DOVKA

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OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2007
SOUTH PACIFIC

This is usually the log of our lives sailing on DOVKA. But in September, upon our return home from Turkey, and our 8th season in the Med, we quickly changed clothes and, in October, flew out to Fiji, to crew to Australia on the 65 foot sloop, Van Dieman III, skippered by our friend Fil, who crewed for us for three years in the Med, and who was the driver when we had our infamous auto smash-up in Greece in 2006.

Sid's cruising life began when he sailed from the Caribbean throughout the South Pacific to Australia in 1965. Mine began a few years later, when I met him and heard all about the wonders of sailing and of the trade winds. I was thrilled when in January 2007, two weeks after my second surgery on my broken leg, we received an invitation from Fil to be part of the crew for this trip. It was most encouraging that, at least, someone thought I would be walking (and sailing) again.

So in October, I was finally going to get my South Pacific sailing experience, something I had dreamed about for decades. Well, I did get to sail quite a distance in the South Pacific, but it was not quite as I had envisioned all these years. The trip turned out to be wonderful, but the sailing weather was atrocious. We had the strongest winds in which I have ever sailed. I was glad that I experienced them in a 65 footer, instead of in the 35 foot DOVKA. On one miserably squally night, we were scudding downwind at 8 knots, under bare poles (no sails up) and with no engine. VDIII is a fast boat. With sails up on the one good passage we had from Lord Howe Island to Sydney, we did 450 miles in 49 hours.

We sailed just under 2,000 miles: first, from Fiji to Noumea, New Caledonia, where we had just enough time to make repairs, scrub the boat, do laundry, provision and cook and freeze meals for the next leg before we got a weather window and set off to Lord Howe Island in the middle of the nasty Tasman Sea. Sid and Fil had sailed together from Sydney to Lord Howe in 1966 (not a nice trip either). Their return became a reunion when other friends from their Sydney days arrived on this tiny and magnificent island (which has the world's southernmost coral reef and is a World Heritage Site), and celebrated with us for about a week.

The crew of seven was compatible and competent, which is saying a lot. Fil was a great skipper. The boat, which while beautiful, was not easy to handle and had a number of problems. It took all 5 men to do just about any sailing maneuver. The 2 women could hold the fenders and cook, which is what we did, as well as stand watch and steer (since the autopilot stopped working early in the voyage). I did enjoy having unlimited hot water and a huge freezer, neither of which I am used to or want on DOVKA.

The passages were a funny mix for us: of land luxuries like unlimited showers and frozen food, yet total isolation, like the old days of sailing. Our email system did not work with the ham radio, which also did not work. The VHF - short range radio was iffy. SO, we were alone on the high seas and it was a wonderful feeling of being totally in control of one's little world and antithetically, we were totally in the control of the weather - an interesting dialectic. No TowboatUS to call out there. We had to be completely self sufficient. We were. And that was a good feeling.

On the third leg of the trip, we finally had decent winds and our entry into Pittwater Bay, under Barenjoey light, was spectacular, as we sailed in force 6 winds on a down-under clear, crisp early spring day, surrounded by the colorful spinnakers of the Saturday afternoon regatta. Forty two years after Sid's first arrival, we both sailed into Australia, together. We spent two wonderful weeks based at the home of dear friends, which was walking distance to everything we wanted in Sydney. We also visited north and south along the coast with other old friends. We were ashore at our friends for their Australian election night party and were heartened by the results there as they threw their very own Bush-like rascals out. We were only partly joking when we said we could comfortably move to Sydney and Australia, if, we in the USA, did not follow suit the next year. En route home, we stopped to visit friends in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

We met the Watsons in 1971, when they sailed into Annapolis in their 33 ferro-cement ketch, having just voyaged halfway around the world from their home in New Zealand, with their three little daughters. We bought KORORA from them and they bought a station wagon to travel north to Canada. She was our first home and my first sailing and cruising adventure. All four of us share fond memories of this traditional, double ended, modified Tahiti ketch. Sailing on VDIII was a far cry from KORORA or even DOVKA. VDIII is sleek and beautiful. We enjoyed our time on her. But, she is not a home. DOVKA is our home at sea and we appreciated her even more after this grand adventure.