Everyday is an adventure when you float in a desolate place. Ogea feels like a slow Saturday on a summer’s day. Sleepy, spacious, stunning. My mind is totally lost in the azure, wandering and wondering. It’s like I’ve come out of the blue and into the great wide open.
How can I describe it to you? Steep cliffs, hanging over the lagoon, that drip with stalactites. A sky full of seabirds; hunting, spinning, gathering. Soft sand that sinks like mud. Purple seashells, purple stones, purple kelp, purple crabs. Sprinkled sun mixed with salt emotion. The sound of water colliding against rocks. Coconuts. Poinsettias. Clouds. Neon nights dripped in stars and cold breezes and the gloss of the Milky Way. Bliss. Bliss. Bliss.
The village in Ogea is a bitchin place; colorful houses, unique faces, surrounded by green water. Men sit in the shade carving kava bowls and dogs run around humping the air. It feels so peaceful here that my eyes begin to droop and my body turns languid, but then I see a man with a fresh caught lobster, and he lets me hold it, and my eyes grow big again.
The chief of Ogea is old with a mouth like a bulldog and he is very hip. He let’s his people wear hats and sunglasses, and he makes African-style carvings out of wood- I bought one, a long-headed couple intertwined in a face to face embrace. He is astonished that Holly and I sailed to Fiji alone, and he looks at us like we are wonders of the world, and tells every passing body about it. After our Sevusevu, I shake the chief’s hand and sing “vinaka” (thank you) and he sings it back. We sing straight into each other’s faces; vinaka, vinaka, vinaka. It’s my most memorable experience with any chief of any village, brief though it was.
As we leave a man is smashing our Sevusevu kava in a massive motor and pestle. He looks like he just stepped off a Harley Davidson. Tight jeans with a yellow handkerchief in the back pocket, blackout black sunglasses, neck-length grey hair, fitted shirt. This place is like a future past! Then again, it’s always the places at the end of the water, that are the coolest.
My favorite day in Ogea goes like this. I spend an entire afternoon hiking the interior of an Ogea Driki with Holly, Lilou, and Julie (Lilou’s mom). We climb to the top of a tree inside a dense forest, and sit up there for a long time, hugging it and feeling it’s pulse between our legs and arms. Then we follow the seashore until we find a cave covered in quartz crystals and thick with stalactites. We crawl into it and sing an operetta- until we are out of breath and the sun is out of time.
Ogea is so perfect that I don’t even care that I broke my head. Not my head head, but my toilet head. The threads on the handle are shot, so I gorilla glued the handle back on, but I don’t know how long it will last. My autopilot stopped working too. Only 11 volts of power was registering at the breaker. I hailed Lilou’s dad, Fabien, on the VHF. He’s a genius airplane mechanic. He took the breaker off, squirted it with some lubricant, shook a bunch of carbon deposits out of it, and got it working again. Fabien fixed Holly’s engine too. It boiled down to her glow plug. What would we do without Fabien? Float around half-broken I suppose.
SAILING TO MATUKU
Gecko, Paikan, and Juniper are in a line, exiting the Ogea anchorage. One after the other. Once we are clear of coral, we go head to wind to hoist our mains. Mine won’t go all the way.
I look up. The sail tie that I use to prevent the halyard from slapping the mast, is still attached and halfway up the rig, blocking the sail from hoisting. I don’t know how I’m going to get it down. I sort of panic, like I always do when someone is nearby to listen to me panic. “Paikan don’t leave me. I have a problem,” I say on the VHF.
They circle around me. I climb up the wenches on the mast with a boat hook, but I can’t reach the sail tie. I take the loose end of the main halyard and bash it against the mast. With every slap, the sail tie drops down a foot at a time, until I can reach it, and pull it all the way down.
The wind is blowing below the beam, in the mid-teens. We’re sailing back east. First stop, Matuku, 111 nautical miles away. I’ve got the full genoa out and one reef in my main, because I’m lazy and I don’t like surprises.
I’m out here. I’ve lost sight of the other boats and the shore. I feel anxious. It doesn’t make any sense because it’s the most delicious conditions for sailing in- full sun, gentle winds, a following sea with long surf rides. It’s days like today that make me want to keep sailing on and on, forever and ever, but I’m on pins and needles. So roughed up inside that I’m no longer soothed but what soothes me. I keep looking over my shoulders, waiting for something untold to creep up on me and do something unfathomably horrific.
I’ve felt like this on the water ever since that 55 knot squall. Unhinged. Pensive. I don’t trust the weather reports, they’re all liars. I don’t trust the sky. I don’t trust the clouds. I don’t trust the salt. I don’t trust the fish. I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust the boat. I don’t know why. Fear has no logic. I’m sitting out here stuck in my head with a sea of Illusions swirling around me.
I’m just staring at my instruments waiting for whatever is going to go wrong to go wrong. Wrong. What is wrong with me? I wish I didn’t need instruments to sail. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but According to William Finnegan’s memoir, “Barbarian Days” Ancient Polynesians used to “lower themselves in the water between the outrigger on their canoes and let their testicles tell them where in the great ocean they were.” I can’t do any such wayfinding with any of my body parts. I feel so inadequate right now. Like, I wish I could just dip my belly button into the blue and know where exactly on the planet I was!
Wait, I just realized that I’ve been sailing for four hours with my preventer rigged on the wrong side of the boat. I swear sometimes it’s like I’ve never sailed before in my entire existence. Me, right now, I’m a mess.
I distract myself from myself, by blowing bubbles. I don’t even have to blow to make the bubbles, all I have to do is stick my yellow wand in the air and the wind blows the bubbles for me. You should see me right now, smiling. I love bubbles and I love the word “bubble.” It’s my favorite word. Say it out loud. BUBBLE. Doesn’t your tongue like to say it so much that it wants to say it again?
I had a bubble gun in college. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a gun that blows bubbles. Anyway, one day I took it to a party and I was blowing the whole joint up with bubbles. Then this drunken football player comes up to me, grabs the gun out of my hand, throws it on the ground, stomps it to bits, and lifts his hands in the air like he just made some game-winning touch down. And I cried, I cried, of course I cried. I was on the ground gathering up the broken pieces of my bubble gun and whimpering like it was some irreplaceable heirloom. Why am I remembering this right now? This killjoy memory must be forgotten.
Maybe my head head is broken too. I distract myself from myself some more, by taking photos of everything. I distract myself even more, with a game of chess against the robot inside my phone. I distract myself more, by making a pizza from scratch.
Baking is a new for me. And the crust of the first pizza I ever made by my lonesome- which was last week- had the consistency of a pancake. It was a laughable mush of a meal. But now I’ve got this pizza thing dialed in.
The sun just set; pink and bright. There is lightning in a distant part of the sky. My navigation lights don’t work and neither does my anchor light, so I’m roaming around with my steaming light which has got the sails lit up like a fire, and I can’t see anything in front of me, but there is a trail of phosphorescence behind me. I keep hearing a voice say, “If you look at the sky long enough, you’ll see something fall out of it.” So I am looking at the sky. I see a shooting star, but I don’t think it’s the thing I’m waiting for.
I get a message from Paikan. They just saw something massive explode in the night. I think it was a fireball. They think it was a satellite being blown up. Whatever it was, I was supposed to see it, but I missed it.
It’s 9 PM. I’m wide awake. Every small sound that I’ve never heard before is excruciating. Is the sail ripping? There is a big something on the horizon off of port. Is it a ship? Is it a falling galaxy? Which way is it traveling? My way?