After Juniper crashed into shore, the pearl farm and I decided it was best that she move elsewhere. She was like a parentless problem child, who got restless, snorted salt, snuck out, then got caught climbing back into her best friend’s window after a long night of misbehaving- lipstick stains on her underwear and everything.
So Juniper needed to move, but trouble was, nobody could get her engine going. One attempt, a couple of months back, lead to her starter button falling off. Just plumb pushed through the panel. That’s when I began melting and wanted to say, “Ok, nobody touch Juniper, she’s been touched enough. In fact, she has been too touched. So touched, that the places where she was touched are no longer there!”
But then Juniper broke free from her mooring and started kissing all over the sand of the shores and she had to be touched a bunch more. Bless all of those hands who touched her, without them she wouldn’t have survived!
Juniper is part of me and I am a part of Juniper. I’m always there when her dohickeys are being fiddled with! I’ve never not been there for that. To not be there, felt like I woke up in the hospital with a bunch of hands fishing stuff out of my own throat.
I do realize that my attachment to Juniper is perhaps not healthy, but a sailboat is not an inanimate object. Not at sea, nor near shore…. a sailboat is so much more. Juniper is my best friend and she really did save me from myself. Without her, I’d probably be in a hole so deep inside the earth that you’d have to hire the hounds to find me.
Ok anyway, Juniper broke free, but was now back on the mooring, but still nobody could get her engine going. I sent her start instructions. I sent details about where the engine wires sometimes shake loose. I sent everything I knew to send. Still nothing. So how can she move to a new location without an engine? Nobody on the farm knew.
I called some sailor friends around French Polynesia. I called this person and that person and the other person. One said, “The engine won’t start? You need to move her from the Tuamotus? Oh good luck with that… impossible and expensive.” Their words were like a hailstorm in the middle of my summer- a cold front smashing into my hot one and raining a ruckus down on my earth. I said, “Thanks,” and hung up quick.
Another person that I called suggested that I call the Mayor of Ahe and ask if Juniper could be moved with his barge. Wow! What an idea! But I knew that in order to make that happen, I would probably have to sign like 30,000 documents and get 15 different agencies to sign off on it. What does the French Government do with all their bureaucratic paperwork? Do they have file cabinets out the wazoo? Do they dance naked around bonfires of it? Do they have basements full of paper airplanes? I mean somebody has to look through all that paperwork. Do their eyes and fingers bleed? Those poor people. Probably interns, young and jaded after sifting through one man’s passport renewal papers.
Anywho, things can feel so complex from afar, if I allow them to feel that way. I did not. I kept my thoughts the temperature of a tropical breeze and kept them blowing warm through palm trees. I told myself that everything is easy. That I can move a boat from a remote atoll and that it did not involve mayors or paperwork or broken buttons or busted engines.
I called the boatyard in Apataki, which is about 60 NM away from Ahe. It’s family-run by a family born and bred in the Tuamotus. A man named Tony answered the phone. I could tell by his voice that he was sweet like sugar. I told Tony the situation. I said, “Is there room for her in the yard and how in the heck can I get her there?” Tony said, “Oh yea, boats end up on the reef all the time around here. I can help! There is room in the yard and I’m a very good mechanic, I can motor over to Ahe with my own boat, get Juniper’s engine going and bring her back to our yard.” I about fell over with exaltation. Hallelujah!
Tony waited a few days for the winds to calm. He texted me the day before leaving for Ahe and he was getting nervous about the engine. What if he couldn’t get it started? I said, “Tony, you are a mechanic. Don’t worry, keep the positive vibes!” Then I sent him a reggae song and a pdf of Juniper’s engine manual, which I can’t even believe I found so easily online! That engine is older than the pines.
The next day, Tony motored to the pearl farm with his entire family because it was Easter weekend! It took them about six hours to get there. Tony got Juniper purring with the help of one of the captains on SV Wild Thing, which hails from Hawaii. Everyone aboard SV Wild Thing and the captain of a boat called Ajax, have been taking care of Juniper in my absence. Without them, I would surely crumble.
That night, the pearl farm had a big fish BBQ with Tony’s family. They sent me photos and I was crying because I was so happy to see them all together. Something beautiful is always born out of chaos…. friends making new friends.
Tony motored Juniper out of Ahe’s lagoon and headed towards Apataki. Twelve hours later he landed with Juniper at his yard. He messaged to tell me that he made it, but he was tired and hungry, and now he was sleeping and eating and sleeping and eating. I asked what was wrong with the engine and Tony said, “It’s just that they didn’t know how to start it.” The glow plug was the culprit. Every boat is different and on Juniper you have to hold the glow down for thirty seconds, then while still holding the glow, press the start. That part of the instructions was getting watered out of the starting equation along the way. I went back and re-read all the start instructions that I had sent. The bit about the glow is there, but it’s there along with a bunch of other words. I think I write too much. I think I need to simplify my communication so everything important is seen. This is a good lesson for me.
I’m so happy that nothing was really wrong with the engine. I am so happy that Tony had a safe voyage aboard a boat that ran herself ashore, only a week before. I am so happy everybody made new friends along the way. I am so happy that the pearl farm is free of the burden of Juniper. I am so happy, so happy, so so so happy.
Now what? As long as the country opens up, I go back in May. In the meantime, I got asked to captain a 46 ft. catamaran in the Sea of Cortez. The trip is from April 10th– April 17th. We have one cabin still available and if anybody wants in, I can get you a friends and family rate. The cabin is perfect for a couple, or best friends, or lone wolves. I know this is all very last minute. They asked me on Friday if I could do the charter, so with a week to prepare, I’ve been rushing around.
For a chance to be at sea, I will rush around all day long. I’m excited to get back to saltwater. Without it, my skin is dry. My head is cracked. My eyes popped. Plus, I can’t wait to dive with sea lions and sea turtles and starfish!
*Thank you so much to everyone who donated to help Juniper with her shore-kissing extravaganza. The donations have helped to cover the cost of sending gifts to everyone who rescued Juniper, and the cost of having Tony come out to repair Juniper and motor her to his yard, and the cost of hauling her out in the yard, and the cost of storage in the yard, and the cost of gathering all the materials needed to repair Juniper. I truly couldn’t do this journey without y’all and it means the world to me to have your support.