It’s our third day at sea. I am bruised and blistered and skin is missing from my fingertips, but my head is rinsed. The wind and the sea blew all thoughts beyond the here and now away.
We see the palm trees of Mataiva for one hot blue second. These atolls are all sunken volcanos that coral has accumulated in a ring on top of and sea water pools inside of that ring. The majority of them don’t rise beyond the level of the sea. They dissolves, like everything, inside of a squall.
Squalls, squalls, squalls. All day, so many squalls. The blue sky comes, the blue sky goes. Again and again and again and again and again.
The raindrops have a strange smell and they are glass hard. I am soaked and I shiver. My lips are a motor moving faster than a mountain lion. I am wetter than all things wet. I am tired. Can’t stop. 35 knots. Can’t sleep. Waves over bow. Can’t see. Can’t think. Can’t breathe. There is water under my skin and stuck to my bones. I am lost in a world of grey.
I fantasize about falling off the wind and running with it to another island, where there are no squalls, only fresh breezes and fish and coconuts. I fantasize about jumping overboard and living with the mermaids and mermen and being done with the drama of the sky for forever. I fantasize about walking into the teeth of the sun and letting all the water inside of my body evaporate.
I ride the rain and the wind hard until I am raw. Tikehau is right there. Somewhere. I can’t see it. I can’t see anything but the rain and the raw.
I smell like flying fish. I am a flying fish; swimming and soaring, mouth open, wings wide but wobbly.
I manage to eat a passion fruit through one squall. I don’t know which one. I lost count. Perhaps it was the tenth, or it could have been the thirteenth. There are no hours anymore, only odious raindrops and ominous skies.
I am dragged opposite the direction I want to go by the winds of the storms and the currents. I zig. I zag. I shake. I’m freaking exhausted.
The squalls finally stop. I put Brianna on watch and I go down to strip off the rain and sleep. I tell her to wake me up for anything and not to touch the windvane. I wake an hour later to the sails luffing and Juniper spinning in a circle.
I get us back on course and ask what happened. She said, “The wind shifted.” I think, can’t be, my windvane is the jam, if the wind shifts, Juniper will always hold the point of sail I set the vane to. I look at the vane. It had been improperly adjusted with it’s leading edge straight into the wind. I said, “It wasn’t the wind, you fiddled with the vane and until one fully understands sailing, they won’t fully understand how to use a windvane.”
I am a little sore about this, but her intentions were good and I know that. I don’t go back to sleep, but I need to.
We are only 10 NM away from Tikehau and the wind is blowing straight from it. I turn on the engine. We motor sail that direction against the dying light of day.
The island becomes visible one motu at a time, as if it is being painted on the horizon by Bob Ross. We see a boat sitting in front of the channel. It’s name is Driftwood. We wonder if the captain is the Juan we’ve been dreaming of and if he is waiting to guide us into channel.
The sun keeps sinking. We are 3 NM away. I radio Driftwood on channel 16.
“This is SV Juniper to Driftwood. Do you copy?”
The Driftwood captain, with an Australian accent, says, “Loud and clear, Juniper.”
Me, “Can we switch to 69?”
Him, “Switching to 69.”
On 69 I say, “Hey Driftwood. I‘ve never been here before, got any hot tips for entering the lagoon?”
He tells me to enter it at a heading of 120 true. He tells me there are fish traps on the right and left and to look out for coral heads. He says there is an out going current of 1 knot and we should be fine to enter now.
I thank him. I find out later that Driftwood belongs to the man who owns GoPro and nobody on the ship is named Juan.
We enter the channel. People surf the break outside the channel off of port. The channel markers are barely markers, they are sticks one can’t really see and tiny ball buoys one could wrap their prop on.
We make it in safe. We hook left and go to an anchorage off of a small fishing village that is nearest the surf break. A man named Tamatoa, not Juan, gets on his dinghy and shows us a safe place to anchor. We drop it, it sinks, I reverse. We are here and stuck good into the sand. I throw on the bridle. Brianna and I hug each other.
We cut veggies to make a curry. We haven’t eaten cooked food for three days. My hunger is here and I could eat a horse. I turn on the gas, it keeps shutting off and the propane alarm system sends an error message. I’ve never dealt with this before. I read the alarm systems manual. My eyes cross. It might as well be written in an archaic langue.
I think with some unknown part of my brain. I think of leaks. I think of soap and water. I grab a bucket of it. I pour it around every fitting of the propane tank looking for a leak. I see bubbles bubbling. I open up that fitting. I remove the old Teflon, wrap new Teflon on it and tighten it down good. It works! I am surprised every time something breaks and I fix it. I don’t know who that person is, but I like her. She comes in handy.
Our bellies are full with food now and we fall asleep. I dream that Brianna and I are playing tambourines and eating watermelons inside of a house filled with hummingbirds.