Across the Pacific.

I think I have fixed that dark-on-dark unreadability problem that has been troubling some readers.

During that time I have done little but hang about the archipelago near Bocas del Toro, Panama, sailing a great deal in the mostly weak and vacillating winds normal to the area (puncuated by the terrifying screaming squalls which so plague Carribbean waters), and endlessly agonizing over my directionless and pointless existance. If I had nothing to agonize about I would worry about that, it seems to be the way I am made. In my more productive moments I hauled Desesperado out and revarnished him, rebuilt the deck and hatches for the fourth time,  made a new shuntable staysail for storm safety which worked to some extent but still left me afraid to continue my travels upon a sea blasted by so many squalls and rimmed by a shore beset with huge breakers which I cannot cross to get to the safety of the land. I found myself worn out, my reserves of courage depleted, my determination to go on withered. Nicaragua really did me in. So I have accepted that at least for now the journey is over. But there is one more adventure to go:  when my friends Paul and Twyla of the sailing vessel Samphire asked if I could help Paul to sail home to Vancouver by way of Hawaii in time for the birth of their child I said yes. I left  Desesperado dismantled, packed up and hauled out of the water on the side of a friend’s house in Bocas and traveled to Colon to meet Samphire when she arrived from the Bay Islands of Honduras where she has spent most of her time since our last encounter.

To bring Samphire home, she first had to reach the Pacific by way of the Panama Canal. We spent two weeks at Colon working on the boat whilst  waiting for our transit slot. Colon is still every bit as dangerous as it has ever been but the non-mugging inhabitants are surprisingly friendly and concerned for the safety of strangers. We did not much dare to venture ashore after dark, even in the daytime we kept a sharp lookout behind us at all times. The Canal is perhaps the greatest engineering wonder of the world and yet was somehow not so impressive to pass through; the part I liked most was the huge iron doors on the locks which have been in continuous service for nearly a hundred years. We did all the usual stuff, taking on the pilots, anchoring overnight in Lake Gatun (die hull barnacles, die!), catching the lines thrown by the lock keepers, rising then falling.  Anyway, we transited the canal without incident and entered the Pacific, a whole new ocean with a distinctly different feel to the Caribbean. Panama City, a hot hell of traffic jams; provisioning the boat for the Pacific crossing was a huge pain in the arse but we got it done and finally pulled the anchor up on the 11th of April. What a joy to finally be under way.

Due to adverse winds one is unwise to try to sail directly up the west coast of Central America, Mexico and the United States to get to Canada. It is better to work far out to sea, then tack back in after re-provisioning in Hawaii. This first part, Panama to Hawaii, is over 4600 nautical miles as a very determined crow might fly, farther than Paris is from the USA. The Hawaiian archipelago is in fact so remote that in the whole of evolutionary history coconuts, which can float great distances before washing up on shore and sprouting, never made it to the islands (they were carried there from Bora Bora by the first Hawaiians, a thousand years back). 90% of the flora and fauna there is unique to the islands. Our crew numbered just three –  Paul Ross (captain) aided by Miriam Hanson and myself. I had hoped we would take on the real challenge of sailing all the way but to my dismay the engine was started every time our sailing speed dropped below 4 knots, and as there was very little wind for the first month we motored almost the whole of that time, grinding along through a low, slow swell, pulling up sails at the least sign of wind then dropping them shortly after in disappointment. It was hot and bright, the ocean heaved and sank in an unfamiliar way – the swell in the Pacific is of a much longer period than in the Caribbean and one feel like whole  areas are lifting up and down, as in fact they are. We ate well, trying to work through the fruit and veg before mold and heat ate them first. Every minute or so due to the timing of waves and swell the boat would go into a convulsion of rolling but there was no seasickness which we all found mystifying, none of us ever having been so immune before. In deep water in the Gulf of Panama we drifted whilst we snorkeled about, scraping the barnacles off the hull. They had grown big and strong at Colon and now were dead from their fresh water stint in Lake Gatun but still hard to remove. The next day we happened to read that the Gulf of Panama is one of the sharkiest areas in the world but we saw none though there were many large rays, jumping clear of the waves or lazing with their fin tips out of the water. Small migrating land birds would land aboard and stay the night, or just die on deck. I spent a great deal of time up the foremast (actually not a mast at all: Samphire has an unusual arrangement of A-frames instead of masts, easily climbed. You may see pictures of Samphire at http://www.Samphire.ca ) looking for whales and dolphins or perhaps a shipping container full of Ipads washed out to sea by the Japanese tsunami. Dolphins of various varieties visited us several times a day and played around the boat until we were so familiar with them I jokingly referred to them as dullphins.  But there were two incidents with dolphins which I will never forget.

