How I have managed to figure out, life is the shift between the new and old. One thing ends and another begins, or as what my dear husband would say, “every end is a new beginning”. And so, that morning, we have once again left the shore and started the trip into unknown, opening a new page of the story, three thousand miles long, with which I want to honour all our dear and faithful followers as well as those who have decided it to become. Our longest landless trip was often the topic of our thinking and conversation even at the time of the start of Meermow’s Great Adventure. It was the time, when we celebrated the first thirty miles, successfully crossed on the Adriatic and felt like we have passed, nothing less or more, than The Cape of Good Hope. For that reason, the journey from Galapagos to French Polynesia, that moment in our eyes and above all the happy world, was inconceivable. Our brain was too small to figure this impressive number to understand differently than an ordinary number with a lot of zeros. In spite of everything, there was not a moment to worry about this complex mathematical function with the many unknowns that we should face in the foreseeable future. We simply surrendered to the maritime temptation and enjoyment while the answers and solutions, during navigation came alone. We were sure that, up to French Polynesia, we would be physically and mentally ready, to overcome any situation and weather conditions in the 23 days period. So let’s do this together and beat the challenge of this longest trip that might take you to the land of your dreams, because in the end this is your adventure.
We left the Galapagos with full sails sometime before lunch. The sailboats were slowly moving away from each other and disappeared into the horizon. The day was sunny, warm and ideal for sailing. Using the stern-side wind, the course led us to the southwest. In anticipation of his amplification, we collected the bimini that it would not break down, looking for pleasure and sun protection in the shaded shade below the solar panels, what that turned into a funny and fun game. In the end, winning over such a nice and rare oasis in the cockpit ended up under umbrella. Irresistible burgers, whose fragrances spread out of the kitchen, soon they smiled to us from the tray speaking in all languages about enjoying each segment of our journey. In that warm and positive atmosphere, we have soon become solo players in the sea spaciousness. We really loved the way Meermowe has been crossed miles, opposing the waves as well as gusts of about 20 knots. At that moment, we even did not dream the weather is going to play with us that afternoon about five o’clock, and definitely slow our progress. Unstable wind was “so strong” that pointer of the wind spun around in all directions, while the Genoa was helplessly hanging on the bow as a patch. There was no choice, we have collected the sails, start the engine and moved on, sailing into dusk and beautiful sunset. That night, my husband started the night shift, while I was unsuccessfully trying to get some sleep. Preparing for sleep on board, especially in navigation, is a very simple process. Instead of being in bed, you sleep on sofas in the saloon. There are no getting dressed in pyjamas because you have to be ready for an emergency popping into the cockpit. Your brain is in constant motion with one eye open. Teeth are only washed for health reasons, and when you finally catch on with the horizontal position on how to not lose any minute from well-deserved rest, for your ears it is going to paste small night music of the ship engine. To try to fall asleep is hard but achievable, if nothing else, then with the old and proven technique of counting sheep. At the end of all, you sadly realise that your time has expired and the sheep flock left uncounted. If I had not stood up to replace Peter, Meermowe would be converted to Noah’s Ark. The night went smoothly and without problems. Early in the morning we got some wind off of 5.5 knots, so I widened the sails and turned off the engine. The speed with which we moved was automatically dropped to 2.5 and promised that we would reach the Marquesas Archipelago by the end of the year and if we managed to reach 4 knots, we could be straight to Nicky Lauder, Formula One driver. It was true that we were expecting this kind of slack on this section of the journey but not so fast, just a few hours after departure. Motoring or not, was a question in which even Hamlet would not be able to answer, because the length of the trip that was standing in front of us, had warned that we must take account of the fuel consumption. We did not want to risk it, so we decided to wait for the wind. It was an interesting start and a new experience that we did not have the chance to experience in the Atlantic. According to the weather reports, which did come by mail through Iridium, it all seemed that we had to sail even more south than we planned, to reach the area of the winds. Weather conditions in the first few days of our longest trip without the land, did not differ much. The weak winds that had periodically appeared were real joy. We did not have a spinnaker so we played with sails, tangoon and boom. We have tightened and release them to catch at least a little wind. The speedometer still did not cross three knots, which confirmed Galileo’s theory of moving. We were slowly advancing in the slow-motion version as the worm in the cabbage, while we did not, in the early afternoon, like Cinderella after midnight, turning again into captives of absolute quietness.
