Adventures in Paradise -Winter 2019

Rick Kotalac fulfills a long-held dream of sailing the Pacific

by: John Stanton

photography by: courtesy of the Kotalac Family

Every sailing story is really a story about a boat. Thor Heyerdahl’s raft in “Kon-Tiki,” Ahab’s doomed but fictional Pequod and the very real and equally doomed Essex. The last two sailed out of Nantucket; all of them sailed for the Pacific Ocean.

Rick Kotalac had wanted to sail the Pacific for a long time.

The family exploring Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas.

Maybe it was reading Heyerdahl’s account of his 1947 expedition from South America to French Polynesia. Maybe it was that his family tree is full of whaling captains, including a Capt. Hussey, who legend has it harpooned a sperm whale in 1712, after his ship was blown offshore, opening the gates for what was known as the off-shore whale fishery.

Whatever it was, the notion stuck in his head. And he thought he had just the boat for the journey. It was called the Alexandra, a 50-foot ocean-going trimaran, very high-tech and much faster than a traditional monohull. Just the thing to sail 4,000 miles across the Pacific to a world he had only dreamed about.

He thought about it. He talked about it. He began planning, looking at maps and figuring out what it would take, what gear he would need to sail across the Pacific Ocean, from Panama to the Galapagos Islands, to the Marquesas.

“There is so much to it,” he said. “From medical stuff, to food, to the boat. You are self-contained when you are that far out. Keeping the boat going and the people going, you are on your own, even before you get underway.”

“Life can go like this,” he said, his hand going up and down in a wave motion, “and you get stuck eventually and things are not going right and you get the urge to go sailing again.”

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