2018: A Year in Pictures

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Sailing wing-and-wing across the Pacific Ocean

One year ago today, I departed Key West in my cutter Flying Fish on the first leg of a global circumnavigation. It has been a voyage of self-discovery in a wonderland of raw nature. When I look back at these images of 2018, I see that my camera bias emphasizes the idyllic — downwind sailing, tropical sunsets, vibrant color reefs. These halcyon days are what I record but there have also been moments during this 10,000-mile passage of sheer terror, illness, injury, and loneliness. I prefer to remember the positive. Enjoy these images, and thank you for being here with me.

Passage South

Departure from Key West, December 2, 2017–with 34,000 miles to go. The crew onboard for this leg is my brother Bob and father Robert, both are accomplished ocean sailors. Rounding the west end of Cuba, the bluebird weather quickly turns into the notorious Caribbean “Christmas Winds” with rain squalls approaching gale force in intensity. Still, there is magic in the air. After dark, the sea is alive with phosphorescence. Following one night of squalls Dad finds a flying fish that crash-landed on the deck of Flying Fish. This first passage is a trial by fire–literally. The generator starter motor shorts out and smoke billows from the bilge. The primary navigational electronics fail from the wet weather. Landfall at Panama’s Bocas del Toro is dark and stormy and achieved as if by braille. With a local forecast showing wind increasing to 40 knots, we slip into the Bocas del Toro channel at 2AM with zero visibility in a torrential rainstorm.

 

 

(Click on thumbnail images for captions, camera information, and a full-frame image)

Through the Canal

Flying Fish enters the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks with heavy metal close astern. Mast and rigging are a study in geometry under the famed Centennial Bridge as a new ocean opens to the horizon. Las Islas Perlas on Panama’s west coast are a biological and geological treasure. Many sailors eager to cross the ocean will bypass Islas Perlas but Flying Fish lingers for months. I am enchanted by the islands’ flora and fauna, and miles of pristine beaches.

 

 

Across the Pacific

Daughter Lilly, a USCG 100-Ton Master Captain, provides the heavy lifting for the 3,500-mile passage from Panama to the Marquesas Islands. These are blissful days of fishing and reading, and on rare occasion, trimming the sails. Tradewinds blow consistently downwind and Flying Fish averages 175 miles per day. Lilly creates healthy and delicious meals with the bountiful fruit and vegetables provisioned from Panama. More challenging for her is trying to establish a routine of yoga, exercise, and French lessons for her stubborn father. Crossing the Equator is a notable event marked by sailors on all ocean passages. Becalmed, Lilly and I celebrate by swimming where the water from the Northern Hemisphere mixes into the Southern Hemisphere. After nearly a month a sea, we find ourselves gazing west, looking for a Polynesian landfall.

 

 

French Polynesia

The sights and sounds and fragrance of French Polynesia are pure exotica. We make landfall at Fatu Hiva in the famed Bay of Virgins. Spectacular monolithic landscapes rise from the sea. Further west, the water clarity is astonishing. Within it are gardens of live coral and a full spectrum of brilliantly colored tropical fish. French Polynesians are generous, beautiful, and they honor their heritage. A young Polynesian girl quietly sings indigenous ballads while she plays a handmade guitar. In the Tuamotos Islands a pearl diver ascends to the surface with her treasure.

 

 

Oceania

Continuing the passage west, Flying Fish makes landfall on the islands of Maupihaa, Aitutaki, and Nuie. Humpback whales migrate through the islands on an annual journey north from the Antarctic to find mates and give birth. The land and weather is more rugged here, sculpted by great waves born in the Southern Ocean. This area of the Pacific is known as the Dangerous Middle. Weather is unpredictable and venomous sea snakes emerge when least expected.

 

 

Tonga

In the Kingdom of Tonga, Flying Fish anchors in the Port of Refuge. From this base in the Va’vau group of islands there is a sense of sailing in the wake of our predecessors. Capt. James Cook narrowly escaped assassination here. A few years later Fletcher Christian set William Bligh adrift in these waters. Today, Tongans welcome ocean sailors. Markets overflow with fresh produce and Tongan feasts are prepared on the beach. Rocky shorelines provide habitat for octopus and shellfish. The ocean is alive with whales, sharks, and fish. The Kingdom of Tonga is a land of plenty.

 

 

Minerva Reef

At high tide nothing visible exists of South Minerva Reef. It lies unseen beneath the surface of the water until the tide begins to recede. Then, rocks emerge from mid ocean forming two perfect natural atolls. The debris of shipwrecks litter the outside edges of the atoll and the sandy bottom inside of the lagoon. The water is crystalline and fish–big fish–abound in this remote patch of ocean. It is the final outpost of Polynesia in the South Pacific.

 

 

Destination – New Zealand

As the year at sea ends, and with the South Pacific Cyclone Season well underway, Flying Fish sails south to the storm-sanctuary port of Opua, New Zealand. The passage in these southern latitudes is formidable. Gales coming out of the Tasman Sea make it difficult to find an open weather window for the sail from Minerva Reef to Opua. A miscalculation (compounded by impatience) results in a punishing five-days at sea. In a lull between squalls, 200 miles from land, a storm-weary European Goldfinch lands on Flying Fish to rest. Despite the Māori name for New Zealand–Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud–landfall here is amid sawtoothed islands under a dark sky. The passage from Key West has been 10,000 miles and nearly a year underway. Both the body and boat are battered. A Māori welcoming ceremony–a pōwhiri–is performed onshore. Kia ora!

