The Voyage to Rapa Nui / 1999-2000
Chad Baybayan's Journal / Leg 3: Mangareva to Rapa Nui
October 6 : Gone are the brilliant hues of yesterday. Mother Nature today only chooses gray and black from her palette. Her mood grows deeper and darker as the day unfolds. A carpet of clouds blankets the sky above us and our eyes strain to locate the circular shape of the sun hidden behind it. It is a critical time onboard the canoe, the urgency of the moment matching the intensive look that Nainoa, Bruce and I now wear. We have sailed ourselves into an area called "The Box." The Box is a rectangular area of ocean that extends 300 miles west of Rapa Nui and 60 miles north and 60 miles south of it. It is here, in The Box, that we've begun to initiate our strategy to find Rapa Nui. We sail Hokule'a upwind in a series of tacks that weaves its way across The Box. On one of these tacks we hope to pass close enough to sight the island.
Over 2 years of planning and 14 days of sailing have brought us into The Box. Now in this most crucial stage of the voyage navigation and steering must be flawless. The three navigators must constantly remember speed, time and direction to fix our mental position within The Box. It is a job made particularly difficult by nature's unwillingness to cooperate. The cloud-filled sky obscures the horizon we search. The rain and chill of the wind bite at the bone. Sailing in these elements wears on the crew and I can see their exhaustion in their eyes. There is not much small talk anymore, the serious nature of this part of the voyage affecting us all. With the strategy for the next 12 hours decided upon, Nainoa and Bruce will rest a few hours while I watch and monitor our progress. At sunset Bruce will relieve me and I will retreat to a sleeping compartment we share. At midnight I'll be back at work again, the cycle of navigation never-ending.
Now one last time before I put my log away I scan the dark horizon. Somewhere in the deep gray and black that lay thickly before us lies an island. It is in this moment that I realize that perhaps the dark skies are not meant to obscure the island that hides ahead of us, but rather a special wrapping from Mother Nature of a gift yet to be discovered. It is with quiet confidence that this day ends.
To Other Entries in Chad's Journal: September 20, 1999--Thoughts on Departure; September 22, 1999--Decision to Depart; September 24, 1999--Pitcairn; September 27, 1999--Getting into a Rhythm; September 29, 1999--Life at Sea; October 01, 1999--The Crew; October 04, 1999--Cherishing the Spirit; October 06, 1999--Gray Skies; October 08, 1999--Landfall!