Today was a day I’d been looking forward to for some time. At some point, depending on wind speed, direction and my course I’d be crossing the equator. For those who have been following my journey the past few weeks, you’d know that just getting here was a challenge and that crossing into the Southern Hemisphere means respite from the risk of typhoon (now zero) and a dramatic reduction in the seemingly relentless monsoonal squalls. The Southern Hemisphere tropics are in the stable “dry season” phase, so once I’m in the Southern Lats I’ll be in a very different weather system and I should have a much calmer, safer ride. I’ll also be leaving the North Pacific and crossing into the South Pacific Ocean which, given I’ve been sailing across the North West Pacific for 3 weeks, only amplifies the unimaginable scale of this majestic body of water.
Crossing the equator is also a serious rite of passage for not just sailors, but mariners of all kinds. For centuries Navies, merchant vessels and sailors of all walks of life have conducted Line Crossing Ceremonies when crossing the equator. King Neptune and his trusty Trident come out to welcome these new recruits into this esteemed club. Many of the ceremonies were more hazing than celebration though, so I’m quite happy for my initiation to be marked with a cold bottle of champagne rather than some humiliating ritual.
But mostly, for me at least, crossing the equator marks my entering home waters. I may still have a long way to go, but once I’m in the Southern Hemisphere I’ll be in the “home stretch” of the journey and my sense is the darker moods of the past few days will float away once I know it’s all “downhill” to go.
I spent the afternoon dealing with headaches from back home, which is never easy with a sleep deprived mind. It’s almost like the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t want to let me go easily before I’m released into the safety of the South, but I’m also glad to be dealing with it before I cross so I can leave the energy behind.
By mid-afternoon I still have 40Nm to go before I cross the equator if I follow the rhumbline to my way point which puts me crossing at something like 3am which doesn’t feel like much fun. I decide to make a run for it and head due south so I can cross at a more, ahem respectable hour. I turn on the fridge and put the champagne in the freezer.
As I bear away from the wind, I’m reminded just how much easier it is to reach. Our boat speed jumps from 4knts to 7knts (gooseneck is holding, and I’ve shaken the third reef out), we’re flatter and far steadier and sailing becomes that much more enjoyable. It also helps to highlight just how much work it’s been sailing hard on the wind for thousands of miles to get here. I have almost 500Nm to go before I can expect to be off the wind, so I enjoy my few hours reaching and the blissful ease that each mile comes with.
As the sun sets, the sky around me is calm with very light cloud and there’s no sign of any storm activity. While I know it doesn’t work this way, it’s almost like the monsoonal wet season weather has abruptly ended now we’re less than 1 degree from the equator and all that’s ahead of me is the stillness of the Southern Hemisphere’s dry season. My mood lifts with each mile south and my confidence, which has taken a hit with the relentless battering starts to come back too.
I constantly watch my iPhone and the iNavX app I use for navigation to see how much farther until we’re across, watching the compass Minutes and Seconds slowly tick down. Its night-time by this stage and for the first time I take down both the bimini and the dodger so the full canopy of stars can reveal itself. It’s so calm. So beautiful. I want this moment to be special. One I can fondly revisit many times in the years ahead. I breath in and taste each inhalation. Each minute. Each second.
Taking it all in.
With less than 1 minute to go (which is the equivalent to 1Nm) I get the Champagne ready and the countdown begins.
20:48 – 0degrees 00”000’n
I snap a screen grab of the coordinates and pop the cork. While there’s no discernible change in the ocean, there is in me. I swell with pride. With elation. And I tear up just a little. We did it. After almost 4 weeks of hard sailing, Ahyoka and I are in the Southern Hemisphere and I couldn’t be happier.
Scrapping my idea to share a glass with Ahyoka and King Neptune, I decide to have three glasses tonight and then the rest of the bottle at sunset tomorrow to “maximise” the celebrations. And how do I seal the bottle, so it’ll still be fresh? That’s right dear Reader, with Duct Tape.
I speak to Mum and Dad, who may just be more relieved than anyone now I’m in the safety of the South along with various friends. While this is a deeply personal moment and one I’m quite happy to be doing alone, it also helps to share the news and the moment with those I love and to thank them for all their support in getting here.
By my third glass, I’m not sure if it’s the champagne, my buddy Geoff’s special care package for this moment or the euphoria of crossing the equator but the night sky has never looked so beautiful. There are shooting stars everywhere and the Milky Way is radiating with light and colour. I take the shooting stars as messages of welcome and congratulations from King Neptune and, if I squint my eyes just a little, I think can even see his trident in a constellation just off my bow. As I drift in and out of sleep under this spectacular blanket of stars, I thank Neptune for letting me cross the threshold in such a memorable and magical setting and wish him a good night. We made it. My heart swells with the emotion of it all.
Hi Uncle Gavin!
So wonderful to know you and Jacqui are following along. Hope all is well with you both in Bonnie Dundee.
Give Jacqui and big hug from me.
Moment relished. Well and truly
OMG Lexi – so great to hear from you!
You know I haven’t thought about that wonderful book for almost 20 years. I’m going to revisit it when I get back as I recall how much my younger self loved it.
See you on the harbour or the CYCA in a few months.