Quite a bit of time has passed since my last post. There is a lot happening here, but not stuff you’d be interested in. I did find it within myself to offer up one tidbit of a scribble. Hope you enjoy and I’ll try not to wait so long before the next update.
Every once in a while, life will treat us. For the past few weeks, we have enjoyed having a great neighbor, Jim. Casual chats over the rails or walking down the dock together as we head out for errands helped me understand what a unique character Jim is. People like him are a dying breed. He is charismatic, witty, and a great conversationist.
Jim is a solo sailor on his Spencer 42’ sloop called Haulback (a Canadian logging term), he has sailed more than 150,000 nautical miles. That’s about 5 or 6 times around the world as the crow flies! Jim arrived here after a jaunt from New Zealand. He was stuck there due to the virus outbreak and decided he was bored and wanted to go sailing. He came up with a plan to pass a couple of months.
The original idea was to leave New Zealand and sail around the world in the roaring forties. And, the first stop would be the return to New Zealand. The non-stop journey of approximately 29,000 km (18,000 miles) would take about 2-3 months and round both Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. For those who might not know, this is not the average boat ride. To say the least, it’s darn right sporty down there.
He lightened the load of his boat by removing the anchor chain and replacing it with anchor rode, the dinghy, and pretty much all items he determined would not be needed along the journey. He left these in storage in New Zealand and figured he’d pick them up once he arrived back there. But like all sailor’s plans, something changed.
Jim was trucking along nicely but the cold temperatures caused his arthritis to flare up and made life aboard difficult. Having functioning hands to grab lines and work winches is a basic necessity aboard a boat. The discomfort turned to an aching pain. So, he decided to turn north for the warmer temperatures. Turning north means the west to east winds he relied upon change. Now what? He opted to land in Tahiti for a while. This was before the recent border closing and he was granted permission to land for up to 90 days. That’s ample time to thaw out. As you can imagine, I have a lot of questions at this point.
Where to next? Are you planning on a return trip to New Zealand? Will they let you back in since their borders are tightly closed? What about your stuff there? Over the 90 days in Tahiti, Jim decided it was time to sell the boat and do something else. This is always a really really really tough decision for any full-time cruiser to make. Our boats are our homes and parting with it can feel like losing a friend. But there reaches a point in almost all cruisers when they know their days on the ocean are at an end. Most struggle with what to do next. But, not Jim.
The new plan: sail home to Canada. From Tahiti, this is not an easy sail. Well, it wouldn’t be for us. But, for Jim and his huge logbook of passages, it’s just another day. What about all the stuff in New Zealand in the storage unit? He has a friend there who will take care of it. Meaning, he’ll sell it and split the proceeds. Are you going to stop in Hawaii? Nah, just go to Canada. What are you going to do when you get there? He bought a bicycle on-line and he plans to ride for a while.
It’s hard to imagine the wealth of knowledge this sailor has in the little grey cells. I got a small taste of it as we swapped stories about our adventures. This very humble person can sail circles around most of us out here but, you’d never know it from talking to him. He chats about his adventures in a way that is so casual; I forget I am talking to a person with a massive amount of experience. His sense of humor is wicked.
He talked about arriving in Cape Town South Africa being one of the very few times he opted to make a nighttime landing. He had instructions from the marina to take a mooring buoy until they opened in the morning. What they didn’t tell him was the marina was shared with the navy. Upon arrival, he spotted a buoy. How could I miss it, he said, it’s half the size of my boat. After some difficulty, he managed to secure a line to the buoy and went below to sleep. Popping his head up in the morning he realized his mistake.
The mooring he tied to during the night was intended for the massive navy vessels based in the harbor. Fortunately, they didn’t need it. Looking about, it didn’t take long to determine he should be on one of the smaller moorings located on the other side of the harbor. This was the first time he’d used a mooring. Oh, I see. I’m supposed to be on the smaller ones.
We both agreed when a sailor makes a silly mistake they’ve earned the right to poke fun at others who make the same error. This means, in a mooring field, the person who has the silliest experience securing their boat can laugh the hardest at others. I told him about the mooring field in Isle of the Saints in the Caribbean. They have a very unusual style of buoy and it takes most sailors a couple of passes to snag it. The buoy has a large mettle loop on the top and a rope needs to be threaded to it. Most moorings have a tether line to snag enabling the boater to tie the tether while securing the buoy.
Jim and I agreed upon a great business opportunity. It is a reality TV channel. It would be a live feed of a mooring field. We were thinking of the Caribbean islands where a lot of chartered boats sail. If you’ve never seen boaters trying to snag moorings, trust me. It’s a comedy hit. And, I’m not ashamed to say there would be a few episodes starring us.
One afternoon when sitting in the shade of our cockpit aboard the Puffster, we saw a family on a catamaran enter the mooring area in Isle of the Saints. They made a couple of passes and missed the buoy. Mom was driving and the dad was trying to snag the buoy. It’s usually about this time the yelling starts. But to these people’s credit, they remained calm. One of the smaller kids joined dad on the bow where he missed the mooring for the third time. As mom circled the boat and perfectly repositioned the bow right over the mooring for the fourth time, dad grabbed his kid by the ankles and held him upside-down over the bow. The kid threaded the line and presto dad pulled him up. Not a technique we have seen before and probably never will again, but unquestionably effective.
We recently had to replace most of the fenders (plastic bumpers). This marina was very hard on the old ones. There is a lot of surge and the TaylorMade fenders we purchased in Panama started to come apart as our boat pushed against the pier. We upgraded to a better brand (PolyForm) and larger fenders. As I hung these over the side of the boat, I said to Jim, I am putting these out since I know you are backing your boat out soon and we’ve heard things about your driving. This started a whole conversation of us joking back and forth. I had to laugh when Jim said in all the years he has owned and sailed his boat, he still has no idea what it’s going to do when he puts it in reverse.
Well a couple of days ago, Jim’s visa expired here and he set out on his journey to Vancouver. A destination 8,000 km away (5,000 miles) he estimated would take him 6-7 weeks. His biggest concern being, lack of wind for the next few days. We have been in a lull for a few days and the forecast seems to be stuck. Once clear of the Tuamotu atolls, a couple of hundred miles north of here, the conditions should improve. However, the forecast showed another lull forming. I started to wonder about how long it was really going to take.
We talked about the weather, specifically the lack of wind, and he laughed and said he might be outside of the Pape’ete harbor entrance for a few days. Ideally, it would be best to wait a few days for the wind to pick up but with no visa, this is not an option. He told me, if after a few days we see him bobbing about outside of the breakwater, hop in our dinghy and come out to say hello.
We untied his lines and tossed them on the boat as he put his vessel in reverse. As I expected, he backed out perfectly and never bumped the dock or our new fenders. A neighbor tossed him an ice-cream bar as he pulled away and my last memory of this guy is him motoring out of the marina, peeling back the paper on his ice cream as if eating it before it melts is the most important thing in the world.
A couple of days later, I did look outside the harbor entrance. I was on my way to the grocery store. There was no sign of Jim. I guess he had enough wind to push him over the horizon. Fair seas, Jim, wherever you are.