(written from a windy and bumpy Coral Sea)
I awoke with the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. You know the ones you feel before a big game or before you’re about to start something challenging, big, or, dare I say, epic?
These nerves, if used well, can be a great tool to ensure your physically and mentally ready for what you’re about to embark upon so I harness the energy and get to work on the final items on my lists. I ensure my grab bag has everything in it that’s important and add a few extra items. I put a dry bag next to the chart table so I can pack my computers at short notice if needed and basically have everything in place for a worst-case scenario – winds of over 45knts.
I then clean the boat, likely for the last time before Cairns (other than the daily dishes) and do a full inspection. Everything is in order and my gooseneck repair is holding nicely. I run the storm trysail sheet, so it’s in place in case it needs to be hoisted (if gooseneck breaks) as well as an outboard block for the jib sheet in case the car breaks and attach the preventer to starboard.
Basically, I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be for when the pressure hits in about 36 hours. I’m grateful I did the bulk of the work in the previous few days as it means I can spend all afternoon enjoying the sail towards Jomard Passage. It’s a glorious day with winds at 10-12knts so delightful sailing.
I see what I think is another sailing boat for the first time, but upon closer inspection with my binoculars, it’s actually a local outrigger. I almost consider steering closer to say hello, but think better of it and keep a watchful and fascinated eye on them with the binoculars. I assumed they were off fishing, but maybe they were headed to another island for a ceremony? A meeting with a tribal chief? Perhaps a wedding? Or maybe to share some Kava with a nearby tribe… I wonder what they thought of me and the different universes we exist in?
As I get closer to Jomard Passage, the boat traffic increases significantly and I’m very grateful I’m doing this in the daytime. I haven’t seen this many boats since Hong Kong and my AIS alarm is constantly going off. There are two channels to the passage and small craft are to take the eastern channel and large vessels the western one, so while I see the boats in the distance, it doesn’t make it any more challenging for my own navigation.
The eastern passage is bordered by two exquisite islands, each more beautiful than the other. Like sentinels guarding the way. It reminds me of the that scene in Never Ending Story where Atreyu passes the huge rock guards as part of his epic adventure. Its 3pm by this stage and the sun has started its journey towards slumber. The colours are enhanced at this time of day and the blues of the water, the greens of the islands and yellows of their beaches, the turquoise of the fringing reefs and oranges of the sunset make for a magical afternoon. I couldn’t have imagined a more spectacular transition point into the Coral Sea.
Some passages are nothing more than open water, so you need to use your imagination to demarcate where one sea or ocean stops and the other begins, but not today. Not the entrance to the Coral Sea. Jomard Passage was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I sat there on deck, keeping constant look out for waves and currents with a huge smile on my face. What a delightful way to start the journey home. Like crossing the equator, I spoke to loved ones and could feel the relief in all our voices that a safe harbour was now only a few days sail away.
Of all the legs in my journey, this is the one I’ve thought about the least. It always felt so far away. So many other legs had to be completed before I got here. I think one reason I didn’t get excited about the Coral Sea was because I didn’t want to be let down if I didn’t make it for some reason. Now that I’m here, I feel a mixture of elation and anticipation. It’s a big, rugged sea in front of me with plenty of challenging sailing to go, but I think of how far I’ve come. How many challenges I’ve dealt with and what a ride its been.
As dusk crept in, I stood on the side of the boat and looked ahead. The wind was 18knts and we were sailing well and about 20Nm passed Jomard. The waves were a dark grey and the black of night sky was encroaching by the second. Just above the bow I could see some stars coming out, so I cast my gaze in their direction and looked straight at the Southern Cross. Our bearing was 180 degrees and I used the constellation’s methodology to confirm that we were indeed heading due south. I smiled. The next land mass I’ll see will be the great land down under. What a wonderful thought.
Late at night, as the wind and waves pick up and I’m tossed around like a hot potato with no chance of sleep anytime soon, I re-read a poem my beautiful sister sent me earlier in the day. It’s about the virus and isolation but there was also much I took from it from my own experiences the past 5 weeks. The appreciation of the important things we all once took for granted and that we’ll soon have back. It gave me comfort as I sat there in the darkness listening to the howl of the wind, clipped on with PFD, wet weather gear, boots and headtorch, eyes open wide at 2am. Feeling each yaw, creak and groan and willing Ahyoka onwards.
It’s the home stretch, my girl. You got this.
In the morning
We will intertwine fingers
I will hug you for too long
And then dance
In the reawakened street
I will hold your cheeks in my hands
And note every freckle on the faces
I have missed so much
The sunlight will warm us
As we shake off
Our Autumn scarf of fear
And Winter coat of misery
As we appreciate the sun
On our shoulders
Like we never have before
For now we are in the dark
With so few candles
But I know that if we wait
If we just hold tight
It will soon be morning
You know what, I’m going to really miss your supportive, positive, helpful and happy messages in a few day’s time Eileen. They’re a highlight of my morning, so thank you for sending them.
Love the idea of sailing on the beautiful Sydney Harbour in winter, all rugged up…
Many thanks Campbell!
My blogs are generally 36 hours behind as I write them the morning of the next day, send them to my friend in the US then he uploads them when he gets up. Rest assured I’ll keep them coming in the next few days, though they don’t correlate to the track very well.
Thanks Brother. I’ve thought about your stories of rounding the Horn while I’ve been out here in big seas and how amazing that must have been.
Look forward to sailing together one day soon.
Haha – love it. So great your able to join the journey mate. Give Hillary a big hug from me.
Thanks Jo! Will be lovely to catch up when I get to Sydney.