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
Whale to starboard
A more unnerving and awe-inspiring encounter was with a massive bull sperm whale. I spotted him to starboard and turned sharply to port to avoid a collision, but then realised that he was heading south right into Vixen’s path. I turned hard to starboard and we all watched the enormous creature slip by not 15ft away.
We had another encounter a few days later when 30 or 40 pilot whales raced towards Vixen and surfed alongside, their squeals reverberating through the hull. And there were daily visits from dolphins for the first half of the trip.
Apart from watching the wildlife we had all our usual crafts underway. I carried on with some crazy macramé from The Ashley Book of Knots and Solianna and Seffa Jane started off on rubber band rainbow bracelets, then moved onto friendship bracelets. Tiffany did some book binding and sewing. Sometimes we would have gypsy jazz jam sessions on guitar, mandolin and ukulele in the cockpit.
All our Christmas presents were ‘boatmade’. Seffa Jane gave us each elaborately wrapped drawings she had made. Solianna made me a calendar for the year. I gave Tiffany a rum bottle covered in elaborate knotwork and she gave me a leatherbound book she had created. The girls seemed satisfied with this homemade Christmas, but then it was discovered that Santa had, in fact, found us in mid-ocean and dropped a sack of toys on deck!
When the skies were clear, Solianna and I would take sextant sights for the fun of it. Venus and Mercury setting in the west and Jupiter rising at sunset began to feel like old friends. We also read a lot and told the girls imaginary tales that branched out into subplots and spin-off characters then looped back in time and jumped into the future.
Eventually, I lost track of my own storyline, but evidently the girls were listening: when my main character, Giggles the Pig, was unable to blow a whistle for help in one exciting episode Seffa Jane calmly reminded me that two weeks ago Giggles had received a whistle as a present and had had no trouble blowing it then at all.
Between Panama to Hawaii we crossed five time zones. Every 900 miles I would ceremoniously change the ship’s clock back an hour with dictatorial pleasure: “It is no longer 12 o’clock. I hereby declare it to be 11 o’clock.”
Landfall in Hilo
On the 40th day with 13,000ft Mauna Kea 60 miles away I told Solianna we should start looking for land. We climbed the rigging and searched the horizon for hours. We had given up hope and then at dusk a distant cloud bank slid off to the south and there it was: the summit of Mauna Kea covered in snow with an observatory shining in crisp detail.
The next day we sailed into Hilo harbour and dropped anchor in Radio Bay where Vixen had last been in October 2004. Ashore was a green park and other humans and a store selling ice cream and cold beer.
Seffa Jane was down below playing with her dolls.
“Come on Seffa,” said Tiffany. “Let’s go ashore.”
Forty-one days at sea and Seffa Jane said without looking up: “That’s OK. I think I’ll just stay here.”