The first of these happened at night whilst I was on watch. The phosphoresence was unusually strong, and flashing jellyfish were numerous. These, stimulated by the disturbance of our passing, would burst a sudden bright green beneath us for a second only. Looking down over the stern at night whilst under power or sail it was like “shooting fireballs out of our ass”, this in addition to the regular trail of thousands of tiny bright green starlets in our bow wave and wake, plankton activated by our passage. I saw moving, glowing things in the water and realised it was five or six (they move so fast that they get hard to count) dolphins approaching, our first nocturnal visit. I roused my shipmates and we went up to the bow to watch the creatures as they glided around us and under the bow, completely sheathed in intensely bright phosphoresence. They were like angels, that’s the closest thing to it, stunning, quite indescribably gorgeous; they had quite an effect upon us. In a way I am glad this happened only this one time, it was too special a thing to see more than once in a lifetime.

The other big dolphin event was the spinners. We saw a disturbance in the water way off to port which rapidly converged on us. It was a pod (?) of spinner dolphins, so named because they have the unique habit of hurling themselves from the water and spinning through the air about their long axis, they can spin up to 5.5 times in one leap. There were perhaps two hundred of them, pretty much all of them leaping out of the water and spinning or somersaulting or just hurling themselves into the air, a mad tumult of jumping joy, the most insanely happy procession of creatures one could imagine. They were not feeding. How I envy them! Think of a children’s party, where all the kids have all been fed too much sugar and given new nintendos and unlimited tickets to Disneyland, and you would not even come close to how insanely happy these dolphins seemed to be in their communal progress across the ocean. They stayed with us a while, then diverged on their previous path. Like so many creatures this kind of dolphin  has been reduced in number by 50% since seine net tuna fishing sarted in the 1950’s.

One day off Costa Rica I saw something from the masthead and sounded the alarm. Because almost every “objecto flotando” we ever spotted turned out to be a bird standing on the back of a turtle this alarm consisted of the spotter shouting “Ca-CAW Ca-CAW!” and brought the others on deck in a hurry. The turtles seem to blow themselves up with air whilst they sleep and cannot expell it quickly enough to dive on our approach, sometimes their backs would be quite dry and they would be making obvious but futile attempts to dive. This time I’d seen two white objects which on closer view turned out to be fishing floats attached to some lost tuna fishing gear. One way of catching tuna is with many baited hooks strung along a very lengthy (kilometers) piece of heavy nylon monofilament strung between two buoys adrift on the ocean. This gear had been lost and had tangled up, and trapped in part of the mess was a turtle struggling for its life. We circled in and got him free and he seemed none the worse for wear so off he went whilst we pulled all the line and hooks aboard which took me a whole day to untangle and stow away, there being about a mile of line. We couldn’t just leave it there.

We’d been trailing a lure behind the boat and catching the odd bonito-like fish which we ate or salted and dried in the sun for harder times. Sometimes we’d hook a much larger fish, a marlin or other billfish but they would invariably spit the hook or break the line which we felt bad about, though we were pretty sure the hooks would rust away quite quickly and free the animal from its burden. A bird bit our lure and got hooked; it died. When we caught a 3-foot shark we realized that catching a much larger fish would mean a serious bloodbath so we eventually only used small lures, but sometimes big fish would bite these anyway. I built a big reel from scrap wood which could handle the large line we had recovered drifting with the turtle, and this did the trick, bringing in almost every fish that struck. The shark was delicious, as were a couple of dorado  and a wahoo. I am still not comfortable with even this limited slaughter though; I have to admit I fished to alleviate the boredom of the passage and out of interest in what swims below – in other words for entertainment, and the food thing is just an excuse for we could feed ourselves in many other ways. The dorado are extraordinarily beautiful, electric blue-green in color with yellow fins; we watched a pair swimming ahead of the boat one day and noticed that every time they were about to strike at a flyingfish they would instantaneously change color to a green and black tiger stripe pattern. They wear their mood on their sleeve. Wahoo aren’t pretty but they can swim at 50mph. Amazing.

