Odyssey Logs

En route to Tuvalu

We left Apia early in the morning of Thursday July 16th to the sound of drum beats echoing across the bay as a long canoe with some fifty men at the oars practised for a canoe race – the same sounds we’d heard when I visited Samoa with my family onboard Aventura some thirty-odd years earlier.

Dan says goodbye to Apia

The lush green mountains of Upolu and Savai’i islands, shrouded in clouds, kept us company for the first day, with sea birds wheeling low over the waves in search of fish.

And then, for the days which came after, nothing – no ships except for one solitary fishing vessel on the first night, and no birds at all, only the blue waves of the Pacific.

Dan was looking forward to setting off. Here is his account of his first long ocean passage:

We set sail to Tuvalu from Samoa on Thursday the 16th July. I started off ok for about 30 minutes and then promptly threw up off the side of the boat. I then went down below and slept the rest of the day and night. The next day I stayed in my bunk and didn’t eat much at all. In the night I agonisingly stumbled into the toilet.

The next day I ate some more food and gradually I began to sit up and eat quite decently the next day. I did throw up once more however when I was meant to chew a disgusting anti-seasickness pill which I later just started swallowing. I also started to read in tangent with my eating.

Our food was very nice and I enjoyed what I ate: peanut butter sandwiches with layered on honey and pasta with butter, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.

Finally we got to Tuvalu and now I am feeling much better.

Michael serves up a Sunday roast with all the trimmings

610 miles lay before us, a five day passage with the winds from behind. Grey squalls bunched on the horizon and passed overhead with sharp rain and winds, lightning lit up the horizons, and when the sky cleared at night I tried to identify the unfamilar Southern constellations.

When the sun shone I sat and watched the sea, a vast blue circle moving around the boat, and I felt very far from home. The vastness of the Pacific Ocean really only makes sense when you try to cross it on a small yacht – and here we were just attempting one small section of it.

Pacific sunset

In the still dark hours of early Monday morning, I took a quick cool glance up on deck and then was dozing on my bunk where the air was far too close and hot, when Michael woke me to say ‘The main boom has broken.’

At first in my befuddled state I didn’t believe him, but there it is: a welding job done in Ushaia, after strong winds broke the boom in the Patagonian canals, has finally given up the ghost after taking Drina around the American continent, from its southern to northernmost extremities.

We made surprisingly good progress under headsail alone, although the gap where the main boom should be seems as painful as a lost limb, and have to slow down on the final night so as to make landfall at daybreak. A fitful night slopping around, drifting on the current, and when I finally made it onto deck in the daylight, first of all I saw a crowd of birds wheeling low over the water, the first birds for days, and turning, there at last our destination.

The most unlikely of green trees sprouting out of the ocean, capping a thin sliver of pale sand. All you can do is marvel at the skill which brought Tuvalu’s original inhabitants sailing over this ocean centuries before, to find these specks of land. It was a long time before modern day explorers from Europe ever came across these islands.

First glimpse of Tuvalu

In that brief moment, looking at those green atolls, no more than 1.5 metres above sea level, for the first time I really appreciate their vulnerability to the ocean which laps now so benignly at their shores.

Climate change, sea level rise – these are not abstract concerns for the Tuvaluans – but entwined into their daily lives, as we shall find out over the next few days, on the latest stage of the Blue Planet Odyssey.


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