Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Emerald City


We arrived in Hilo a couple of nights ago, after 18 days of sailing, from Papeete, Tahiti.  The wind and rough seas we had so much of on this crossing continued for those last 500 miles. We were very excited to glimpse the Big Island and scanned the sea all our last day. We figured we couldn't miss it, since it is topped by a 4200 m. peak. It is an amazing feeling to sight an oceanic island, after days and days of seeing nothing but sea and sky. It seems like a miracle that it's there at all and equally unlikely that we could find it. I can't imagine how the Marquesans, who are believed to have first colonized Hawaii (only about 13oo years ago) did it.  It seemed sufficiently epic in a strong sailboat, with high tech sails, electronic navigation, a tank of fuel, holds full of water and food. 
Anyway, we never did see the island, there was so much cloud, but as night fell we could see the bright white light off the east cape and eventually the orange glitter of the lights of Hilo.  As we turned into the harbour a land wind blew into our faces. Suddenly I had a dog's sense of smell. There were cloves and compost and gardenias and the inside of cigar boxes. We finally dropped our anchor after midnight. Since then we have been in that enhanced state of enjoyment you only get after tough expeditions, when simple things are exquisite: a hot shower, clean clothes and bedding, a meal that is cooked, delivered, and cleaned up by pleasant strangers.  It has rained mostly since our arrival (not surprising, since Hilo is on the rainy side of the island) but we don't care.  The city is lush and feels more real than many Hawaiian towns; there are lots of bookstores and indie film theatres, and dim shops full of second hand Hawaiian shirts and retro knick knacks. Now, off to find a Kona latte, no maybe a chocolate macadamia nut ice cream cone, or a pair of new flip flops...

Our most excellent crew:




materfamilias said...

Congratulations! What an achievement! Now come on home so I can get a hug and a chat and a walk and a glass of wine or two or three. . .

barb snyder said...

dear alison
the night before last i finally posted you a reeeallly long note - your homesickness was palpable. But the comment was too long and disappeared into the void of spare words!
Anyway, so glad that you have landed in a lushness of green amid the expanding blue. Your posts are magic, and i have been waiting for the right words to tell you, but have given up and just want to thank you so much for sharing your wonderful discoveries & insights, expressed in such thought provoking ways. I have been provoked! happy exploring on the big island..make sure to go to the top of one of the cones (such a long sweep down to the sea). sending a big hug, barb (denise's friend!)

Alison Watt said...


thanks so much for taking the time to write Barb. What a pleasure to know that you have been following us on this journey. Hope you can make it over to PI one of these days