Day 86, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 1 – Glorious Start!
Date: Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Sunny; Winds SSE 10-15
Temperature: Water 53 degrees F; Air 58 degrees F
Latitude: 34 09.045 S
Longitude: 018 00.915 E
Miles Traveled: 50.56
Miles to Go: 1699
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

It was a glorious day. We had a bit of a lumpy, windy start, but by the time we had reached the Cape of Good Hope, we were lazily sailing along wing ‘n wing. It was calm like our sail around Cape Agulhaus, so we are so grateful to have had such wonderful sails around two Capes that are feared because they can be so windy and rough. I guess I could attribute this to good luck, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give the Captain Mark the credit due. He watches the weather so carefully and makes the decisions on when to leave where. And he has done a great job keeping us out of harm’s way along the very tricky eastern and southern coasts of South Africa. I am surely grateful for that. Once we had fully rounded the Cape of Good Hope and were on course for St. Helena, the wind strength and direction changed slightly, so since noon we have been on a broad reach averaging 5+ knots with a knot of positive current with us. The gentle swell is about two meters on the back quarter, so this is the perfect downwind sail. We have had groups of seals playing nearby most of the afternoon and there is not a cloud in the sky. This is what makes one want to sail on forever. So today was glorious and we can only wish that these southeast trade winds will blow just like this all the way to St. Helena. That would be truly glorious.

But not everything was quite so glorious today. We both woke up around 3 am when the wind suddenly died and it was hard to go back to sleep. We finally got up at 5 am and hurriedly did all those things you have to do before leaving. I had to make one last garbage run to the Yacht Club and drop off our keys to the gate in a little hidden door on the outside of the building. By the time I got back to Windbird, Mark had the remote monitor installed in the cockpit for navigation and we started untying the lines. It really did feel like there was no wind at all, but we no sooner got out from behind the break wall when we were hit with 25-30 knots directly on the nose. This is when Windbird goes into ‘tank’ mode, and we ploughed our way through the choppy seas. It was lumpy but not rough, but by the time we were nearing Cape Point and the winds were settling down, everything on Windbird’s clean, salt-free deck was covered in the film that salt water leaves behind. Another not so glorious thing was that there was a haze over the land today, so the beautiful scenery was all draped in a mist. Right now we are passing Table Mountain. The top is totally visible, but the base is shrouded in haze. And now Mark is having difficulty with the GPS. We turned off the computer earlier in the afternoon to preserve power and when we turned it back on it is somehow having difficulty sending our route to the GPS. Hopefully Mark will figure this one out quickly. But I must say that these little problems that we encountered today fade into the background of the larger picture. We are so grateful for the wonderful weather and for the fabulous time we had in South Africa and we will always remember the graciouness extended by our South African friends. Today we received an email from friends in Hong Kong. Cam, Arnie, and their two daughters, Molly and Nancy, came across the Pacific in their catamaran Jade at the same time as Windbird. When we first met the girls in the Galapagos in the spring of 2006, Molly was 7 and Nancy was 5. They are back in school in Hong Kong now and when Arnie sent his email today, he included a recently written essay by now 12 year-old Molly. He said she wrote the poem with absolutely no help from anyone. I have used the word ‘grateful’ more than once in this log, but Molly’s essay expresses ‘gratitude’ better than I ever could.

My Gratitude by Molly Highfield

Everyone on our planet has something to feel grateful for. It keeps us from sorrow, just knowing somebody is there and is willing to help you, or already has helped, from someone who just picked up a pen you dropped, to a person who saved your life.

I myself feel grateful to a lot of people, and it is hard to describe my gratitude. My parents have helped me through what I used to think was a mountain of homework, and it was they who chose the brilliant school I am now attending: Wo Che Lutheran. All of my teachers have worked really hard to help me through my first term in a Hong Kong primary school, as I have been sailing in the South Pacific for the last five years. They never got annoyed when I asked a lot of questions, and explained everything thoroughly when I sought answers. I don’t think I would have made it this far without them. Most of my classmates helped me too, just by being there. I need the company, and they, too, can teach me a lot about myself, and how I think compared with them.

But really, who do we need to thank for our planet, our universe, life? The Christians would say God created the world. The Buddhists would probably say Buddha (though I do not truly understand their religion) and so on. I believe the universe suddenly exploded from a tiny singularity in a matter of seconds. I don’t think we’ll ever understand how it all began. But where did it really start? Where did God and the Buddha come from? What about that miniscule, infinitely improbable singularity? Everything has a beginning, and I think we should thank that beginning, whatever it may be. All we know is, there was definitely something at the very start, and we humans, animals, plants, are all living proof! Here’s another one. I am writing this, and you, sometime later, will be reading this.

This is something else I feel grateful for. Many people in my life have offered me chances for doing many fascinating things, such as this competition. I didn’t know I had entered until Miss Ng sent me an e-mail. I’d like to thank her for giving me this experience.

We should also thank our own bodies for ( for most of us, at least) giving us a good immune system and working nerves so we can feel all that is around us. Our eyes let us absorb the beautiful scenery of nature, our ears let us hear a car going by, or a waterfall gushing into a gorge. Our mouths let us taste delicious food from all over the world, from common English baked beans, to ceremonial kava from Fiji.

As I said, we all have something to feel grateful for. Just look around. You can thank Thomas Edison for your desktop light, the ancient humans for the wheel, and Alexander Graham Bell for your mobile phone. There’s always something to feel grateful for.