The Rowersons

by Leslie Godfrey in


"Hey! Aren't you the rowers?"

Having been anchored in Atuona Bay for five days now, we are gaining a reputation amongst the cruisers. We are the "Rowers". Each morning, we hop into Grin, grab our oars and get started. We don't have anyone beating a drum or crying "Row! Row! Row!" but maybe we should. We paddle twenty minutes to the dock, and tie up for the day to explore. We repeat the process in reverse to go back to Sonrisa each night. Sometimes, we need to return to the boat mid-day to change clothes, deliver groceries, or otherwise sort ourselves out. This means that we paddle out and back, out and back, twenty minutes each way. By the end of each row, my shoulders and back are burning like mad; at the end of each day they feel like heavy rubber.

One would think that if we wanted to be the "rowers" we would position Sonrisa as close the dinghy landing as possible. No. In addition to being the "rowers" we are also "l'ultimo velero" or "the last sailboat." At every anchorage since the start of this voyage, we have anchored at the very back. In the Galapagos, whenever we jumped on a water taxi we would request they take us to "l'ultimo velero" and they would groan. We would typically tip them a little extra.

As we slowly row through the anchorage, cruisers stick their heads out of their boats to see what is going on. Two retired guys from Washington State actually call across the water: "Hey! We are wondering: Don't you have an outboard?" We explain that we do, and that it is working just fine. "Well, ok, why don't you park your boat closer to land?"

This is such a good question! And the only reason I can identify is that we are lazy.

You see, when we first arrived at Atuona, the anchorage was full of boats. Over the course of the week, many boats have left and we had plenty of opportunity to up our anchor and move closer to land. Each time we saw a new opening, though, we would ponder the move and decide Sonrisa is comfy right where she is. Her anchor is nicely settled into place, and if the weather suddenly shifted we have an easy escape. No one else wants to lay their anchor down on top of ours, so we guarantee Sonrisa will not be tangled.

We are also too lazy to put on the outboard. After at least one commute if not two via oar, I would declare that we should put the motor on. But, in the evenings, we were so tired from all the rowing that we didn't feel like putting the motor on. The next morning, we were fresh and rowing didn't seem as bad as the process of dangling the motor down from its hoist and wrestling it onto the back of the dinghy in the waves.

This series of decisions became really silly on our last day in Atuona. The fuel barge had refilled the tanks at the gas station, so now they could provide us with diesel to feed Sonrisa. There is no fueling dock, though, so we have to fill up by carrying our three jerry cans back and forth between Sonrisa and the gas station.

This is a team effort. I hold two funnels stacked on top of each other while Andrew tips the heavy 5 gallon jerry jug just enough to get the fuel flowing into my funnels. Sonrisa's filling port is on her stern, starboard side, nestled between her pretty teak toe rail and the cockpit combing where her primary winch sits. It's a little bit awkward to access with jerry jugs, and there is no good place for Andrew or I to really sit or perch. Andrew generally puts one foot on her side deck, one foot in her cockpit and sits on top of the staysail winch. I also put one foot on her side deck and press my knee against the lifelines and her blue splash skirt to push them out of the way. I try to sit on her combing, but the only place available has a cleat that pokes me in the butt. I sit there anyway. Andrew must tip the jerry jug forward with finesse to prevent the fuel from "glugging" and splashing. But finesse is not so easy when Sonrisa is pitching and rolling in the waves. I end up doused in diesel.

It takes about ten minutes to drain a five gallon jug, so after thirty minutes of draining and another ten minutes to shift the three jugs around, our jerry jugs are empty and ready for a refill. We place the empty jugs into Grin, row twenty minutes to the gas station, throw out the stern anchor, tie Grin up, carry the jugs to the gas pumps, and wait for the attendant to fill them up. Once the jugs are full, they weigh approximately forty pounds each. We pay, lug the jugs back to Grin, row Grin and her additional one hundred twenty pounds of fuel back to Sonrisa, hoist the jugs onto Sonrisa's deck, tie Grin up to Sonrisa, and repeat the process of emptying the jerry jugs again.

Luckily, we only used half of Sonrisa's fuel tank on our trip across the Pacific. We only had to repeat this process three times to fill Sonrisa and her three jerry jugs. Nonetheless, this process took all day long. We started around 9:30 a.m. and finished at 5:30 p.m., just in time to shower and row back to land a fourth time to go to dinner with our friends Phillip and Laura on Lufi.

My shoulders and triceps are getting super buff. I look like the incredible hulk, only not as green.