Steaming Home

image1 (8)The two guest speakers we had for the first month left us in Pape’ete, and we now have another, an astronomer. The plan was that he’d meet people up on the forward top deck at 9:00 last night to see what we could see. We go to bed so early, I wondered whether I could change my pattern enough to do that, but managed to save enough energy and will to get there. Clad in coat and pajamas and scarf I got to the sky deck on deck nine by elevator and then out into the warm night and wind. We travel at between 16 and 19 knots, and there was a headwind of probably about 20 knots, so as I climbed the stairs to the very top deck, it was all I could do to hang on to railings and stay upright.

I was a little early, but there were already two people there, and they had a little computer with the night sky mapped out on its app. We were all the way forward, close behind the wind-shield that at least gave us a partial protection from the main force of the wind. But they didn’t seem to know much more than I did. We were heading NE, some clouds cleared away, I lay flat on a deck chair, the whole sky was clear, and there were two old friends, the Pleiades and Casseopeia.

OutriggerMy Gran, Clara Strong, had taught my Dad the silly name for the Pleiades, making it sound Greek, Tesphorisite, or “Test for Eyesight'” and he handed it on to me. So there they were, up there amid the stars with me.

When the astronomer did arrive, just as I was leaving, he said we were going to wait for a night when we might have a tail wind, and try again.
We cross the equator in an hour or so, and I’ll go and watch the navigation screen in the library with others who want to get a picture as it reads 00.00.00. We’ve been below it for some weeks and are now heading back to San Diego where we’re due in six days. (See ROUTE MAP.)

Sextants in use on Bermuda-Ireland sail 1976 by Messrs. Hoyt & Buell
Sextants in use on Bermuda-Ireland sail 1976 by Messrs. Hoyt & B. Buell

We had an interesting response from Captain van der Loo when he was being interviewed and he was asked a question about celestial navigation and Internet navigation. Apparently there is enough concern about the possibility of hacking to cause the maritime training schools to re-institute the teaching of celestial navigation as a requirement. I’ve always admired anyone who could use a sextant, specially in a pitching, rolling sail boat. On Tom’s Atlantic crossings, he says, there were often two taking sights to see how close they came to each other’s calculations. I can hear Bill Buell and Norrie Hoyt laughing but seriously differing.

Leaving our last landfall, two days ago, on Nukuhiva, was poignant. For many of us, the varied beauty of these islands has been a revelation. This last one, in a group most of us had never even heard of, was geologically so new and curious, it was a final hurrah.

image2 (5)We had come in past very dry, high slopes, and finally into this harbor with orchards, green forests above the town. Young men followed the tenders all day in outrigger kayaks, riding the slope in the wake as though they were surfing. By the end of the afternoon, they we’re taking their kayaks out and heading home.

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