I splashed Juniper back in the water. She’s sitting pretty and sailing smoothly with her new facelift.
She has been sanded and waxed and painted. Her blisters, bandaged. Her thirsty wood, fed a stiff drink of teak oil. Her broken, rusty fridge, replaced. The holes in her fiberglass, patched. Her prop, polished free of barnacles. Her leaks, battled until they ran dry. Her cutlass bearing, changed. Her ornamental trim, dressed in gold. Her speed through the water instrument, daisy chained into a working order. And her battery monitor, upgraded.
But I still have miles to go, it feels like. I always feel like that, like I’m not getting anywhere but nowhere. Like I’m just digging holes into the earth, but the wind keeps filling the holes in before I have a chance to even plant a seed or something. All I want to do is sit back and watch a flower grow, but I just have to keep digging and digging and digging.
The funny thing is, even if I was going somewhere, I wouldn’t be able to stay there. Juniper and I can’t really sail anywhere but Oahu right now. Inter-island travel is no longer allowed, unless I want to sail to another Hawaiian island and stay quarantined for 14 days. And French Polynesia has a strict travel ban, so Tahiti is out of the picture for a bit.
What I can do is sail in circles around this island. This past weekend I sailed over to Electric Beach and anchored there for two nights. It felt like pure freedom in this stationary world we are now living in. The wind wasn’t too strong, the swell was small, and I moved at a steady 5 knots there and back. Other boats came and went for the day, but I was the only one there overnight. The anchorage rocked me back and forth and up and down and all around.
I cooked and went for long swims and snorkeled and read and relaxed.
The water around that anchorage is bubbling with sea life. That’s because there is an electric power plant on that beach that burns the trash of Oahu into electricity and it shoots warm water into the sea from two big cooling pipes. The warm water attracts all of the most magical fish and dolphins and sea turtles- I suppose for one not to see a sea turtle in Hawaii, their eyes would have to be closed. The water also creates these crazy currents that will suck you out to sea, so you gotta keep a safe distance.
Out there I reflected on what I learned at the boatyard and the mistakes I made. I wish I knew how to fix everything myself. I wish I was an electrical and mechanical wizard. I wish I could be completely self-sufficient.
Anyway, I learned a lot from the boatyard. Like before putting on a new cutlass bearing, you stick it in the freezer, so that it shrinks and slides right in.
I also learned that Juniper was water-logged. A word to the wise, when purchasing a boat, don’t just rely on percussive sounding to determine the condition of the hull. That’s when a surveyor hammers your boat all around like a drum. They are listening for changes in pitch to detect damage. That’s all they did on Juniper’s initial survey and I reckon that the surveyor had the hammer, but didn’t know how to use it, cause he didn’t detect a drop of water with his ears and that hammer.
And let me tell you what, Juniper has so much water inside of her, that I can hardly believe there is any water left in the Pacific Ocean.
At the yard, I was given an electronic moisture reader and I went to town with that thing. Juniper gets a red light and an ominous “beep beep beep” on everything except her cabin top. Somehow that’s bone dry. A green light flashes and angels start singing when I put the reader there. At least she’s dry somewhere.
I figure I’ll just have to sail her until she sinks. ‘
To make myself feel better I took the reader to all the other boats in the yard. Most of them have got water inside too. I smiled every time the machine beep beep beeped at one. I know that’s not nice of me. Sometimes it makes me feel better to know other people are “in the same boat.”
Speaking of the same boat, I thought I was alone living in the boatyard, but there are cool characters hidden everywhere in there. Like Gary, a wooden boat builder in his 70s. Back in the day, when he was cruising his boat, Hula Moon, off of Japan, he used a cheap shortwave radio to decipher Morse Code transmitted from China and was able to avoid a typhoon. That’s badass!
He has three boats in his own corner of the yard. One is a beautiful little boat that was built in Northern California. It got shipwrecked on a nearby reef and was given to Gary so that he can chop it into pieces and sell off the parts. I said, “I love this boat, don’t you want to fix her up and sell her whole?” And Gary said, “I could, but I know how that game goes. I’d put $30k into it and only sell it for $20k. No thanks. Been there. Done that. Got the dirty shirt.”
I am still laughing about that. Got the dirty shirt!
Gary also taught me about fishing. Said, “when you catch a big old Mahi Mahi, she’s gonna fight and she’s gonna fight hard, you gotta squirt cheap vodka into her gills. It’ll go straight to her brain and calm her right on down.”
When Gary saw the condition of my busted seawater intake thru-hull, he told me to rip all the bonding wire out of my boat, said I was worse off with it. Said the stray currents are just given a direct path between the metals. But oddly the bonding wires on that one thru-hull are always falling out and I’m always having to fix them, so maybe he’s wrong. Maybe the fact that they are hardly ever attached there is the problem.
Everyone has got an opinion when it comes to boats, I take them all with a grain of salt.
My biggest lesson from the boatyard boils down to how I am perceived and the best way to handle a business agreement. I think people see a girl alone on a boat and think they can screw her over.
Everyone warned me that the company that was helping me was highway robbery. I should have listened. We had a contract in place that I was comfortable with, but the sneaky little devils Tom Sawyered me into doing some of the work myself “to bring down my bill” then in the end they tried to charge me more than what we agreed on initially. It even looked like they charged me for hours that I worked!
My mom says if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I’ll leave it at that.
I will tell you that I stood my ground and that feels like growth. I took the strength of the ocean into the office with me and said, “This is not ok.” I used to be a push over. I used always play nice. I used to shut my mouth and bend other people’s direction just to keep the peace. But go ahead and try to pull the wool over my eyes now and see what happens. I’ll turn into a bear, a bobcat, the hungriest coyote you’ve ever seen. I’ll make you suck your thumb and cry for mama, if you even think about messing with me. And I will do it all with grace.
Anyway, I don’t want to end on such a sour note, but sometimes life gets a little sour and I can’t hide that fact.
Tonight is the super pink full moon. It will reach it’s closest point to earth for the year. And I am planning a night sail, so that I can bathe beneath it’s sun-reflected light.