My husband and I, we functioned very well in that uncertainty, which has to, far from the real world we got used to, could extend on through all week and turn it into a real agony. Aware of the situation, we left to the maximum enjoyment of the natural environment in which we found ourselves, as well as to everything that came to our minds, to preserve the power of spirit and good mood. From the stage of the largest water theatre in the world, dolphins and sea lions with their spectacular acrobatics and lazy stretching on the sea surface, were entertaining us. While albatrosses and flying fish stayed true to themselves and their roles in a closed circuit pursuer and fugitive, the night premiere of luminous planktons, were performed under the cover of darkness with a playful pearl shimmering. It was a real paradise for the eyes with which we loaded our batteries. To Peter’s pleasure, I used up the time of deadness for culinary delights, so I had filled out tropical nights by romantic dinners served with candles and good wine, what has been in other circumstances unimaginable. With our many daily obligations on the boat, we used our down time to play with the interesting contents of our “maritime chest”. Movies, music, games, all of which were located in this rich treasury of entertainment, from which we could learn a lot. The real fun for us was the discovery of the life motto of the ancient people of the lost city of Timgad. “Hunting, swimming, playing and laughing, that’s the life,” it was carved into its walls. To this thought, we could identify ourselves and I could add “… and sailing on our own boat with two rudder wheels, …”. Do you also believe that there was some secret relationship between us, at the moment when we raised the anchor of Meermowe’s Great Adventure? So, slowly moving and floating like a small plastic boat in the well, Meermowe was, with the fascinating sunsets, calmly but safely from night to night sinking into darkness where his position lights, like a deserted island, were the only lanterns of life.
More than half a week has remained behind us and who knows where it would be the end of this and the beginning of a new episode, that Peter did not make the decision “tomorrow we turn on the engine”. Great, just what we needed, at the right time and in the right place, because when the skin begins to be itchy it is time for action and adventure. The journey continued in a brilliant mood, by the sign of bananas, which at their fingertips were hanging in the cockpit as well as both donkey’s and bird’s noise of our sweet and cuddly crew, Dino and Pipo. Even the engine noise was no longer registered, we sailed, and that was the most important moment at that time. During the night, six beautiful white albatrosses landed on the deck to rest and gather strength how, in the early morning they would continue far on. Looking at them, I remembered of Dalmatia and Split. For the time of south winds, when the seagulls got together in parks, on the waterfront promenade or anywhere along the seashore, old Dalmatian fishermen would know to say “storm is coming”. Just because of that sensible instinct they possess, I thought that our dear friends were just a warning on the weather changes that will soon change our rhythm. It’s amazing how much I was right. However, there was no south wind, but to our great surprise that morning, into our story has entered the storm wind of 15 knots. We turned off the engine and spread the sails. At speed 7 we were back in shape. What a pleasure! We finally got what every sailor dreams of. We took advantage of the situation to throw nylon and try fishing. We proudly supported Meermowe, celebrate every passing mile and have only one wish, only to last. But still…… it was all pointed to the opposite. The wind had become unstable and although it seemed to have the strength of 6 knots, we did not have any use of it. Sails were totally exhaled, while baits for fish became plain metal lures. We entered into the area of strong currents. Velocity of movement was 0.1. The pointer on the wind gauge had begun to wildly turn around. Because of the low speed, the rudder canceled the obedience so we started to swing and turn around in all directions. Meermowe stood in place. We decided to collect the sails and the baits and re-start the engine only for one hour and see if anything will change. And indeed, it had changed but in the wrong direction. Just when it should not, appearing to be of some trouble. Balancing at the deck as he removed the tangoon from the genoa, Peter stepped on one of the windows and unfortunately broke it. Seeing what had happened, I immediately went down under the deck to put two thicker trash bags on the window cover, as the dark clouds were just over us. Seconds were in question because rain had already started to fall. Weepeee, we stayed dry. Otherwise we could safely sing my favorite song by B.J.Thomas, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. We turned on automatic pilot and like Rocco and Cicibela, we had shrunk under the bimini, deeper into the cockpit. No matter what my husband treats rain as an ideal sleep time, she is, in fact, very romantic and mystical. Some people do not like rain as my dad did not like, but anyhow, I believe that many of you, at least one, had enjoyed the rainy atmsphere of staying on the beach, fishing, or walking along the coast of the sea because when it rains, nature and all that surrounds you, even the umbrella you hold in your hand, takes on one a new and indescribable shape. Sun and showers, in which we sailed, periodically have alternated until finally, in the afternoon, did not stay behind us and together with the wind that completely