The sail from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus is our first ocean passage since The Big One in March and April. It’s easy to become complacent — it’s only 500 miles, after all – – but we dutifully stowed, cooked, inspected, planned, topped up all manner of engine fluids, and filled and staged our “go bag,” the giant duffle holding all our important papers and valuables we’ll want in the event we need to abandon ship in a hurry. The weather looked good, mild steady winds for the first few days, then lighter breezes as we approach the atolls.
But of course it was not to be. We had a good sailing day, then no wind, then lumpy seas, then high winds, then no wind again. We went from sailing full and by — all sails up — to a triple-reefed mainsail. Sails up, sails down, sails up again. We’re now about 80 miles away from the pass through the fringing reef at Fakarava, which we must enter at slack tide with the sun high in the sky for maximum control and visibility, and we’ve had to start an engine to assist us because the wind dropped to 6 knots, not enough to get us there at the right time. If we miss the daylight slack tide we’ll have to stay outside the lagoon until the next day, so we don’t want to miss our first opportunity to drop the hook in calm water.
On the other hand, the weather is perfect, crystal blue skies with cotton-wool clouds, and today at least, flat seas. We had banana pancakes for breakfast with nutmeg syrup we bought in Grenada, and this afternoon cooled off with homemade mango and coconut popsicles. We’re both reading, occasionally discussing what to have for dinner, and I loaded a few movies on the iPad for tonight’s distraction during our overnight watches.
If all goes well we should be in sight of Fakarava at dawn, then we’ll watch and wait outside for the right moment to run the pass into the lagoon. This will be our first atoll and I’m nearly giddy with anticipation. These fragile reefs may be gone within a few generations if the sea level continues to rise. I feel privileged to be here.