A week in, 60 miles off the coast of El Salvador (for we were following the coast northwards planning to peel off for Hawaii around Mexico somewhere) we saw a small boat ahead, and open lancha containing three men, the first vessel we had seen other than the enormous cargo ships that we often avoided on their rapid routes north and south. This little boat was clearly tied to the lee end of a tuna driftline, but as we passed it disengaged and started to follow us. Why? We were off a very lawless country with our heads full of the ridiculously numerous and horrible pirate stories (all true) of Central America so this rattled us somewhat and by the time they caught up with us we were locked and loaded and greeted them with guns in hand. This turned out to be an overreaction but justified under the circumstances – a common trick is for an approaching lancha to appear all innocent or even in distress then suddenly whip out firearms once close enough to their prey, and it is a fool who does not take precautions day and night in Latin American waters. I did not feel cool carrying a pistol, in fact my heart was in my mouth. It turned out they only wanted to know if we had cigarettes which we did not, nor did we give them anything else as I felt we should have: I felt horrible about this rude greeting on our part; fishermen had always been friendly and generous towards me on my own voyage. But it was not my call. I felt even worse about this in the light of what happened later. We motored on.

And on, and on, timeless grinding across the doldrums. It was bliss to turn off the motor during the rare bouts of wind and travel in peace like real sailors. When the wind came it was always more or less behind us and as Samphire has only roller furling and other staysails without booms we had to zig-zag in order to keep the sails full. Sometimes we put two large jibs up on the double forestays like cupped hands held ahead, and this worked well running directly downwind as long as we poled out the clews. We’d do anything we could to add an extra half-knot of speed but on a run our options were limited. As she stands today, Samphire is undercanvassed, heavy and not fleet withough a good 20knots of wind to push her. At 25 days our fresh food was almost gone and we had only a few days worth of diesel left. We had this running joke, a dream fantasy we invented called “The Great Pacific Fruit Basket” which we imagined to be floating out there; maybe we would find it and have fruit again. But the ocean was barren, now we were 800 miles out from the Mexican coast, now a thousand, moving a hundred and twenty miles a day. The radar scans out to a 36 mile radius and rarely showed a blip, this was remote, we were out there, it was hard for the mind to grasp the scale of this watery plain. The dolphins stopped coming but we still had a few birds, the same ones day after day; they’d form a raft ahead of us, wait for us to pass, take off and fly ahead, settle again in our path. Sometimes they would ride aboard for the night, unafraid of us, but after they’d crapped down the forehatch onto Paul’s bed one time too many (once) they were banned from hitchhiking, They’d hunt about but seemed unable to catch much until the wind came up; then they would use this wind to fly and swoop at great speed, catching in mid-air the flyingfish that at times almost continuously burst from beneath our bow in airborne schools of up to a hundred at a time. These aerial hunts were exciting to watch, the skill of the birds breathtaking. They could rush at the water where they knew a school to be and the stupid flyingfish would be startled out of the water, then the bird had a chance to grab one if it had a little luck in addition to its considerable skill. I once saw a flock of boobies, maybe fulmars, whatever, low in a cloud of flyingfish, when a fat tuna sailed into the air from ahead of them. The birds going one way, the tuna flying through the them in the opposite direction, the flyingfish everywhere. Spectacular.  Another time I saw a skua repeatedly diving on a lone flyingfish weaving to escape the menace above whilst a dorado powered along behind with only its tail in the water. The poor flyingfish had nowhere to go, and the dorado bit him out of the air just ahead of the skua’s third dive.

The ocean was empty. We rarely saw a floating object of any kind. No more turtles, no ships. None of the expected garbage except one day a lone fishing float. No seaweed at all unlike the Caribbean where the stuff floats everywhere. Sometimes we would stop and swim around the boat hanging three miles high in the clear blue void; well not quite clear, there were always jellyfish, plankton and many kinds of drifting skeins of connected eggs to see. The boat looks weird from below. Goose-neck barnacles were already proliferating and a couple of remoras were clamped on near the rudder. The water just goes down and down, blue with shafts of light. It’s no place for a human. We all thought about the horrifying prospects of falling overboard to float helplessly in this emptiness until the sharks came… and we held on tight to the boat whilst on deck especially at night. We’d also try to imagine the journey of a sinking object, say a tin can thrown overboard, as it sank into the dark and the terrible pressure for three miles.

