I was naked on my deserted spit of silver sand until a longboat pulled up with two tourists, lounge chairs, an umbrella, a hot picnic, and a bottle of champagne. I was vogueing my way around the shape of the shoreline to get my clothes back on. Imagine their surprise. Imagine mine. Bula Bula, hello hello. This is where the sky meets the ocean. So romantic.
Au domoni iko means I love you. And I do, I love you. But I don’t always tell you everything. I don’t know why. It was easier when you were faceless, but now that we have come face-to-face and I can see that you are taller than me, I feel shy.
I will tell you that I fell to pieces over the transmission. It was brief. My eyes were like a hornets nest of tears, stinging my face. Why? Because sometimes I feel like I’m sailing up a mountain and I’ll never get to the top because there is no top. Heck, there’s not even a view, there’s just rocks and blue and then something big breaks. Like it always does. Like the tranny. Like it knew I needed a break from the breaks so it broke. Like the boat wants to break. Like the boat wants to break me. Like the boat likes monkeying up my mind. Like the boat likes working me to the bone. I might start speaking in tongues. I might end up down the rabbit hole. I might.
Sailing is so much more than sailing. If you don’t like spending money, you won’t like sailing. If you don’t like fixing things, you won’t like sailing. If you don’t like problem solving, you won’t like sailing. If you don’t like floating on top of the most beautiful shade of water you’ve ever seen, while trying to figure out how to prevent your boat- which won’t go into forward gear- from crashing into the surf, then you won’t like sailing. This is sailing. And I still love sailing. I must have loved sailing ever since the Cosmic Egg cracked and the glowing world spilled out.
I am blessed to always find people in remote places to help me mend the broken pieces of my journey. I am blessed to always have the resources to repair Juniper. I am blessed that everything always works out in the end. I am blessed. And so are you, and you can do whatever you have always wanted to do.
It took phone calls all around the world, from Taiwan to Texas, and multiple rounds of pancakes to figure out what kind of transmission I have. Number plates are missing and the manual is old. I called the Ta Shing boatyard in Taiwan. It was a dead end, “We don’t keep information on boats as old as yours.”
When I hung up the phone the words “San Diego, San Diego, San Diego” were on repeat in my head. So I called my favorite marine diesel mechanic in San Diego. He told me I have a Hurth HBW 150V in a flash, but he didn’t know if my model was “early” or “late.”
So a man named Turtle and another named Coconut helped me tow Juniper between reefs, past The Island Bar, under a drawbridge, and into the cyclone hole at Musket Cove. Then the lead engineer of the Malolo Cat, Jack Jack, came to my boat on a golf cart (golf carts are cars on the dirt roads of Malolo Lailai), pulled my transmission off, opened it up, and counted the plates inside. Then I called a man in Texas to figure out if I owned the Early version or the Late version of the HBW 150V.
The Texan said, “If you got yerself 8 plates, then yous got yerself the late version.” Then I ordered a rebuild kit, which is ten times cheaper than a new transmission, and the Malolo Cat engineer is standing by to fix it.
Are you exhausted now? I am. I just turned the lights off so the bugs won’t find me. I’m in the dark drinking a bu (coconut). I’m a little upset because earlier today a Fijian woman told me that I look really tired and guessed my age to be 50 years old. The only nice thing she said is was that the strength in my eyes reminds her of Xena Princess Warrior. I would have like to have responded, “Thanks, you remind me of a cassava root.” It’s not a put down. Have you ever seen a cassava root? It looks like little humans.
I’m taking a break from the tropics. Leaving Fiji for a few weeks in Arkansas. Nobody in Fiji knows where Arkansas is. To dispel their confusion I say, “Have you heard of Texas?” They say, “Yes, everything is bigger in Texas!” I say, “Well Arkansas is right next to Texas.”
I’m flowing from one twisting vortex bullseye to the next; Tropical Cyclone Ruby is headed towards New Caledonia and a Tornado just blew across Arkansas. I spent three days preparing Juniper for my departure. Setting anchors, tying my stern off to palm trees, throwing anything that can catch wings and fly down below. The air was fire. The metal bits, burning my feet. Buckets of wet pouring out of my body. Along the way I found things that I thought I lost and lost things that I thought I found. That’s how life is all the time.
An Aussie sailor whose lived through a hundred cyclones showed me how to prep. His name is Don. He sails a catamaran that reminds me of a rickety treehouse or hobbit hole. He always wears a gecko pinned to his hat and dinghies around with a cat. He can tune your bones too. He’s a true vagabond. When his ex-wife gave birth in a remote part of Egypt and some villagers stole the baby for several days, Don said to his wife, “Don’t worry, if they don’t come back with the baby we can make another one.”
He showed me how to properly lash the lines around my stack pack and bimini. He told me to leave my solar panels up on a 90 degree angle, but to tie them with a lot of lines to the lifelines. That part was counterintuitive to me because I would think they’d have to be removed or folded to survive. Don said, “If you have flags up, take them down. Cyclone winds turn flags into steel knifes.” At one point I was slightly offended when Don asked if any of the sailor guys in Fiji had taught me how to tie a knot yet. I said, “I learned how to tie knots nine years ago from a gal named Tania Aebi. She even taught me how to tie some with my eyes closed!”
Juniper is all knotted up. She looks like a junk sail on the inside and a spider web made of six lines and three anchors on the outside. She’s bobbing nicely, tucked inside the inner circle of Musket Cove right next to SeaGlub. I’m off to the Big Smoke and when I get back to Juniper it will be like I’m unwrapping a big boat present.