SPLIT INTO SKY

The Navandra anchorage is so rock and roll that it’ll make you throw up your Fruit Loops. Everybody’s leaving. The pirates and their Jolly Rogers are long gone on the horizon and I’m getting towed back to civilization by Zephyr. That catamaran is always doing something real nice for me. They gave me the power of the sun and a new anchor; a Rocna! That anchor won’t let Juniper drag, but the thing weighs a whole pen of pigs and seeing as how I anchor by hand, it’s causing me a new kind of trouble. I’m afraid my arm’s gonna rip right out of its socket on the drop.

I’ve still got my old CQR that drags all over the earth, so now I’m trying to figure out which side the grass is greener on. Do I risk loosing a boat part or a body part? I can’t decide which is worse because the boat might as well be my body and if anything irreparable happened to Juniper I’d probably spend a stint in a mental institution or a prison or somewhere equally as grim.

Two singlehanded sailing friends have boats that became shipwrecks this month. They lost everything to the blue and salt. Just like that. One of them fell asleep while drifting off Samoa and ran aground. The other fell overboard off the coast of Panama. It was a calm day, he had just caught a fish, and he slipped off the stern. He was 9 NM offshore and had to swim for 10 hours, only to wind up on a piece of land that he describes as “no-man’s land without any way out. Jagged rocky cliffs fringed by dense impenetrable jungle.” He used his shirt on a stick to flag a passing boat down! Meanwhile, his boat sailed into some rocks and sank with the mainsail and the jib still hoisted and trying to capture wind. All he has left are the shirt and shorts he fell overboard in, plus a toothbrush that a nice person bought for him.

It takes like a gale for me to tether to the boat, but after that story I’m gonna tether even on calm days, even when I’m down in the cabin, even when I don’t wanna. Also, can I tell you something sick? There is a deep dark devil in my head that is a whore for a good story and she secretly wants something like that to happen to me so that I have a wild tale to tell around the fireside. I must find that devil and send her to the stars before she salts my life!

Anyway, here I am getting towed away from the island of goats and it has got to be the safest sailing I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt more tranquil on a windless water. I’m sitting here staring at a flamingo in the clouds and trying not to think about my engine.

“Liv, I really want a baby,” it’s Abi on Zephyr talking to me on the VHF, channel 69. My flamingo cloud just split into sky. Everything in life can end like that. In a split, and then your sky. Abi is only 22, she’s so close to the beginning, she’s not bothered about the ending, but her voice has that deep longing of so many unfulfilled desires in it.

She sounds just like Jonah. He’s my Fijian fisherman and jellyfish-finding friend and he’s always saying cool things like, “Don’t fish on a Sunday, that’s God’s day. The sharks will eat you if you do.” And “The turtles are just like us, they breathe air.” Jonah’s been married a long time and he’s also itching to have a child. We were out fishing the other day and while Jonah was wrapping wood on the end of his line to make any fish he caught pop up to the top faster, I said, “Well, have you tried to make a baby?” And he said, “Yea, every night.” And I died laughing. He told me he thinks his wife did something evil and that God is punishing them. He says he’s going to start knocking boots with another lady just to get a baby. He was dead serious when he told me that, like he wants that baby bad enough to be that bad.

I pick up the VHF and say to Abi, “Me too, I’m thinking about rocking a t-shirt that says ‘Somebody please knock me up!’” I’m joking, not joking. How many whales teeth do you think I can get with a shirt like that?

Zephyr is pulling me into Musket Cove now. I drop the towline. The captain hops on their jet ski and pushes Juniper’s stern towards a mooring ball, while I steer. He says, “Pretend I’m your engine. Tell me what to do.” I‘m always alone when mooring, I’ve never had to communicate these words out loud. It’s just me and my head and a feeling. He keeps asking me for words and I can’t make words make sense, “Upwind rollercoaster drop fish-head rope.” The mooring is getting closer. He’s going too fast, I want him to throttle down. I say, “slow bumblebee bop.” What’s wrong with me? We’re about to be at the mooring. I continue, “Neutral, let the wind blow me from here,” I made sense! I walk up and catch the mooring like I always do, alone, just me and the wind.