disappeared. It was a very interesting shower therapy. The needle on the fuel gauge showed that ¼ of diesel had already been spent. Using the slack, with the first reserves of diesel we replenished the tank, while we were still motoring because it was very likely that we will not pass without at least another fierce storm. Charting position on the nautical chart, we immediately concluded that we are in the area of increased magnetic disparities with a large deviation of the magnetic compass from the GPS. For this reason, the direction that led us in the hunt on more stable winds of 11 to 18 knots, as on the well-hidden truffles, were determined according to the GPS. Contrarily, the course of the magnetic compass, would take us on even hundreds of miles more south of the final destination. Official communication during the navigation was carried out regularly via SSB. During the morning and evening we had to report on the position of each ship in the fleet, the general condition of the crew and any problems on board. In the end, everything pointed to the fact that we should, as a whipped cream on the cake at the Island of Hiva O’a arrive last, which did not bother us at all. With a pleasantly spent evening still one more very warm and muggy day has come to an end. Yes, exactly, came to an end, but did not finish, because the new storm in which we sailed in during the night on the transition from the sixth to the seventh parallel, checkmated us in three moves. While the rain was falling mercilessly, terrifying sound of thundering and lightning echoed in the night ripping the sky. It was one weird mixture of fear and comfort, pleasure, and discomfort, and a conflict of belief and persuasion that the rain is right idyll or at least one of its versions. Anyway, we got out of the storm and by full lungs continued further with the wind reaching up to 18 knots. Life under sails has become, in some way, our philosophy of life and total enjoyment so even in extreme conditions.
Catching a hundred kilos of heavy tuna, it was the culmination of fishing for us. As we did not give up of that dream, next week of sailing was filled with a little fishing dynamics. We really missed this adrenaline sport full of uncertainty and excitement. To our great surprise, that was the most challenging and craziest season ever. Regardless of the countless unsuccessful attempts which we did have, two beautiful Swordfish, caught on one stick; the collision of the “back to back” with Peter in the simultaneous struggle with the unknown monsters and two nylons as well the huge Merlyn, whose head had described the fish over one hundred kilos, certainly they have become part of our most exciting stories from the depths of the sea. That illusion is not only part of the magician’s performance, has confirmed and “Hoodoo Gile”, a bird Cormorant, our legendary hero who, in search for lunch was caught on the hook. Whoops, what a trouble!!! And so, miserable Gile was jumping and snorkeling through the waves without his bottle and flippers, until we pulled him out. Broken in pain, with a saucer eyes like on a bingo machine and scattered feathers that it hopelessly hung over his head, was looking as if he had just come down from a roller coaster. When he regained consciousness, we returned him to the sea and watched for some time, until he had dived into the water again. He probably remembered that half an hour ago he looked for lunch.
Travels the open seas are a challenge for every sailor. They are unpredictable and full of proving of themselves, its limits and possibilities. Not only change life’s habits, but our thinking and view of the world that surrounds us. New experiences overshadow the old, complicated becomes easy, and impossible turns into possible. Everything that is done on board, adapts to current conditions and performs in the best possible way, making this adventure a really interesting and special one. In this boundless freedom of spirit and movement, we have not chosen resources to achieve the goal. Seawater has been used for everything except for drinking and cooking. Those days, for the first time in my life, I washed the merchandise in the seawater and so to ourselves, we had smelt like salty sardines and a good wine.
Our time has passed relatively fast. Every moment on board represented a touch of all elements of nature. Mornings we were found on the deck many small squids and flying fish, which waves had thrown out onto our platform during the night, leaving them powerless to return to the sea. In the company of a book and a refreshing drink, we simply left ourselves to the silence and enjoyment of the sailing. Soon we changed time zones, so our days were getting shorter and nights becoming longer. Night’s duties were extended endlessly and had finished with toothpicks in our eyes. With the passing of the 112 meridians, we were approaching halfway up to French Polynesia. Life on the boat was running normally and under control until light rain had begun. A new cycle of the weather change it once more played with us emphasizing its absolute supremacy. We were again exposed to a strong blow of wind and waves, which were sudden and rapidly rotating the bow of the ship to the left, pushing the wind-pilot outside of its course. At that moment we got acceleration. The speedometer calculator climbed to 10 knots. Meermowe seemed to have got her wings. Honestly, it did not last long, but experience told us that we have to intervene, calm our passions and shorten sails. Before sunset, the rain stopped and we, lonely in the blue of the ocean, continued our journey with the stern winds and low rays of the sun, in which they had passed through the edge of lead-grey horizon.
