17° South & 177° East

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you without a dope beat to step to. Just joking, you know that song?

Where am I? 17 degrees south and 177 degrees east. All those sevens are something special- just like heaven. With the cyclone season I’m not drifting too far in any direction east or south, so I’ll just be lounging over here in seventh heaven.

The sea is a clear green crystal, there are thunderboomers in the distance, a rainbow rolling around in my head, and I’m a siren that smells like sunscreen and bug spray. I’m anchored off Namotu- that island that I love that’s shaped like an avocado and surrounded by surf breaks. I’ve been here for a week and I’m not leaving until the wind picks up or the food runs out. I’m out here with Maya, Code 0, Superb, and Stella.

It’s morning. You know how some days the sea is an old man with a cane, well not today, no today the sea is a French Polynesian dancer with hips shaking, shaking, shaking. I’m surfing Namotu Lefts and there is a shark rolling around in the crest of a wave and a sea snake too. All is dandy until my friend Alice and I start getting sucked out to sea by a mean current that came ripping off the super new moon with it’s king tides and it’s dark side. I feel like I’m swimming through a tree trunk. I’m trying to go forwards, but heading backwards. I look over at Alice and she says, “This is not so easy,” then flies off far behind me. She’s like a distant planet now. I hear the death rattle and I’m on the verge of pure panic- my breath going down like an egg, my body giving up, my eyes looking off into the wilderness- when a teenage boy sees us, fires up his long boat, and saves us. What a hero! Thank heavens too, cause the ocean is deep, baby, and those hips are shaking fast, fast, fast.

Now I’m laying around like Christ on the cross and my rabbit hole is deep. I’m thinking things like; if you go from cold to hot or vice versa too quick, you’re gonna get fog. And thinking that it’s advisable to never go against the water or the wind, cause you’ll never win, you’ll just wear yourself thin. And also that the change of tides is always rocky. And that, whenever you see a lot of little fish, you know there is a big fish swimming around nearby.

Speaking of fish! Fish heads are like gold in Fiji. You can pretty much trade a fish head for anything. I mean A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G!  I was anchored off this village the other day and they’ve got massage shacks on the beach, and I went in there with a friend and a fish head, and we held that fish head up and everybody was salivating. We ended up trading that fish head for two $80 hour-long massages!

Anyway, this day is almost gone and I’m in the the water floating through the pass. My friend on Maya- a New Zealand firecracker whose as tall as the clouds- is teaching me how to use a speargun, and my friend on Code 0- a goddess from Mauritius- is teaching me how to hold my breath underwater for longer. The sun is starting to set and the fish are falling flat. We pile back into the Code 0 dinghy to head home when this stranger drives towards us.

He’s a gray-haired man with a smile that could make everybody at the poker table fold. He points his finger towards Namotu and says, “Hey, come over to the island.” I say, “But we can’t it’s a private island.” And he says, “I know, I’m the owner of that private island.” And I feel like I’d just died and turned to sky cause it’s been my forever ever dream to go to that island!

I jump out of the dinghy and start swimming towards it. The owner of Namotu screams, “Get back in the dinghy, you nut, it’s too far to swim!” So I do what the island man says.

I go home, take a solar shower, slap on a blue dress with flowers on it, and rush over to the island in my dinghy. I rock up and there are about 15 people, all men who are exceptional surfers and fishermen, and one woman. The owner shoves a margarita in my hand and starts introducing me around. He says, “Fellas this lady right here just speared the biggest dogtooth tuna you’ve ever seen.” And their mouths gape open. I say, “He’s a gosh darn liar, but I did sail here from California, most of the way solo.” And they think that’s even better than me catching a dogtooth and I feel like a peach of a thing.

They ask me what my plan is. I say, “I’m circumnavigating. After cyclone season I will head to Vanuatu, then the Solomon Islands, and then Indonesia.” The island owner shakes my hand and says, “You’re the type of gal whose gonna make it around the world, I can tell. I wish I could could go with you.”

The night is full of free food and drinks and stars. I sit next to the island owner and interview him while he takes vodka shots. It is perhaps the greatest interview I’ve ever conducted. Long story short, Namotu island is actually owned by a village in Malolo and this man somehow convinced the chief of Malolo to lease him the island for 99 years! What did it take? Three years of drinking kava with the chief, a lot of smooth talking, and his poker-game smile.

I dinghy home at the end of the party and I feel really alive. There are squid beneath me and two lobsters making love at the surface of the water. Life is cherry and mint, and things are shaking and rolling.

It’s 11 PM. My anchor alarm is going off. I poke my head out of my bow hatch. My boat is so close to Maya that I can hear them breathing. I’m anchored behind them and the current has swirled us together. They take up chain. I let out chain. It’s doesn’t work. They motor forwards. I motor backwards. We drift back together. We put out fenders and take turns waking every hour to make sure we don’t go bump in the night.

What else can I tell you? I’m learning how to make a fire without a flame. A trigger fish went ape over my camera and head-butted it five times. I hitchhiked a ride in a tiny barge with 45 Fijians and I swear we almost sank. There are so many frogs and so many dragonflies that life feels like a fairytale. I learned that a missionary came to Fiji and touched the head of a chief – which is sacred- and the tribe got cannibal, ate everything but the missionaries shoes. I watched a gecko catch and eat a fly and it gave me an immense amount of pleasure- I don’t know why. The kids like to take turns brushing my hair with a conch shell and that also gives me an immense amount of pleasure. I spent an hour this week galloping a former race horse down a beach. I found out that an American man murdered his wife on their honeymoon at a luxury resort in Fiji, not long ago. Cyclones are coming and going and one got real close and it’s squalls blew my top right off. The funniest thing my mom said this week was, “I was so sick, you could’ve taken me out in the backyard and shot me, and I wouldn’t of cared.”

Anyway, goodnight and I love you. Sweet tropical dreams to you and your crew.


Check out this video that I made of me sailing paired with me reading my first blog “Sailing Solo in Search of an Endless Sunrise.” You can hear more on my Wilderness of Waves PODCAST!


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3 Replies to “17° South & 177° East”

  1. Wow — my first time on WordPress for a while now, and your post came up on my Reader, so I must have followed you before. I love your video, your honesty and yes, bravery. For we are all brave in our adventures, when we set out on the journeys of our lives. Yours, the sea. Mine, landed, with four generations of homebred horses that I feed, work to support, and care for daily. You might enjoy riding along with me on my Virtual Rides! Best to you! Dawn

  2. “It is perhaps the greatest interview I’ve ever conducted . . . “. You’ve done many for mainstream media, so this has to be really good! Any chance of getting a sneak peak at part of the interview?

  3. Olivia,
    I loved your video and having just spent 12 days in South Isalnd,New Zealand am reminded of the trip you captained lasy year in the Sea of Cortez. How much you’ve grown, how much you’ve become more of a person since that time.
    Olivia, my dear, if ever you have cause to question your capabilities, ask me as I shall be [leased to remind you what a magnifivcient person you are.
    Your friend,
    David Wilzig

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