All the lights are back on in the heavens. We didn’t see them for two days. I wrote them a love letter in their absence and send it out over the sky waves.
“Dear night and day. Everything is unbearable without your light. Without you I feel, at the same time, both hollow and heavy. It’s as if the world stopped turning. Nothing tastes the same. Nothing looks the same. Nothing is the same. I miss your tangerine. I miss your pink. I miss every shade of your blue. I miss the way you twinkle and fall and fade and rise. I miss your trillions of eyes. And the way they wink at me when nobody else is looking. I miss soaking in your splendor. I miss the way you embrace me and most of all I miss embracing you. I have taken you for granted and for this I am truly sorry. I imagined that you would always be there, because you always have, and truthfully I never really knew how much I fancied you until you were gone.”
Take nothing for granted.
We are sailing straight towards the Southern Cross and behind us is the Big Dipper. The Polynesian’s name for the Southern Cross means “cared for by the moon.” Their name for the Big Dipper means “the seven” and one of those seven stars rises between the houses referred to as “the voices” and “high chiefess.”
The Polynesian names are much more mystical than the English ones. They seemed to have named the constellations and stars based on how it feels to behold it or how it relates to the rest of the sky or what it does to their hearts.
If I could name just one star. I’d name her Viola.
We are way out here now. Just a little south of 6 degrees north and 600 or so nautical miles from Christmas Island, 900 NM from Big Island, 962 NM from Karoraina, 4000 NM from Panama and 1412 NM from Tahiti. Basically the middle of nothing and everything, but it’s a middle with a vast expanse between the everything.
Last night, after the sun fell and the stars rose, we saw a ship off our starboard stern. It was a big ole fishing vessel and the first boat we’ve seen in 10 days. When we saw it, I was thinking, “Holy moly! Hallelujah! We’re not alone out here!” And that thought was so soothing. Sava was thinking, “Oh shit, we’re not alone out here.” He said he didn’t like the idea of other boats around. It made him immediately think of accidents.
The ships name was Kyoshin Maru No. 1 and I wondered if there was a Kyoshin Maru No. 2 or 6 or 20 somewhere out there.
Kyoshin had a big bright light that it would flash from time to time across the water. We could see it light the ocean up from more than 4 nautical miles away.
I switched on the VHF. I checked their speed, course over ground, and closest point of approach (CPA). They were of no consequence to us at the time, but still I wanted them to know that we were out here.
I pushed the button on the VHF and said “Kyoshin Maru No. 1, this is SV Juniper, I am the sailing vessel off your starboard bow, 4.6 nautical miles away. Do you see me. Over”
I tried again.
I decide that we are fine and dandy, but keep the VHF on, just in case.
It’s my watch and I lay down in the cockpit to read. Bam. I’m blasted with a bright light. I throw the book down and sit up. Now Kyoshin Maru No. 1 is off our stern. And he’s pointing his laser beam light all around us.
Surely he sees us? I radio again.
Again and again and again.
Finally a voice, with a thick accent and few English words responds.
“This Kyoshin Maru No. 1, over.”
Me, “Thank heavens Kyoshin! Listen I’m a sailing vessel, just off your bow. My course over ground is 165 magnetic. Just want to make sure you see me, over.”
Kyoshin, “I understand. over.”
Then, 5 minutes later. Kyoshin says, “Sailing vessel, this Kyoshin, I don’t see you.”
I think, heavens to Betsy, if this man don’t see us, he’s gonna run us right on over.
I give him the same information as before, then add “My speed is 4 knots. I know, that’s embarrassingly slow. If you see the wind, send him my way. Over.”
Kyoshin, “I understand. My course now 145 magnetic, over.”
Phew, he changed course. Crisis averted! I wipe my brow. I do a little dance, just my hips. Just a quick twist back and forth and back and forth.
Then Kyoshin comes back, “Where you going, over?”
Hmm. What is this man fishing for?
Me, timidly, “Tahiti, over.”
Kyoshin, “Best sailing to you, over.”
Me, “Did you catch any fish today, over.”
Kyoshin, “No, no fish now….” Then he explains something more but I don’t fully understand. And I know there are fish out here, because we caught two big ones today. In the end, they both escaped, with Josh’s best lures in their mouths. The damn convicts!
Kyoshin, “Where you come from? Over.”
Dare I say Arkansas?”
Me, “Hawai’i, over.”
Kyoshin, “We been at sea for one year.” Pause. Then, “I went Tahiti once. Two months, there Tahiti, over.”
Me, “Did you like it? Over.”
Kyoshin, “Yes. Much, over.”
Me, “Where are you from, over.”
Kyoshin, “I come from Indonesia, but boat come from Japan, over.”
I like Kyoshin. I want to meet him. Just briefly. I want to see the face that this voice falls from. I want to ask him if he has ice cream onboard and if he can toss me any. I want to see if we can raft up and play a game of poker or something. But mostly, I want to see what a man looks like after a year at sea. And I want to see pictures of how he looked before he stepped onboard and compare it to his face now. I like to see how the wind and the water reshapes a human. I think once the sea seeps into you, once it’s pumping through your veins from heart to head and toes and back, you change. It’s subtle but way sexier than what a mountain or desert or canyon or river will do to ya.
I am just about to click the VHF and tell Kyoshin that I was in a Balinese gamelan orchestra and that I know how to play several Indonesian instruments- gong, bass xylophone, and flute. And that I very much like the dance that accompanies the music. The way the eyes bulge and the fingers flitter and the body gets angular as an Indonesian dancer moves. I want to ask him too, if he dances.
Kyoshin, “Ok, ok, ok (he is not talking to me, he is speaking to someone in the background. Perhaps his Japanese boss). Must go. Have good sail. Over.”
My visions of ice cream and poker melt in my mouth.
Me, “Thank you. You too. I hope you catch something really big out there. I hope you see a bunch of shooting stars. I hope your not away from land for so long that you forget how to walk. Aloha. Over.”
I don’t know if Kyoshin and I would be friends on land, but if we were I would tell people, “This is my friend, we met in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 6 degrees north of the equator.”
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