We were 26 days out and a thousand miles from land with no wind and only three days worth of diesel left, when we found the Great Pacific Fruit Basket. Or rather it found us.

I love to tell this story; some stories should be told because they give credit to the people who made them happen (in this case Mexican fishermen). I was on watch in the morning, reading in the pilot chair, my crewmates asleep for they had taken the two night watches. Sailors used to work all the time but we are in a fiberglass boat, neither modern nor fast but very reliable and with our excellent autopilot doing the steering we don’t have to work too hard and we had leisure to get through a lot of books. I heard a noise and to my amazement a pretty little orange helicopter came up from behind. WHAT? A small helicopter, maybe even not a big one, does not have the range to be out here unless… I fired up the radar, yes, there was a vessel about 15 miles astern. The helicopter hovered over us and the copilot leaned out of the door, smiling and waving, which of course I returned. He looked Mexican. Off they went and I thought no more of it, until the radar blip started converging on us. A mile off, the Mexican tuna boat Azteca 7 hailed us on the VHF. Hola! Hola! Donde van? and so on, very friendly. We told them we were on route to Hawaii. Can we be of any assistance? asked Capitan Mauro. Well, do you have any unneeded diesel you can sell us? asked Paul. Certainly! they replied. (This was crushing to me, I despise motoring and was counting the minutes until the fuel ran out so we would be forced to sail the Pacific like real mariners. I was also afraid they’d give us food. To me, after all the stories I’d read, no Pacific crossing is really worth the bother unless you only just make it to where you are going half-starved, crazy with thirst and preferably dismasted by a hurricane. All this motoring made things too easy and fast. I wanted a challenge, not help. It is more than this deep-seated need of mine to do things the hard way, the fact is that being becalmed is part of the experience, and the joy of at last getting wind is all the more intense for the waiting.Further, unless one goes slowly at least some of the time one is likely to rush past the many wonderful wildlife experiences that only happen to a slow or stationary boat. I do have to admit that the journey would have taken weeks longer without the motor and that Paul cannot wait; Twyla is 8 months pregnant and of course he wishes to be there for the birth.)

So a thousand miles from land we tied up to the Azteca 7‘s 120 feet of steel. We were held away from them by two small speedboats (they had five of these), though conditions were calm there was still the swell so the mini boats had to pull the big boats apart to stop us from smashing together. Soon they had a hose in our diesel fill and were pumping away, about 300 gallons of fuel. They filled our water containers. They loaded aboard baskets of fresh fruits, piles of vegetables, fruit juice and four whacking great tuna fish though we managed to give two of these back, for we could not refrigerate or possibly eat this much fish. For all this, perhaps $1700 worth of stuff, they refused to take a penny! It was quite overwhelming and I was mortified with embarrassment. Miriam went aboard their boat for a tour, they had not seen a female in weeks so of course they loved this. There was a great deal of chatter back and forth and we parted after an hour or two all smiles, with us really unable to come up with an adequate expression of thanks. I remembered how we had greeted those fishermen in the lancha off of El Salvador and felt shame.

That night as darkness closed we were at last under full sail when Azteca 7 appeared on the horizon ahead of us. Would you be our guests for dinner? asked Captain Mauro, and off course we could not refuse and were glad we did not for dinner was excellent and our hosts were extremely charming; they made us glow with pleasure in that way that only Mexicans can do. Pedro, who had lost three fingers aboard in an accident (crushed between two of the small boats), and Domingo took Paul and I on a tour and later we were shown a DVD they had made detailing how the tuna are caught. We saw every part of the vessel, the refrigeration equipment, the monstrous engine, the workshops, food fridge, their little chapel, rec rooms, the helicopter, bridge The diesel engine that powered their bow thruster is six times as powerful as Samphire‘s only motor. Azteca uses up to 13,000 liters of diesel a day. I’m sure right-wingers think this is entirely reasonable. The crew and captain seemed to be one big happy family and very casual; at one point a lowly deckhand took me into the captain’s stateroom without asking any permission.

