Sunday, 27 May 2012

We sail to Rarotonga: Part two

Once we hit half way, the craving for our tropical island really began to take hold. One of the mates drew up a do-it-yourself-chart, in which everyday we could plot our progress. Each day I would check if it had been updated. Later on I began checking the coordinated on the chart back aft to see where we were. For some reason I found reassurance looking at a piece of paper and noting that we were getting closer.

 Four days after the halfway party, the wind came to an almost stand still .
 Not good for a sailing vessel. 
As the ship wasn't moving quickly, the waves could wreck havoc knocking the ship violently from side to side.

On the plus side, the weather started to heat up as soon as we headed north.  The more north we went,  the less layers were needed on deck. The full wet weather gear of the Southern waters was replaced with the t-shirt and shorts of the tropics.

The fishing lines began to actually  catch fish,  with this huge Mahi Mahi feeding all 18 of us for dinner.  A modest tuna didn't get that far, but was a good appetiser.

And then, on a afternoon, so distant I first mistook it for cloud, the mountains of Rarotonga were sighted. By breakfast we circled the island, awaiting customs to answer our radio calls. 

Rarotonga was different to how I imagine. With the rain clouds hitting its forest covered peaks, it looked like the setting of King Kong.  From a far the sandy beaches weren't visible and I wasn't sure we'd come to the right island, it was something spectaluar to photograph! It looked beautiful and after 18 days at sea, a tropical island was exactly what I had in mind.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Time travel on the high seas

No - the Bermuda triangle didn't shift its position, and this ship isn't a time machine. But one of the symptoms of sailing across oceans is moving time zones and sometimes,  crossing the date line. So after having a Sunday 29th April, the next day we had another. Two Sundays and neither that different.  Still surrounded by blue, still sailing and still  afloat. The only difference is we were one day closer to our destination.  I've experienced time and date changes before, but its usually the follow up to a long plane journey where your brain is already out of sync. Crossing the date line on water made me realise how far we were travelling and how far we'd come.

A few days later and the clocks went forward. When some one mentions daylight savings and clocks going back I always want to know one thing; 'will I get more sleep?' Unfortunately changing time zone did not mean more sleep this time, but it did mean I finished my watch on deck an hour early.  What really hit me was how a time to change clocks was decided by the captain, at a time to best suit the ship on that day.  When it comes to time travel on a tall ship, the outside world comes second.

Friday, 25 May 2012

We Sail to Rarotonga: Part One

The sea sickness came back pretty quickly as we waved goodbye to the hole in the rock and New Zealand's shore line. Yet again  I found myself lunging over the side, wondering if I'd make it down to my bunk without needing to run to the heads.  Down below its worse (unless you're lying down) and is usually trigger to nausea.  However, this time there were two key differences from the Tasman sea crossing. One: It only  lasted 24 hours instead of 72.  And two: After being through it before, I was safe in the knowledge that it would get better, that this would not last the whole trip and I wasn't the only one feeling it!

For the first few days the weather was good and therefore, the galley was a lot less 'rolly' . As there were not so many crew on this voyage, I even began doing one part of a watch (12-4) to get me out on deck.  As well as taking in/out sails, there's steering at the helm and bow watch, a lot of bow watch.  As I usually did the breakfast shift, this worked well.  We were also pretty lucky with the wind and the motor was only turned on a hand full of times. But  there were  the blitz storms ,referred to as squalls,  which brought sudden rain, wind and huge waves within  seconds. At these times everyone on deck would need to act quickly, bringing in sails that would likely be damaged in such rough weather. And then, as soon as the orders were carried out, the rain would stop and the oceans would calm, as if it never occurred.  

Out in the pacific ocean, the Albatrosses and other sea birds welcomed us back by escorting  us for miles . At one point swallows caught in the wind, also kept us company. If they stopped on the ship, I was told by the 1st mate, it was a sign they were exhausted and unlikely to make it back to shore.  I like to pretend he's wrong and that they all made it to shore. That they were just saying hello. However, other than the winged creatures, there were no signs of life. No ships, no fish, no whales. Nada.

That's one of the biggest experiences I've taken away from open water sailing, the feeling of isolation from human civilisation. Naturally you make your own on the ship with your crew mates, but out here, you are alone, surrounded by blue, blue and more blue. 

As daily routine set in and there was little to occupy your mind,  the goal you're all working towards - sighting the Island of Rarotonga - takes up alot of your thinking space.  With the days blurring into one another, you cannot help but wonder what's in store for us in a few weeks time and what we'll find.  Everyone has the stereotype of a pacific Island, but do they all look like that? how will Rarotonga differ or conform?

Then on a Saturday night- it was time to celebrate. After 8 days we'd made it halfway through our journey. With pizza, tacos, prizes and questionable dress-up (the theme was 'halfway'), the crew had the best possible party you could have when a 3rd of the crew were on watch.  The 'prizes,' which were pulled from a hat were a little suspect. They included 'get out of cleaning a head' card and another crew member had to wear a cocktail dress for dinner (FYI - he looked stunning). Mine was to make the captain breakfast in bed.  The party may have been the soberest get together I've been to since primary school, but it was great for the crew to be silly in a usually demanding environment.
Then the next day it was back to normal, the weather still cold, the sea still blue and me asking 'are we there yet?'

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Last days of New Zealand

Before embarking on our leg to the cook islands, we spent four more days in the Bay of islands.  Anchoring each night in a different bay, the water was so calm you'd think we were on a lake.  Serene ad beautiful, yes, but at the back of my head a little voice said 'the longer is it till we leave,  the harder the seasickness.' I shook this voice off and continued admiring the view.
I enjoyed watching the natural world and the native wildlife. on a few occasions blue penguins popped up next to the ship and dolphins still hitched a ride on the bow.
One morning we were having breakfast when some one called out 'dolphins!!!!!'  When I left the deckhouse you could see them coming a mile off, a whole pod making their way across the still water to the ship . One after the other, they made their way past. Above is the best shot I could manage and still does not capture how graceful these creatures moved in the water.. 

In a final farewell to civilisation, I had a extra large Cappacino in Russell. For some reason Coffee isn't so much fun without the foam.
And then, on a friday afternoon, we passed by 'the hole in the rock' and sailed away from New Zealands shores. With the sunsetting I remember thinking 'this is a beautiful part of the world.' but at the moment I want somewhere a little warmer- and less drizzle.

Our next leg is a big one. Last year it took them 19 days to reach the Cook Islands from New Zealand, and depending on the weather, it could take longer.  After running into two storms on the Tasman, I mentally prepared myself for sleepless nights, runaway food and homicidal cooking equipment.

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