The island of Rapa is ruggedly beautiful with jagged green peaks surrounding a large bay. Atop the ridges are the remains of twelve ancient forts built by the old tribes of Rapa, who according to legend, were fierce warriors who waged constant war against one other. George Vancouver, the first European to “discover” the island in 1791 (small world), estimated that there were about 2,000 inhabitants at the time. After the missionaries arrived in the mid nineteenth century with their western diseases, the population plummeted to a few hundred. Today, there are 500 residents who pretty much live off the bounty of the land. Continue reading “Feasts and friendliness – post by Deb”
June 22 2013 we made landfall, on the French Polynesian island called Rapa Iti. It is a very small island. Looking at a map of the polynesian islands it is west and south, on the bottom right hand corner. The next islands over are Pitcairn and Easter. In fact, the original name for Easter Island is Rapa Nui. Nui means large and Iti means small.
This island has stone structures too. It is shaped like a letter C, with a harbour on the east side. The island is volcanic of course, and the tall mountains are carved with weather erosion, creating jagged peaks, even sharper and more dramatic than on the Napali trail in Kauai or in the western fjords of the south island of New Zealand. As you enter the harbour you see on the very tips of the jagged peaks, stone forts shaped like bee hives. Pa, they are called, and they are built on a peak for self defence. There are twelve of these, and many years ago they were built and used by each of the twelve families that lived here. Warfare was evidently common, and these forts were necessary for protection. Continue reading “Landfall – post by John”
We left Auckland on May 30th, sailing east towards Rapa in the Iles Australis. It was surreal to watch the city lights disappear on the horizon – hard to believe that the time had finally come to begin our journey. The weather forecast showed two low pressure systems building, so we sailed southeast to avoid them. The first few days were slow going due to light winds, but it picked up by day four, so that we were able to average about 150 nautical miles per day. We headed northeast, hoping to catch the coat tails of the storm and ride them east (low pressure systems rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere). The winds and seas got progressively bigger and we found ourselves in the middle of a 420 mile wide gale. No skirting this one unfortunately.
We did it. We officially left New Zealand! Much like leaving the boatyard, it came with a sensation of simultaneous relief and disbelief. Almost like we didn’t really think we could do it. Right down to the wire as usual, we made it to the customs and immigration wharf just in time, as the officials were waiting and their shift had technically just ended. The good news is that customs officials who just want to get home will apparently give you the quickest and easiest check as they shoo you out of their country. We were in and out like lightning. The bad news is that the current high in the weather isn’t giving us much wind in our sails, so we’re not leaving the country very quickly. Continue reading “Aaaand we’re off, but not to the races – post by Janice”
“So… when are you leaving?” It’s the question we’d all like to be able to answer accurately, but invariably unexpected problems and uncooperative weather continue to make liars of us all. In the last few weeks, we’ve been traipsing about the Hauraki Gulf of northern New Zealand, sailing when wind and weather have been decent, and hiding out at various anchorages on the days between, fixing up the boat.
We’ve spent the last three weeks sailing around the Hauraki Gulf, just off the coast from Auckland. We visited several islands, doing day hikes and enjoying the diverse birdlife (from little blue penguins to songbirds). One of the islands, Tiritiri, was reverted to its natural state through years of volunteer effort eradicating non-native species and replanting over 280,000 indigenous trees. Continue reading “Exploring the Hauraki Gulf – post by Deb”
It’s here at last: our last day on land! Illusion has been “on the hard” for over a month now, and she’ll be going back in the water first thing Monday morning. Eeeep! An incident in which the boat was going to be moved yesterday, and then wasn’t, led to it being lifted and then dropped back down onto stands that were no longer aligned – damaging our beautifully painted hull in several places. We’ve repaired the dings and repainted, and Doug took it all in stride, but there’s no doubt that that gave him more than a few gray hairs. A couple more touch-ups though and the hull should be fine. But the problems aren’t over yet, so today’s the day when the biggest problems need to get solved….
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
— Antoine de Saint Exupéry
We are drawn to the endless, but today, we are still working on confined land. And what keeps us working, all day, every day, is our need to finish this small business and enter the immensity.
This world-crossing sailboat has spent seven years swinging in a circle one hundred and forty feet in diameter. Recently we took her off her mooring and sailed her ten miles north and into a small marina for a haul out and more work. And now she is on dry land, standing absolutely still on support poles. The hull of this ship was built eighteen years ago. We are now rebuilding nearly everything else. We now have the mast out and are detaching cables, struggling with dissimilar metals that have welded themselves together. Continue reading “Immensity – post by John”
It’s been an exciting and hectic six weeks in New Zealand. Getting Illusion ready for the journey has been a journey in itself. We’ve come a long way, with many milestones to show for it: Continue reading “The story so far – post by Deb”
The folks at the boatyard really like to remind us of this fact. Yup. We know. It’s a big boat. We know it intimately, now that we have sanded its 65-foot hull repeatedly for nearly a week. Those of us with back problems really felt it. Those of us without back problems no longer exist. But even the pain and tedium of sanding came to an end at some point, and that point was when Doug said “Okay, that’s enough sanding.” If our arms were not already frozen in overhead positions, we would have thrown them up in jubilation. Denied our gesticular glee, we celebrated instead with a bit of bubbly later that evening. Continue reading ““That’s a big boat.” – post by Janice”