The ship itself  is onew of 16 owned by the same man. It leaves port loaded with 600,000 liters of diesel plus aviation fuel for the helicopter and gasoline for the five speedboats and the pango, a monstrously fat and huge “dinghy” which carries and deploys the net which is 2.5 kilometers long and 180 meters deep. There are 25 crewmen and they stay out three to four months on average, returning when they have caught 1200 tons of tuna. The chopper spots the tuna schools by looking for jumpers, discolored water or more often the presence of dolphins which follow the tuna for (they say) unknown reasons (the dolphins do not eat the tuna). Once spotted the ship heads fort he school, deploying the speedboats which hang over the side and are dropped by winches whilst the mothership is making full speed, about 15 knots. This is a tricky business but we saw how competent the men are when they took us aboard in this manner; we left Samphire at the end of a long rope and were ferried across on the little speedboats which were hauled up the side with us aboard. The speedboats herd the tuna school together and when the ship arrives it launches the pango which circles the school, paying out net as it goes. Then they start to draw the seine closed at the bottom, at this point the dolphins sometimes escape by diving deep and the tuna sometimes follow. When closed at the bottom the net is slowly drawn in over large roller raised up on a huge crane. All the gear is huge, modern, expensive and highly effective at what it does.

Dolphins in the Pacific (not to mention the tuna) have been decimated by the tuna fishing industry but these days Mexico is extremely serious about protecting marine mammals and turtles (however it seems fine to decimate anything that doesn’t breathe air, such as the tuna themselves, just as on land only the cuddly creatures are spared our shameful cruelty) so at this point, with the circle of net hundreds of yards across, some of the crewmen actually jump over the side into the boiling madness and swim across the net herding the dolphins out with their own bodies. Part of the net is pushed down (I think) to let the dolphins escape. The men seem to have a soft spot for the creatures nowadays, and are proud of this part, and they do it despite the fear they feel because of the occasional presence of billfish such as marlin in the net, which can impale a man. Once they caught a marlin which they said measured from beam to beam of the ship which is about 40 feet, which seems incredible. The dolphins themselves are frightened but never attack. Once they are removed the net is drawn in tight and becomes a boiling, thrashing mass of fish and blood, and is too heavy to drag aboard so a big net scoop is lowered in repeatedly, hauling out load after load of tuna and dropping them into a chute which channels them down inside the ship and directly, whole, alive and ungutted into holds filled with freezing brine. These are skipjacks and on the video they averaged about four feet in length, quite  a sight to see thrashing their way down the chutes in a spray of blood.. The fishermen never actually touch the fish except a few that spill from the scoop, these they boot into the chute. They told us that sometimes they catch octopus in the nets, ones with big heads and short legs, (not squid they say), which I would not have expected to find in waters three miles deep but I wouldn’t expect to find crabs swimming about out here either, and we saw these all the time. Another surprise – the presence on the surface of insects– water skaters of some kind. Insects, way out on the ocean. Really.

The day before we met the Azteca 7 had caught 180 tons of tuna in this way in a single pull, so they were in a good mood I guess. A deckhand gets $6.00 per ton caught, the fishing master (who had worked his way up from a lowly deckhand), gets $87 per ton. A full hold sells for about three million bucks. They plied us with more gifts, candies, tequila, A mazatlan mug, a huge bag of limes. We talked until late, Samphire out in the dark, looking like a dinghy, flyingfish attracted by the lights leaping all around the boat and dorado leaping after them. We parted friends, back on Samphire we pulled on our halyards and slipped away into a once more black and lonely ocean.

This encounter with Azteca 7 and its gentlemanly crew was of course quite thrilling to us, but also sobering. We saw a mercilessly efficient industrial operation, the kind that has been emptying the ocean of life for decades to the point where its population of large predators are now at a level, according to some estimates, of only ten per cent of their former numbers. Throughout the world wildlife is reduced to scattered undersized remnants taught to know their place, a fact that we on Samphire often lamented, for our experience on the ocean is significantly impoverished by the paucity of wildlife that used to be overwhelmingly present. I do not blame the fishermen, it is the consumer who pays for this to happen; as long as there is demand there will always be supply. No adult has any excuse to be ignorant of the results of their choices; I myself have been aware of the tuna industry’s depradations, including what it has done to the turtles and dolphins, since my teens and have for decades made the strict conscious choice not to support the fishing industry. I buy no seafood, it is only on this voyage, living on the sea, that I have fished at all. In my opinion money should be taken out of the equation, (in fact money should not change hands over flesh of any kind, it leads to cruelties and environmental damage on a horrifying scale): if you want to eat fish, catch it yourself. People catching fish for themselves and family and friends have never been a problem and I would never want to deny people that experience. It is the commercial operation – millions upon millions of deadly efficient boats  sent out by you – that is damaging and unsustainable. Tut tut you might say, what a shame about the ecological disaster that is upon us, but does it happen despite you or with your full and active participation?  Rob our descendants as our ancestors robbed us, strip the world bare. What’s in your pantry?

