Sailors dream of that once-in-a-lifetime voyage where they quickly complete what is often a difficult passage and then spend months lingering in exotic islands and harbors. Christine (first mate, wife, and our author) and Randy (skipper and owner of West Marine) lived out that dream with the help of an unusual boat, and a heavy dose of fortitude, skill, and luck. It is almost worth reading this book just to learn about the boat, Convergence.Convergence is a totally custom-designed and -built 67-foot cat-rigged ketch with an engine room you can stand up in. With a big-windowed doghouse, she is almost a motorsailer except that, under sail, she frequently makes 18 knots off the wind and has done 23. Their 3,000-mile crossing from California to Polynesia took only 15 days (averaging 200 miles every day!).
Clearly there was substantial skill and luck involved, particularly since they had not done a shakedown cruise after the boat was built, they hit several storms, and numerous brand-new systems weren’t installed right and/or failed during the crossing, including both autopilots. There were young children on board who survived this as well. It is tempting to conclude that Randy and Christine are driven, hyper-focused people who don’t consider all of the risks and costs of their choices and there is plenty of evidence to that effect in the stories of seasickness, tunneling through (not over) waves, sailing 18 knots during stormy moonless nights and on perilous reef-filled waters, risky dinghy landings, and so on.
But this is also a book filled with tales about rarely seen places, natural beauty, friendliness of peoples of different cultures, unusual livelihoods, fascinating arts and crafts (weavings, carvings, tattoos, etc.), children learning with the world as their classroom, and more. Most of the tales fit on a single page or two, so it’s easy to read this book in stages. Some of the story threads across the length of the book so that does bring you back — for example, one thread is that they are following the sailing stories Christine grew up on from her father, a commercial maritimer, who fell in love with and repeatedly visited these islands. This is a personal travelogue, but told well. Christine has a writing style that makes you quickly feel she is a friend you’d like to know. You often agree with her, laugh with her, and enjoy sharing her experiences.
I had the good fortune to sail in Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Greek Isles, across the Atlantic, and all over the USA. But I bareboated for two weeks in Tahiti and Bora Bora, my favorite cruising spot of all. Christine’s book captures a lot of what is exciting and intimate about those islands.
Convergence: A Voyage Through French Polynesia by Sally-Christine Rodgers (Paradise Cay Publications, 2015, 140 pages)