I’m in a green and purple hammock that’s strung up in the cockpit between the stern pulpit and the boom gallows. The sea is
rocking me like a swing, back and forth, high and low, and it’s way more alive and effortless than anything that hangs from a tree.
I’m on my way to the Blue Lagoon. Sailing 40 degrees to a wind that’s working it’s way beyond a fresh breeze. The water-sky is all submarine silver and the olive mountains are sky-scraping.
I feel like a ragdoll, tired and tattered. I had a game of tug-of-war while weighing anchor this morning. Then there is the energy of the water, it’s pulsing with a swell that has turned anchorages into sleepless seesaws. And on top of that the Strawberry Supermoon keeps climbing into my boat in the dead of night and Milky Waying my eyes with it’s deep blue daylight. There is something intoxicating about it and at it’s zenith I got crowned the Queen of Flower Seashells by a four-year-old named Lilou.
She’s from New Caledonia, only speaks French, is obsessed with mermaids, dances instead of walks, and is named after a character in The Fifth Element. To her everything is “magnifique” and we both love drums and rainbows and fish. Yesterday Lilou’s mom and I made up a mermaid song for her, and when we sang “la petite sirène s’est fait piquer par une méduse,” Lilou went absolutely ape over the mermaids fate; fists and tears and fireworks. The only song that could soothe her was, “Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Clementine.”
I’m cruising with Lilou and her family up the Yasawas. We’re making our way to the other side. We’ve been swimming with manta rays, climbing old volcanoes, fire dancing, staring at stone fish, and sniffing wild lemongrass. It’s good to be on the move again. I need this. Movement. Always.
I’ve decided that once the sea creatures gather beneath my boat like moss on a stone, it means it’s time to sail on. After my engine broke in every possible place and I left it halfway fixed, I sailed to Musket Cove for surf camp. I was there long enough for a batfish to start living under Juniper. She was total eye candy and she blew me kisses and drove the turtles wild. I grew fond of her, as you do a pet, but I had to leave her once camp ended.
Surf camp was bliss. My teacher is a Fijian master of the waves named Inia. He’s self-taught, which makes him that much better. And there’s something mythical about him; he’s bald-headed with enough muscles to swim you and me and fifteen of our friends on his back.
He had me riding at almost all of the breaks; Restaurant, Wilkes, Namotu Lefts, Taveuni Rights, Pools. The waves had bulldog energy and the water was crowded and the squid were jumping high enough to touch clouds. Sometimes Inia would try to get me to ride a wave that I thought was too big and I’d say, “No, I don’t like it’s size” and he’d say, “You already rode waves bigger than that! You can either get on that wave or go back to the boat!” And I’d get on the wave.
Sometimes I need people to push me like that.
I, of course, got bashed around. It is the nature of the sport. One day I got caught on the inside during a monster set and a wave was coming at me like a rollercoaster. There was a woman riding straight down it. Lord, I thought she was gonna slice me up with her board.
I ducked under the wave, but not deep enough and the crest of the wave had me in the crush of its crash. I was summersaulting around, and dizzy, and squeezing the last air out of my lungs, and praying, and thinking about pretty things like meadows and dragonflies. Then it passed and I had just enough time to take one minuscule breath before the next wave came. And again. Then the next. The set washed me halfway to shore and when I popped up I couldn’t move my left elbow and there was a Chinese man right next to me.
He said, “Are you ok?” And I tossed my head a little like it was no big deal and said, “Yea totally.” In my mind I’m wondering if this man is a figment, and thinking about how those waves were powerful enough to smooth me down to nothing.
The man said, “Ok good, because I thought that was terrifying.” I’m relieved that he thinks so too. That I’m not alone. And that the waves don’t view me, and only me, as some sort of a bullseye. I paddle with one arm back to the boat and throw tiger balm on it until I can’t feel a thing.
Water has got to be the most powerful force of nature and it’s filled with a moody passion and it acts strange too. Defies the laws of laws, weirder than a miracle, wilder than wind, don’t you think? It’s see-through- clear as glass. It’s a rapid shapeshifter- solid, liquid, gas. It’s the only solid that floats on it’s liquid- ice on water. Hot water freezes faster than cold water- the Mpemba effect. Water is attracted to itself. It dissolves crystalline structures- like stone. It lives everywhere – air, land, sea. It’s ancient- we’re drinking the same water that dinosaurs drank, some go so far as to say we’re drinking dinosaur pee.
If water could talk, I imagine it be the greatest fortune teller. “In the future, all that will be left of you is water.”
Wait, hammock time is over. I’m almost
to the Blue Lagoon and the sky is about to rain water. I can’t tell which way it’s going to hit me from but the sun is caked in clouds and it’s about to pour out of one of them or all of them. Water above. Water below.
I peel my clothes off and throw them inside the boat. I put on my PFD and tether to the helm. The wind is acting irregular and indecisive, it’s bouncing between the high teens and mid-twenties and misbehaving all the while.
Juniper just jumped from 5.5 knots to almost 7, on a close reach. I don’t like it. It’s too fast for her, and too fast for me at this angle. I’m a chicken and I don’t care. I turn Juniper into the wind and reef the jib to slow her down. It’s hard to pull the furling line and the sails sound like a hundred cats fighting in a bag. I finish and fall back off the wind. My hand hurts. I look down. I’ve ripped a chunk of skin off my middle finger. I wrap toilet paper and tape around it.
I’m white knuckling the helm. Here comes the big rain. The world just went smoke white and the green island next to me has vanished. Everything has vanished. Water is a magician with a perfect vanishing act.
I’m out here alone, the other boat is bigger and faster and already at anchor. I am still half a nautical mile from the entrance to the Blue Lagoon. My terrarium is turning into an aquarium. I furl the jib even more. I’m moving slower than a weed, because I can’t see anything but rain and I don’t have the tracks into this pass. I inch along at 3 knots. Just as I get to the pass, the rain breaks and the sun is beaming all across water and I’m hooting “hooray!”
Water must be full of sympathy and compassion too.