I hand crank the anchor up. The mud of Mo’orea is flying everywhere. Black mud. All over me. Like cake. And just when my anchor is up and I’m busy locking it in place and the mud is the muddiest, my neighbor starts chitchatting from across the water. “Where are you going Arkansas?” And I’m all, “Raiatea. I would love to talk but nobodies at the helm and nothing is holding this boat down. Gotta jet.”
I get to the pass. I make it to the first channel marker and the wind is blowing 25 knots, 35 degrees off the starboard bow and Juniper is getting blown hard towards port. Heeling over without any sail up. I don’t like the feeling. If the reef wasn’t on both sides of me, I might not mind it, but reef is and waves are raging over it. So, I turn around. I make circles. I wait. I tell myself that I can do it.
I would do it too, if another boat was doing it. That‘s the kind of person I am. But nobody else would be doing it because a few more knots and it’s a near gale and you know what Chapman says about a near gale? He says, “boats remain in harbor; those at sea heave-to.” And Chapman wrote the Bible of boating, so I stick his words in my heart right next to all the things Jesus said. But then again I hate heaving-to and I also like what John Rousmaniere has to say on these matters, and he doesn’t even mention heaving-to until gale force 8 (34-40 knots) for my size boat.
Honestly, I’d rather sail the wrong direction than heave-to. I’d rather end up in Timbuktu than heave-to. I’d rather drink sharks blood than heave-to. Why? I don’t freaking know. Remember when I sailed half-way up Oahu then went upwind against the trades for 10 hours, just to avoid heaving-to? I think I just like moving. Yes, movement. I need movement in my life always.
But anyway, I try to exit the pass a second time. I feel all the feelings all over again. I turn around. I go back to the anchorage and begin to drop the hook. I am upset, as anyone failing at something would be, but I console myself with two facts: 1- the mud in this anchorage is soft and my anchor is a drag queen and I was getting close to shore and needed to re-set the anchor in any case, 2- it’s going to take me 20 or so hours to get to Raitea and there’s a lot of boat traffic between, so sleep will be a chess game and I could use a little more rest.
My chit-chatty neighbor asks, “What happened?” I fess up, “I’m a freaking chicken and I don’t like trying to weave between the reef in a strong breeze, but if your leaving tomorrow, when the wind will be even stronger and the swell bigger, then I will follow you. I will let your big boat block the wind from my little boat through the pass. And if anything happens to my little boat, I will swim to your big boat. Safety in numbers, you know!”
He says, “Ok, I am leaving tomorrow but for Bora Bora, not Raitea, cause it’s my wife’s birthday on July….” I can’t hear anything else he says because I’m dropping the hook and the chain is falling fast. It pops out of its do-hickey and I have to focus. I have to get in the way of the chain and gravity and pull with all my skin to put it back in place and now I’m missing some of that skin.
The anchor is set and I’m waiting for it to get dark enough to shower in the cockpit. The wind sounds wild enough to tatter all kites and I’m happy that I’m here and not out there. This heart can only take so much of nature’s flight.
Plus, if I was out there, I’d be praying a lot and do you ever think that you can pray too much? Like you pray so much that your voice becomes a soft texture in the background. Like that sound that went on for so long that nobody can hear it anymore because everybody got used to it. Like a long rain, or birds at mid-day, or crickets at midnight.
When I’m at sea, I pray constantly. I pray. I pray. I pray. I pray. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done something out there, it always feels like the first time.
I just showered. I feel like a peach. Speaking of peaches, I miss Cici, who had to go back to Finland, but I like Mo’orea and have dosed myself with nature and new friends since arriving.
I learned how to row a Va’a (traditional canoe) with the owner of The Little Turtle and he fed me fine food too. I had a party in a home-made hammam at the house of the Polynesian man who invented tandem kite-boarding. His home is surrounded by a river of eels and he let me name his pet coconut crab…I named her Cokie. I started a bamboo orchestra inside of a bamboo forest. I watched the sun spark through spider webs. I saw a man get possessed by a water deity on a beach at sun drop. And there are ferns and guava and purple flower banana trees and avocados, everywhere I go.
My favorite day is the day that I got lost with a friend whose eyes change colors. We hiked 7 miles barefoot to get a view from the Belvédère. We collected fallen passion fruits along the way. We wound up at a party where young men were singing, a horse farm where they offered to give us the horse that always runs away, and a pineapple field where nothing was ripe. When we finally got to the top of the mountain to stare at the water from above, a man gave us his last cold coconut. We hitchhiked down on the back of a truck. Standing up. Singing. Catching bugs in our mouths.