My mantra for the next five months will be: rest, repair, and rejuvenate.

 

 

Flying Fish will remain in New Zealand until the South Pacific Cyclone Season ends in May 2019. Then, when the southerly winds are right, I will set sail for Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Please subscribe to FlyingFishSail.com for updates, new images, and essays.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed in the past year click here: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

60 thoughts on “2018: A Year in Pictures

  1. EPIC beyond belief and by far the BEST BLOG POST I have ever seen. Your voyage is so amazing and so inspiring that I simply do not have the words to express how incredible this all has been to follow along and to read. Your photos are so professional, your writing is perfection, and your dream boat is safely taking you there. Thank you 10,000+ times for all you are sharing. You really are one amazing person living a well planned lifetime dream.
    Hayden

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When you see all the photos from the whole year, it is overwhelming to think of all the things and people you have seen. Thanks for sharing. We are looking forward to meeting with you and hearing the stories in person. Happy Holidays my friend!
    Debbie Whiteaker

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff,
    Thank you so much for sharing your year in this incredible global voyage. Your photos and explanation of each are mesmerizing. You have shared so much and I can only try to imagine what else you have experienced. I know you must be relieved to have this peaceful time to rejuvenate.
    Best to you on a safe passage.
    I’ll continue following as I have learned so much!
    Sincerely,
    Byron

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff: Fantastic. Thank you. I have a good friend, Doug McLean, sailing on his Valiant 42, “Gillean”. His sailing track has been parallel in time and place to yours. Maybe you will run into him, if you haven’t so far.
    My wife and I own an IP 29 #27, “San Francisco,” that we sail on Lake Superior.
    Howard

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your writing and pics me feel like I’m traveling along with you….I just get off when the going gets tough….something us arm chair sailors can only do…loving it….see you around town
    Fair weather Sailor Dar

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying following along on your journey. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure. Your photos are mind-blowing but it’s your thoughts and writing that really drive home the big ideas here – you’re reminding us how big and grand and exciting and vibrant and diverse the world really is. Aren’t we lucky to exist in this space? It makes me want to get out and continue exploring. Also, thank you for your message of compassion and conservation. I really appreciate those who take just what they need and treat creatures humanely, whether for consumption or observation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin, Your comments are high praise coming from a person with such elegant aesthetic sensibilities. I am especially grateful that the words of compassion and conservation resonate with you and other readers. We cannot help to leave some kind of a footprint; we can only strive to make that footprint as soft an impact as possible.

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  7. I am following your every step…….thanks for wonderful pictures and info of your sailing…You have a book already…… Tom will be very interested also..Chrissy .
    Are you coming home to the states for the holidays? and then back to complete your trip? I AM AMAZED …yOU HAVE WANTED TO DO THIS TRIP FOR MANY YEARS…..…….Joyce lIHAN

    Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff Your photography is nothing short of AWSOME. Before long you will be thinking of an appropriate title of the book you will publish when this dream of a lifetime is concluded. Having read your two prior works I can’t wait.MERRY CHRISTMAS welcome home. Phil Roche

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  8. Jeff Your photography is nothing short of AWSOME. Before long you will be thinking of an appropriate title of the book you will publish when this dream of a lifetime is concluded. Having read your two prior works I can’t wait.MERRY CHRISTMAS welcome home. Phil Roche

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  9. Hi Jeffrey,

    Such an astounding epic journey. Compass, conservation and companionship entwined with braveness, love and respect. My dream voyage that I’m privileged to experience through your notes and pictures. The IP is such a solid vessel. Look forward to catching up with you one day soon.

    Fair winds, blue skies and good times to you, family and Flying Fish.

    Best,

    Guy

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  10. Jeff…..Stunning photos…At one point I felt you had sailed to another planet!! Simply incredible… i feel honored to be your friend and to be able to share your journey…Enjoy holidays at your homestead…… dave

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    • Dave, There were times when I thought I WAS on another planet… remote islands with psychedelic coral and creatures I could not even imagine. A leopard shark! WTF! How cool is that? I am thankful for every moment I have on this journey.

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  11. Jeffery I am speechless. What an epic journey. Have followed ever chapter of this amazing story. Here’s to you my friend. You have done what most of us have only dreamed of doing. Safe passage home sir.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  12. What outstanding photography! The incredible work and effort you have spent to reach these destinations has been rewarded more than tenfold by the experiences, people and scenery that has enriched your life…and mine too by your sharing. Many thanks for my “second-hand” enjoyment. Sail on!

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  13. Thank you, Jeffrey, for living the dream, capturing it in photographs and words, then sharing it with the world. Enjoy your rest in New Zealand. Susan and I send you our love and best wishes for a Merry Christmas. Sure hope that some of your family can join you for the holidays.

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  14. Simply outstanding!!!! I can think of no other words at the moment! Congratulations on completion of the 1st year of your adventure! Renard SV Tully Mars IP 350 Laying Palmetto, FL.

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  15. Oh Jeffery – you have had/are having way more fun than any one person deserves! Love the pictures! Love the stories and writing! Take care …

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  16. Following the wonderful accounts of your voyage. And now the fabulous picture album. Thanks for taking us along. Enjoy a rest in NZ. Looking forward to next leg of the journey under sail in tropical seas. All the best, John MacKean

    Sent from my iPhone

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