October 12, 2002
17°40.9’S, 177°23.1’ E
Half-Way! We crossed the line at 180°West during our passage from Tonga to Fiji and have begun to head back toward decreasing East longitudes. We began our circumnavigation on November 3, 2000 in Canet, France, now 16,337 nautical miles ago, according to our ship’s log (which did not work on a few of the shorter passages—round it off to 17,000 miles). So far, our circumnavigation has been divided into two voyages: Voyage One, our maiden voyage from France to San Diego, where we completed a number of warranty repairs and outfitted Pacific Bliss for the rest of our voyages, and Voyage Two, from San Diego to the Marquesas, part of French Polynesia. It has been quite the adventure—and also quite the accomplishment when one stops to reflect on it. We will leave Pacific Bliss here in this “hurricane hole” until the next cruising season. Meanwhile, it’s the cause for another celebration. Yesterday, we marked our passage so far on our inflatable globe and hung it from the bimini; we bought champagne in nearby Nadi; and then we invited other cruisers here in the marina as our guests.
“You think of more excuses to party,” said Rolf. Yelo, his 431 Catana, is two slips away. “Well, this one’s for you too,” I replied. “You are also half-way around.” After we toasted to safe passages the rest of the way, we had him pose next to the globe with us.
“Seriously, it’s good to celebrate these milestones,” said Manfried, drinking nothing stronger than juice, in anticipation of single handling his German-flagged, “push-button” yacht La Rossa out of the harbor and on toward New Zealand come morning.
“We’ve posted web stories about many of our milestones, so that whoever wants can share them with us,” I answered. “The viewer can click on our christening party in Canet, our half-way masquerade party crossing the Atlantic, and our bon voyage party in San Diego. The last one was our equator crossing party, on the way to the Marquesas this spring, so we’re due for another party.”
“The christening in Canet was our only party,” said Rolf. I never thought of celebrating these other things, but I agree, it’s good to do so. I still have Catana champagne glasses.”
“The Catana-labeled champagne was quite good. Here’s to our Catanas that got us here,” toasted Gunter. We reminisced for awhile about the building and launching of our boats, fighting the Med’s square waves in the off-season, and of course, all the storms and nasty weather we’d encountered to date. The best of times and the worst of times.
Manfried had his last bad experience right here in Vuda Point. He had been on his way to New Zealand from Musket Cove, the first day out, when damages caused by 40-knot winds in the channel forced him to into the marina. He missed the entrance (easy to do; it had almost happened to us as we entered here the first time in a driving rain and cross-wise wind) and got hung up on the reef outside the pass, going a little too far off the entrance marked by white flags. With help from a dinghy sent by the marina and his bow thrusters, he worked free, only to scrape La Rossa at the fuel dock in the turning bay as darkness descended. His bow thruster had given up the ghost. We had first met him as he stopped at the Marina restaurant, shaken, and ordered a beer. But all was fixed now, and he would depart tomorrow.
Jean-Luc and his girlfriend arrived and joined the conversation. He had anchored his 75-foot yacht, Teva, outside the pass for two days until the wind calmed down; only then had taken it in. Smart.
Barbara, from Nootka Rose, arrived with a tray of assorted snacks and salmon pate from British Colombia, Canada. She had just returned from visiting family there. An interesting story, Barbara’s: She and her husband had sailed down the American and Mexican west coasts to Puerto Vallarta. He was ready to call it quits. She wanted to go on. So we continue to see her in various ports, fixing the boat for the next passage and getting new crew. Soon her crew will arrive to help her sail on to New Zealand, where her husband will join her for the easy times. She captivated us with her sea story that took place past Kadavu, Fiji (where we had anchored for a day before continuing on to Viti Levu) and near the coast of Vatulele. The winds were strong, the compass was swinging wildly, her crew was terrified, and then the fog rolled in like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. She heaved to for the night. “There are spirits there,” the natives told her afterward. “It’s an area of the world similar to the Bermuda triangle.” The sea stories are never boring at these gatherings!
Tina and Dennis, good friends of ours now, arrived. He was wearing his Cannibal Café T-shirt that Gunter had given to him: We’d love to have you for dinner. Tina had ordered a chocolate cake for the occasion, and set it on the table in front of Gunter. “Whose birthday is it” he asked.
“It’s Pacific Bliss’ Halfway Cake,” she answered, as another bottle of champagne was uncorked.
This morning, the day after, I awoke to sunlight streaming through Pacific Bliss, the salon heaped with party dishes (all nicely washed, thanks to Tina and Barbara) and thoughts about the party last night. Gunter and I talked about what we would do differently for the second half. Among other things, we decided to proceed much more slowly, staying to enjoy people and cultures we like. In that vein, we have decided to stay in Fiji another season, and perhaps sail on to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Australia only toward the end of the season, perhaps signing up for the Musket Cove-to-Vanuatu Regatta next September. We also plan to obtain a permit to sail the remote Lau Island Group.
We reviewed what we like about cruising: