Apataki

I feel as though I bored you to bits with my quarantine story. Quarantine is a new part of my adventure from now on, for who knows how long. And honestly, I don’t know what fascinates you about me, so I just tell you everything and let whatever sticks, stick, until we are stuck.

I didn’t get the vaccine because I have this autoimmune thing. It’s got a cool name, Hashimoto’s. I call it Hashi for short. And Hashi gets mad when I jostle my immune system, and when Hashi is mad, Hashi looks like a rattlesnake and makes me feel like I’ve been bit by one too. My doctor said the vaccine could make Hashi go really cuckoo. So, there you have it.

Besides, I don’t mind travelling with long days of solitude in between. I can get used to something just as easily as I can get unused to it. My shape shifts are swift, like a cloud blown by the wind.

I write to you now from the boatyard in Apataki. It is not too far from Ahe, where Juniper kissed the shore. Imagine 50 boats on a bed of coral, surrounded by palm trees, and a fresh sea breeze. Imagine a lagoon the color of an early morning sky. Imagine baby sharks sleeping near the shore and air thick with dragonflies and enough crabs to carry you away. Imagine the smell of coconuts drying in the sun and wild pigs and more stars than sand. Imagine boats hauled out of the water with yellow tractors and country hits by Shania Twain blasting from big speakers. It kind of feels like Arkansas, actually. Right now, I am on a swing trying to swing high enough to touch the leaf of a breadfruit tree with my toe. The seabirds sound like frogs and the night has a hidden moon.

I left the prison hotel footloose. You know how sometimes, when water hits the shore, it sounds like it’s gulping? Well I felt like that sounds, when I was set free. Buoyant and thirsty. My friend picked me up at the hotel dock and I stayed aboard her catamaran where a baby octopus once swam up into the toilet. That boat was made for babies. My friend recently gave birth to twins. Watching her with them on the water is totally mind blowing. We had a BBQ on the beach where I met other cruisers. My favorite, a power couple who built a tiny airplane and have a massive dog and brewery onboard. They are from the Netherlands. The sunset was hot pink and I watched it drop behind the volcanic landscape of Moorea. In the afterglow, I learned how to strum a C on the ukulele. I learned other notes too, but they escaped me.

Boats on the water move my body in the best way and they conjure dreams too. When I closed my eyes, I was in a circle of painted men with feathers all over them. We danced together in concentric shapes that formed an atomic nucleus. The airplane ride to the Tuamotus, came early. I sat next to an 8-year-old who spoke English with an English accent and French with a French accent. He is from the Tuamotus, but where he got his tongue, I don’t know. I do know that one day, he will be top banana somewhere on this planet. We talked about the age of dinosaurs and he told me that son chien mange son chat and there was blood everywhere. You could have put 10,000 fish in my mouth after he told me that.

The plane made two stops before landing in Arutua. At the third take off, a man in red geometric-patterned swim trunks and a bright shirt, moved next to me and said in a thick French accent, “Excuse me, my name is Erwin and I think we are going to the same place.” And so we were.

When we landed in Arutua, Tony, who owns the boatyard in Apataki, picked us up on his fast boat to take us there. The helm of his boat is at the bow and it looks like a joystick. Water droplets flew through the air and we could see rain on the flat horizon and there were rainbows in the sky too. We let the sun brown our bodies with cold bottles of Hinano in our hands and stopped to fish at every patch of birds. We fished for a long time, worming our way through the water from this patch to that. The fish were fais dodo, but eventually we caught one and a shark caught it, so in the end, we caught a shark! And when we reeled the shark in, it was a was a flurry of blue and fins and fangs and fight, bashing against the boat like thunder. The thrill of it all tingled every part of me. We set the shark free.

This is the most magical boatyard I have ever been to. It is an oasis in a coral desert and I don’t even care that my boat is broken, because I am here and deeply absorbed by the beauty of this place. Erwin and I are the only boat owners in the yard and we are both alone, so we help each other fix the things that need mending with more than two hands. His boat is a ketch with a steel hull. He bought It for the high latitudes and sailed it through the arctic ice of Alaska. There is a rainbow painted on the starboard side. I point to it and say, “That is my favorite color.” He laughs.

I am grateful that he is here. I don’t know how I would do all of this by myself and secretly I feel better about my boat, because his boat is in much worse condition, and then I feel bad that that makes me feel better, but it does. With Juniper high among the trees out here in the middle of nothing, the klutz that resides in me is also grateful that he is an ER doctor. I have yet to tell him that I have been to the hospital in every country I’ve ever visited and that I am most certain I will eventually need one here.

We plan to sail out of here in tandem. By Sunday, if all goes well. We will go to Fakarava and then sail down to the Society Islands. I am worried about my rigging after Juniper hit the shore and sailing with another boat nearby eases everything in my mind.

Each day is a great deal of work from before sunrise until after sundown. I am on contract for two short films until mid-June. So from this desolate boatyard, I am also directing a team of people via the internet. My days look like this; I wake up at 5:30 a.m. – soaked in the sounds of Juniper’s windchimes and a little lopsided. I make coffee. I walk to a table by the sea and work for work. Then go back to the boat where I scrape barnacles, that stick to the metal on Juniper’s belly like suction cups. Then go back to the table by sea and work for work. Then eat lunch with everybody. Then the dishes. Then back to the boat to repair rigging and mend canvas and fix my starter button and a thousand other things. Then back to the table by the sea and work for work. Then dinner. Then dishes. Then droop into dreams. It’s all work and somehow, I have more energy here, than I do elsewhere on earth, and my mind is very very very peaceful.

4 Replies to “Apataki”

  1. Dearest Olivia ~ You are never boring! Everything you write is an important part of your story that needs telling! I follow you because your story, no matter what it is, is always narrated straight from your heart and soul — that is what speaks to me — that is what makes whatever story you share, magical and meaningful! OH! Speaking of ukuleles: I am about to host my first virtual ukulele strum-along for my ukulele group! I am nervous, but excited at the same time! Please remember my offer to help with your ukulele — it’s one way that I love to give to the world, by sharing ukulele love and joy! ~ chelle xo

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  2. You have so many secret weapons, but that work ethic is right up there in the top 5. I suspect that you too “. . . will be top banana somewhere on this planet.”

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  3. I love that you refreshed by the ocean, sand, sky, and wind. I am very happy the shark went back in the ocean were it belongs.

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  4. I come in out of the sun to water myself, my new to me boat Tomboy has Stern issues, and I just un shipped her rudder. I find along with refreshment for my body, from your hand, cool water for my soul. Tomboy came with a ukulele. Two days ago on her 19th birthday I sent a photo of it to my grand daughter. She is musical, and one Christmas I sent her a ukulele; So many of what the believers in quarks would call strange connections. Work you love is no work at all.

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