Hunting for Tikis in French Polynesia

April 16, 2009. South Pacific

Neville Hockley writes: We found the wind five days ago and it is glorious! After crossing an area of ocean filled with lightening, squalls and wind gusting to over 30 knots, it seems that we have finally settled into the South Pacific trades.

Sailing before 20-25 knots of easterly wind, Dream Time is charging through heavy swell at a determined 6-8 knots of speed. When the larger rollers pass under our keel, sometimes reaching heights of over 10 feet, we surf down their face, our record to date being an exhilarating 13 knots. Our reefed main and partially furled headsail have flown, untouched, for three days, drum-tight and held out far off our starboard side as we speed onward, our heading 255°.

The ocean, once heavy and lethargic is now alive with energetic waves, white caps and thousands of flying fish that, in an effort to avoid Dream Time's path, soar over the crests in schools, gliding majestically on their silvery outstretched dorsal fins, sometimes covering distances of over 300 feet. The larger, more experienced pilots expertly twist their bodies and fins, banking around and over crests, flicking their tails off the water to gain speed and altitude before plopping back into the sea. The smaller flying fish scatter frantically in every direction, clumsily colliding into oncoming swell, or sometimes, for those who misjudged Dream Time's speed and direction, headfirst into our sails or coachroof.

My morning routine now consists of sea burials for the unfortunate victims unable to find our scuppers -- twelve this morning. Last night, an hour before my 3:00 am shift, one even managed to fly directly into the open v-berth hatch and landed with a light 'flump' on the blanket beside me. Leaving a strong, salty, fishy smell in its slimy path, it took a few seconds for me to turn on the light, get a hold of him as he twitched and flipped around the bed, before hurling him, unceremoniously, back out to sea the same way he flew in.

There has been no traffic on the horizon or the short-range VHF radio for almost a week. It truly feels like we are alone. And unable to speak to friends or fellow cruisers on our long-range SSB radio, due to a short in the wiring I have yet been able to trace (which keeps blowing a fuse), in a way we are.

But what a ride! Suddenly the 1,927 nautical miles we have remaining isn't quite so daunting, and at our current speed we should raise Hiva Oa, the first our Marquesan Islands in about 14 days.

April 21, 2009. South Pacific

Neville Hockley writes: It's day 17 of what will probably be the longest single passage of our entire world circumnavigation. Sure I knew it was over 3,000 nautical miles of open ocean before we set-off, and I calculated that it would take us between four to five weeks to transit, but the reality of planning an offshore leg such as this one and actually doing it, are quite different.

We're well over half way to the Marquesas and have covered a distance of 1,796 nautical miles, but the reality is we still have another 1,209 before we raise the islands. A distance that at our current speed of 6 knots in 15-20 knot trade winds, will take us another nine days to transit.

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