Preparing for Polynesia

Well, the time has come.  We are in the final provisioning stage for our trip to The Marquesas, and I am feeling a bit like this flamingo I saw the other day.  With news stories of a sailing family having to be rescued because of a sick child and another report of a ship that caught fire and had to be deserted by the crew, I just want to stick my head in the water and wait for us to get there.  Mentally, I know that accidents happen, and we have done all we could to prepare, but of course, my heart isn’t as easily convinced.  As I check off my list of things we need to buy, multivitamins, fresh eggs, bread, produce, dairy items, there is a shadow of nerves following me close behind me.  It tiptoes quietly into my thoughts while I stand in front of the grocery store coolers deciphering cheeses, causing my heart to beat a bit faster and a fluttering ache in my stomach.  I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and move on, deciding not to let the what-ifs take over.  

Throughout this entire two years, it has been a continuous battle against those dreaded what ifs.   They creep into my subconscious and attempt to sabotage their enemies - experience and adventure.  Since the beginning, I have chosen to focus on the flip side of those doubts and fears that bubble up to the surface, for the sake of fully knowing what it means to live life.  Sure, some common sense fears and doubts are helpful and necessary, so those I recognize and act upon - like medications and schooling.  However, most of the what ifs that send flaming arrows come from Hollywood movies or one-off horror stories that get passed along the sailing community.  Films such as Jaws, The Perfect Storm, or Castaway provide visual images that pop up at the mere mention of sharks or storms, and suddenly I envision myself screaming desperately to a floating volleyball with a face.   Really??  How many people does this happen to?  

Recently, I watched the movie The Impossible, about a family that goes on a beach vacation in Indonesia when a tsunami devastates the islands.  The family is separated from each other without the ability to speak the local language as the city is in a chaotic state of emergency.  Okay, first, I should not have watched this movie - I agree with you.  But how was I to know that while eating dinner a few nights ago, anchored near the island of Isabella, we would receive a VHF radio warning alerting all boats in the harbor of a tsunami warning??  There had been a massive earthquake off the coast of Chile, and the Galapagos Islands were in the path of radiating waves that were projected to hit in 3 hours.  As we quickly piled the dishes in the sink and picked up the anchor, what do you think was going through my mind?  Yep, towering waves, flooded streets, children crying - the movie was vividly replaying scene by scene.  The difference between our family and the movie family??  We were on a boat.  The port captain’s recommendation was to get 20 nautical miles from shallow water, so that the wave would pass under the boat before cresting and crashing onto shore.  So, that’s exactly what we did.  

Everyone got a lifejacket on immediately.  Then Carlos and Mark handled the navigation as I checked our ditch bag and safety equipment.  The kids sensed the urgency and began to get worried.  I gathered them close and took a few minutes to give a quick lesson about tsunamis. I explained what we were doing and why.  Then I got them busy taking laundry off the life lines and picking up the salon.  We radioed the other boats we knew in the anchorage to ensure that they had heard the alert.  They were families,too, with children on board.  In an odd way it comforted me to know that we were all in this together, doing the same safety checks, calming our scared children, and looking out for each other.  

I called my family, just to tell them our plan and reassure them that we were okay.  By the time I was done getting as prepared as possible, I crawled into bed with my two, sleeping, life-jacketed little blessings and slept restlessly.  The guys had a long night of taking watch, but thankfully it was a non-event.  The warning subsided and we motored back into the harbor at daybreak an entourage of weary, but relieved sailors.  

That single event taught me a lot.  I learned that even in remote places, radio communication exists to keep boats informed about weather conditions and alerts. So we always need to keep the vhf on dual watch, monitoring channel 16 at all times, even at anchor.  I learned again that I am not in control, but can only prepare for emergencies that may come.  And I learned not to watch movies about catastrophes at sea!

Yesterday we headed out early to ransack the local farmer’s market.  Elizabeth came along and took a few photos to capture the experience.  I kept wondering what they thought when we asked for 40 potatoes and 250 eggs!!  

Mali and I searching hearty produce!

Chicken, anyone??

Love in the form of a free banana

A week ago, on the island of Isabella, two cruising gals and I took a cab to the highlands to visit a family’s farm.  We walked along rows and rows of all kinds of fruits and veggies, the farmer cutting anything we wanted fresh from the plants.  It was a fantastic trip through a living grocery store!  Can’t get any fresher than that!  I remember thinking that it would be hard to find fresh provisions on the faraway Galapagos Islands, but I have been pleasantly surprised. 

Walking among fresh basil

Toni hauling all of our oranges!

Our 'gatherer'!

Our Farm Treasures!
Our produce hammocks are hanging heavily in the cockpit, the potatoes are stored in the bilge, the watch schedule has been set, and we are ready to pull up anchor.  I found it hard today to keep moving forward, because my mind and heart raced with thoughts of what the next few weeks would bring.  What will the weather hold?  Will seasickness be an issue?  Will we all still love each other when we get to where were going?  Three weeks in a confined space with no land in sight might just be enough to put us over the edge!  But, I look forward to getting into the easy rhythm that sailing brings and the times of quiet reflection and connection.  We will be staying in SSB radio contact with our buddy boats on a net that we have set up every morning to report our location and simply have communication with other human beings!  The kids even want to set up a time to chat with their boat friends, which should be something to look forward to for them, too.  

Rather than letting the scary movie images occupy my mind, I envision pulling up to the lush green mountains of French Polynesia and maybe even sneaking into a swanky hotel spa for a well-deserved massage!  We are prepared, provisioned, and prayed for!  There’s nothing left to do but sail into the next chapter of our journey together.

Mali and I vacuum-sealing steaks

Carlos changing the oil
Our whole crew before lifting anchor!


  1. Am following your journey (reading it to Addison - who scared to hear that Elizabeth had been stung by a Man-O-War, and Easton) and in doing my map research of where you are, came across this blog from another family who did the same thing. Thought you might enjoy - if you haven't already seen this...

  2. Sarah, thank you for your thoughts; I have been thinking of you and your family, as well as Field Trip with the various stories in the news.

    Living vicariously through your words really has this landlubber dreaming...


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