathing suit.  Not now, a real shower like at home.  Buck-naked all alone under a tropical sky.  I lathered up, rinsed off and to an extra long shower while the fresh water refreshed me.

I opened my eyes to find -  A BOAT!!!  OH MY GOD I’M NOT ALONE!

An open long boat with two island men sat still in the water about 25 yards from the boat.  They just sat there staring at me. Like a little kid who was caught doing something wrong I ran down below.  Upon my disappearance from the deck they started their engine and slowly motored towards Solstice.  I watched them approach from the safety of the port hole down below.

What the hell?  What do these guys want?

I couldn’t believe it.  The one time I choose to get naked and swim around the boat somebody shows up.  I’ve had this place to myself for days and this happens.  And it wasn’t even island girls, instead two middle-aged men.  As they got closer I recognized one of them.  He was the guy who took me around the village and presented me to the chief during my sevusevu.  I hurriedly got dressed and went up to meet them.

I had forgotten that I had told him I had some fishing line I’d be happy to give them.  He and his friend had come from the village to collect it.  They laughed at me when I welcomed them aboard and didn’t seem to think much of me showering naked on the back of the boat.  Perhaps they get naked too when they’re off on their own, who knows?

I did get to spend another couple of glorious days to myself and then as promised a flotilla of about 6 other boats showed up.  They were mostly boats that I knew but some I didn’t.  Amongst them were Eric and Amy from Secret Agent Man.  The three of us had begun a great friendship in Savusavu and we had a joyful reunion.  We spent another glorious week together.  But like all things, my time in the Bay of Islands came to an end.  John would be flying in a little over a week and I needed to sail to the western islands where I would rendezvous with Hokule’a and welcome John aboard.

There are a two different ways to get from the Lau Group on east side of Fiji around to the southwest side to Musket Cove where I was supposed to rendezvous with Jake and Jackie on Hokule’a.  I could take the shorter non-stop route that goes around the south end of the main island of Viti Levu or I could day-hop my way through north side between the two main islands.  The southern route would be a two-day non-stop trip through busy shipping lanes.  The northern route would take four days and would require stopping and anchoring each night because it wound through a labyrinth of reef-laden waters where many a vessel has been lost.  The northern route also required good weather with great visibility.  Traversing the maze of reefs is also best done with somebody aloft where they can easily spot the reefs.  When you’re single-handing this is not an option.  Since I arrived in Fiji I had been weighing these two options and the pros and cons of each passage.  The southern route would be exhausting with little sleep through busy shipping lanes but there are no reefs and the charting is well marked and accurate.  The northern route would require one overnighter at first to get to the reefs but then a more intense route through poorly charted waters begins for three days.  But with this route I could stop every night after before sunset make a nice dinner and get some sleep.  Either route should be a good downwind run.  I opted to meet the challenge of sailing around reefs instead of dodging ships.

I had spent weeks waiting for no wind or wind from the right direction to get to the Lau Group as the southeast trades blow strong through there almost constantly.  So leaving there and heading with the trades should be easy.  On the day I left it was forecast to have a nice light breeze.  Of course I get out there and there is zero wind.  90% of the time the wind would blow in the perfect direction to where I wanted to go.  Not on the day I left.  I spent the first 16 hours motoring and left a larger carbon footprint than I had intended.  Finally about midnight a light breeze filled in just enough to keep the sails full and I ghosted along comfortably through the wee hours of the morning.  The seas were flat and it was slow but comfortable.  I planned to stop at the island of Macongai the next morning but it was only another 25 miles to the next anchorage and that would get me closer to where the reefs started.  I felt great and the weather was good so I pressed on and sailed straight to the island of Ngani.  There I anchored off a beautiful beach with four other boats and watched a gorgeous sunset.  I went to bed early so I could take off at sunrise.

Great visibility is the number one rule when it comes to traversing around reefs safely.  That means not just no rain but clear skies.  Even under an overcast sky spotting reefs can be difficult.  And with clear skies you must also have the sun high overhead or behind you.  If you’re sailing into the glare of the sun on the water it front of you it makes seeing a reef near impossible.

