I left the boatyard on Saturday. On my own. The steel boat will now be destructed and the preparation for that will take time; removing all diesel and other fluids, belongings, etc. and I was itching to get back on the sea.
The cost of the my mistake- leaving my boat on a mooring in the Tuamotus- was great. It ate every penny I have earned since arriving back to French Polynesia and then some. And I have been working everyday. And I am exhausted. And I don’t know if anybody has told you this yet, but a boat is a money pit.
Seeing Juniper get lifted by a yellow tractor and dropped into clear water surrounded by coral heads, made my heart flip and flop. Jolts of everything flying through me. The tractor lets her loose in the water. I reverse and weave between coral bommies to escape an uncertain doom.
But then I was free, and I was free. I began my voyage across the lagoon to the bicycle-gang village. Tuherahera. My friends are there on their catamaran. Inapo. It’s a French family that has been sailing together since the family formed. They have three kids, slightly younger than me- Felix, Leo, and Maya. I gave Felix a six hour haircut, back in December, in the lagoon of Tikehau.
The only obstacle between me and the village, is one coral patch that is the size of a small flat island. It’s not marked, but I was told that I could see it a mile away. Try .2 miles, but I had it’s latitude and longitude marked on my chart anyway.
I was happy to be back among the feedback of a new nature. After two hours, an encounter with a sea turtle, and giving myself a manicure, I make it to the pass. The village rests in the middle of the pass and I’m sweating up a storm as I thread the channel markers. I see a large ship with a rainbow painted on it. I see old pearl farms. I see dive boats. I see the village. And I’m nervous about docking and the reef and every possible thing, but then I see Leo zipping over on his dinghy to help me.
I tie up to the cargo pier and it’s got these big black rubber fenders and Juniper’s cream gel coat turns to charcoal. I can’t win for loosing!
We have a bbq on the next motu over with a local family. I eat a brownie and my cabbage mouth doesn’t know what to do. The sweet. The soft. The goo of sugar. The father of that family takes me fishing. We don’t catch anything but a pile of birds and it’s as thick as mud. Winged mud. The sunset is fire. The dolphins, kaleidoscopic. The water, magic, as always.
The man’s son, Te Mana, who has bleached hair tips, tells me that he used to work on a local cargo ship and wants to learn to sail. I invite him to sail to Fakarava. Never thinking he’d accept, but he does.
The next morning I go to church in the village and get lei’d. I’m still filthy from the boatyard, but now I smell like a bouquet. Ten men with guitars and ukuleles stand at the front of the church. All the women are in floral crowns and bright dresses. A man welcomes me. He says, “Today is a special day. It’s Mother’s Day. Do you have any children?” Me, “Non.” Him, “Very good! Do you have a husband?” Me, “Non.” Silence, which I break by saying, “Very good!” The congregation laughs. He says, “Wander the village until you find a husband, then you can stay here forever!”
They play some songs in English for me. Mother this. Mother that. The most beautiful woman in the church hugs me long and hard and strokes my hair. It‘s so affectionate, that I think she might either have some unspoken desires or an extreme amount of pity for me.
I leave church. I go to the magasin to buy fresh anything. There is a long line. Everyone from beyond is in it. Te Mana’s little cousin, Teiva, runs up to me and asks if he can sail with me too. I am so blissed out from church that I say, “sure.” I didn’t ask his experience or if he gets seasick or anything.
Twenty minutes later, the cousins are loading everything they own onto Juniper – boom boxes, spearguns, boogie boards, towels, pillows, blankets, an entire kitchen’s worth of food (which is good because the magasin only had potatoes). Their parents release our lines and push us off the dock. We follow Inapo out of the channel. I hoist the main and peel off on a downwind course for Toau. French Polynesian reggae is blasting. We are dancing.