I think it was when I saw a bird species I’ve not seen before, that it really struck me. What an abominably foolish thing it is to be sailing all the way across an ocean, and on passing one of the most isolated islands in the world, continue right on.
I hadn’t anticipated coming so close to the Gambier Isles, but with the light winds of the variables, I ended up heading more north than north east as planned.
My small scale electronic charts where lost in the great SD card tragedy several weeks ago, so I only have my large scale ocean maps.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I know the Tuamotu Archipelago to the north east are flat coral rings, you can’t see them until you fall on top of them.
So it was a little unexpected when I spotted the Isles off on the horizon while still around 40 miles away. Two bigger mountains, and then a smaller mountain to the south. Even at that distance, astonishingly clear.
So I’ve had her, and the a strange little white bird with an aggressive beak and what looked like a double tailwing, for the afternoon.
The wind was coming from the starboard beam, but I decided to set a course 10 miles to her north and pass with her on my port beam.
Not the greatest seamanship to pass with a body of land to the leeward side, but it would save me a few hours and the weather was good.
The Gambier isle lie right on the Tropic of Capricorn, and incidentally, marks the furthest latitude north that I’ve been.
I did a medical placement out in Barcaldine. Home of the tree knowledge and birth place of the Labor Party. Sadly the tree of knowledge is no more, but there is a massive dark green modern art canopy spread over it to acknowledge what once was.
Apart from that, Barcky’s most impressive feature today, is that for a town of a thousand people, there are seven pubs.
From memory, the tiny hospital had 12 beds, so it probably has the highest pub to hospital bed ratio in the world.
The summers are hot and dry, and every few years one of the pubs burns down. Every single pub site has been there since before the turn of the previous century, and every single one is a replacement of the original.
Another fascinating thing about Barcky is that it has a full 18 hole golf course without a speck of grass.
I remember driving out in my beautiful Troopy (may she rest in peace), and the 6 hour drive from Rockhampton follows the Tropic of Capricorn as per the various signs laid out. The wonderful thing about a dead east-west road is the fact that you spend a lovely part of each drive squinting into the sun.
I was there in the middle of summer, and I could never figure out if it was better to run from the accommodation 50 metres away from the hospital doors, or just walk. As you left the air-conditioning, it would feel like you were walking into the bowels of hell.
If you walked, it lasted longer and you would sweat more, but if you ran you would sweat more.
The other curious thing was that the hot water tanks, being insulated and not switched on, delivered cooler water than the cold tap.
Anyway I digress. I’m in the Tropics!
This means sunshine, trade winds, and tropical squalls.
Tropical squalls develop quickly, are fast moving, and bring about strong winds, for a short period of time.
Naturally, as I approached the lovely tropical Pacific island, twilight spreading her soft mantle over all, a squall showed itself on the horizon.
You can tell if a moving object is on a course to collide with your course by taking multiple bearings. If the bearing of the object is constant over time, then your courses will collide.
Sadly the bearing of the squall did not change.
Suddenly my lovely island was a leeward wall of death. Give me the open ocean any day!
I had two options. I could run with it, or I could beat into it.
Running with it would mean going back south west until I was safely to the lee of the island, probably a loss of 3 hours.
Or I could keep going my merry way and beat into it.
The entire crew cursed the navigator and captain as we presented a scrap of jib and a double reefed main and set to beating into a tropical squall.
It lasted about half an hour. A half an hour of dipping gunwales, dancing prows, and seas breaking over the cabin as we sped into the dark of the night.
Perpetual Succour loved it.
The real strength of the S&S34, with her 50% ballast ratio and wide beam, is her ability to run hard into a strong wind. I don’t think the winds got above 30 knots, and we made a few extra miles, hitting 7 or 8 knots.
Now I’m sitting 10 miles or so east of the island in a bit of a post squall lull, awaiting the return of that nice steady westerly I’ve had all day.
Despite the darkness and my state of chartlessness, the island is beckoning to me again.
The only way I can go on, is to promise that one day I will return in the daylight and lay anchor here. Sorry Mum!
Latitude: -23.154, Longitude: -135.228, Time: 06:11:33 25-05-2018 UTC