“They are predicting 55 knots for cyclone Kevin. The owners of these moorings want all the boats to get off of them…..Over.” Don, the palm reader and eldest member of my boat tribe, is announcing on channel 68. Cyclone Judy is still kicking up wind and my head is fizzing, but probably not fizzing as hard as the two boats here without working engines. One of them has a 5 meter keel so even if they had an engine, they couldn’t go many places without 15 heavyweights sitting on their rail and heeling them over to one side.
“Roger. Thanks Don, I have a question. How much wind can these moorings tolerate? Over,” I say back on the VHF.
“They can hold about 50 knots for a total of three hours. But above 40 knots your going to want to turn your engine on and idle it to take the strain off of the mooring, over” Don says.
I don’t know what to do. Nobody does. All I know is that i want off of this carnival ride, if not I’m gonna throw-up all of my cotton candy and that would be a sad thing to loose. I don’t sleep. The sun rises. Judy is gone. Life is still, it’s the calm before Kevin. By 8 AM all of the boats are debating what to do on the VHF. Everyone is leaving. Now everyone is staying. Now leaving. Some are talking about how Kevin’s path is predicted to be such and such and that we are safe. And I’m thinking, ‘people, a cyclone has a mind or it’s own, it can be spinning one way and then up and decide to spin another. Predicting it’s path is like trying to predict where an asteroid is going to land!’
Anyway, I’m alone on my island planet and I’ve got whiplash from all the back and forth. I wish I could hear what’s going to happen from from the horses mouth. If I could just call Cyclone Kevin and find out his intentions in advance that would be real groovy. Truth is if shit hits the fan, nobody can save me and I don’t trust myself to save myself, so Juniper and I will probably get blown onto shore and turn into lawn ornaments.
Me and Code 0 are the first to make a decision, we drop our mooring lines and sail in tandem over to Denarau. I miss my wind instrument, I like to know how hard the wind is blowing- I have some sort of false comfort in seeing a number on a screen even if it’s rising. Code 0 tells me that the wind is in the low 20s and then they fly on ahead. I don’t trust the wind to stay there, so I double reef my main and chicken my way across the water. It’s frisky out. I’m getting pelted with waves in the face and I’m up against a mean-mouthed machine. I take four unwanted sea baths, the wind rips a hole in my bimini, and one wave is so big that it jinglejangle-jumbles my life; my galley drawers go flying, knifes are everywhere, clothes are everywhere, I am everywhere. This is not no 20 knots. It’s more in the vein of 30.
I make it to the dock in Denarau where one security guard is always singing a song. My hair is looking like it got fried by an electrical socket. I am fried. And everything is wet and all wet things smell like dog. Don’t they? Dirty, dirty dog.
The dock is chock-full; sailboats, motorboats, cruise ships, jet-skies, animals, wild wild animals. And it’s getting fuller, because not long after I left Musket, everybody got kicked off of the moorings.
Kevin has cranked up to a category 5, but I can’t even feel him from the dock. For the first time in a week the wind is powerless in its ability to shake me and life feels motionless, peaceful, predictable. Well sort of, on the dock one element of my life explodes like a jagged rock that got to close to the sun, but that’s a story for another day.
Maybe there will never be a day for that story because its all over now baby blue and I’m just as peachy as I ever was. Plus I’ve decided that whatever happens must be due to something in the sky and that it’s best not to look back at the things that are gone, one must keep one’s eyes ahead and focus on that which is coming.
You know what just came? My new life raft! I’ve been rocking a 6 man for four years. I would never be able to throw that raft overboard should it come to that, plus I keep it mounted by the mast and it’s so big that I can’t open my bow hatch. My new raft is a 4 man and it’s light and petite and allows space for me to dance around on deck. I have a bit of buyers remorse because it’s so light that it feels like the canister might pop if I sit or stand on it, and I very much like to sit on the life raft when I’m hoisting my mainsail offshore. Also the new raft doesn’t fit snug in it’s cradle, so it could just slide right off into the sea if I’m not careful. Then again, everything in my life could slide off into the sea if I’m not careful. At least I know the cradle itself isn’t going anywhere, I just mounted it onto deck with a bunch of screws and cable ties.