The sun is setting red and the captains of Zephyr and Slippery Gypsy are onboard looking for my oil leak. “It could be your rear main seal,” one of them says. “Yea, we might have to pull the whole engine out to replace it,” the other says. I’m cussing up a curse in my head and they’re cleaning up oil and looking deep.

Turns out all the oil was shooting out of a pinprick hole in the oil filter and all we have to do is change it. Dog my cats! I feel like the most blessed woman on earth right now. I’m jumping up and down hooting and and birds are singing frantic like they do when snow is about to fall.

The Very Next Day….
I head to Denarau as soon as the sun sparkles on the water. I want to be there for a hot second, just to braze the crack in heat exchanger. The brass man reeks of weed and he has a shop that sells alternator belts and bad rope. I watch him play with the hot flame and he reminds me of an alchemist. I feel like he could take me to Funky Town, wherever that is.

I trek back to the boat, put the heat exchanger on, and it immediately starts leaking out of a brand new hole. I give up! I’m tired of the engine. I wrap the leak in self-amalgamating tape. I’ll deal with it later because I can’t stay in this town that long. I can’t stay anywhere that long.

I reverse out of the slip and man is yelling at me. He’s angry about something, he’s always angry about something. I’m mystified and wave and keep going. I’m heading towards the channel, passing all the mega yachts, feeling groovy. I check my SOG. I’ve got my RPMs up to 2,000, but I’m only moving at 1.1 knots. I throttle higher, nothing happens. I’ve got gear but no tallyho!

I’m at the first red channel marker. I unfurl my jib, but I’m moving slow and the wind is carrying me towards the mangroves. I flag down a speedboat full of tourist. I toss them a line. I furl the jib. Five minutes later, they drop my line in the water and yell, “We’ll come back for you.”

While they’re yelling, my depth sounder starts beeping like one of those life-giving machines in a hospital. Damn it all if I’m not aground on the mud and I can hear the crawdads cooing.

I keep waving people down until I’ve got enough help. It takes a fishing boat pulling and a dinghy pushing to set me free. I tie on to an emergency mooring, remove my companionway stairs to look at the engine, and a bolt falls at my feet. All but one of the bolts that secure my drive shaft to the transmission have shaken loose and off.

It’s burning up inside of Juniper. I’ve got grease on my face and sweat pouring down my body. The man with the dinghy runs to the Yacht Shop and buys me more bolts. We blast the fan, drink a beer, and crank the new bolts on.

The day is almost done and my engine has absorbed the life out of me. I’m gonna split into sky now and get out of town tomorrow.

6 Replies to “SPLIT INTO SKY”

  1. I am always excited when i get a new email from you! Thank you for writing this blog 🙂 I hope your engine will missbehave less in the future.

  2. Brilliant storyteller forced to live with old Perk 4-108 iron lung that sits squarely in the middle of her house and nuts and bolts might as well be Chiclets . . . the source of endless great stories! “Repower” comes to mind . . . .

    1. If re-powering is in the cards, consider a saildrive, Yanmar or Volvo.
      Lots of advantages.

  3. Perhaps this is good advice you just can’t take, and it will diminish literature by a substantial amount, I would suggest a checklist of items engine related to check at least every week, and as often as each time you arrive in port. I see a theme to your most harrowing adventures.

  4. Olivia, Gotta do the chores around the boat. The big chore get engine 100% or sail to New Zealand and get new one.Barry the old seadog is going to be In Figi soon. Be wild to see you on his channel!

  5. Liv,
    I was looking at 4 cylinder yanmar engines and they’re like $3-5,000 ish here in the States. It seems to be your biggest issue with the boat.
    Greg

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