The Voyage to Nowhere

Arriving at Easter Island

Sunrise on the morning we arrived.  

Thursday, June 10, 2004 (Day 15 of the Easter Island Passage)

On my last night watch aboard Nine of Cups I had benign weather; it was mostly clear early then we picked up a few medium-level scattered clouds. We made decent progress though I had to keep unfurling the jib as the wind slowed.

In the morning, I arose at my usual time and while dressing looked out the portlights and thought the sky was gray with clouds—oh drat, more inclement weather. I took a peek at the barometer and it had dropped 3 mb overnight. When I went topsides I saw it was actually a beautiful morning, with widely-scattered fair-weather clouds and a beautiful sunrise (although it was a red sky in the morning). What I thought was a gray cloud was actually the pre-dawn blue sky.

While dressing, I had been trying to figure how far we might be, and I guessed no farther than 30 miles or so. Once I entered the cockpit and looked at the GPS, it said just over 20 miles, which was a pleasant surprise. Marcie had had the "pedal to the metal" on her watch, with all sails set and drawing well, so we had been cruising in the six and seven knot range. The only problem is that we are close to the wind and as usual, can't steer for our waypoint, which is dead to windward.

Easter Island was plainly visible from 20 miles out. In the early light it was a gloomy-looking low gray landform with pronounced humps and bumps from volcano cones; masses of clouds were piled over the island, colored pink-tinged gray in the sunrise. The seas were relatively calm with light swells from the northwest, southeast, and south, plus very light wind waves due to the light northwest winds. Due to the light winds and swells, we might actually be able to get ashore at Hanga Roa.

Easter Island in the distance. I took this picture just after I took the sunrise picture. We're looking at the southeast coast of the triangular island, and from this distance you can see the three major volcanoes that form the three corners of the island: Rano Kau on the left, Maunga Terevaka in the center (it's actually on the far side of the island), and Maunga Pukatikei on the right.  

From this point onward I didn't take any more pictures; I was busy packing my duffel bags and my camera was packed away. David kindly offered to stand the remainder of my morning watch so I could struggle with my luggage—how is it that I could bring all my stuff here, plus tons of stuff for Marcie and David, but now I can't even fit my stuff by itself? I packed my camera in my day pack, and this time I triple-bagged it in ziplocks.

By 9:00 a.m. we were about 15 miles away from our approach waypoint and the winds, already unfavorable in direction, were faltering. We cranked up the engine and furled the headsails then made a beeline for the island. We tidied up the boat to prepare for arrival and David pumped up the dink and readied the anchor. At 9:45 a.m. Marcie raised Pascua Radio and got a generally favorable forecast for the short term, although a front is due shortly so Nine of Cups will have to spend the coming night elsewhere.

Finally we motored up to Hanga Roa and anchored off the coast in onshore winds and swells; conditions weren't great but would be tolerable for a short visit. Marcie called the Armada on the radio to inquire about changing the crew list and they said I'd have to stop at their office since I'm leaving the boat. Since we can't all go ashore together, Marcie and David dinghied in first to handle the arrival formalities with the port captain. They made it in OK and Marcie called on the FRS radio to report that the waves weren't bad. I couldn't help thinking, the waves weren't bad because you made it ashore fine. The same onshore wind and swell conditions can produce breaking waves, and if a wave breaks on you, you go for a swim. So you roll the dice and win or lose, and if you win, it's not bad. Last time I played the game, I lost, so this time I asked Marcie to try to find a panga to ferry me ashore. I'll have all my luggage with me (two duffel bags and two carry-ons) so I really, really don't want to get dunked this time.

After clearing-in with the Armada, Marcie stopped at Orca Diving Center to arrange for a panga, but unfortunately there was only one person in the store and he couldn't leave to make a panga run. Marcie next asked the Armada and they located someone with a panga who could come out and pick me up. The man looked like a fisherman and had a typical fast sturdy panga. He gave Marcie a ride back to Nine of Cups, but conditions were rough and Marcie had a difficult time climbing aboard Nine of Cups. I had deployed fenders but the panga bounced around on the waves and swell and bumped into Nine of Cups' hull multiple times. At one point the panga's hull caught on the brass rub strip on Nine of Cups' rub rail and a piece of the brass rub strip broke off and flew into the panga. With the panga surging alongside in the chop I dumped my luggage aboard then gave Marcie a hug and said goodbye. It was a distracted and unsatisfying parting after three months of close adventure. The ride ashore was fast and safe but expensive (20,000 pesos, or $32).

Once I got ashore I found an Armada official waiting who gave me a ride to their headquarters. I met David inside the building and we patiently stood around while the officials discussed amongst themselves how to handle the situation. It didn't seem to be too big a problem, and shortly the immigration official was summoned who would officially change my status from crew person to tourist. The official inspected my passport and visa, then said, just turn in the visa paper at the airport in Santiago when you leave Chile. That's all I had to do; it was very simple and they didn't need a copy of an airline ticket.

While we were sailing back to Easter Island, I had picked out a hotel from the guidebook, and an Armada official kindly called the hotel and arranged for someone to pick me up. David and I walked outside, shook hands, and said goodbye. I have to admit I was in a daze, so much was happening it was all a blur. As with Marcie, my parting with David was distracted and unsatisfying after so many intense shared experiences—I couldn't even think of what to say.

David headed off to the harbor to dinghy back to Marcie and Nine of Cups. With my sailing adventure now over, I waited outside for my hotel ride. Meanwhile, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and the ocean waves crashed on the rocky shore.

Previous Page   Next Page   Section Contents Page   Main Contents Page   Sailboat Cruising Page   Home Page