Day 200, Year 1: Thoughts About Email Communication–Day 14
Date: Friday, May 5, 2006
Weather: No Change—Beautiful Blue Skies Dotted with Puffy White Clouds
Air Temperature: 80 degrees F, minus a degree or two at night
Water Surface Temperature: 79.5 degrees F (rising)
Latitude: 07 degrees 49 minutes S
Longitude: 121 degrees 1 minutes W
Location: Passage from Galapagos to the Marquesas, Day 14
Miles to Go: 1042 (~ 138 miles last 24 hours)
Miles to Date: 1909

I love e-mail. Today I have “talked” with my son Justin who is in Africa, my daugther Heather on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, some friends back in the Concord, New Hampshire school district, my sister Patsy in North Carolina, my nephew Tommy in Maryland, Mark’s sister Mary Ellen in Florida, and our new friends Felix and Monica onboard Makani. I can’t even think what it was like in the days of Captain Cook when he was exploring the South Pacific with no communication with anyone “back home” for months, maybe years. This is certainly a different age and instant communication defines the age. Makani, the boat from Germany that went right past us a couple of days ago, is having radio problems. One radio is not working at all and we don’t know if their back-up is working for receiving or not. But they are e-mailing us their position every morning and we are reporting in on the radio net for them. We can’t e-mail them back as they are using a satellite phone for their connection and they have everyone but their son back in Germany blocked. But at least we know where they are and can report that to the fleet headed to Fatu Hiva. I now check e-mail at 0730 before the morning net and again at 1700 just after the evening net. If Makani should have a problem, we can alert others that are closer to them. This morning they e-mailed their position as of 0700, I checked e-mail at 0730, and Mark reported their position and conditions on the net at 0800. And I can communicate with Justin in Africa to know that he is fine and to learn all of the new and exciting things that have happened over the past eight years in the small village where he is staying. He was there in the late 1990’s and there was no internet cafĂ© in the village. Now there is one a block from where he is staying with his African “family”. I can keep up with my family news through my sister Patsy in North Carolina in the states and through Mark’s sister Mary Ellen in Florida-all from out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Absolutely amazing.

Before the end of Day 14 of this passage we will have less than 1000 miles to go to reach Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas. We did not expect to be this far at this point. Windbird is not a fast boat, but she is steady. Everyday we gain on others who left two and three days before us. We have just kept a steady wind where we are and they have not. Luck of the draw. Things could slow down, but we still think we will arrive in the next seven to nine days. We could have a 21 day passage and that is fantastic.

Some of you who have been e-mailing us are trying to figure out just where we are going. Where and what are the Marquesas? I mentioned in an earlier e-mail that the Marquesas are a group of islands that look like little dots on a world map. If you locate Panama and then head a little southwest, you will see the little dots of the Galapagos islands. If you go south you see the dot representing Easter Island (part of Chile). If you move west and a little south of the Galapagos you will cross a long blank space on the map representing 3,000 miles and come to islands that are politically grouped as French Polynesia. French Polynesia is made up of five different groups or archipelagos: the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Gambier, the Society Islands, now referred to as Tahiti Nui, and the Australs. We will visit the Marquesas first, head a little south and west of there and visit the Tuamotus, and then head to Papeete, Tahiti to begin our exploration of the Societies. We will not be going further south to visit the Australs or Gambier on this passage. Bora Bora will be the last island we visit in the Societies and then we will head south and west to the Cook Islands, specifically Rarotonga. From there we go north and and west to Niue and further north and west to American Samoa and on to Western Samoa. Finally, we head south again to the Kingdom of Tonga and on to Fiji. In late October or early November we will leave Fiji and head to New Zealand for the summer (summer in the northern hemisphere). I believe it is another 3,000 from the Marquesas to Fiji so we have lots of sailing to do in the next six months . . . and lots of wonderful exploration as well. But this sailing will be broken up into many shorter passages.

The islands of French Polynesia are all emerged underwater volcanoes like the ones you find in Hawaii. There are the youngest islands formed by a volcano erupting until it builds a mountainous island above the ocean surface. These are the Marquesas Islands. The next stage in island development is for the volcano to begin to sink back into the sea. As it does so, the coral reef that has begun to surround the island continues to build itself up to the surface. The space that develops between the volcanic cone and the reef is a lagoon. The Society Islands are of this type. The final stage of island development is for the volcanic cone to continue to sink until it is below the ocean surface. All that is left is the surrounding reef which now may extend a few meters above sea level. The land formed on these exposed reefs are called motus and are actually tiny little islands (islets). These rings of motus that surround a large lagoon are what we will find in the Tuamotus.

So much for the geography lesson for today. There is SO much to learn, so I’m practicing what I am learning by writing it here. Hopefully you find it as interesting as I do, or at least a little interesting. Tomorrow I will focus on the five principal islands that are the Marquesas.