Friday, July 3, 2009

Back in the Flow

Since we left San Diego in December we have been leading more or less a news free life. In Mexico the news just didn't seem to matter. And in French Polynesia, the void was widened by the language barrier. When we found an internet connection I would sometimes remember to check in on a Canadian or world news site--sometimes. I usually find that you think a lot is happening while you are away, and in fact nothing much changes.
But the first thing we heard on arriving in Hawaii was that Michael Jackson had died. And so we were ushered back not only into the news but the celebrity obsession of our culture.
Hawaii does it's best though, to put things in geological perspective. Unlike the islands we have been sailing through, heavily eroded (the Marquesas and Society Islands) and completely ground down (Tuamotus) volcanic islands, the Hawaiian chain is still being created and the big Island is the newest. In the last two years Kilauea peak has been especially active, a new crater appearing in the larger crater. As you approach it there are signs warning of unusually high sulphur dioxide emissions and stating that part of the circle road and all of the trails inside the caldera are closed. At night the visitor centre is crowded with people, shivering in the misty rain that always seems to be falling on this wet side of the island. They strain to see the red glow of the lava which rises and falls on its own mysterious tides within this new caldera. (In the day all you can see is an industrial plume of sulphuric steam). Meanwhile fresh lava pours into the sea to the east, enough every day to pave a double lane highway all the way around the island.

the new caldera

Yesterday we walked along one of the trails which goes through the high wet forest, under giant ferns and strange flowering trees, trying to find some of the surviving endemic birds. They tend to be brightly coloured, red or yellow, with curved beaks, adapted to feed on the tubular flowers of some of the plants which evolved here. Many birds once here are extinct and many are hard to find. But we did see some beautiful red male Apapanes.

Apapane (from

When people here get tired of the rain they drive to the other side, the dry, Kona coast. Which is what we did last week, for a few days to get off the boat and check into a hotel (clean linen, stacks of towels, a king-sized bed, those white bathrobes...!). And a few last days of tropical sun and water.

Koi pond, Kona hotel

young Black-crowned Night Heron, fishing in the koi pond

The resorts of Kona are startling, almost unbelievable feats of overly-green grass and fluorescent gardens, surrounded by miles and miles of barren black lava fields, the heat rising off them in oppressive waves. And yet, even here there is a kind of cultivation. People throw chunks of white coral collected from the beach into the trunks of their cars and drive them to the lava fields, carefully line up the wave smoothed coral on the ancient re-forged stone in brief devotions of the human heart: "I love you Matt" or "Happy Birthday Grandpa Dave".

Other than these excursions our time in Hawaii has been busy with catching up on emails and taking care of the details of the lives at home, which we'll be resuming soon. My computer crashed. Apparently it didn't enjoy it's year of sailing. So I have been pre-occupied with restoring files. And of course, there are the boat jobs. In general Circadia has proved to be a tough little boat. We had a sail tear, but no other major repairs, just the usual maintenance. And at the moment she is almost ready to set sail again, for the last leg of this journey. And now it's time to fess up. I will not be onboard for the sail home. I am flying to Vancouver tomorrow, to attend a writing course at UBC. Two new crew members are flying in to help Kim on the passage, one of whom is Michael, who kindly posted my offshore blog entries. I plan to continue postings on the progress of Circadia across the North Pacific, via sailmails from Kim.


Adrienne Mason said...

Hey you, we are classmates. (I just checked the UBC members' forum.) I will only be at the last few days of the residency this summer as my thesis looms and I am hoarding my last few credits. See you on the 13th or so.

PS I can't imagine what a culture shock this is going to be for you!

Alison Watt said...

great Adrienne--I really look forward to talking with you!

Maureen said...

Alison, Welcome to the journey's end! Congratulations on dreaming it, planning it, and making it happen.

I'll miss your wonderful thoughts / creations from the Pacific ocean and remote island archipelagos, and I'll look forward to whatever your next adventures inspire you to write.


Maureen said...

P.S. - And I thought it went without saying (but then thought maybe it did need to be said), that I look forward to hearing those thoughts in REAL LIFE over a dinner or drinks when you find yourselves next in Victoria.

: )

Alison Watt said...

thanks for being part of it--it has been wonderful to hear from you along the way. I certainly will call and take you up on that dinner/drinks suggestion when I'm next in Victoria