The first half of the trip was over in the morning hours of the following day, which was certainly the reason for the celebration. With a tiramisu cake and a wonderful smell of coffee, we threw a bottle with a message in the sea and sailed into the third week of our longest journey without land. While are the back wind, pleasant weather and constant progress had become the sequence of our daily lives, the storms seemed as if they had rested somewhere far away from us.It was like we sailed downhill through this part of the route and that miles were passing much faster. “In case it will continue on this way, at Marquesas Archipelago we could arrive in just over a week,” Peter shouted out from the saloon after marking the position. It sounded fantastic, like we were in front of the door, so we did not hide excitement and joy. In the soul, we lived with the sea, with the sails and for sails. Frequent visits from the dolphins and the whales were right refreshment, while fishing was a pure dream and empty story. Any attempt to catch something, was a failure, as in the knights’ tournament “Sinjska Alka” when it spears hits “into nothing”.It was possible to catch the old discarded container before the fish. Despite of everything, the nylons had been cast into the sea every day with the hope that we will by the end of it realize our dream of catching a hundred kilos of heavy tuna. And so, by crossing the 124th meridians, we were closer to the final line and the “madness”, which came to us three days before the arrival at French Polynesia. A new announcement of strong winds of up to 35 knots in the “H” section, through which we sailed, it did not make us so excited as that penetrating sound of nylon. In the visit to us she had arrived, neither more nor less than our dear guest, tuna.
This dramatic story had begun in a very ordinary morning, during the breakfast. Finally, the eagerly awaited and well-known sound that has, like the thundering from a clear sky, simply passed through the air, ripping our ears. Pushing the coffee away from himself, Peter immediately jumped up, grabbed the fishing stick and pulled it through the bracket of the solar panels to stop the crazy unwinding nylon. We were expecting a loss of the hook and bait again, what in the fight with the monsters, often happens. Like us, you would not believe, the reel had stopped at the very end. At first glance it all did stop, we almost thought that beauty of the beast, had run away. A few seconds we were puzzled over and staring into the distance, then it came to the general clutter. According to the behavior and the resistance, which the fish provided, we figured she was heavier and well-hooked tuna with which we will not be so easy to handle. That raw power from the ruler of the depth had raised our adrenaline to the extreme exhaustion. The battle lasted for two and a half hours, after which the muscles of our handshadtrembled from tiredness. Finally, as the half dead from exhaustion, on the reach of hand, the tuna was lying motionless on the surface of the sea. It was too shocking to look at her, she had over a hundred kilos. We managed to drag her up to the first stair and then it had followed by a second juice. Convincingly reflecting his helplessness, at one point with the last forces, tuna had strongly winced and broke the nylon. Holding an empty fishing stick in the hands, we could not believe it with our eyes. For a few seconds she still lay so motionless, while we had slowly moved away from her and then tuna disappeared into the depths. Peter was just about to jump for her. Painfully, we looked at each other and laughed. Damn, at same time we were so close and so far away. Actually, we wanted to take a picture with such a huge and heavy fish then return her back to the sea. In the case as she knew it, who knows, maybe her mind would have changed. An hour later, we caught blue tuna, weighing in at 15.5 kilograms, and a day before arriving at our destination, into the freezer we hosted a very tasty Wahoo fish and so had forgotten abot our great failure.
Considering that the wind, with which we had to face, luckily turned in the other direction, we were able to determine the time of our arrival at Hiva O’a. On Friday, the twenty-third day of the trip, four hours before reaching the port we saw the first outlines of the mainland. As the dusk slowly descended, birds were circling above us as if they were welcoming us. It was wonderful to watch them being so overwhelming in their peaceful and safe flight. That I know all the languages of the world, believe me, I would not be able to describe the happiness and pride, with which we were fulfilled getting nearer to the finishing line. Into the Bay of Atuona, on the authentic island of the Marquesas archipelago, Hiva O’a, we sailed in at the evening where we joined our fleet. At the Taha Uku anchorage, under a starry sky of French Polynesia, that moment had been thrown and last anchor of the ARC fleet.
That evening, we played songs long into the night. Totally calm sea, storms, hurricane winds and extreme heat, it is all like a movie once more went through our minds, while we were melted in the taste of risotto with squids. I wonder where else, except with Meermowe’s Great Adventure, we would literally watch by day, week and like a dreamy baby in the cradle of the ocean, had experienced the ultimate thrill of sailing. The story has come to an end, and whether the end is really a new beginning or a simple ending, you will tell me that in the next adventure.