Arts and Entertainment

The power of Polynesia: Traveler's Journal

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The phone rings, it’s my son, Alex.

“Hi Dad.”
“Hi Alex, what’s up?”
“How’d you like to sail with Susan and me from Mexico to the Marquesas Islands?”



Thus began an adventure that continues to amaze me months after it concluded.


I’m not a born sailor and the only boats I’ve owned are canoes and kayaks. I have sailed with a friend and our sons to Desolation Sound and later chartered his boat for several family cruises in the San Juan Islands when the boys were in high school. More recently my wife Mary and I sailed with Susan and Alex in the Sea of Cortez off the west coast of Mexico.


Since then I’ve been intrigued by the idea of an open ocean, “blue water” crossing but never thought I’d undertake one. So when Alex called I thought, “Why not! I’ve had a good, adventurous life with few regrets, so why not take on this challenge and see what an ocean passage is all about?”


Susan Scott lives in Honolulu with her husband, Craig, and writes a weekly column called “Ocean Watch” for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. She met Alex when he was working in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and Mary and I subsequently became friends. Susan and Craig bought Honu, a 38-foot Waukiez ketch, about the same time that Alex, now 37, was born.


They have sailed Honu from the eastern U.S. to Hawaii and on to Australia.


The passage, called the “Pacific Puddle Jump,” from the west coast of Mexico to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific is a common route for sailors wishing to sail to French Polynesia and beyond.


Boats usually depart from Mexico, Central America or Panama and they usually go from late March to early May, the best time to avoid tropical storms along the way.


Our route for this passage is about 2,700 miles from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, the administrative center of the Marquesas Islands.


Tahiti usually comes to mind when folks think of the South Pacific. Tahiti is just a part of French Polynesia, a collection of 118 islands in five island groups that occupy an area of the earth’s surface the size of Europe in the central South Pacific, south of the equator and about 2,500 miles south and east of Hawaii.


The islands of French Polynesia were populated by peoples who are thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. As long ago as 7,000 years BCE, these people developed the technology to travel in ocean-going canoes first to Taiwan and then, over millennia, across the islands of the South Pacific, arriving in French Polynesia beginning about 500 years BCE.


The Marquesas Islands are in the northeast corner of French Polynesia, 850 miles from Tahiti and are a relatively young, in geologic terms, volcanic island chain.


This program will present pictures and stories of a passage to the Marquesas and of the tropical paradise that awaited us upon our arrival.


About the presenter:

John Wegmann was born and raised in Wisconsin and attended the “original” UW in Madison for undergraduate and medical degrees. His mother, a Wisconsin farm girl with a love of mountains and the out-of-doors, was John’s inspiration for a life of seeking adventure and his father inspired him as a pediatrician.


John married his high school sweetheart, Mary Koch, while in his last year of medical school, after which they moved to Seattle where John received his pediatric training at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital and John and Mary fell in love with mountain environments.


Following this, they worked at the U.S. Public Health Service hospital on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Mont., for two years and then moved to Lake Dawn near Port Angeles in 1973.


John was a partner at the Peninsula Children’s Clinic until his retirement in 2008.


Since then, John and Mary have enjoyed medical work in Third World countries and travel in the U.S. and abroad. They have two sons, Karl and Alex.


John’s current occupation is that of a trail crew volunteer.


About the presentations:

Traveler’s Journal is a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition. All of the money raised is used to buy project supplies and food for volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail projects.


Shows are each Thursday in February and March and start at 7 p.m. in the Sequim High School Cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave. The cafeteria benches are hard and people should bring their own cushions.


Suggested donation is $5 for adults. Youths 18 and under are welcome for free.


One selected photo enlargement will be given away each week as a door prize.


Creative Framing is donating the matting and shrink-wrapping of the door prize.


Call Dave Shreffler at 683-1734 for more information.
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