The next morning I awoke to an overcast sky and drizzle.  I had wanted to leave at sunrise to ensure that I got to a particular narrow section with the sun overhead.  But with an overcast sky I couldn’t be sure that I’d have good visibility.  I sat and waited hoping for a break in the weather.  I gave myself a cut-off time of 0900.  If the weather hadn’t cleared I’d stay put another day but that choice would risk losing the bigger picture of the good weather window that had been forecast.  9 o’clock came it was still raining.  Every now and again a patch of blue sky would appear and then dissipate.  The sky seemed to promise clearing but then that promise would evaporate.  I was running out of time to make the passage.  Finally I decided I could sail out and if the weather hadn’t cleared in the two hours it would take me to cross the channel over to where the reefs were then I could just turn around and come back here and anchor.  I pulled anchor and headed out into the dreary gray morning.  Two hours later I as I neared the Viti Levu coast the skies cleared and a rainbow appeared directly ahead.  A sign at my point of no return to keep going.  The wind filled in nicely and Solstice loved sailing upon a sea where the deep ocean swells had been knocked down by the lee of the island, so did I.

As I approached a narrow passage the sky had completely cleared and sun was bright.  It was also after 2 o’clock and I was sailing into the glare.  I had a series of waypoints that I had gotten from Curly in Savusavu.  Curly was a cross between Blackbeard and Santa Clause and had been sailing in these waters for over thirty years.  His waypoints in the Lau Group were perfect and lead me to that beautiful anchorage in the Bay of Islands.  I trusted them.  But other sailors that had gone through this area said his waypoints were terrible and brought you too close to the reefs.  But Curly had a method to how he layed out his waypoints that these sailors didn’t understand because they hadn’t talked to Curly about them.  They had just gotten them from other sailors, not from Curly.

This part of the route was only a few hundred feet wide and wound itself for a few miles around coral reefs.  It was a narrow deep-water channel that abruptly rose to inches of shallows on either side.  Most people expected Curly’s waypoints to go right down the middle of the channel from one point to the next.  But that’s not how he layed them out.  Instead his waypoints zigzagged from one side of the channel to the next.  Just like buoys marking a channel.

Imagine driving down a four-lane road but instead of driving straight every quarter of a mile you went from one shoulder to the next constantly weaving as you went.  Curly’s reason for laying his waypoints out this way was because if you’re in the middle of the channel and the visibility is poor you have no reference point as to where the reef is.  You’d be sailing blind so to speak.  Curly’s waypoints forced you to use your eyes and pay attention.  Because of this they also gave you a clear understanding of where you were in the channel.  As you neared one waypoint you knew that the reef was very near but you also knew that had deep water between there and the next waypoint down the channel on the other side.  Because he layed them out this way it saved my ass.

I was sailing beautifully as I approached and visibility seemed great at first.  I felt so confident that I contemplated that I could perhaps sail through this channel and not use the engine.  I was excited about the whole idea of that.  As I got closer and closer a little voice popped into my head as I recalled Curly’s words from his seminar.


Was this the area he was talking about?

Curly had covered many sections in his Sailing Safely in Fiji seminar and I couldn’t remember where it was he had said that about but he had said that and those words came ringing loud in my head.

I ran down below and pulled out the notes I had taken.  I flipped through his chart book and there was a big note to self with stars next to it:


The area referenced was straight ahead.  I rolled up the headsail and started the engine.  I dread that sound but every now and again there is something comforting when it fires up.  This was one of those times.

A deep blue streak marked the path of the channel.  I entered and made my way to the first waypoint.  When I reached it I made a hard 90 degree turn to port towards the next waypoint.   Immediately I knew I had arrived too late in the afternoon.  It was only 2:45 but already the sun reflected a brilliant white light in the water straight ahead.  I was blinded by the light.  I was looking directly into the glare of the sun and contrary to popular belief, it was not where the fun was. 

The intensity of sailing through these waters went up abruptly, as did my heart rate.  My fingers tightened their grip on the helm and I throttled back to bring Solstice’s speed down to under 4 knots.  As the next waypoint neared the glare grew harsher.  I had to avert my eyes from it from time to time.  As I turned my head, I noticed that I could see the reef behind me clearly.  It was perfect lighting if I was traveling the route in the other direction.  But that visual helped give me an idea of where the reef might be ahead.  As I got closer the glare intensified.  I also noticed as I turned my head I could see the reef slightly better from the corner of my eye with my peripheral vision.  If I looked straight ahead I couldn’t make it through the glare but I could just see it if I looked at it without looking at it.  It was like seeing a faint star in the sky from the corner of your eye but when you turn your head to see it directly it disappeared.  But what I did know was that the reef was just ahead….


