We left Tikehau the morning of Christmas Eve. The wind was coming from the northeast, so we rounded the north side of the island and shot over from there. Sailing towards Ahe like an arrow, not like a long and lost lightning bolt, as I had sailed two weeks before with Juniper.
Sailing on Bad Kitty is like sailing in a gigantic living room. We spent our time playing cards and watching a movie on the big screen and taking turns sleeping.
At 5 a.m. Ahe began to take shape on the horizon. I was on watch, but naturally, the site of land made me want to get gussied up. I go down to my cabin to brush my teeth, splash water everywhere, maybe brush my hair, maybe not, but maybe so, because it’s Christmas after all and I mustn’t always look like a ragamuffin.
Bad Kitty needs to keep her engine on to stay bad, and she’s a twin screw, so she’s got two. We run them one at a time, in case one fails, there’s always the other. We have the port one on. I am below, mid-brush when I hear that engine slow and putter to a stop.
I run up, switch off the engine and the autopilot, and wake everybody up, while steering the boat with my feet. At first we think it’s a clogged fuel filter, but nope, we ran out of fuel. We have a 5 gallon jug of spare fuel and we pour every drip of it in. I say, “Good thing this happened right before the pass, instead of inside it.”
Can you imagine? Running out of fuel in a narrow channel, with reefs all around you, and water rushing so fast that your rudder means nothing! And forget the sails because the wind is dead ahead and you’d have to tack every second and you’d probably just go backwards. You’d be so overcome with frustration that you’d just give up and give your boat over to the current. Let it have its wild way with your vessel. Donate it to the fish. You’d take pride in knowing that you at least tried, and that your boat will become memorialized as a symbol on every future navigational chart with the word “shipwreck” written next to it.
Anywho, it was a very thrilling Christmas morning. I arrived back at the pearl farm by 9 a.m., which is still six hours before my plane was to land. And even though I departed Papeete six days earlier, on Saturday the 19th, the journey on the water was worth every wave.
The toilet on the pearl farm is a platform with a hole. Everything that goes in that hole, drops 10 ft. down and straight into the lagoon. When I sit on it I have a perfect view of Juniper. I like to sit there and stare at her, so that’s what I did after “hello.”
We are full with people here now. Nine, including a lineage of pearl farming men- Patrick, and his son- Josh, and Josh’s son- Teiva.
Everyone is tired on Christmas, so we celebrate the holiday on the 26th. That morning we go skurfing to the pass. Skurfing is surfing behind a skiff, imagine wakeboarding with a surfboard. At the pass, Josh spears six unicorn fish in less than thirty minutes. We eat them for lunch along with homemade chocolate banana cake. And we grow horns and honey-tongued and feel all magical afterwards.
The real party starts when the moon steals the sky and hangs high. Patrick says people live inside the moon and on the dark-side of it. I want to sail there someday, on my way to The Milky Way.
All of the gals put on their best dresses, and the men don their favorite swim trunks. We gather at the farm. We drink passion fruit cocktails and dance and pop poppers. Everyone has a colorful crown.
And there are presents too- shark finger puppets, polarized sunglasses, t-shirts, willy wash (which is exactly what you think it is- Josh’s wife bought it for him because he has been showering soap-less, on the farm, for who knows how long.) The greatest gift was given by Sandrine, the French fashion designer. She sewed a loin cloth for Patrick. He unwrapped it, dropped his trunks, put it on one leg at a time, and paraded around the way a muscle man would on any resemblance of a stage.
Christmas dinner was poisson cru- it’s a raw tunafish curry made with coconut milk. I’ve never had raw fish for Christmas. I like doing things I’ve never done, I much prefer them to the things I’ve always done. By now, though, I don’t remember a meal without fish. The questions before dining are only, “Tuna or parrot or unicorn? Should we eat it raw, or fry it, or bake it? Should we have it with rice or pasta or salad? How should we dress it?” It’s fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish.
Soon I will sprout gills and you can swim above me and play with my bubbles…. if you want to.