Hunting for Tikis in French Polynesia

The passage is going remarkably well. We have a daily routine that operates like clockwork -- night watches, domestic chores, boat projects, eating, napping, relaxing. Ironically we're doing very little 'sailing' though. Our sails have remained full and untouched for over a week, so Catherine and I feel more like passengers on Dream Time rather than her captains. If the trade conditions are as they should be, the reality is that the boat is happy to skip over the waves sailing herself. The satellites orbiting above guide our autopilot below, we have remained on the same tack, on the same heading, in much the same conditions for two weeks now. There's really very little for us to do, except hold on.

Our ocean photos do little justice to the actual size of the heaving swells that surround us. The photos show a light chop or perhaps even what appear to be smooth, tranquil rolling seas with the sun shimmering off its surface, the reality is quite different. The swell is relentless and requires us to clutch, brace, grab, twist and flex as they continuously pass under our keel. It's like balancing atop one of those giant orange rubber aerobic balls -- in an earthquake. The swell is a combination of the easterly waves blown by the trades and a deep, slow rolling swell from the south, probably a result of stronger winds down in the 'roaring forties', and they occasionally decide to converge right on Dream Time's port quarter.

Clinging to handholds with our fingertips, in a fashion not altogether different from mountain climbers, Catherine and I hang on as Dream Time is heaved over to starboard, enough for our caprail to occasionally scoop gallons of seawater onto the teak deck, turning the water around us white and leaving the ocean bubbling, gurgling and hissing in our wake as we surge forward. The unfortunate reality is that these freak waves usually rear-up just when Catherine is preparing one of her deliciously complex meals down in the galley (the ingredients invariably consisting of just about anything that rolls: tomatoes, onions, apples, cabbages, olives). Chasing a runaway onion or a pack of fleeing olives around an undulating cabin floor is most definitely not her idea of fun.

But besides the sheer magnitude of this long passage, the length of which we will probably never have to cover again in a single leg. Besides the rolling, the bracing and the endless routine of it all, the reality is, I really quite like it out here.

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