March 25, 2020
position 15 ° 38 ′ south 145 ° 16 ′ west
Finally two days with an unimaginable sky in its beauty. An infinite work of art of nature. The sky of the southern seas. Despite the calm winds that mix with gentle breezes, we proceed slowly into a new dimension towards Tahiti (Papeete).
Last night the most beautiful sunset of life, which surpassed in the ranking that of the “Gulf” of Lanzarote. What fascinated us for hours was the relief, everything appeared like an immense living picture. The explosion of colors when the fireball plunged into the sea seemed to never end, while the wind did not exceed 4 knots, and we with the mainsail, genoa and yankee proceeded upwind at 3 knots, apparently motionless in the middle of the picture to slip into the night, slowly, in a surreal silence, because even the sliding of the hull on the water, so slowly, produced a music that we are not used to, because we never sail with 4 knots of wind, and we never could appreciate all this and even slowly, but surely Ariel continues his race west. We are heading for the Tuamotu,the first real islands reminiscent of the southern seas; not green volcanic mountains, but 77 coral atolls scattered over hundreds of miles. They cross them on a direct route from the Marquesas to Tahiti. We have studied a safe passage between two atolls, 6 miles away, which we will cross in broad daylight, and yet without being able to stop, (yesterday a decree with immediate effect from the Polynesian government placed a ban on navigation, anchoring, parking, bathing, diving and every possible aquatic activity except for the boats in transit of the World ARC and of another transoceanic regatta, until they reach the ports intended for them) at least we will be able to embed in our retina some images of a part of paradise. This is the sunniest part of the Pacific, and thank goodness, because we were already full of rain and storms.The Tuamotus are always part of French Polynesia, and any postcards or pictures showing turquoise lagoons and palm-fringed coral beaches are taken from these places. Geologically the island was born from violent volcanic eruptions, but the lava continued to flow liquid causing the central part to sink, until it left the external frame (edge or reef) and an internal lagoon (caldera), all at sea level, whose inhabitants over the centuries have made their home.until leaving the external frame (edge or reef) and an internal lagoon (caldera), all at sea level, whose inhabitants over the centuries have made their home.until leaving the external frame (edge or reef) and an internal lagoon (caldera), all at sea level, whose inhabitants over the centuries have made their home.
Today the economy is based on tourism and fishing, while in the last 50 years they had become famous for the cultivation of pearls, but after the advent of plastic to replace mother-of-pearl buttons and the collapse of prices, such a fascinating activity is it has been relegated to only a few atolls, such as Manihi, where one of the two Pacific SSB radio stations exists. Then the Christian missionaries started the production of copra, but they brought the diseases, and the indigenous peoples were decimated; this remains in memory, perhaps, and is one of the reasons why the virus can only partially spread throughout the Pacific, it would be a massacre given the very precarious health facilities. With these premises we pass between these remote islets and we are not allowed to stop, a gift from Covid.But the planetary situation of control of the pandemic viral spread patchy, some very carefully (China, Italy, and now Oceania), some with enough (USA, UK and Spain) has created conditions of isolation, essential to stop the spread , and perhaps excessive, though understandable, even among atolls. But what is this experience giving us? Only isolation and abandonment? We have received alarming news, such as a curfew and an almost dictatorial request to leave the boat in a rage and flee with the first plane, as if we were plagued. This happened already 10 days ago, when the ARC decreed the impossibility of continuing, that every competition or ranking, or ranking was over, and sent a theoretical “save who can”, inviting you to reach first Hiva Oa, then Nuku Hiva,then Papeete, without calculating what echo to send terrorist messages can have on crews that have been at sea for 20 days, who are rationing food, diesel, water, and perhaps with some damage, such as Sapphire of London, the flagship of the fleet , a beautiful 21-meter boat, with the engine out of order, or Celtic Star, a less famous 46-foot standard boat that has had a major breakdown and will be forced to stop in Hiva Oa despite theoretical prohibitions. At Ariel, once the competitions have ceased and the need to follow the positions of those in front of you to chase, or behind in order not to be reached, it is as if the tension subsides, where your goal, even if unchanged, takes on more nuanced contours and relax, and as if by magic you regain possession of time, even here; a new dimension, known in theory,but never really experienced in practice. Covid gave us this, it slowed us down, the times to be respected are over, 170 miles in 24 hours as an absolute and necessary goal in order not to lose water, the engine that must help us if we go too slow.
We have to reach Tahiti, but we have no competition, and we feel the pleasure of pure navigation in our veins, only sailing, regardless of speed, but only of the safety and sense of profound well-being that assails us, despite everything. We are alone, without ARC, without other boats if not sporadic contacts with the friends of MIlanto, or with Skyelark, or MarjaII where we talk about what we can do next, where to go, how to go, but until we can really compare ourselves with the authorities, we will not be able to know, and for this, however, there is no pressure. So we proceed only to sail, except for a day of absolute calm for which we asked our Oliver for help, but slowly, at 1000 rpm, so as not to consume the diesel, more useful for the generator to give us water, than for propulsion. Absolute size. Different.Sailing will never be the same again, we have taken a level leap, we are really understanding the essence, and with this we appreciate even more the great autonomy of Ariel, who with the right approach could take us even further, on a journey infinite, limited by your needs and not by a race. Now the limitations come from Covid, and we really don’t know what will happen to us once we land. An email from the government section of the Papeete marina invites us to communicate the day and time of arrival (with flexibility because it depends on the wind), to fill in a form that they will send us, and to produce a declaration of the good state of health of the crew, quarantined from the Galapagos. I produce what they require and we learn that the last flight to Europe will be on the 28th, that of Maurizio and Beppe.A right date even without having to rush. We are in time to let ourselves be carried by the wind and this ocean, kaleidoscopic, never equal to itself, and now more friendly, because we have entered into symbiosis. This is another step, and it happened about 8 times after we put the bow in an ocean. A path like life. Another step towards maturity? Mah! The ocean asks you for humility, patience, perseverance, tenacity, at times it exhausts you, asks you for more, more and more, but it wants you to be silent, without unnecessary complaints, to promote you and repay you with much more than what it asked of you or who will ask us. Of course, having traveled almost 4000 miles and having this awareness from the ocean as an answer is really a great step. There is a desire to arrive, of course, but more for galley needs than for anything else.Probably if we structured ourselves adequately not for a 20-day crossing, but for 3 months, we could face it serenely. But one step at a time.
Of what will be after Papeete we will find out after the arrival, every conjecture is now premature and useful only to analyze the various options available in light of the hedgehog of all the states of the planet, and perhaps it is precisely we are inside what is safer and certainly covid free, Ariel in the ocean.
Ariel will take us home.