The Voyage to Nowhere

Leaving Easter Island

Two views of the dramatic cliffs where the volcano Rano Kau meets the sea, at the southwest corner of the island. As we depart Easter Island, the deep water allows us to sail close to shore for a good view.

More views of Rano Kau.  


Thursday, May 27, 2004 (Day 1 of the Juan Fernández Passage)

In the previous section, I told you about our interesting but occasionally challenging visit to Easter Island, and how after 15 days of island adventuring we finally departed, bound for further adventures in the Juan Fernández Archipelago, 1,530 nautical miles away. After clearing the southernmost point of Easter Island, we had a good north wind and sailed with single-reefed main and full jib, reaching the low six-knot range. Shortly after we had departed Hanga Roa, the Dutch sailboat White Haze had also departed bound for Hotu Iti. During my afternoon watch, we heard White Haze call the Armada to report themselves anchored at Hotu Iti.

The Armada gave White Haze a weather report for tomorrow forecasting northwest winds at 20 knots with bad weather due to an approaching front. Earlier, when David and Marcie had visited the Armada to check out, they were given a printout of the latest satellite photo with a superimposed weather map. It showed a huge storm way down in the Southern Ocean, well below our route, but the storm was big enough that it will influence our weather and seas. Since a sailboat isn't fast enough to get out of the way of a big weather system, the boat and crew must be prepared to handle any weather and seas—it's all part of passagemaking.

Ideally, it would be nice to receive weather faxes on the boat, but the fax-viewing program on David's computer has a technical problem rendering it unusable. Therefore, we use a low-tech but reasonably reliable method for forecasting the weather: observing the winds, clouds, barometer, temperature, and swell. Those observations provide a surprisingly large amount of information, though it requires analysis and interpretation (David has a really good book on weather forecasting).

As an aside, we now have quite an accumulation of garbage on the aft deck. We have four big sacks of mixed trash, two sacks of things we can discard, plus three or four cardboard boxes that held our groceries. While visiting Easter Island we weren't allowed to bring any garbage ashore, and of course in the anchorages you're not allowed to throw any overboard. Whenever we switched anchorages, though, we would quickly reach deep water (way over 100 feet) where we'd pitch overboard cans and bottles. At anchorages, we would toss food scraps overboard, but only if the wind carried them away from the island. Now that we're on-passage, we'll go through the garbage and toss everything that's permitted. The main restriction is that you're never allowed to dispose of any type of plastic, because it degrades very slowly and can be mistaken for food by sea animals like turtles. They eat the plastic, which being non-biodegradable is indigestible, then their digestive tract gets clogged and they die.

Forgive me for the segue, but in the early evening Marcie made a delicious cabbage soup as our first passage soup. We enjoyed our dinner in the cockpit watching Easter Island recede into the distance under a sky of broken and scattered slate-gray clouds. The boat worked itself over a northerly chop plus the usual southerly swell.

Just after dinner, we took in a second reef for the night watches. We are quickly getting back into our passagemaking routines of sailing and watchstanding. To tell the truth, as we were leaving the Hanga Roa anchorage, I was so happy to be leaving. And later, once the engine was off and we were sailing well, I was just elated to be underway again.

More views of the cliffs at Rano Kau. I took the right-hand close-up about a minute later, and you can just make out a panga in the water at the base of the cliffs, dwarfed by the massive cliffs. It looked like the panga driver was fishing.

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