A Series of Unfortunate Events in the South Pacific

Clearing a fouled propeller mid-ocean is not for the faint of heart!Illustration by Tadami Takahashi

There is something almost mystical and more than a little eerie about scuba diving in the deep ocean, hundreds of miles from land and a mile from the bottom. You are surrounded by blue, all shades of blue, vanishing into deep black as you look down. No fish, no coral, just endless blue.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really in a position to appreciate the magnificence of the scene in which I found myself. My focus was mainly on looking out for sharks, only slightly on the task at hand and not at all on the beauty of my Zen-like surroundings.

We were on passage from Raratonga, in the Cook Islands, to Neiafu, Tonga, with a possible stop at the island of Niue. We’d been dealing with the usual ever-changing weather, the wind dying completely for a few hours and then swinging round to the north, giving us a nice sail. It had been too good to last, though, and we’d also run into a line of squalls with 25-plus knots of wind and driving rain. At the end of the third squall, one of the cockpit cover zips came apart, and we’d struggled for half an hour to fix it. Then the fourth squall hit. This one brought 40 knots of wind and the largest seas yet, so we started the engine of our Mason 53, Dolphin Spirit, to meet the latter and ease our motion a little…

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