I leave Fiji in a month- call all the horsemen, all the saints and savages, all the twirling acrobats, all the sirens with their lady heads and bird bodies. Tell them all to beat the bongos, blow the conchs, and fire dance. Tell them to hoist the flags on top of a naked volcano high enough to be seen from outer space. Tell them to tell Poseidon and the Goddess of the wind that I am coming, and make the Goddess promise not to be wicked like she was today… she about blew me into oblivion.
I can’t give you an exact date for my departure- the stars and the moon have to be aligned just so before I go. I’m sad to go, but it’s time to go, and it’s good to go, if you don’t go enough you never know what might start living under your boat and how coconuts that thing might make you. Besides, as a sailor I’ve grown flower soft living here, sitting still, and if say any longer I’ll be a sponge and you’ll have to ring me out like a mop every time it rains.
It’s the swamp of night. I don’t know why I’m up writing you these strange meanderings at this ungodly hour. I guess it’s because the sun really sucks it out of me, so I pass out right after it sets and wake up in the moon crack of night. My circadian rhythm is way off and this is the gravitational pull of my walrus skull.
I hear a long boat going somewhere- where are they going at this hour? Probably to rob an octopus. I saw a long boat the other day named “ Dog On It”- tell me you’re laughing! You know what I’m wondering right now? I’m laying here wondering what whale milk tastes like. What if we drank that instead of cow milk? What if drinking it made us all ocean-loving?
Dang it if this night isn’t hitting me like a poem. There’s a north breeze blowing across my face and a lonesome bird above is signing a cowboy love song. I just stuck my head out my hatch to get closer to it all and a shooting star fell right in front of my face. I made a wish. I wish on everything- pennies, candles, eyelashes, ladybugs. Ever since I was little I’ve always made the same wish- and I’ll keep wishing that wish until the day I die. It’s something one could never have enough of, money can’t buy it, it comes from within, and without it the world is a coffin. Can you guess what it is?
I suppose you want to know what I’ve been doing with myself? Trying not to crush beneath the unbearable weight of my boat. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by how little time there is and how much more there is to do. I spent a week at Vuda marina trying to get Juniper humming again.
Just about every boat I knew was there making repairs too. I traded my old rigging wires with one of them in exchange for help installing a new helm lock. It’s the type of job one doesn’t want to do on their own. The whole compass and most of the helm pedestal has to come off in order to get that thing on. And you have to squeeze little parts into little spaces without dropping them into the bottom of some bilge, so string is your best friend. While we’re working on it I pretend that my compass is a crystal ball. I hold it and look deep into it. It tells me, “East is the past. West is the future. In the past we were all aliens. In the future we’ll all be dinosaurs.” Do you agree with my crystal compass ball?
I also side-stepped the only sailmaker in town and had a local dude make me a new bimini. It came out all sorts of wonky donk, looks kind of like Frankenstein. Stitches in strange places, webbing where it doesn’t need to be, missing links. It was a hard lesson, but I’ve made peace with it.
I finally left the marina, proud of all my hard work, and I got right into a situation on the water that taught me something, like it always does. Here’s what happened….
It’s a peach of a day. The sun is kissing everything, the clouds are pure, and I’m headed south with 13 knots of wind blowing from the north east. It’s broad reach bliss. I’m sailing jib only and moving like a cheetah – if you saw my keel you’d know that’s very far from true, but in my head I am a cheetah.
It’s so perfect that I want to keep sailing south, 70 nautical miles more, until I got to this little island that I adore. But, then the wind kicks up and I need to reef the jib. The furling line isn’t budging. I try going head to wind. Nothing. I try twisting the furler by hand. Nothing. I try cranking it in with a wench. Nothing.
I look close at the furler, it’s all kinked up and I don’t know how to unkink it, and at this point I’m heading fast for the teeth of the reef. I panic, like I always do. I start screaming for mermen and mermaids to rise out of the blue and help me. Nothing. Nobody. Me and a jib that won’t furl and coral reef coming quick at me.
There is only one thing to do, drop the jib halyard from the furler. So I crawl on deck in my little orange dress that has surfers on it and I’m not tethered nor am I wearing a pfd (personal flotation device), and on the drop the jib sheets about take me overboard and I loose skin on three of my fingers. Yes…. this is sailing.
I’m bummed because I really wanted to sail south to that island, and I’ve just finished repairing a bunch of stuff, and now more stuff is broken! I’m livid and my finger wounds have a burning throb so I’m trying not to touch anything too much.
I hobble into a harbor that I’ve been to a thousand times to fix the furler. I grab a mooring. A friend passes my boat, sees my headsail and says, “Damn, your boat’s always breaking,” and I’m like “Damn, I know!”
The wind is pumping hard so I have to wait for it to calm down before I can do anything about the furler. That night, while I’m in a safe harbor, waiting for the wind to drop, there are colossal thunder and lightning storms. We’re talking big boomers. Flash, ba-ba-boom, crack, flash. Bang-Bang! There is a bolt of lightning so close that I swear it’s electric blue is inside the boat with me! I scream bloody murder.
Turns out that bolt hit the water, forked, and struck the two boats on the moorings next to me- frying some of their electronics and blowing the steel base of a windex to bits. There’s no telling how many innocent fish got electrocuted along the way. Another bolt hit the cell phone tower on the island behind us, slicing communication and flipping frogs belly up. I think I might have been forked by that lightening too. I’m not certain, but right after the show my wind transducer stopped working and now there seems to be an issue with the PCB board inside of it.
Anyway, here comes the lesson. If my jib wouldn’t have gotten jammed, I would have been offshore, alone, in those squalls. So, the jib debacle saved me! Sometimes I don’t like my predicament in life, and it feels like all the Gods and Goddesses from every religion are hurling snakes and stones at me, but all the while they are saving me!
2 Replies to “FORKED BY LIGHTNING”
relatable. Boat owning: so much joy, so much pain. <3
What a wonderful story…… thanks so much for sharing. It inspired and scared me at the same time. Ian.