All at Sea

Pearl of Persia
Andrew Lock
Sat 25 May 2013 20:28
Lat 18:32.1N Long 165:33.8W
This is the fifth day at sea en route to Tonga. It's 4 in the morning, and
I've just taken over from Sussanne on watch. The moon is full and bright,
and we're whizzing along in moonlight. We haven't seen anything since
leaving Bora Bora, just the rolling ocean, and sky. It's hard to appreciate
how vast the Pacific Ocean is. The Atlantic fits into just a small corner.
Yesterday we passed within 10 miles of Palmerston atoll, a tiny speck of
land, half a dozen islets, each just a few hundred yards across in a lagoon,
surrounded by a million square miles of water. About 50 people live there.
We had thought about stopping for a day or two, but the anchorage is
difficult and has little protection from the ocean swells, so we sailed on
past, but I couldn't help trying to imagine what kind of life the people
must have....such total isolation.
Life aboard on these long passages seems to fit into a well established
routine. Half the time is dark so night watches take a big part. Apart from
meal times, sail changes are the most important and possibly the most
difficult things we have to do, especially with just the two of us. When the
wind is light and behind us we put up our huge spinnaker sail to push us
along. It immediately make us feel happy, billowing out in front of us with
its bright colours, red, blue and white. It also makes us feel apprehensive
as it's unpredictable, like a wild animal, and easy to lose control of. If
the wind gets up we have to pull it down which can be a challenge. We always
pull it down at night and set our ordinary white sails. Yesterday at around
4 in the afternoon the shackle fitting on the line holding the sail in place
gave way. It happened once before so the fitting must be faulty, and the
sail was flapping wildly, out of control, the noise almost deafening. We had
to get it down fast, so up to the front of the boat and using all our
combined strength just managed to contain it and into the sail bag. We both
lay on the deck exhausted.
There's about 500 miles to go and 150 miles ahead is the island of Niue, 10
miles wide and 15 miles long. An independent country, must be one of the
smallest in the world. We'll pass it tomorrow night.