The waypoint arrival alarm went off on the chartplotter and I turned slowly to starboard towards the next mark.  I began to move across the channel to the other side.  I began to understand where the channel was and I slowly crossed back to the other side.  Pensiveness grew within me along with a focus and alertness that overwhelmed my entire being.  It required a constant replenishing of energy.  No other thoughts entered my brain.  I was in the now.  My breathing grew slow and deep.  Each breath brought energy and concentration.  I could feel the pulse of my heartbeat in my fingertips.  I slowly zigzagged my way down the channel for the next hour and a half in complete focus.  When the narrow channel finally started to open back up into a wide waterway a sense of relief washed over me.  As the intensity lowered it was immediately replaced with weariness.  Suddenly I felt the results of the drain of energy of the last two hours.  I was utterly exhausted.

An hour later I had the hook down in a beautiful wide-open bay with only one other boat that was about 100 yards away.  A light breeze tickled the sea to just wrinkle the surface.  The sunset was a deep orange ball behind a humid atmosphere.  It was one of those sunsets you could watch without hurting your eyes.  It was comforting and peaceful and a stark contrast to the glare I had been fighting to look through only a few hours before.  A calmness and peace filled my soul.  The sky darkened and twilight gave way to night.  I went below and lay my head down.  I breathed in everything that surrounded me.  The smell of the tropical air, the sound of the water lapping the sides of the hull and the cool dark light that filled the cabin.  I closed my eyes and was asleep as soon as my eyelids had shut.

Great days have a way of sneaking up on us.  They usually begin normal and sometimes you don’t even realize it was a great day until it’s over.  If you are lucky, you realize it as it’s unfolding and are able to appreciate and savior every moment as it comes.  It is in those moments of realization that you experience the essence of what is upon you and the specialness of it all.  Such was the case for me the next day.

The day began like any other.  I awoke from a deep sleep well rested after the exhausted induced previous day.  It was just after six and a gorgeous glow of a sunrise in the making was reaching up above the island.  I put on a pot of coffee and made a fried egg sandwich topped with fresh sautéed garlic and gouda cheese.  I like it when the yolk is not hard and not too runny.  It’s not always easy to make when you are also trying to melt the cheese just right.  This morning it came out perfect.  The toast from homemade bread was browned just right and the butter I still had left had a deep rich flavor.  I went up to the cockpit to enjoy breakfast and the peace of where I was.  I ate slow and sipped coffee.  I listened to the birds talking to each other from one side of the bay to the other.  The sun was just beginning to awaken the day and scattered shimmers of red, orange and pink light across the surface of the lagoon.  A light breeze blew across the deck and it was filled with the clean earthy scent of the mangrove trees that lined the shore.  It was a beautiful morning in every way but soon my mind gave way to what I needed to accomplish.

I had 45 miles to go until my next anchorage.  This leg should prove to be easier as I had gone through the narrowest section of the reefs the day before.  I also wanted an earlier start today to avoid any glare of an afternoon sun like I had when I went through there.  I also wanted to sail as much as possible and conserve fuel.  If I could get going soon I should have enough time sail a good part of the 45 miles.  The sun was still not up early as it was still winter.  It was just coming over the top of the island shortly before 7.  Great reef spotting light wouldn’t fill in until well after 8.  I was headed west so even with sun low it would be behind me and high enough to make reef spotting much easier.  I looked around the bay to try and figure out an exit plan.  It was big and wide open.  The route I would be traveling for the first two hours was also wide with little to no hazards.

I could get underway and be just fine in this light,
I thought.

If I pulled the hook before 8 I’d have excellent light by the time I got to the next reef area.  Hell, if I pulled the hook now I’d have more than adequate light by the time I got to there,
I said to myself.

I assessed the sky and what type of weather it might bring.  Small round cumulous clouds were interspersed intermittently and dotted the deeper blue of the tropical morning.

Wow, it should be a beautiful sunny day.

I started to run different scenarios of time, speed and distance through my brain. 

If I did 5 knots that would take me…hmmm, five goes into forty-five…. 9.  9 hours. 
I was never a math whiz. 

If I left at 8 I’d be in my… hmmm.  5pm.  Too late.  What if I did 5.5 knots?  Hmmmm…

I continued to insert different speeds into the equation and I came to the quick conclusion that I needed to get going.

I stood up and took a long look of where I was headed.  I then fully noticed the gentle breeze that was already blowing.  About 5 to 7 knots blew from the shoreline across the bay.  Solstice swung peacefully on her anchor.  The bay was open and only one other boat was there, anchored maybe100 yards abeam of my port side.  I looked downwind off the stern.