This is without getting into the other issues – eg. the million dollars in fuel this ship alone burns each trip, the devastation of an ecosytem to keep one man in opulence, the tragedy of the commons (whereby an inheritance supposedly common to all is destroyed or denuded by a few, for a few).

Sigh. I feel like one of the few sane people in Nazi Germany or the slaving South, shouting the obvious to deaf ears, despised for doing the right thing..

In the next few days the wind gradually increased as we entered the trades and for for a week or two we surged along under sail at six or seven knots, faster than we ever went with the motor unless we ran it hard. The little wind turbine kept the batteries happy enough to power the autopilot so all was quiet but for the noise of water gurgling past the hull. The waves never went above two or three meters, coming up behind us, marching on ahead. Without wind from the side to steady us we rolled grievously and cooking in the galley (which needs work to make it ergonomic at sea) became a real trial, things would slide around, nothing could be left unattended for more than a few seconds without it jumping onto the floor or spilling scaldingly onto one’s legs. Tempers became frayed in the galley at times. Seated for supper in the saloon, we all became adept at catching our cutlery as it leaped into our laps, sometimes we were really flashy and caught it without looking or breaking conversation. If an object fell to the floor and started rolling and sliding around one did not bother to chase it around the room, it would come back in its own time to be plucked from the floor and replaced, to spread its wings again soon enough.

Since they were mostly boiled down ages ago it was not until day 39 that I spotted a whale. Its spout was much more dramatic and obvious than I had expected, a cow-sized ball of steamy vapor that puffed above the waves and nearly surprised me out of the rigging . “Ca-CAW ca-CAW!” There were two, humpbacks, we approached the juvenile one by sail and it wheezed along nearby for a short while before sounding. Big, really big, maybe 40 feet long.

Time slowed down for the last days. 700 miles to go, 600. Our best day was around 150 nautical miles.  The trade winds withered annoyingly (as measured on Oahu they have decreased 28% in the last thirty years for unknown reasons). At 80 miles to go to the Big Island I started to spend even more time up the rigging, but there was nothing to see ahead; in fact the much-coveted sight of Hawaii rising impressively from the ocean was denied to us; as dusk came we were only 15 miles distant but could see no sign of land through the heavy low clouds. We saw lights in the night and in the morning we were crawling up the east side of the Big Island which we bypassed in favor of Maui where Paul has friends.

Checking in at Ma’alaea customs did not bother to board us. Odd considering our last port of call in cocaine country. “You came from offshore so you’ve got no garbage right?” asked the customs man. It is totally normal for a boat to throw its garbage overboard, a cruise ship dumps up to 7 tons per day. Criminal. It is 2013 now, no? It seems acceptable to throw cans over for they rapidly corrode to nothing, and paper for it quickly disintegrates, but we had saved all plastic aboard. An area near here known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a kind of becalmed gyre twice the size of Texas, is thought to be home to 100 million tons of floating plastic. This is only one of six such major gyres in the ocean. On the next leg of our trip, from here in the Hawaiian Archipelago to Vancouver – 2500 miles, we expect to pass through a part of this garbage gyre.

Maui – friendly, highly touristy, stunningly beautiful, clean as a whistle, safe as Disneyland; opposite in so many ways to Latin America. The native Hawaiians are much more amiable here than I experienced on the Big Island a couple of years back ( I hope I was just unlucky there). Uncomfortable as a tourist, I volunteered at the local canoe club and helped a little with the building of an incredible traditional-formed 63-foot double canoe. I hitched around the island; it is very easy to get rides; Maui has the most civil traffic I have ever seen. Some of the worst woo too, amongst the New-Agers. Enough of the “Spirit this, goddess that, this is blessed, that is sacred” (this from folks who would try to tell me they are not religious). I had an argument with a chemtrail believer the other day, poor deluded fellow. Unburdened by facts, logic, scientific literacy or the ability to think critically, he must stumble through life wearing a foil hat.

