Friday, July 17, Pacific Ocean
Position 18 ° 14 ′ South 179 ° 99 ′, 9 west ….. but after 30 seconds … .. 179 ° 99 ′, 9 East
Passage of the meridian 180 °, that is we are back in the EAST hemisphere, so from now on every mile is one step home, you never go away!
Miles traveled up to now 1700 and missing at the goal in Port Denerau, Viti Levu, Fiji about 140
partly cloudy or partly clear sky, but if there are more clouds, what do you say?
Everything begins, is completed and then ends, even the storms. So it is finally for us, and as from grib weather the wind gradually subsides, as well as the sea, showing the beautiful face of the ocean, the one that does not bite, but caress. Going from 40 knots to 30 is a relief for Ariel’s movements, always fast, but now with a sweeter dance that takes us back to the primal pleasure of riding an ocean. Strange, but you forget everything in an instant. From now on we will have pleasant conditions, of progressively decreasing trade winds that will stop on Saturday 18 due to a low pressure above Viti Levu, and we will be in the center of it, with zero wind and rain. Probably.
But in the meantime we enjoy two very particular things, one the passage of the meridian 180, which is like crossing the meridian zero at Greenwich, which we have crossed many times, en route to Gibraltar; this is so far from us that it arouses a strong emotion, especially because it is like when the climber reaches the summit, he can no longer climb, just like us, we have traveled the earth for half (indeed, more than half, because the corresponding meridian in Italy it is not the 180th but the 168th); the other condition we experience is the passage of the date change. At the 173rd meridian, by convention and by calculation, we pass directly to the next day. In fact, for us July 14 has never existed, we went from 13 to 15 in an instant. Now, in fact, as time zone we are + 10 hours from Italy.
The entrance to the archipelago of the Fiji Islands (hundreds of small islands, randomly thrown into the ocean) begins over 200 miles from the largest island, our destination, with some passages between the atolls, the result of who knows what eruptions that suggest chains submarine mountainous so as to bring the seabed from 3000 meters to a few hundred. The passes here are huge, 15 miles in width, and the atolls are not visible, but the digital cartography is not accurate for the little ones, so you have to be very careful, especially at night, and choose a very safe bathymetry.
We pass the pass at 6 pm, at sunset, but as usual the sky is gray and the perception of entering an immense lagoon, where the power of the ocean is mitigated only by the underwater mountain ranges, like an ideal dam, is given only from the sea that calms down in a few miles, lightens its energy and becomes more similar to our Mediterranean than to the ocean. This is good, because comfort on board increases and we can finally leave the dish unsupervised.
A hundred miles before entering the most sheltered waters of the archipelago, while we study the map with Lorenzo, we are struck by a strange area where the seabed goes from 3000 meters to 30, as if a mountainous peak almost came to constitute an island , but he can’t, he stops 30 meters below us. This area extends for about 20 miles in diameter and we notice that our route will pass right above the suspicious area, where even the nautical chart indicates possible turbulence, without however we can find descriptions of other sailors to give us advice. Carefully we modify our course and sail set-up to leave the area to our left for a few miles as we enter the night, only slightly illuminated by a waning moon.
I leave the shift to Lorenzo from 11 pm to 2 am and fall into a deep sleep, more refreshing than any other when sailing. An hour later he calls me because the wind has dropped from 20 knots to zero, I really mean zero, in 1 minute, the sails flap and Ariel, entrusted only to the lead, slows down until it stops, clogging and spanking from the waves still formed. Dry of sails and engine, while we do not know how to comment except by entrusting only the blame to the bizarreness of this peaceful one, my eyes close again and I let Lorenzo complete the shift while the usual buzz of Oliver (the engine) takes me back to Morpheus.
When I return for my shift Lorenzo is shaken, and I refer you to his diary , because strange things happened that night. With the engine Ariel was advancing regularly at 6 knots, then suddenly it feels as if she is braking, the instruments pass at 3 knots, then I feel it as being taken by the side, and the bow moves 40 degrees, then runs at 7 knots , then restrains, a very unusual and very strange situation. Let him continue his journey so disturbed, and I will then discover that both Lorenzo and Cecilia have heard voices, as of ghosts, perhaps the souls of old sailors, or perhaps just suggestion, or perhaps the mixed energy of the volcano with the ocean, earth and water, too close and both very powerful.
Equally strange, but I only discover this in the morning … a tool that calculates the number of miles from the departure from Bora Bora to here, is different, and a different number appears, a 5170 … incomprehensible. Mysteries of the influences of nature. I remember a similar situation when we crossed the Strait of Messina, at night, in full lunar eclipse a couple of summers ago, when suddenly all the instruments literally went to stand by, obscuring every instrumental reading (Radar, AIS, Autopilot), while the compass also oscillated 30 degrees in a very unusual way. Mystery and magic of the powerful energies that overwhelm us.
And here we are almost in Fiji, populated by two ethnic groups, the local one, coming from Melanesia, and the Indian one, let’s say the first to live with the locals, for about 5 generations. First under the Commonwealth, ENGLISH in the round, now autonomous, although they cannot remove the well-known image of the British flag from the Fijian flag. Indians and locals have never gotten along. Shrewd entrepreneurs and strong workers the first, lazy and little inclined to work and fatigue the hosts.
Now the Fijian world is divided into a commercial part, that is the business is managed by the Indians, 100%, while the political and administrative life by the Melanesians (ethnicity of origin), who do not want for any reason that non-natives can a tomorrow to have political power, even after 5 generations. Political power is local. We have to clash with this power, because if on the one hand they need us because Fiji mainly live on tourism (in addition to sugar cane), – and in times of pandemic tourism is dead – on the other they remain firm in their intricate and redundant bureaucracy. In Bora Bora we worked one morning to fill in the 14 pages of the first package requested, for each person and for each boat; then immigration and customs.
The prime minister has decided to open to boats in transit, first to superyachts (those that bring the most money), then also to us, because even small change in times of crisis is fine, but with a request to evaluate CASE BY CASE the suitability set foot in their home. They gave us the coordinates where to go to anchor, with the flag of the boat, the local courtesy flag, and the yellow flag displayed, to testify the need to do the customs procedures. They will call us on the radio and respectively board a doctor (visit to find out if we are covid suspects), they will measure our temperature and look at our throat (despite a negative covid test and 14 days of ocean), then the immigration officer for check passports etc., then the police (search for weapons), then the hygiene officer,to verify that there are no animals (impossible to land with an animal, cat or dog), vegetables, fruit; vegetables are prohibited and will be seized (here we are running out of barrel stocks of cap, potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. etc.). Then maybe someone else to seize the alcohol and tobacco, absolutely banned. We will see how this comedy will be and we will update you in the coming days, but since everything begins, ends and ends, even the paperwork will end and we will be able to walk around Viti Levu.absolutely banned. We will see how this comedy will be and we will update you in the coming days, but since everything begins, ends and ends, even the paperwork will end and we will be able to walk around Viti Levu.absolutely banned. We will see how this comedy will be and we will update you in the coming days, but since everything begins, ends and ends, even the paperwork will end and we will be able to walk around Viti Levu.
See you soon Paolo Cecilia and Lorenzo (for two more days).