That’s where I need to go. Hmmm….

I looked back to the bow and the breeze that was there.  A whole new set of thoughts entered my brain.

The first boat I ever owned was a Catalina 30 named Tangaroa.  She was a great boat.  She taught me how to sail.  Her size was perfect and I sailed her everywhere.  I very much loved sailing her from her anchor or off her mooring in Catalina Island.  If the wind cooperated sometimes I could sail her all the way into the slip.  Her size was perfect and didn’t take much wind to get her going.  When you move up to bigger boats the ease of that type of thing goes away.  I had always wanted to sail Solstice off her anchor to see if I could do it.  But the conditions were never right.  I looked again at the conditions with this in mind.
The wind is from there… and I need to go there…  Hmmm… I could totally pull the hook, roll out the jib and sail to the middle of the bay.  No other boats are too close, the seas are flat…. You can do this, sail off the hook.

I wolfed down the remainder of my breakfast and took a big swallow of coffee.  I then refilled my coffee cup and put on some music.  I was excited.  I went thru the steps I needed to do in my head several times.  I wanted to haul the anchor up without using the engine but I needed to use the engine for one thing.  The windlass puts a huge draw on the batteries.  It’s not good to pull the hook without the engine pumping in amps to the batteries from the alternator.  Pulling the anchor under sail wasn’t worth flattening my batteries.  This I knew.  But I felt I could still pull the hook without using the engine for propulsion.  I fired up the engine and left it in neutral and vowed to myself don’t put it in gear, sail off the hook.

As I walked to the bow everything slowed down.  I took my time.  I made sure all lines were run right and things were stowed.  Solstice was already in sailing mode so there wasn’t much to do.  I began to hoist the anchor.


The windlass pulled up about 20 feet of chain and I stopped.  Solstice slowly drifted forward with little strain.  I hopped down into the anchor locker and flaked the 20 feet that had begun to pile.  Back on deck.


I hauled in another 25 feet and hopped into the anchor locker to flake. 


More chain up and another trip down below. 

GGGRRRR…  I could see the anchor coming up from the depths.  I looked up and Solstice bow fell gently off to starboard catching the light breeze on port side.  We were drifting towards deep water.  I stowed the anchor, hopped down below, flaked the last of the chain and killed the engine.  Back in the cockpit I cranked on the starboard winch and the jib rolled out catching her wind.  We were sailing.

“YES!” I yelled.  We were sailing.  I looked at the rig and the wind was just behind and soon we were moving at about 5 knots.

Shoot! I should’ve raised the mainsail while at anchor. 
I began to second-guess my strategy.

Wait!  You can get the main up easily under sail –
I reassured myself.  You’ve reefed and shook out reefs many times under sail by yourself on ocean crossings.

I figured once I got into deeper water with more room I could sail close-hauled with just the jib, let the boom way out and hoist the main.  Five minutes later I had her sailing as close to the wind as I could get her without the main.  It was enough to let the boom out enough so that no wind would grab the sail as I hoisted.  I put on the auto-pilot and went to the mast and hauled the main.  She rose as easily as if I was pointed right into the wind.  Back in the cockpit I took in the mainsheet about halfway, fell off the wind to starboard and let out the jib.  Solstice harnessed the wind perfectly and suddenly we were right on course and sailing beautifully at 6.5 knots slipping over the flat waters of the lagoon.  The reefs can be treacherous but they also can be wonderful as they knock down the ocean swells down so much that sailing here was like being in a lake.

The auto-pilot kept us on course and I sat on the windward rail sipping my coffee.  A big smile filled my heart.  I was mesmerized by the beauty and power of the wind and sails.  Sailing has always been magical to me and there is something more magical about it when you don’t use the engine.  I really don’t know why that is for me, it just is.  I love using the sails in times where one would usually rely on the engine.  I guess it makes me feel like a sailor.  I wanted to share the moment with somebody that I knew could appreciate it.  I called John.

I told him how it went.  He was excited for me.  I think he was excited too because he knew that he’d be aboard in less than a week.  But John has always added something to my life like nobody else.  He motivates me to push myself to a higher level while always doing it with encouragement and love.

“Dude I think that’s fantastic.  I wish I could’ve been aboard with you when Solstice caught the wind,” he said.

“You will next week, Bro,” I assured him.

“Well you know what you have to do now?” he asked.

“What’s that?”

