Sailing Upwind

The last 7 months have been a wild ride. I have written plenty  about all of the unexpected changes to our plans and our route. There has been plenty to share about our efforts to keep moving west, and then again for our efforts moving east. Our lives and our perspectives have been in constant flux; much like people all over the world. I am finally finding some comfort in that constant unknown. What an unexpected turn of events! Who would have thought we would still be in French Polynesia. That said, what a wonderful place to be “stranded”. If you’re wondering, it’s been 7 months now. 

Last week, we had a friend from home visit. It was a treat to have a familiar face aboard J. Henry and an opportunity to share a part of our life here.  Having a guest aboard gave us a bit of license to squeeze a whole lot into a week. We sailed form Tahiti to Moorea on day one. We swam with whales and hiked the island. We then sailed overnight to Huahine and saw plenty of familiar faces from boats we have met in the past several months. Huahine gave us a good sample of the great sailing community here. Although we could have easily stayed, we took off for Raiatea to visit the largest archeological site in the country and learn about an area that is considered the spiritual center of Polynesia. It is said that from this site, Polynesian voyagers departed to discover Hawaii, New Zealand and other Polynesian islands.

 After visiting the archeological site, we found a perfect anchorage with a small motu (island) all to ourselves. We cooked fresh crab claws and fish over the fire. We swam the pass into the bay the next morning and then took off for Bora Bora, another day sail away and we were wasting no time!  Admittedly, we were BEAT when we finally made it to Bora Bora. It was a challenge to stay awake at dinner, sleep was such a sweet necessity! Unfortunately, Bora Bora was where we bid our friend Robert farewell. With Robert off to the airport in Bora Bora, Zach and I moved J. Henry to a nice anchorage known as the “swimming Pool” on the western side of the island. Here we found some much needed R & R after a big week. 

Not only did Bora Bora mark the furthest west we intended to sail (in our new plan), it also marked to beginning of our long upwind sail home. As our current route goes, we will be sailing upwind for what seems like an eternity. In reality it’s nearly three months of heading into the wind; a challenge for both man and his ship. There’s a saying in some circles of sailing, “gentlemen do not sail upwind”. Apparently the two of us have become quite the gentlemen. Perhaps J. Henry has also proven that he is the perfect gentleman as well. The passage from Bora Bora to Raiatea didn’t discourage us much, but the confused seas and unrelenting headwind on our 20-mile sail back to Huahine from Raiatea was spiritually devastating. The same sail that took us 2 hours going west, took us just over 8 hours going the other direction. We know we can improve our performance upwind both in ourselves and on J. Henry, but this last passage of ours was a good wake up call to what we have before us. The name of the game will be patience and flexibility. 

Once we arrived in Huahine, I spent that evening and next day thinking of how much easier it is to sail down wind. I found myself day dreaming of the western route around the world as a downhill water slide, and moving upwind, as the equivalent of trying to climb up that slide while covered in soap. I have been salivating over boats that point into the wind well. We do not, but we didn’t have that concern, we weren’t going up wind. 

This is the end of my rant. Now we must dust ourselves off and continue on. Please wish us luck!

Luckily, this island is a great place to rest and prepare for moving on. We are back among many familiar faces. When I am looking for exercise, there is a fantastic reef break about 100 yards away. The people are kind and there is free wifi at the town center. I couldn’t ask for much more. The wind is still howling out of the east. When it subsides, we will weigh anchor and head for the Tuamotus.


All the best from Huahine,


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