Wellington is not one of the most favoured ports in the world for circumnavigating sailors, who who are notorious for sticking to trade winds and warm tropical weather, but this week a solo sailor berthed in Wellington to a welcome from locals and press alike.
Bodacious Dream in her racing days by George Bekris
Jamestown Press reporter Ken Shane caught up with solo sailor Dave Rearick in his Open 40 yacht Bodacious Dream and found out what his experiences had been like so far.
Bodacious Dream's solo sailing skipper Dave Rearick
Wellington is only his third stopover in his attempt at solo circumnavigation. Rearick, who hails from Chesterton, Indiana in the US., began his voyage from the boat’s homeport of Jamestown on Oct. 2, 2013. His previous stopovers were in Hamilton, Bermuda, and Cape Town, South Africa.
Rearick left Cape Town on December 19 after waiting for the weather to improve. Winds are particularly strong around Cape Town this time of the year, in the range of 35 to 40 knots out of the southeast, the first direction Rearick had to sail when he left.
'You wait for a weather window that will allow you to get out of Cape Town headed south and around the corner,' Rearick said. 'That weather window opened for us on the 19th.'
Bodacious Dream spent about 51 days at sea on its way to Wellington, a journey of about 7,500 miles. Rearick was so busy managing tacks, gybes and wind angles that he eventually stopped counting days and started counting weeks.
'It’s a long way. This is a huge planet and there’s a lot of water out there. Day after day after day of nothing but water.'
Unlike sailing trips of the past, communications are an important part of any voyage like Rearick’s. The most vital factor is to regularly get updated weather information. Also, with so many people following the circumnavigation online, it became a low point for Rearick, both practically and emotionally, when he lost communication in the last week of sailing to Wellington.
Another challenge occurred when Rearick encountered a massive storm at 100 degrees east longitude. Rearick described it as an 'intense time,' but he also managed to enjoy the 'beautiful display of nature and the ocean.'
Other highlights included the appearance of bioluminescence during his trip through the South- ern Ocean. It’s defined as the production and emission of light from a living organism.
'There seemed to be a pretty regular glowing of the turbulence off the back of the boat or the white caps of waves, but the night I had the orbs all around me was pretty amazing,' he said. 'I saw it a few other nights, but nowhere as intense as that one night when they were everywhere and I was sailing through them.'
Rearick said a bioluminescence appeared on one of his last nights at sea, but in a somewhat different fashion than previously. Instead of the glows floating at the surface, they were submerged a couple of feet. That gave Rearick a strange sense of depth to the black waters as they flowed past the boat.
'I’ll have to find an ocean scientist that can explain to me what I was seeing.'
Bodacious Dream reached Wellington harbour on Friday night. Coincidentally Bodacious Dream was built and launched here two years ago. As a result, Rearick had previously spent time in Wellington as the boat was being built, and for the sea trials.
'Interestingly, they call this place windy Wellington, which it certainly is, as was Cape Town. It might just be that Bodacious Dream is attracted to windy places. The last 100 miles from Cape Farewell at the northwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand, through the Cook Straits to Wellington, took about 24 hours of pretty intense upwind sailing in 25 to 35 knots of wind. I was pretty beat by the time I finished.'
Rearick plans to spend about three weeks in New Zealand. He will spend his time on boat maintenance, and taking in some of the sights. Based on what he saw of the South Island as he sailed toward Wellington, particularly the snow-capped mountain peaks of the Southern Alps, he observed that it appears to be a stunning island.
Originally the next leg of Rearick’s trip was to take him around the legendary Cape Horn, known as the Mount Everest of sailing. Rearick is now approximately a month behind his original schedule, so his plans will change. If he leaves Wellington as scheduled, he would round Cape Horn around April 1, the equivalent of Oct. 1 in the northern hemisphere. At 58 degrees south latitude, the weather at the cape would be comparable to James Bay in northern Canada in October.
'We are looking into the weather and its consequences. The other option would be to sail up through the Pacific, Galapagos Islands, Panama Canal, and then work my way back to Jamestown by the beginning of summer.'
Rearick has never been to Cape Horn. The area has gained the respect of sailors because of its weather. On the one hand, he is excited by the prospect of the challenge. On the other hand, he has no illusions about the passage being easy if he does undertake it.
'It’s been one of those amazing experiences, the ones you want so badly to do, and in the middle of it you wonder why you are doing it, and at the end you are filled with elation on the accomplishment. The journey inward is as amazing as the passage around the world.'