“You have to complete the loop.  Sail the entire the way to the next bay and drop the hook under sail.  Don’t use the engine at all,” he said.

“Wow, I didn’t think of that.  I’ve never done that on any boat before.  Not even Tangaroa,” I said.

“You can do it.  Complete the loop.  Then when I get out there I want to sail hook to hook, too,” he said.

“Okay, if the winds keep I’ll try.”

“You can do it, Bro.”

I hung up with John with a new challenge.  Maybe I could sail hook to hook.  That would be great.

I sailed beautifully for the next hour.  The channel remained wide, the visibility was excellent and the sail was perfect.  I started to realize the specialness of this day.  And I started to think about this new challenge that John laid before me.

Maybe I could sail the whole way there.

The route weaved its way around coral heads and as I corrected course the wind shifted directly astern.  The mainsail blanketed the jib.  With no wind in the jib it started to flog.  I began to wonder if putting up the main had been a good idea at all.  I could’ve easily sailed this heading under jib alone.  But the main gave me that extra speed to ensure a daylight arrival.  It was a great heading for a spinnaker run but I’d have to lower it soon after raising it because of course changes ahead.  Instead of dropping the main I left the main to starboard and pulled the jib through the following wind to port.  My sails were set wing to wing.  Solstice’s speed jumped up to 7.5 knots.  She was like a bird gliding on a gentle thermal without having to flap her wings.  Soaring effortlessly, slowly climbing higher and higher.  The only thing missing was the flag of piracy flying from my mast.

Sailing dead downwind has proven to be challenging for Han – my auto-pilot is named after Han Solo, the great pilot of the Millennium Falcon.  When the wind is directly astern a helmsman has to anticipate the movement of the boat before it happens in order to keep the sails filled with wind.  Han may be great at anticipating the movements of millions of asteroids hurling at his ship in an asteroid field but when it comes to keeping the wind in Solstice’s sails sailing wing and wing he’s crap.  The track Will and Elizabeth from the first “Pirate’s of Caribbean” film came on the radio.  With the swelling of the orchestra one of my favorite lines from that series popped into my head.

In the film when the ship is headed into the teeth of a giant whirlpool Elizabeth says “Captain Barbossa!  We need you at the helm!”  He turns to her and says “Aye, that be true!”

Like Barbossa, I felt it be true that I was needed at the helm.  I turned off the auto-pilot and took the helm. With the music played loud I was absorbed in the moment.  Anytime I take the helm it connects me to the boat, to the wind and to the sea.  Here I was over 5,000 miles from Redondo feeling completely alive and at home and sailing to a great piratical backdrop.  Arrrrrr!

An hour later I approached the most challenging part of the course for the day.  A series of zigzags around reefs over a five-mile section required several tacks and course changes.  But the channel remained wide in this area and I felt every direction would continue to allow me to sail.  The wind had lightened up considerably but I was still slipping along at a comfortable 6 knots downwind.  I entered the area convinced I could sail but would be ready to start the engine if I had to. 

I have learned a new way of sailing by being solo.  Everything is thought about before it needs to be done.  I trimmed Solstice’s sails to the next tack before the boat changed course.  A racer would never do this.  It’s inefficient and you don’t maintain constant boat speed.  But I’m not a racer.  By adjusting the sails before I changed course it allowed me to move the sails easily without fighting the wind.  It made every course change simple and with little effort.  Only minor tweaking to trim them needed to be done after course change.  Solstice adjusted beautifully.  On a beam reach or close-hauled we sailed anywhere from 7.5 to over 8.5 knots in only 15 knots of wind.  Of course we were sailing on a lake.  If I had been using the engine I wouldn’t have gone any faster.  The last tack brought me back to a downwind run and our speed dropped back to the mid 6’s.  There were no more major course changes between now and the next anchorage.  I sat back, relaxed and thought about how could I anchor under sail.

I had two anchorage options.  They were about 7 miles apart.  The further one was recommended by Curly, the old salt in Savusavu who had been sailing these waters for past 30 years. 

“If you can get there before it’s too late do it.  It’s beautiful, no hazards, an excellent anchoring and great holding.  It will also shave an hour and a half off your last leg to the west side,” Curly said.

That’s where I wanted to go.  But I wanted to get there with plenty of light to anchor safely.  I approached the first anchorage around 3pm.  If the wind held I’d make the second anchorage around 4.  That should give me enough light.  I opted to pass the first anchorage by.  A half-hour later the wind began to lighten.

