Jerry's Cruising Poems

The Ladder of Latitude

We climbed the ladder of latitude, New Zealand to Fiji.
At every step on every rung was something new to see.
The latitudes are not marked off by lines across the waves
But here is how we measured them on passage in those days:

At 41, Marlborough Sounds, where green-lipped mussels cling,
While penguins swam around our boat we heard a Bellbird sing.
The days were short, past equinox, three quilts were on our bed.
"It's time to climb up out of here, back to the sun" we said.

So bundled in our warmest clothes we hoisted up the sails
And headed north in blustry winds we hoped would not turn gales.
Pintado Petrels followed us with Wandering Albatross
As out of Cook Strait we were blown and 40 soon was crossed.

We hugged the coast and watched for storms through which we'd have to bash
Around East Cape past 38, sailed through White Island's ash.
Above Great Barrier, 36, with forecast looking good
We bade farewell to Long White Cloud and out to sea we stood.

Past 35, in coats and boots we steered to north all day
With chilly winds and choppy waves our faces got some spray.
Past Cape Rienga open sea stretched to Australia's shore
But, after days of rolling, motion bothered us no more.

At 32 we saw the last big Albatross turn back
While radio gave warnings of low pressure on our track.
Near 30 dodged the Kermadecs in darkness late one night,
Grey clouds and rainy mists were all we saw in morning light.

Shook out a reef at 28 with grey-green sea still there,
But wind had lost its cutting edge. Took off long underwear,
Stopped copying the forecast for the 40's and instead
We tuned the dial to Nadi for the weather up ahead.

A night watch without gumboots, then a splendid sunshine day,
Our heavy sweaters, woolen caps and gloves were put away.
The daily round of watches now a normal way of life,
We moved from helm to bed and back without a bit of strife.

Fresh veggies gone we opened cans, ate pasta, rice and stew.
A flying fish flashed from a sea which suddenly was blue.
As steady trade winds filled our sails we held the course with ease
To climb from 20s to the teens and enter the Fijis.

We found our shorts and t-shirts - all we needed now to wear -
Took showers in the cockpit, bathing in the balmy air.
At 18, passing Suva since big cities aren't our style,
We hooked a Mahi-Mahi, filled our freezer for a while.

No stop at old Levuka, whaling harbor years before,
Since Savusavu at 16 was calling us once more.
We reached its harbor entrance, dropped our sails and motored in.
Our climb was over. Now the next adventure could begin.