Back Down Under

Finally the clean-up on board is almost finished! All the little pots and things on the galley shelves have once again found their practical places. The last sticky traces of honey that had coated the entire countertop after the storm have been diligently wiped up and the deckpod cleared of all salt encrustations. So now it’s high time to take you down memory lane before the mapping archive and street signage there succumbs to the gradual but obnoxious erosion of passing time and life’s rearview mirror starts to be seriously blurred under a chalky coat of sediments from more recent events.

It was a beautiful morning when Nephi and I walked over to the customs building at the edge of the Opua Marina’s parking lot. To ease the many last minute preparations always needed before departure I had Aluna tied up to the wharf at Ashby’s Boat Yard the previous night. We had passports and paperwork in hand, one jumpy heart in each of our chests, rather stoic expressions on our faces, and we were ready to check out of the country. “So when are you guys heading out?” asked a very serious customs officer. “As soon as we’re done here”, was my just as serious response. And this we did. The dock lines as our last connections to solid land were undone and brought aboard and we were off under a bright morning sun and glistening white and puffy clouds streaming northeastwards overhead. Once out of the Victoria Channel the sails unfolded and a light Southwesterly took us under its wings. So light it was in fact that after half an hour we decided to put up the big main sail to pick up a reasonable speed and start our journey with zest.

Crossing an imaginary line between Cape Brett and the Coastline of New Zealand’s Far North outward bound brought back memory flashes from six months ago when after the two last and quite stormy nights of our journey out of the tropics and into the variables, we had reached these same shores of the famed Land of the Long White Cloud. This densely sculpted coastline was now slowly shrinking in size hour after hour and by late afternoon a veil of bluish haze had covered it. An even darker veil would soon efface the last hints of solid land behind us after sunset and decisively severe our everlasting longing for rootedness, transforming us effectively into beings of transient floatation on a vast desert of watery waves.

The cold Southwesterly winds continued to push us northward towards hopes of more temperate latitudes; after all, it was the grueling grips of winter we needed to escape! With jackets donned, woolen bonnets, scarves and gloves, socks, shoes, many a layer of underwear and all these things that suffocate the body but keep it from shivering helplessly and convulsively, we kept staring up at the star spangled skies at night, figuring out ever anew our candid role and responsibilities as earthlings of miniature proportions. Dark and sinister squalls sneaked up from behind us every now and then, mainly during the nights, and bloat our sails seemingly to the breaking point. But Aluna gaily and simply picked up the pace, enjoying the gist while it lasted and then settling back into the routine of plowing forward, slowly but steadily towards our destination somewhere beyond the horizon.

Every day the sun started climbing a little higher into the sky, the angle with which it emerged out of the sea in the morning becoming less and less acute. Every day a couple more minutes of the precious life-permitting light was given to us as a remuneration for our persistence in bearing the brunt of this rolly and bumpy element of endless vastness. This persistence though seemed to come a little harder for my good mate Nephi, whose healthy Maori brown soon turned to a ghostly grayish green. His customary vibrant appetite by the third day had all but vanished and he started eating less than a tiny Canary bird in a golden cage on a toothless granny’s balcony. Fortunately his massive frame had some padded reserves huddled all around, but by day six his pants started to sag visibly around the belt line. His attitude correspondingly was by now a heap of serious introspection and his glazed gaze only conveyed a bottomless pit of pity for his very own suffering self. That same angle of the rising sun was supposed to be his dedicated field of study staked out before the journey, but even that interest in the practical aspects of traditional Polynesian navigation had now shrunk to a very marginal slither of leaden gravitation.

In the morning of day five our good comfy sailing had run into a bit of a snag. We were by now at 29˚ S 179˚ E and had covered close to 450 nautical miles. About a third of the journey was behind us. But our nice tail winds had vanished into thin air and that thin air was coming at us straight on the nose. We reluctantly went into tacking mode. This meant first of all that from now on our progress would be painstakingly slow, having to sail many miles for every mile made good towards our destination. But second of all, and more gravely so, this meant the general weather situation in the Southwest Pacific had dramatically changed for the worse.

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One Response to “Back Down Under”

  1. Beatriz Restrepo Says:

    Me encanta la narración que haces de nephi!!!!. Son unos personajes los dos 🙂

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