Here is my life in days…..
I get a call. Jack Jack is ready to install my transmission. He brings wood planks and a ratchet puller and bangs on things with a hammer. The shaft gets pushed so far aft someone has so jump in the water to push it back through the transmission. It’s back on. Everything is back together.
I cross my fingers and toes and fire the engine. I put her in gear. She sounds like a kitten, no a tiger. Then I throttle up. She doesn’t have any mojo in forward and the shaft is spinning slow and irregular like it’s been frightened by the boogie man or something. I throttle back. I shift to neutral. Down to reverse. I throttle up. Same kind of behavior. I’ve got no juice, no oomph, no power, in forward or reverse.
Before this dance started, my tranny could move real good in reverse, but she was busted in forward. Now she‘s busted all over! In trying to fix her, we broke more.
Jack Jack looks at me and says, “I don’t know what’s the matter. Can you call my boss?”
All of a sudden my head hurts and my teeth too. I call his boss Suka and Suka says, “Tell Jack Jack to take off the flywheel and the bell housing.”
I say, “Why?”
Suka, “So we can check it because if forward and reverse aren’t working then that’s probably the issue.”
I say, “I’m no mechanic, but it doesn’t make any sense to me that it would have anything to do with the bell housing because reverse was working before y’all touched the transmission. Are you sure the plates in the rebuild kit are the same size as the original plates? Maybe that’s the problem?”
Nobody listens to me. The flywheel is coming off. My headache is now a migraine. Dear God why did you not give me a mechanical-minded brain? What is happening? I think I‘m gonna faint. I’m laying down in my v-berth about to firecracker myself into a sky song.
I have no transmission. It’s been a month. My boat can’t move. I wish an octopus would come ink out this day. At least I’m stuck here, in Musket Cove, which feels like some tropical surf summer camp for the rich and almost famous Australians.
I wake up. My teeth and jaw are in a bad way now. They feel like a giant has been stomping all over them with his school-bus sized bare feet and they’re about to fall out. I think I need a dentist, but there are waves breaking.
Chris and I take an hour dinghy ride over to Namotu. It’s popping. I drop him on the North side of the island so he can surf Lefts with all the real surfers. Then I swing around to the other side and surf Swimming Pools with all the souls still learning to surf. I’ve been learning to surf for seven years but if you were to see me you’d think I started only seven days ago.
Who the hell cares? I’m catching lots of waves and pearl diving off of some of them too. My teeth are so bad that I’ve got vertigo each time I stand up. I’m riding a wave when I realize that my this is just a physical manifestation of my transmission stress and deep down in my abyss I can feel my tide turning.
The ocean can do that for you if you let it. Alchemy at it’s finest. Its that universal elixir everybody has always been thirsting for.
I learn about a new wave called Love Shacks and I want to go splash my body all over it, but the sun is past noon now and my lips and legs are all sun-fire.
I slap cream all over my skin and stay inside until I see nothing but the moon. It’s full and bright and I’m playing a dominos game called Mexican Train with some other sailors.
One of the sailors, Kurt, is from the yacht club in San Diego where I found Juniper. He knows the previous owner. I tell him I do too because his ghost won’t leave me alone. His ghost likes to flicker my lights and every time I pee I can feel him watching me.
I wake up. My lips and legs are blistered and I’m walking around the boat like a penguin. I get a call from Suka.
He says, “You’re right. Nothing is wrong with the bell housing.”
I say, “Yea, I don’t know anything about anything, but it never made sense to me that there would be. So what do you think the problem is?”
He says, “I don’t know. Can we call any mechanics that have worked on your transmission before?”
I say, “Did you check the new plate sizes? Are they the same?”
He says, “They look the same. Why wouldn’t they be the same?”
I say, “ I don’t know, but sometimes this voice in my head tells me stuff that sounds outlandish, but if I follow the guidance of the voice it is often right. I don’t know where the voice comes from. It could be God or a guardian angel or the ghost of my grandma standing next to me and whispering stuff in my ear all the time. And right now this voice keeps saying to check the plate sizes.”
Suka says, “Oh, are you religious?”
I say, “I don’t know how anybody that can be alone in the middle of the ocean and not have faith in God.”
