The Scariest Thing At Sea

While writing Koko Head & The Flying Vagina, I was reminded of a moment at sea that scared the bejesus out of me. I mentioned the incident briefly in Surfing the Deep Blue Sea, but I didn’t tell you how much it melted the interior of my mind, because to tell it is to relive it. 

I was on a port tack smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 1,100 some odd nautical miles to Hawaii lay before and a greater distance to San Diego was already behind me. By then, the scent of land was a fading ghost.  

The trade winds were blowing strong and the waves followed me like clouds following a storm. I was out there alone, a nobody in a swirl of foam and blue. 

So I thought…. 

The waxing moon licked the sun right out of the sky and day fell into the cloak of night. In the pit of dark all I really wanted to do was hide away in the cabin and sleep as much as I could before sunrise. But there was always something to tend to in the dark; a shifting wind, a misbehaving sail, a call from the spirits of the deep.

I laid down to sleep on the port side settee. I don’t know the time or the length of my slumber, because time doesn’t really matter when it’s just you out there. You catch sleep when you can, when everything is moving smoothly, and when the exhaustion hits you. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. 

I woke up to the sound of my AIS alarm going off on my VHF. I jumped out of the settee dazed and dreamy-eyed. Half of me still somewhere on a submarine sailing through the ice crystals and fireballs of space. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. 

But my heart, oh my heart, she was right there on that boat with that alarm and she was pumping fast. As if she was under the command of a conductor on speed. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. 

The alarm sound was a startling stranger whose voice I hadn’t heard in more than 10 days. Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. It indicated to me that there was another ship within 1 nautical mile of Juniper. 

I went to the nav station to turn of the alarm and stepped outside to see the ship. There the ship was, sitting directly off of my bow with bright and blinding lights. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. 

The alarm went off again after 30 seconds. The alarm will continue to sound after 30 seconds of being shut off, until the distance between me and the ship is greater than 1 NM. 

I went back in the cabin to turn of the alarm. On my VHF I could see the name of the ship, how fast it was traveling and the direction it’s traveling in. 

The ships name was Kawaoila,  her speed was zero, and her heading was straight for me! 

Why was her speed zero? My heart moving so fast it was bleeding into my mouth. My head was yelling that the ship wasn’t moving because she was waiting for me. She was going to sit off my bow until I sailed into her trap, so that the pirates onboard could capture me, steal my gold, hang me around their bodies like a jewel and grind my flower into a pulp. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. 

I turned the alarm off again and went to the cockpit to check on my relationship to Kawaoila. I was getting closer and she still wasn’t moving! 

Holy shit what do I do?! I tried to radio them on channel 16 “Kawaoila, Kawaoila, Kawaoila, this is SV Juniper directly off your bow, do you copy.” 

They didn’t answer. Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. I turned the alarm off and tried to radio them again. NOTHING! 

I went back out to look at them from the cockpit. The ship was still sitting there, Juniper traveling towards her net at 5 knots and the crew of Kawaoila waiting patiently with cunning hands. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep. 

That alarm was setting off every alarm in me. I grabbed the largest, sharpest knife from my galley, set it on the nav station, and said a prayer. Then I waited for Jesus or Buddha or Poseidon or some great master to walk on water and save me from myself. 

I waited… but I couldn’t see anything walking on the water. 

I debated altering my course, but I didn’t want to really, jibing at night was a chore I didn’t fully have the energy for. Then I considered hardening the sheets and heading up a little…. but what if I moved and then they moved? 

My brain was on fire, a ping-pong battle of “what ifs” and “do this” blowing the brain flames higher. 

I watched and waited, bouncing back and forth between the nav station and the cockpit. Thoughts so clustered now that I couldn’t hear anything clearly. All of my actions were frozen by speculations which  triggered fears and lacked foundation. And my stomach was sick and I was so freaking tired. 

If I closed my eyes for long enough could this be a dream that I wake from? 

Breathe in, breathe out, breath in, breathe out. Breathe in for 7, hold for 1, breathe out for 7, hold for 1, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat! 

Then there was silence. The alarm was not sounding every 30 seconds anymore.  I stared out and could see that Kawaoila was moving. She moved until she was 2 NM off of my port beam and then again she drifted at zero. 

Sitting off of my bow now, in the very spot that the Kawaiola sat, I could see a long and thin flashing light that stuck 5 feet out of the water. I passed the flashing light only an arms-length away. It was eerie. All of it. Especially me. Perhaps only me. 

I realized then that Kawaoila was a fishing vessel because it had the lights of luring fish that fisherman carry. And I believe the flashing light that they left was to mark a net or a trap. 

I realized then, that the only pirates that day, were the pirates of my mind. They stole my sensibility, and left me a fool. My mind is a massive fool! A fool that is carried far too quickly to a realm of the wicked.

If the ship really had plans of entrapment,  it would have been bobbing in the sea with no lights on, and it would have not been transmitting an AIS signal. But try to tell that to a sleepy gal alone in the middle of the sea. A sleepy gal whose been fed stories of the female plight beneath men without virtue for her entire life. These stories are in the news, on tv, in the books we read, on the lips of friends, in the worry of our parents, among the morals or our myths. 

I also realized then, that people are scarier to me than the sea.

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep.

But these aren’t the type of thoughts that I want to shape my reality, and thoughts do indeed shape our reality. I’m gonna keep my eyes on the silver holes in the night sky and not think about spaces without light that surround them.

Oh and for the record Kawaiola means “from the water or life” and I bet the people aboard it are lovely beings. It is I that am the ugly one for thinking otherwise. 

Beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep.


*I made a Wilderness of Waves instagram that you might enjoy.

*I am grateful to have sponsorship for Wilderness of Waves from Ranifly Bikini, check out my sponsors page if you are interested in sponsoring this journey, shoot me an email 🙂

* If you like these tales from the sea and are not already receiving them directly to your inbox, just go to, scroll to the bottom of any page, enter your email address, and click the “sail along” button beneath it. Then go to your email and click on the confirmation email that WordPress sends to you. Voila, now each post will sail straight to your inbox. Subscribing helps me continue this journey.

3 Replies to “The Scariest Thing At Sea”

  1. I remember you writing about passing that glowing light an arm’s length away. Cool and heart-pounding to read the full story. I tried to imagine experiencing this while being so tired and alone. Could feel my heart pumping and stinging the tips of my fingers as if I were there. It’s normal to be scared. I would have been a jumpy hermit out there, lol. But so they say, fear minus death equals fun or something like that.

    1. Justin! I always love your feedback.Each time I read it, I smile. Blessed to have you sailing along with me 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: