Highlights of 3,000-mile Pacific sail
I'M closing in on Australia today. Pulling into Port Bundaberg Marina will be a grand moment for me, but even so, I've been feeling a little sad.
In reaching that country, my long-planned trip across the South Pacific, the so-called coconut milk run, will be over.
It happened too fast and now seems like a dream. Did I really sail 3,000 miles, at 5 mph, across the Pacific Ocean?
I did, with the help of my friends. And even though the days of that journey are already blurring together, certain images will always remain clear.
One of my favorites was the day a dozen baby black-tipped reef sharks made a beeline for Scott's feet.
We were wading in the clear water of a Society Island lagoon when those rascals heard our splashes and came zipping over to check us out.
It was Scott's first encounter with sharks, but we'd talked about black-tips and he knew they were harmless.
Usually. "Lower the gear bag in front of your feet," I said. "Just in case."
He did, and the spooked sharks veered off, their little dorsal fins cutting the calm water like those of their big cousins. It's a picture I won't forget.
I had always thought of the Society Islands as the perfect place for sailing, snorkeling and diving. After spending time there, I still think that.
Tahiti and its neighbor islands might not be the free-love paradise reported by European explorers of old, but with coral reefs and turquoise lagoons surrounding the towering islands like colorful leis, those islands will always be paradise to me.
We saw far fewer marine mammals than we expected on this voyage, making the sight of a pod of pygmy killer whales off Suva a happy event. They didn't approach the boat, nor did the dolphins we saw upon our arrival at New Caledonia. It was the fact they showed up at all that made it memorable.
Another bright image I have of my trip comes from Tonga's Vava'u Islands. There an endless school of sparkling silver fish surrounded me as I snorkeled.
And I mean endless. I could not see the edges of the school below me or to either side.
The fish didn't seem to mind my presence, so I stayed in their midst, watching them turn together in long graceful waves. It was, well, psychedelic.
Since my boat's name is Honu, the Hawaiian name for green sea turtle, I had fun in Polynesia learning the local names for those turtles. The Cook islanders call them "onu," and in Tonga they are "fonu," although when I made dinner reservations there using my boat name, the woman wrote, "Tonu, 3 persons."
Green sea turtles are called "vonu" in Fiji.
As a result of these similarities, most people guessed the meaning of my boat name. Or maybe it was the big turtle painted on the transom that gave it away.
I'm over feeling sad about leaving all those fantastic islands behind me, because I now consider the voyage a scouting trip. I shall return.
Besides, I must now look ahead to Phase 2 of my adventure. The Great Barrier Reef awaits.