Isla Robinson Crusoe – Rapa Nui (CHL)
We knew that Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island in the world, but we only fully appreciate what that means when we sail there. Day after day the trade winds propel us eastwards. Grey, wet and cool days are followed by cloudless and considerably warmer days. Surrounded by nothing by different shades of blue, each sign of life attracts our attention. A curious albatross flies around our boat. Much smaller and agile birds skim the surface to feed. They look a bit like swallows and we wonder how they can stay at sea for such a long time. Do they sleep while floating? At night, the starry sky is so spectacularly dark, yet clear, that we can see the Milky Way all the way to the horizon.
Waiting For Wind
The start of our trip was quite different. When we left Isla Robinson Crusoe, we first sailed north for a few days. It’s a detour compared to the direct north-westerly course to Easter Island, but a high-pressure system – without any wind – was “blocking” the direct course. By circumventing the high-pressure area, we hoped to reach the zone where the easterly trade winds blow. Light southerly winds just filled our gennaker, so we managed to sail some 80 miles a day. Although it was not very much progress, the calm sea provided comfort on board.
Yet when we reached the latitude of the trade winds, the wind completely abandoned us. At first, we were in denial, so whenever a light breeze filled the genaker again and we reached two knots of boat speed, we were hopeful. But then calmness took over. Without wind the gennaker slammed against the rigging every time a wave made our boat roll. Frustrated, we surrendered and took our beloved light-wind sail down. The minimal amount of progress was not worth the damage. It left us drifting without sails, waiting for wind. Many cruisers would have started their engine under these conditions, but we did not. We have rationed our diesel fuel and only want to use the engine if there is no other option. Besides, we don’t carry enough fuel to reach our destination on the engine anyway.
Our patience was put to the test. A slower way of traveling is almost impossible. Yet once we had surrendered to drifting, it had a calming effect. We no longer had to worry about our course or adjusting the sails. We were only occupied with reading, blogging, vlogging, baking bread, cooking food, eating, doing the dishes, and sleeping. The world became very small, with hardly any external stimuli.
Remote, But Not Alone
A highlight in our daily routine is always the weather forecast. Eager to reach our destination, we were thrilled to see that the weather finally decided to adhere to its seasonal pattern. The easterly trade winds arrived even earlier than forecast, meaning we could sail again. A look at the windless zone just south of us, illustrated in blue on our iPad, proved that our detour was paying off after all. Together with the fresh grib files, we always also download emails. Reading stories from our families and friends back home, as well as the updates and tips from fellow sailors, makes us feel a bit less isolated.
Despite our remote position, we maintain our schedule of watches during the nights. It proves to be worthwhile. We come across a handful of ships, including a large container ship that passes only two miles behind us. Furthermore, the sails and our wind vane “Herbie” regularly demand our attention. So one of us is always awake.
First In First Out
For some reason, the fish no longer bite in our lure, a temptingly tasty, bright orange squid. Is it the overfishing or are we in the marine equivalent of a desert landscape, we wonder? It’s a good thing we don’t dependent on fresh fish for our survival. We still eat fresh fruits and vegetables from Valdivia. When the supply runs out after two weeks, save for some die-hard onions, potatoes and garlic, canned food inevitably takes centre stage. Although we bought canned food in many different countries, we rarely ate it. There were usually fresh alternatives available. Delving into our food storage thus becomes quite entertaining. “It’s like a treasure trove!” Ivar exclaims. “These dried green lentils are from the Ecoplaza store in Amsterdam!” The stuff seems indestructible, and make for a scrumptious soup four years after we purchased its ingredients. Slightly more recent – but no less spectacular – finds are a jar of baby corn with a German label and a can of grilled bell peppers from Greece. In a curry they are almost as tasty as fresh vegetables, even many months after expire of their guaranteed shelf life.
Creating Our Own Time
Around the same time that we swap fresh food for canned alternatives, we notice that it stays light for longer in the evening and dark until well into the morning. Naturally, our sailing westward causes this. It reaches a point where Floris hardly sleeps from 22:00-01:00 h because, as he says “It’s still so light!”. We decide to do something we have not done before: to set the clock back two hours without having reached a destination in another time zone. Our own time zone “Lucipara 2” quickly solves Floris’s biorhythm malfunction.
It is fair to say that time zone “Lucipara 2” is actually similar to that of Easter Island. Thanks to the steady easterly trade winds we are getting close now. After 18 days and more than 2,100 nautical miles, our anchor drops at the main town of Hanga Roa. We are delighted and also quite proud that we have reached this remote destination on our own keel. It marks our longest journey so far.