July 20, 2020: After three false starts, I was finally on my way back to Akela, which had been abandoned in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia. I had two bags packed full of replacement parts, tools, spares, provisions, and clothes that I will need for the 2000 mile sail to Hawaii, followed by a 3000 mile sail to San Diego.
I met my crewmates, Emma and Dan, for the first time at the Los Angeles airport waiting for the flight to Tahiti. We had met online from a sailing bulletin board “Looking for Crew,” and we decided to sail together after just a few Zoom meetings. They are both engineers in their early 30’s with a small sailboat in Oakland and they wanted to get the experience of an offshore passage. We chatted excitedly over beers at an airport bar about the upcoming trip, and we did the human version of sniffing each other’s butts, thinking, “Do I really want to live in close quarters with this person, and do I think I can trust them with my life?” Well, they seemed nice, knowledgeable, and honest. So far so good.
I stayed in Tahiti two days. I rented a car and revisited Papenoo and Papara, where Max and Torea would go surfing. I swam off the beach at Venus Point, Matavai Bay, where Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus in 1769, and where Max and I had spent most of our time in Tahiti. This is where Max flipped and nearly sank the sailing dinghy. (We added more flotation after that.) I went to happy hour in Taina Bay, Punaauia where Max and I had enjoyed the local beers numerous times. There I met my good friend Yann, from the boat Kirakou from Madagasca, and Torea and her little girls, who are all noticeably older than they were the last time I saw them. It was like old times – Max would have loved it.
Dan and Emma went on to Nuku Hiva, a 3 hour flight on Air Tahiti, while I was still in Tahiti. Some local cruisers gave them and their bags a ride out to Akela in their inflatable motorboat. They stepped aboard the ship that would be their home for the next month without knowing much about it. The outside of the boat was dirty, stained, and with ugly growth around the waterline. She looked like the abandoned ship that she was. Inside is was musty with a film of mildew on every surface and spider webs in the corners and cubbies. They got right to work and cleaned up the worst of this before I ever saw it. They found the kayak, pump, seats, rudder, and paddles and were able use it to make their way to shore for dinner.
I arrived the next day and helped get the living spaces clean enough for us to want to be there, and to make an assessment of the boat and all the systems. At first this was overwhelming. Some things I expected, like the broken water pump Nico had told me about. Others I found along the way, like the broken solar panel, torn luff slides on the sails, and the clogged fuel pump. But day after day for 10 days, we worked together to get everything cleaned up and working. We got food and water for a 20-day passage with reserves for an extra 20 days if we need it. We took Akela out and flew all the sails, and ran the engine and watermaker. (We have a reverse osmosis watermaker that makes fresh water from saltwater, but we would plug our filters if we ran it in the silty water in Taiohae Bay )
Dan and Emma have proven to be ideal crewmates for preparing for a passage. Dan loves to cook and was happy to take over the planning for food and organizing the galley. He has made delicious meals that I didn’t know were possible on a boat. Emma likes things to be clean and organized and she has the chutzpah to dive right in and make order out of chaos. And both are engineers who love to fix things. So far, we get along great, and I think the ice is sufficiently broken that I’m pretty confident that I not only have good crew for the voyage, but that I made some great new friends.
August 2, 2020: This is it. We are ready to cross the Pacific Ocean. Everything is stowed, the rigging has been carefully inspected, and we’re ready for adventure. We’ll just raise the anchor and head out. Click. Click. Click. The anchor windlass didn’t want to pull up and chain! It was an easy fix, but we decided to leave early the next day.
August 3, 2020. This is it. We are ready to cross the Pacific Ocean. Everything is stowed, the rigging has been carefully inspected, the windlass has been repaired, and we’re ready for adventure. At 0900 we motored easily out of Daniels’s Bay, Nuku Hiva, hoisted the sails, and started off together on a 16 day passage that will take us 2000 miles, back across the equator, to Hawaii.