Crossing the Pacific


"So St. Kilda passed through the Panama Canal, sandwiched between freighters and looking like a bathtub toy. We joined the parade of pleasure boats on the annual “coconut milk run,” named for its steady winds, easy passages, and lovely tropical island destinations. The flotilla sailed downwind and west across the Southern Hemisphere from April to October, thus avoiding the cyclone season. While we rarely saw each other under way, we maintained regular radio contact with other boats, and tended to arrive and depart from the same anchorages in batches. So we got to know each other.


“G’day there, Cap’n,” called Bill, an Aussie boatbuilder and part of our batch, leaning against his mast and watching us come in. “As usual your North Sea tub is the last one in.”


The great-grandson of a woman sent out from Ireland for the crime of stealing her mistress’s hair ribbon, Bill never tired of ragging on St. Kilda and all things British. Swapping stories with him and other captains over beers at yacht clubs along the route eased Marsh’s anxiety. Most boats, like ours, needed repairs at most stops, and the captains had to keep an eye out for the corrosion caused by continuous chafe. Marsh liked to tell the story of his opening a box of cornflakes to find a pile of dust, the flakes pulverized by the constant shaking of the boat. Most captains also agreed with him that the best part of cruising wasn’t the sailing, it was the stopping---stopping in exotic ports of call for a cold beer, a hot shower, and a long look around.


Our first taste of exotica after the Canal was Santa Cruz in the Galapagos. After a fourteen-day passage, Marsh and I scrambled to pack a bag, hopped in the dinghy, and checked into a boutique hotel for the duration of the stay. This became our modus operandi across the Pacific---to reward ourselves at every stop with clean, dry sheets and a bed that didn’t sway.


We reveled in these simple luxuries in Santa Cruz, and in the nightly “plato del dia” at Big David’s three-table restaurant, set up a few blocks from the hotel on the side of a dirt road. His coconut langosta stew was our favorite. “This is, by far, the best meal I have ever eaten,” said Marsh, his judgment perhaps impaired by his euphoria at being ashore."