A BUSTED BELT & THE BROKEN-HEARTED FISHERMAN

Last night I had a bad dream with a turtle in it. I’m still in Kadavu, attached to the Mothership. The coral beneath me is Easter egg colored and the sunset is a dusty yellow rose. I’ve got seaweed in my hair, sand on my thighs, and mosquitos are buzzing around my ears.

Hot tip from the tropics: slather virgin coconut oil all over your body just before the sun goes down so the skeeters won’t get you- they’ll slide right off and it’ll keep your skin soft. It’s better than DEET. Trust me, try it.

It’s the season of the squid. I spent the morning chasing them into their ghost skins. I can’t help myself, there’s something magic about they’re electric-blue eyes and the way their body’s jello and change color.

After that I got interviewed by the cops, who came to the village in plain daylight even though I told them days ago that the search for my memories was over. The Po-po said more items have gone missing from the village and they want me to name names.

I didn’t. I don’t even know who done it anyway. We all suspect that my heroes are villains. Hakuna Matata knew too much. He was too cool. Too sly. Too slick, with his blue jeans and his guitar and his American songs. Saying things like, “When you drink kava it makes you walk like a crab, sleep like a baby, snore like a pig, and wake up like a grandma.” Plus he was ravenously consuming drugs in the way that people do when they want to shove down an extreme emotion, like guilt.

I don’t know why Hakuna Matata would do such a thing. I blame the moon. I blame the moon for everything right and wrong and wild in the terrestrial and cosmic worlds. I blame it because it’s beautiful and far away and it’s both the light and the dark.

I see the moon, the moon sees me, God bless the moon and God bless me.

I’m still not Zen since the robbery. The thrill, the rush, the adrenaline. Deep down I was simultaneously elated and swivel-eyed by the hunt. And now I’ve got a jazz neck and I’m kind of shook up. I look like a tweaker and I can’t stop from wondering if behind every smile is a savage.

I think there’s probably a savage in each of us and that at any given moment we could do something rebellious and rotten. Even me, right here, in the shadows of my island, there’s a heartless hunter creeping around and waiting for me to look away so he can catch fire to the water and burn all my bridges down. I won’t let him!

You know the most gut-wrenching part about this whole situation? It’s the people that got caught in the crossfire, like the Jehovahs Witness fishermen that everybody originally suspected. Someone posted on Facebook that he was the thief and when he went to sell his catch in town the next day, nobody would buy his fish. He normally sells out in two hours, he told me he was there past five o’clock trying to sling it all. He even had to buy two bags of ice just to keep it fresh. He was so broken-hearted when he told me. I don’t know how to undo this. It’s awful. It’s just awful.

Anyways, at this very moment I’m eating out of an earth oven. It’s called a lovo. Vuni, my favorite fisherman detective- along with his wife and cousin brothers- are hosting it in honor of my departure tomorrow. We’re sucking on raw sugar cane and eating the entire taro plant from leaf to stem to root. The leaf is my favorite part. It’s stuffed with garlic coconut milk.

Night comes and goes with all that glitters. My farewell to Vuni and the gang is bittersweet. I don’t want to go, but I need a change of scenery.

It’s 8 a.m. and I’m spinning on the water like a daisy. I can’t leave! There are fishing buoys going all the way across the pass. I attempt to go around them, but my depth climbs to two feet below the keel and I almost eat coral.

I radio the Mothership and Satellite No. 1. Me, “It looks like we got a fishing net blocking the pass. I’m making a bat turn.”

Mothership, “We’ll take the lead.”

Me, “Roger.”

I really like saying “Roger” on the radio. I say it without the “R” at the end, and I make all the vowels sounds like an “A.” RAJA. Beyond that word, I don’t have the proper radio etiquette, besides being able to spell things utilizing the radio alphabet.

Juliette Unicorn November India Papa Echo Romeo. Juniper.

The Mothership tries to break through the buoys but can’t. The captain jumps in the water to scope it out. He reports back that the buoys have long lines on them, not nets, and that there’s a shark caught on one of them. He says he and the shark were eye to eye and that it had a fierce force.

I feel trapped, like the shark. Can I please leave this place? I must leave this place because….. because…. because there is no antidote to my wanderlust.

All the boats are spinning in circles and I’m making calls to the villages trying to track down the fishermen. I look at my instrument gauges. My engine water is boiling. I throttle back. I go to neutral. I pick up the radio.

Me, “My engine water is on fire. My oil pressure is fine and my coolant levels are good.”

Satellite No. 1, “Is there water coming out of the back?”

Me, “Yes.”

Satellite No. 1 circles my boat and says, “That’s not a lot of water. Let’s go back to the anchorage. It could be your sea strainer or your impeller.”

Me, “I think it might be my belt because my alternator has been acting funny.”

Satellite No. 1, “How high is the temperature?”

Me, “ It’s astronomical, beyond the gauge, somewhere in the ether.”

We go back to the anchorage and raft up. The guys investigate my sea strainer while I check out the belt. The belt looks like it’s been through a meat grinder and it’s as loose as a goose. They replace it. Turns out I have four different spare belts, and none of them fit quite right, but we do what we can do to make do.

The fishermen who blocked the pass come over an hour later saying they will remove the lines. We tell them it’s too late. We tell them that we’ll leave first thing tomorrow. We tell them that their lines were a blessing that saved me from leaving the lagoon with an overheating engine. If those lines wouldn’t have been there I would have and been alone at sea with no wind and a broken belt.

5 Replies to “A BUSTED BELT & THE BROKEN-HEARTED FISHERMAN”

  1. The squid shot blows me away . . . hoping you have video. These guys can get big — I mean REAL big. On the Tonga – NZ passage one came along side in the middle of the night, maybe attracted to my spreader lights as I reefed down. I had the eerie feeling something was watching me. I turned to look and there it was, as long as my 27′ boat. It was a Jules Verne moment and I was wondering if I looked edible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your stories & the way you write them. when you spoke of Hakuna Matt, I swore I knew that guy … but then I realized my HM was on Moorea, not in the Yasawas or wherever you are exactly right now. your story continues to inspire me to follow your path. Still can’t believe it was Bonnie Prince Billy who helped me find your journey! haha, stay safe, and write down everything!! -Pete

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this comment! I’m so happy that you’re sailing along. There is probably an HM on every island 🙂

      Like

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