It’s 2:29 a.m. Tetiaroa sits like a shadow beneath the moon off of starboard. I can’t smell land, even though it’s only 3 nautical miles away. I see one boat bobbing next to it on the chart. It’s name is Poe Nina. The name makes me reflect on the macabre nature of both Poe’s writing and resulting impact of Columbus’s expeditions.
I have a book about early mariners; Magellan, Columbus, Dias, etc. In it I like how Columbus describes the beauty of the island he called La Isla Espanola “A thousand tongues would not suffice.”
But most of all I like that these early explorers are said to have feared giant, ship-eating sea serpents as real hazards on the water. Swedish Archbishop Olaus Magnus, supposedly saw several and wrote that the sea snake “Puts his head on high like a pillar, and catcheth away men, and he devours them.”
I wonder what this world would be like, had these voyages ended in the bellies of these snakes instead of the shores of the “New World.” I think about all the people and languages and gods and traditions and sacred objects and knowledge and beauty that was lost due to the spread of an empire and a thirst for gold.
Golden now is the moon and she is still dripping down her milk and creating blue slivers of light across the interior of the boat. They glide from one side to the next. Outside the whole world looks like an afterglow.
Papeete is about 28 nautical miles away. That’s less than the distance from Los Angeles to Catalina Island, which was my first and only solo sail before departing to Hawaii. It did nothing in the way of preparing me to cross the ocean, but at least it was something. A small something, like dipping my pinky toe into some shallow side of a river, then determining it was ok to jump off a bridge into some deep and faraway part of that same river. Never fully calculating the momentum that a river can gain as it deepens and widens and bends and collects rain.
Jumping into water from the tall ledge of a rock, was my favorite thing to do growing up. My first jump, was into a bauxite quarry, not too far from Little Rock. When I close my eyes I see the water as a beautiful viridescent, though memories can’t fully be trusted and perhaps it was actually brown. Over time a memory can rust or dilute or transform or disappear or get jagged or grow silver. We remember how we want to remember or how is safe to remember, or sometimes we turn an entire memory into a fantasy that feeds the present with a pang for the past.
We are about 19 NM away now and I can see the city lights of Tahiti. I am watching meteors drizzle out of the sky before the break or dawn and I’m pretty sure I just watched a star twinkle itself to death. I sit here looking up in hopes that a fireball meteor will rocket past me. I barely missed the one Josh saw a few weeks back, but I’ve seen one before and I think it is burned into my brain permanently. I can still see it now, in all its magnificence, flaming across the sky.
The sun just rose and I can see all the beautiful shapes of Tahiti’s mountains. They look so massive. We should arrive in two hours time.
We are all in the cockpit now awaiting our arrival. Last night, for our last meal onboard, Josh baked us a pineapple pizza and we all shared a beer. It felt right for a Friday night. The mermen are talking about everything they are going to shove down their throats once we get to shore.
Shore. Shoreline. Seashore. Shoreside. Shore- Noun: The land along the edge of a sea, lake, or other large body of water.
It’s been 23 and half days since we’ve seen the site of shore. I don’t miss it yet, but I’m grateful to have arrived.