Bruce Halabisky and his family are on the final leg of a circumnavigation. Dad may be anxious to get there, but the kids just want to watch the wildlife, listen to stories and gaze at the stars
Living in the present
When they weren’t playing with their 50-or-so dolls and stuffed animals they were getting stories read to them or stargazing with me or watching dolphins, whales and seabirds around Vixen. This play went on day after day, week after week. Halfway to Hawaii I quizzed Seffa Jane if she wanted to reach land. As far as I could tell she seemed to have no desire ever to reach land again. It was a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a four year old who was living right in the present moment.
I, on the other hand, enjoyed many beautiful moonlit nights of perfect sailing, but always carried a certain amount of concern for the state of Vixen and the changing wind and seas. On a night watch I would find myself dividing the day’s 24-hour run into the total already sailed and then projecting an arrival date in Hilo. This became a tortuous exercise when Vixen’s daily average fell from 130 miles a day to just over 30 as the wind died.
Sometimes the distance to Hawaii seemed so immense that I wouldn’t even bother to mark our position on our chart of the eastern Pacific. A daily run of 100 miles – a slow, but respectable distance for Vixen – is almost insignificant on a trip of 4,000 miles.
“Well, not insignificant – just 2.5 per cent of the total,” I thought to myself on the long night watches. “And eventually 2.5 per cent adds up and we will have crossed this ocean.”
But still it seemed like a long voyage. We had Christmas and New Year celebrations on board, which broke things up a bit. We also had a ‘third-of-the-way’ celebration and a ‘four-week’ celebration and a ‘1,000-miles-to-go’ party.
A wild part of the Pacific
What broke up our daily routine more than any party, though, was the unpredictable wildlife of the eastern Pacific. Once we had crossed the shipping lanes we didn’t see any evidence of humans for two or three weeks and I felt honoured to explore a part of the planet few people see.
After leaving Costa Rica my last radio conversation was with a container ship captain carrying soybeans from New Orleans to Honolulu. I thanked him for a weather update and his ship disappeared over the horizon at 15 knots.
For the first half of the trip the ocean was alive with life. Tiffany and I saw mahi-mahi leap out of the water in pursuit of fish and for a few weeks there were at least a dozen flying fish on deck every morning. Some of them were big enough to eat for breakfast and others were as tiny as flies. I fed Solianna some flying fish and asked: “How many eight year olds can say they’ve eaten flying fish for breakfast?”
One night I was on watch when a flying fish smacked into my forehead and ricocheted back into the water. I was so stunned I didn’t know what had happened until I felt the scales caking my skin. I was also the target of a blue-footed booby who decided to spend the night roosting at the top of the mast. Just before the girls went to bed I felt a splash on my face that came from directly overhead and not from the wind-driven spray. Sure enough, I had been pooped on by the masthead booby – of course, Solianna and Seffa Jane found this endlessly amusing.