“Arrrgghhhh!”, was my comment when I dropped down to 5 knots.  It has happened often that when you are on a perfect sail all of sudden the wind shuts off.  I’ve spent 30 minutes or more trying to get anything I can out of wind that is destined to stop.  It leaves the mood on the boat frustrated and takes the joy out of an outing.  But today wasn’t one of those days.  The wind began to lay down and then it just settled in to about an 8 knot breeze.  More than enough to keep us going.  I knew I was racing the sun but I began to believe this was going to happen.  I ran the scenario in my head of what I needed to do to anchor under sail.  I looked at the chart closely.  I picked a spot in the bay that seemed perfect in about 20 feet of water.  If I could sail into this spot, turn solstice into the wind and drop the hook I’d be in great shape.

As I neared Curly’s Bay, my name for this anchorage, I wanted to drop the main and sail under jib alone.  I felt that would give me the best control entering the anchorage.  I performed the same maneuver to drop the main as I did to raise it.  I turned close-hauled, sheeted in the jib and let the boom out to spill the wind from the main and then dropped it.  The sail came down easily and soon I had it tied and secured to the boom.  I fell back on course, let out the jib sheet and was soon sailing downwind under a full jib only.  I still had about a half-mile to go which gave me plenty of time to ready the anchor.
The wind was off my port quarter as the bay opened up to port. I tightened up on the sheet to give me the best momentum on a beam reach.  It was still a nice light 8 knots of wind but enough to sail in at the right speed.  Once again I fired up the engine to assist the windlass but I was determined not to use it for propulsion.

I held Solstice’s speed around 4 knots as I sailed into the bay.  There were no other boats in the anchorage, just a surf camp on a beach 200 yards away… Perfect. 

I watched the depth begin to drop 40… 35….30…. I let the jib out when I felt I needed to slow down a little.  If I slowed down too much I hauled the sheet in just enough to keep moving.   28…. 25…. 22…  I turned to port into the wind.  The jib fluttered and Solstice slowed way down.  I steered her and watched her speed and the depth continue to drop.. 20….19….18 She ghosted along nearing to stop and I went forward.  I was a little shallower than I had hoped to be but I dropped the anchor just as Solstice was beginning to stop.  Before the anchor hit the bottom the wind had caught her gently and began to push her bow back.  We drifted back as the anchor deployed.  I watched the shoreline keenly and let out my standard 5 to 1.  When I had 100 feet out I went back and took in on jib’s opposite sheet and backed the sail.  The blow blew off the wind, the chain tightened and I felt the hook set.  Immediately I looked up to see the shoreline as it was moving stop when the anchor engaged.  I held my breath for a long moment and when I was sure we were anchored securely….

“YYYEEEHHHAAAWWW!!!” I let out a rebel yell that would’ve made any confederate soldier proud.  I was so excited I let out another one.

“YYYEEEHHHAAAWWW!!!” I saw heads along the surf camp beach turn and look.

“YYYEEEHHHAAAWWW!!!”, I felt this even was worthy of a third call.

I sat down on the liferaft case on the foredeck just in front of the mast and smiled.  I did it.  I had sailed 45 miles from hook to hook under wind alone.  It sounds so stupid I think to most folks but it was a big deal for me.  I have never done that before in any boat I had ever owned.  And here I was, more than 5,500 miles from home sailing in Fijian waters and had done it with Solstice.   It felt great.

I watched a sensational sunset hang an orange fireball over a hazy horizon that eveningfrom the aft deck.  The sunset gave way to a magnificent full moon rise over the island and shimmered her white light directly upon Solstice.  I felt complete and whole and connected to the universe.  It was a marvelous ending to what had already been a miraculous day.

The next morning revealed a brilliant sunrise to a day that promised reconnecting with Hokule’a at days end.  A few days later John would be here.  I was super excited to see Jake and Jackie after months of being on my own.  And John coming to visit was such a welcomed reunion; but deep inside a melancholy feeling stirred.  I was going to miss this pace of living that I had grown into these past few months.  I was going to miss the complete peace of solitude.  These past few months have seen a turn for me that I had so longed for.  A turn that has made me realize that not only was heading out on this adventure the right thing to do but the only thing to do to heal my soul and to grow.  I was ready for company but I knew that moments like this day were few.  It was the best sailing day of my life.  I can only hope that more profound, special and enlightening ones filled with peace, calm and joy lay just over the horizon for Solstice and I.

Much Aloha,






Solstice Log