Nearly a year ago Bill Goodwin and Paul Woodard enbarked on an adventurer's dream - a lazy 'round-the-world sail that would take as long as it took. They left Annapolis in a shower of champagne and bon voyages, their 41-foot Morgan yawl cutting neatly through a slow drizzle. They battled high seas and dead calms, saw sunsets most of us only dream about, visited people and places of exquisite beauty.
But partnerships are precarious things and these partners are parting ways in Tahiti. Sports II has followed their voyage with dispatches from Miami, Panama, the Galapagos and now the Marquesas. This is their final report.
Once upon a time, back on the Chesapeake Bay, we shared every sailor's dream of crossing an ocean - of balmy trade winds gently pushing our yacht over the South Pacific toward Tahiti.
Spectacular sunsets would entertain us nightly. Our days would be filled with light duties and reading or sunning while our self-steering gear stood watch. Our nights would entail a three-hour watch under the stars and six hours of sound sleep induced by the easy motion of the boat.
Alas, our first long ocean passage in Felicity, our 41-foot yawl, didn't follow the script.
The 4,000 miles of Pacific Ocean from Panama to Polynesia were constant struggles with a bucking boat, rain, flukey winds, chafing sails, whales and a dwindling supply of rum.
Only the first 750 miles lived up to our expectations - that was across the peaceful doldrums from Panama to the Galapagos Islands 650 miles west of Ecuador. We motored as much as we sailed during this one-week leg.
From the Galapagos, where we spent three days, we planned to motor 100 miles south. According to the charts and Margaret Wittmer, our hostess on Floreana Island, we would thus escape the doldrums and pick up the southeast trade winds at that latitude. Once in the trades, we would steer southwest to 10 degrees south latitude, then sail due west directly to Hiva Oz in the Marquesas Islands - a mere 3,200 miles away.
Instead of trade winds we found torrential rain. It rained so hard for two days that we barely could see Felicity's steering compass. Foul weather gear was useless; we were soon wet to the bone and miserably cold during the nights.
To compound our problems, an exhaust pipe broke and filled the engine compartment and cockpit lockers with diesels fumes that coated everything with oily soot.
We were so discouraged we turned around and headed back toward South America and a full-fledged port, seriously considering going home and forgetting about sailing around the world. But we managed to install a spare flexible exhaust pipe and the skies cleared in the west. We resumed our original course.
By the next morning we had the sails up and were well on our way, running before the long-awaited southeast trades. That fourth day at sea was our best run -- 175 miles over gentle seas.
Just after dawn on the fifth day we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of pilot whales. Eight of the 25-foot creatures swam along our port side. Then one of them dove under Felicity's bow as the boat came off a swell. Our lovely yacht slammed solidly into the whale.
We looked at each other with helpless terror. We knew at least two boats had sunk after being rammed by whales in this vicinity.
But our whales suddenly disappeared. We saw several other pods after that day, but none came close enough to be worrisome.
Then a nasty five-foot swell came up from some gale far to the south and our winds veered to the east, directly astern. The following seas would lift Felicity from behind and the cross swell would roll her violently over to starboard. With no wind from the quarter to steady the boat, she would rebound and roll over to port. This wrenching motion repeated itself every few seconds.
Sleeping, cooking, all the routines of life became difficult, often impossible.
We searched for a sail combination and course that would give us both speed and some stability.
The main, mizzen and Genoa sails all suffered chafe damage, keeping us busy with needle and thread. As we painfully discovered, protecting the sails against chafe is absolutely essential on an ocean passage, and we went to work on "baggy wrinkle" to keep the sails away from the shrouds.
Slowly, despite the variable weather and uncomfortable motion, we established a daily routine. One week soon melted into the next. "Hector," our self-steering gear, did most of the work, giving us time to read or listen to the shortwave radio when we weren't hiding from the rain or changing or repairing sails.
Once we cleared the shipping lanes near the Panama canal, we saw only three ships and no airplanes. We were very much alone on the bleak ocean.
We averaged 125 nautical miles a day and celebrated vigorously when we changed to a central Pacific chart showing the Marquesas Islands.
Our general discomfort was relieved by cocktails at sundown each evening. But when we were still a full week from our destination we ran out of rum. The empty bottle went overboard with a note inside: "Please refill and throw this bottle back at once. We are desperate."
Fishing on our trolling lines was poor after we left the Galapagos - and especially after a large dolphin and two sharks made off with our best lures. These red and white lures, purchased in Panama, would be in the water only a few minutes before drawing a strike. We landed a large dolphin before losing them, but had to throw half of it overboard for lack of refrigerator space.
Our single sideband radio transmitter also helped relieve the loneliness of the empty ocean. Phone calls were made almost daily to friends and relatives back in Washington, most of whom sounded stunned to hear us from mid-Pacific.
We completed a phone patch one afternoon when Woodard asked for the binoculars. He looked out on the red western horizon and broke into a wide grin.
"Land ho!" he shouted.
There it was; Fatu Hiva, the island farthest to the southeast of the Marquesas, its mountains bluish grey against the sunset, which for once was spectacular. Hiva Oa came up over the horizon just before dark, and we heaved to for the night.
By noon the next day, 23 days after we left the Galapagos, we dropped anchor in Tahauku bay on Hiva Oa. The longest nonstop ocean leg of our voyage was over.
We could look forward to a leisurely tour of fabled French Polynesia, island hopping our way the 750 miles to Rangiroa in the Tuamotus and 200 more to the busting city of Papeete in Tahiti.
But the strain of the long ocean passage had taken its toll, and it was in these lush islands that the Goodwin/Woodard partnership would be shattered. A dream that had carried them down the American coast from distant Annapolis, through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal and on through 4,000 miles of deep and unfriendly seas, was over before its time.
Woodard is continuing on with Felicity. Goodwin has switched to a backpack and with a new partner, Christine Moore, is continuing his adventures by whatever means of transportation are available.