We hang up. I start calling around. I find a mechanic on the mainland named Krishna. Krishna is the Hindu deity of love and tenderness and bliss and his body is blue. A picture of him is on my galley wall, right next to Jesus and Buddha. I take this as an omen. I call. Krishna answers.
“Hi. You ever rebuild transmissions?”
“You familiar with the hurth V-drives?”
“Yes, I have rebuilt several.”
“Great. I’m sending one your way. It’s already been rebuilt and now it’s more broken than it was before!”
I put the transmission on a ferry headed towards Krishna in Viti Levu.
I read and make music and walk around the island. When I look up all I see are coconuts.
I find a gecko on Juniper. She likes to hang out in the bathroom right next to the head (toilet.) She’s more robust that the last one, I think she’s gonna thrive. I name her Moonshine because the shine of the moon makes me smile. And also because if you drink too much moonshine on a boat you’ll spend all your time with your head on the head and you’ll probably go blind too.
Krishna calls. He says the problem is that the plates in the rebuild kit are thinner than the original ones. He says he can rebuild my transmission using some of the old parts and some of the new parts and that we messed up some ball bearings by trying to run the engine with the wrong size plates. He says he needs time to source everything.
I LOVE THE VOICE THAT WHISPERS IN MY EAR! It was right about the plates! Thank you God or grandma or whoever you are. I’m feeling all guided and fire-hearted now.
Chris and I sail SeaGlub to Momi Bay. It’s a slow magic carpet ride the whole way.
The entrance to the bay is wide-mouthed. And it’s got green hills with war cannons on top. At night the bay flashes with red lights to help ships navigate through the barrier reef.
It’s just us here. I like it when it’s just us. I hear rumbles. I look up at the sky to make sure it’s not another underwater volcanic explosion or Zeus murdering people with lightning bolts somewhere far away.
Krishna calls. My transmission is ready. His expertise has already cost me a fortune and I can’t afford to have him come to Musket Cove to install it, so I tell him I’m sailing around the mainland now and I’ll scoop the transmission from him in Denarau on Tuesday. I’ll have to figure the install out later.
It’s 8 a.m. and there’s a sea snake in the water. I jump in naked and follow it around the boat. It sees me. It wants me. It turns and starts snaking right at me with it’s black and white stripes and poison. It’s deadlier than deadly and I don’t know what to do. Right before it’s gonna get to me it dives and slithers down so deep that I can’t see any speck of its existence. Just plain disappears.
We hoist the sails, weigh anchor, and sail right on out of the bay. We‘re heading to Robinson Crusoe Island with 15 knots of wind on a reach. When we get to the pass there’s tuna so thick in the water that you’d think the devil was boiling the sea. Birds are busting their feathers to catch a fish. Chris tosses a line out with a cedar plug and two minutes later the rod is bent towards the water like a willow.
We furl the genoa and take turns reeling the line in. I don’t do much in the way of helping… nothing on earth will make you feel weaker than fighting a fish on a line.
We get the fish on deck. It’s 10 kilos, and if it had legs it’d be taller than me, and it’s skin is all silver rainbows, and it tastes old and wise just like a grandpa fish.
I start thinking about how powerful the ocean is and how it’s full of gifts like this. And how grateful I am for this Grandpa Tuna Fish and how it’s gonna feed us and our boat neighbors for days on end. And how the ocean is the source of life. How the ocean is food, and medicine, and oxygen, and energy. How the ocean is Mother. How the ocean is love. How without the ocean the earth would loose 97 % of its water, and the rain would stop falling, and the world would catch fire, and humans would die of dehydration, and eventually this planet would be dust.
The sun drops down behind a burst of rain. I’m at a Fire Dance ceremony on Robinson Crusoe. I drink kava and my lips tingle, and i eat food cooked in a pit underground. It’s called a Lovo pit. Everything is smoke and delicious. I watch as men twirl flaming sticks over the dark water. It looks like an explosion of stars at the beginning of dawn, back when you and I and the ocean were first created.
One Reply to “SUN-FIRE & FIRE-HEARTED”
Your post brought back memories of my Hurth transmission problems on a trip from South Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico. Bad weather, bad transmission, bad timing, bad feeling, etc. Totally relate! Best of luck on the rebuild. “I don’t know how anybody that can be alone in the middle of the ocean and not have faith in God.” Amen!