For Earth Day 2020 we’ve been treated to a very special look at Palmyra Atoll and Washington and Fanning Islands via an epic Gunboat 48 adventure! Episodes 3 & 4 of John John Florence's docuseries VELA are now available on his YouTube channel.
The series by his own production company Parallel Seas, together with Yeti and Outside TV, first launched on April 12th with episodes 1 and 2 chronicling his pathway into sailing and the offshore trip to Palmyra. Somewhere during the montage progression from small monohulls to small catamarans to foiling cats and medium monohulls to ownership of a Gunboat 48, they hatch plans for long-range cruising to the Line Islands. And off they go, inspired by "the mixture of exploration and the challenge of getting somewhere.” Joining John are his brother Nathan Florence, Kona Johnson, photographer Erik Knutson, and pro sailor Jacques Vincent onboard as "sensei", quite possibly cracking down on impulses such as "surfing sailboats" (which does look fun). The offshore trip ticks all of the boxes - navigating, weather, watch schedules, maintenance, swimming, fishing, food, food's arch-nemesis seasickness, and the ultra-satisfying cry of "land ho" after 1200 miles at sea.
Its all building up to something incredibly special in Episode 3. John arranged special access to Palmyra Atoll as a guest of The Nature Conservancy. The island’s only inhabitants are directly working on the research and conservation projects. "When The Nature Conservancy acquired Palmyra in 2000, it was readily apparent that this isolated, uninhabited atoll was an ideal site for scientific research, and that its 15,000 acres of near-pristine coral reefs provided a healthy baseline against which to measure human-related impacts." - Dr. Alex Wegmann, The Nature Conservancy's webpage dedicated to Palmyra
"Wild places like Palmyra remind us that nature is strong and resilient when given the opportunity.” Having once been in a severely demolished state, Palmyra remarkably returned to a pristine, thriving ecosystem. They accounted for all of the natural links that needed to be in place and allowed nature to complete the balance. Now learnings from Palmyra inform the conservation of Hawai’i and other island ecosystems around the world.
Episode 3 is a visual banquet of healthy, abundant life on island, underwater, daytime and nocturnal. You wonder what they could possibly follow up with in Washington and Fanning Islands, until it dawns on you they haven't busted out the surfboards yet! As the cruising adventures continue, the guys are also inspired by Fanning's ideal of sustainable living, in small communities powered by solar and sourcing most of their own food on-island and from the sea. The seasoned sailors make the return trip to Hawaii and we’re just not ready for the adventure to end. Partly because we're stuck at home, partly because this is the spirit of sailing that has us all dreaming of owning a cruising boat and throwing off the dock lines.
Its no spoiler alert to say that the trip leaves a burning desire to chase that same feeling again, to "keep finding new places and explore the world" with family and friends.