We have arrived in the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas after 42 days at sea. We opened a bottle of excellent wine (thank you Jeff Grossman.) Our joy knows no bounds.
Daily Archives: April 24, 2015
We have just sighted the peak of Fatu Hiva, just a dark smear on the horizon 25 miles ahead of us. We still have a long way to go, along the southern coast and up the west side to the Bay of Virgins and we still don’t know if we will arrive before dark. Right now we’re in boisterous conditions, wind in the mid-20s, seas in utter 8-ft. confusion. We have our fingers crossed that it settles down soon.
I’m a ball of raw emotion. Jack and I just held each other, tears in our eyes. We remember sitting at my kitchen table shortly after we met in 1990, knowing we would spend our lives together and ruminating on what that life would be like. We both wanted to sail around the world — odd, given that we didn’t own a boat, had no experience ocean cruising, lived 400 miles from the sea, and I suffer from motion sickness. The idea took hold, though, and became the focus of our life for the next 22 years. We were both in debt and both working freelance jobs that didn’t pay enough to buy and support a yacht, but we put our heads down and started the journey. It took a long time, first paying off debts, then saving every penny, taking every job we could find. We took classes in sailing and navigation, we got our ham licenses, we sailed on other people’s boats as much as we could. In 1999 we made our first ocean passage with friends, and continued to crew on passages whenever we were invited.
In the mid-2000s when the economy drooped, our incomes suffered and so did the dream. With flagging energy we turned our focus to exploring our corner of the world on our bikes and to renovating our little row house. Then, in the space of about a year and a half, nine family members died, some unexpectedly and way before their time. In the midst of that, Jack was diagnosed with cancer. We were smacked in the head; life is short. For the next six months, while Jack underwent surgery, chemo and radiation, we took a long hard look at our life. Yes, we had by then a comfortable if modest home, good friends, family close by, a happy life. Should we abandon our dream of sailing into the sunset? Had we outlived it? We decided we hadn’t and once again we put our heads down and continued the journey.
Lots of people ask us what the name of our boat means. Escape velocity is the speed a spaceship needs to achieve to escape the gravitational pull of the planet or it falls backwards. Jack and I are children of the space age and we think it accurately expresses the effort it took us to leave what had become a comfortable, normal life.
We thought we had achieved escape velocity on the day we bought the boat. But last year, gravity sucked us back into orbit when we were dismasted on the way to the Marquesas. We had to summon our will once again to get EV back to safety and work through the rerigging, a process that wasn’t completed for nine months. So now here we are, nearing a landfall ocean cruisers dream about.
We took a long time getting here, nearly 25 years, plus 42 days at sea. We’re not celebrating until the hook is down, but we’re feeling mighty good right now.
I just kissed the newly off-watch good night, remembering to step well over the foot and a half high saloon door frame, a real shin barker, out into the very dark world of our cockpit which has an eerie glow courtesy of Escape Velocity’s chart plotter and navigation instruments. It’s a moment that fills me with joy and wonder. To my left the Big Dipper fills the entire starboard side view of the cockpit, so close that I could reach out and touch them, Benetnash, Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Phad Merak, Dubhe. (I looked it up.) To my right, the port side view is dominated by the magical Southern Cross, Gavrux, Becrux, Acrux, and some other star that gets no ink, all pointing to our path south. Hard to go too far wrong.
It was a boisterous but uneventful night watch until five a.m. I’d noticed this pattern develop where just before dawn the wind and waves get substantially worse but I can’t say if they are due to squalls or not but definitely not welcome in any case. I was dealing with 25 knots of wind but the sea state was amazingly bad. We had the usual crossing pattern with some waves overtaking other waves and at one point we found ourselves down at the bottom, looking up at three steep monsters each going in different directions but surrounding us in a triangle. EV just popped up and over like a cork. What kind of ocean is this?
Luckily we still had our triple reefed night time mainsail up but its a little hard on the nerves especially so close to the end of this marathon 42-day passage to French Polynesia. Yes, you heard it here first. If we’re lucky we may just squeeze into the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva this evening! Things are looking up, Escapees.