Guess what else came? A Fijian wizard. He spent the morning installing new LCD screens on my sun-soaked instruments, and is on his way up the mast to fix my anemometer. The wizard is a wizard, but he can’t fly and it’s taking me and three of the strongest Fijian muscle men to get him to the top. One of the muscle men is named Tom and he’s from Rotuma Island. It’s about 300 some odd nautical miles north of the Fiji Island chain and it’s considered a part of Fiji, but it’s not like Fiji, everyone there is of Polynesian descent instead of Melanesian.
We are trying to get the wizard up the mast fast. The sky is steel blue with rain about to pop and there are bats flying around all spastic above the mangroves. People eat bat meat in Fiji. Did you know that? I didn’t. Between winch cranks and exhausted breaths, Tom tells me “The bats are crazed because the prisoners are hunting them, either that or there is some natural phenomenon about to happen like a tsunami, or it’s the second coming of Jesus and the bats are angels.” Then he proceeds to tell me that Fijians will find any excuse to kill and eat a pig. He says, “Like my neighbor’s father’s daughter’s brother’s uncle like distant cousin neighbor dies and we’re like yes, shall we kill the pig?”
We get the wizard to the top of the mast after a great deal of huffing and puffing and Tom is pretending that he’s narrating some nature documentary. He’s going, “During heat the female koala bear climbs right to the top of the mast, just to get a glimpse of the males as they fight beneath her.” Then he sings a sea shanty, “There was a ship that went to sea and the name of the ship was the Billy of Tea, we are hoisting up Navin, and go and Billy Boy blow.”
I could keep a camera on Tom all day and you’d never ever get bored. I want to strap him to the bow of my ship, like a mermaid, and sail with him wherever I go, for he is my newest favorite clown.
The wizard fixed the anemometer. It wasn’t working due to the ball bearings being stuck together like fish to the sea. He unstuck them, lubricated them, and has now been up my mast a total of three times. Once to get the anemometer, a second time to re-install it, and a third time to install my windvane which broke off while he was putting on the anemometer. Now I know precisely, roughly, apparently, what the wind is doing.
I’m still dealing with the Malolo Cat mafia here in Fiji. I’ve been riding around with a busted outboard for weeks and nobody is doing a thing about it. I go to someone, they send me to someone else, then that person sends me to someone else, then that person tells me to send an email, and I send emails, but nobody responds. Some fights are worth it and some will get you murdered into silence.
I had a recent fight that was worth it. Remember how my boat broke free from that mooring ball and ate shore way back in French Polynesia? I filed an insurance claim for it over a year and a half ago and I finally got paid out for it. I had to write the insurance man an email every other day, and call him on his personal number, and annoy his secretary, and get people to write letters on my behalf, and stand on my head, and all sorts of strange stuff. The underwriter is based in London so I set alarms and woke up at odd hours to catch them. Squeaking was a part- time job, but I got the grease baby! Most cruisers that I know don’t have insurance. It’s expensive. It’s hard to get. I’m still paying for my boat, so for me it’s worth it. My insurance doesn’t cover me when I’m solo offshore, it only works if I’m a few hundred nautical miles from land, but that’s fine because shore is the most dangerous part of the sea anyway.
I was just showering and you know what I wonder? I wonder why God did not design us so that we could reach every inch of our own body? Like take my back for instance, why can’t I reach it all? And you know what else I wonder? Before razors were invented was all body hair considered beautiful? Would men like look at a woman’s armpit hair and salivate?
Right now I am falling and fading like a dying sun. I’m in slow motion in some part of outer space and I fear that I have told you too many strange things. I will tell you one last strange something before bed. A boat, like a woman, must be treated like a fire. She needs air and you have to tend to her – feed her logs, stoke her, blow on her, and whatever you do, don’t let her weep for too long, if she does, her wood will go soggy dog and her flames will extinguish.