The Hawaiians have the coolest-looking outrigger paddling canoes in the world, but when they put sail on them they undercanvas and add no leeboards so they cannot go well to windward. They are happy to use modern materials such as glassfiber and epoxy resin but seem uninterested in improving performance. Their sails are so wrong that they must paddle all the time, a tedious proposition to me but they seem to like it for cultural identity reasons. I have seen nothing as outrageously cool and effective as Desesperado. If they want to get out on the water, tourists here are stuck with whale watching, diving, trips on submarines or sailing trips on regular yachts and catamarans which don’t seem to want to turn off their motors, Hawaiians could be selling really thrilling adventure sailing on improved traditional outriggers. Over and over again I heard, after taking people out on Desesperado “This is by far the most fun we have had on our entire trip”.

And get the hell out of here with these whale-watching boats, million dollar power cats with “eco-adventure” plastered all over them. Burning that much diesel on trips this tame, there is nothing either ecological or adventurous about them. Chasing whales about with power boats: where’s the dignity?

I’ve more to say but am out of time – we are ready to pull up the anchor and raise sail for Vancouver.It is just Paul and myself now, sadly we lost Miriam to her work obligations. Miriam we miss you, now it is just men aboard we will degenerate into animals.

Possibly I may be tracked my SPOT signals although there are gaps in INMARSAT coverage out here so no transmission does not mean we have sunk. Here we are: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02OMbJyQzLrxlajbnC79YlbiTI0uDqtG3

Since my adventures are nearly over and my cash is running low, I am going to need some form of employment. Any ideas, anyone?

Vancouver or bust.

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14 thoughts on “Across the Pacific.

  1. I am a friend of your dad’s and have spent the last hour reading the most fantastic story i have read in many years. I have at least another hour of reading to finish the whole voyage to hawaii and will do so later. Your dad has forwarded all your writings to all his friends so have been following you for many months if not years. When you reach Vancouver i am sure you will be spending time in Anacortes and would like it if we all could have a dinner and meet you
    Regards and god bless Don Grandy

  2. I’d tell you the fishing season is open in Alaska, but….
    Best wishes… with your skills, not too much to worry about…
    Spot reports no messages
    Remember, keep those pointy thingies up! Watch out for the Plastic Pile… a DISGRACE to man… (and all such)… kinds!

  3. Thanks for the report Grilla. Good trip to Canada to ya, sounds like 20 knots just forward of the beam is what you need

  4. Did you guys try to hail the harbor master at Hilo? I was out fishing and we heard a boat from Panama talking to the Coast Guard about the harbormaster, but didn’t catch the name of the vessel. We saw the boat motoring in what appeared to me to be fine wind for sailing, so it had to be you! ha ha. After following you all this time, that would be quite a trip to be suddenly in such close proximity to you. Fair winds!

  5. Great you are blogging again. I love to taste your adventure – dolphins that glow in the dark, nice people that use helicopters to kill Tuna and silly people with foil hats! If any one offers you a job see if you can get me one as well. Things are somewhat stagnant back here in Ireland. According to your beacon you have left Hawaii Safe home..

  6. Back from silence, and living the life again. Good for you! Fair winds, and good luck finding employment. You are a fine writer, but getting paid for that is harder than ever. But I will be waiting for your travels to find their way into a book, I hope.

  7. Hi Chris,
    you are a gifted writer. Have you thought about publishing your adventure in a book….. travel book category?

    I live in Silicon Valley where I am a white color worker in the high tech industry.

    I am building Dierking’s Ulua right now (getting ready to glassing the interior hull).

    Where do you want to live? I cannot offer you a job, but I have always ideas (and some mediocre connections).

    Greetings from California
    Chris

  8. Chris,

    Andrew here from Atreyu, the writing was dynamite and I couldn’t agree more with your observations on fishery, the burden of responsibility, and the necessity of a good tinfoil hat, such as mine for example which adds 2 inches to my already formidable height.

    I can give you work in December, but not till then, however in that month your help and your natural charm would be an asset scarving necks in Vancouver. I am currently in Ecuador having a fine time getting the line of clothing put together and working on new designs, it should be a good season for everyone involved if everything comes out well.

    Anyway, feel free to drop me a line anytime, I agree that sailing on your proa was the most fun I had in a long time and it is a superior sailing machine. The writing and ideas on this blog are excellent and such a rare experience in todays diluted and deluded world.

    Andrew

  9. Chris,
    I started to read you blog, and could not stop. Thank you for sharing your adventures.
    The trips we did on Desperado is something I often think about, what a boat he his!
    You really created a piece of sailing art. Nothing like it.
    I hope you make it safe to Canada.
    Sunshine from John Loken

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