Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sailing the Blue Pacific

French Polynesia

Columbus Day made me think of my own experience with the deep blue sea (be it a bigger and different ocean than the one Christopher crossed in 1492).  Can you remember the time  before personal computers, email, or satellite navigation became common forms of communication and safety for seafarers?   The setting of our adventure was French Polynesia and parts of the Pacific Ocean, aboard a 40 foot older wooden sloop named Homer.  The year was 1983, not 1492.  Homer was crewed by a motley, but very capable "Captain Toma", and an even motlier, hard working, First Mate, MJ.  The good ship Homer hailed from Long Beach, California. She was on the South Pacific "milk run" as it is called by all the "yachties"  that cruised this sea route each sailing season.

"Captain" Toma and MJ "the crew"

Here are a few more photos (pre-digital camera, scanned from old photos that were extracted from old slides...so pardon the quality), and a couple entries taken from our ships log as we sailed between the islands of Nuka Hiva, Marquesas and Hilo, Hawaii on our return trip home. 

The Good Ship, Homer (1961 40' Kettenburg)


March 23, 1983  Day #1, TRIP LOG Reads 1315 miles.  Changed time to Hawaii time, and we're heading home.  We can no longer see the the south side of Nuka Hiva.  We are heading about 35 degrees northeast, and trying to get far enough off the island to pick up more wind.  Hawaii here we come!

March 28, 1983, Day #6,  TRIP LOG reads 1447 miles.  Got hit by a big squall and it's been raining ever since.  At 0200  I had to wake Toma to help me.  We took down the head sail and eased the main.  The squall lasted for about an hour and a half.  It was a miserable, wet night.  It's so strange, that out here in the middle of nowhere, the skies can be reasonably clear and starry, and a few hours later you can hardly see the bow of the boat.  I hope the day gets better.  Four and a half hours of rainy night watch is a bit wearing!  Right now we are trying to get caught up on some much needed rest.

March 30, 1983, Day # 8, TRIP LOG reads 1588 miles.  It's 0655.  We had our first BIG, and I hope worst, mishap of the crossing.  We have LOST OUR RUDDER! During Toma's watch, at approximately 0030, we lost steering.   We hit a Pilot Whale yesterday.  It must have weakened the rudder post.  Considering the rough seas that we've encountered these past couple of days, we think that the rudder simply dropped to the bottom of the ocean. Anyway, the rudder is GONE!  We have no real steering!

It's surprising that, how in the face of extreme danger, and an almost unheard of predicament, we are still reasonably calm.  Toma has been trying to figure a way to build and rig a temporary rudder so that we can control our direction.  Luckily the wind has been northwesterly and steady.  We're hove-to, sailing at around 2-3 knots.  Hopefully the seas will stay calm so that Toma can try to build Homer a new rudder?

Homer at anchor, Nika Hiva

Heading to sea

Moon rise over Nuka Hiva

Sunset at sea

 Squall coming

Under Sail with no steering?

So you see, life on the BIG Blue Seas isn't always as easy or as romantic as some people think.  Toma and I had two main phrases that we learned to live by.  The first was:  "Cruise and learn"!  The other was:  "What seems difficult on land is damn near impossible on a moving boat"!  And a boat should always be moving.

Part two, Hawaii or bust! .... to be continued


  1. Holy cow...those photos are marvelous...the journey log pretty much had me holding my breath.

    I assume that since you are here and posting that you made the trip safely.

    What a wonderful book this would make.

    I am awaiting Part II~~~~

  2. Hi,

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Your photo's are lovely, especially that gorgeous red sunset one.

    I will be back again soon for a proper look around your blog, i still haven't got caught up yet but thought i would drop by to say hello and thanks for the visit. :-)

  3. your nit picking sister here...pls get out your dictionary and look up the word: 'motley' & greatly admiring the So.Pac.picts, guess I never got to see them.. I remember hearing abt. the LOST RUDDER incident, & contriving alternate navig.method...related story to co-workers at library & one with sea-going experience remarked in tones of great admiration:"That man is a SAILOR!" gee, the things long-term memory can call up!