Thursday, June 27, 2013
The last time Mark and I were cold on our boat was in the fall of 2007, when the two of us and the dogs motored down the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) towards Florida. It was the beginning of what was to become our multiple year Irie adventure. To stay warm (or at least try to), we baked a lot of things in the oven, used our camping stove with a metal cookie sheet on top as “central heating” and went to bed with three layers of clothes and a wool hat on. The dogs cuddled together, rolled up in a ball, and the decks had ice on them. Mark slipped once while preparing to lift the anchor. We swore we would never cruise in a cold climate again.
Being in the Gambier Islands makes us think back about those uncomfortable goose bump weeks, almost six years ago. Granted, we don’t have hail here or frost on the decks, but the down comforter has been retrieved and covers us up at night. We are cold and not used to temperatures under 85 degrees (30°C) anymore. Yes, we have spoiled over the years! During the day, it is about 60 degrees (16°C) and at night… well, we don’t really know, because by then, we are comfortably tucked into bed. Once, we ventured to shore around sunset (which happens at 5pm) in shorts and a sweater, only to row back to Irie to warm up a bit and grab longer clothes, before continuing the evening. It must have been 50 degrees (10°C) or so. I think the biggest shock to us was the fact that we never expected to spend time in a region’s “real” winter again. We didn’t expect the Gambier Islands to have Tropic of Capricorn temperatures, but we should have known better, after sailing 23° south of the equator and ending in these islands, basically laying on the Tropic of Capricorn!
I’m not sure whether it is because the time of the year – we just celebrated the shortest day on June 21st, the official start of winter – but the trade winds are fairly non-existent. Frequently, the wind comes from the south (think South Pole, with no land between there and here) and is icy. Once a week, it totally clocks around and when it comes from the north (think equator) it is – surprise, surprise – not any warmer. Being on land, where the roads and trails are mostly sheltered from the wind is much more pleasant and comfortable than being on the water, so we often go for walks in town and for hikes over the hills and around the island(s). Sometimes, we find a sunny spot on shore and just sit there, soaking up the rays of warmth.
Mark and I are using the oven frequently again, baking up a storm, while we spend a lot of time indoors. Doing the dishes afterwards in ice-cold seawater is anti-climactic. For the first time ever, we are drinking hot tea and hot chocolate every day. The windows have been shut for weeks; the cockpit remains unused, besides for dish washing. Showering outside is unattractive and almost painful. When we open the tap at the sinks to get some water, it feels like it came straight out of the fridge. Finally some cold drinking water, just when we don’t need it. The fridge itself barely runs and doesn’t sweat at all like in the humid climates. This is great for our electricity usage, but the collected frost on the evaporator keeps melting, soaking all the food inside. No need for ice cubes in our cocktails! No need for cocktails at all, really. Mark’s new favorite drink at five o’clock is hot tea with a shot of rum.
Instead of blocking out the sun and always searching for shade, we now embrace being showered by the bright light and the subdued heat, whenever it is present. When the sky is bright blue and the sun is out in full force, we drop everything and (try to) go for a snorkel, a bottom cleaning (of Irie), a dinghy exploration or a walk on the beach, or in the woods. We need to take advantage of the handful of nice days. Sounds familiar?
We are enjoying our time in this beautiful archipelago, albeit in a different way. We stare at the pine forests and the contrast with the magnificent hues of blue in the lagoon, and realize we are in a special place. We longingly look at the colorful reefs from above. The spectacular coral formations and habitats of thousands of attractive sea creatures are inviting, but the cold water they exist in is not. The chilly air we feel after emerging from the sea makes it even worse. We observe the beauty around us, but we can’t be part of it… So, we feast only with our eyes, while the rest of our bodies confirm that we are warm weather sailors.