The sapphire of the sea is exquisite today and it makes me feel the same way I feel when I look at a flower. I’ve been chasing the wind all day, it’s an illusive thing that keeps slipping away. I’m out here sailing on scraps of light air.

It’s been my slowest day on the water yet. At 11:30 AM my coordinates were 19°4.895’S 171°27.463’E that’s an average of 4 knots.

I was trying to go this whole journey without jibing, I didn’t tell you about it ‘cause I didn’t want to jinx it, but it got jinxed. I’ve been Jibing. Jibing. Jibing. Trying hard not to head straight for Futuna Island. I don’t want to hit it. I’m knackered now and I can smell my own funk, it’s atrocious. I need a shower. I need sleep. I need to knock the bongo scuzz off of my teeth. But I can’t.

There is a wall of black coming at me from north and west and it has me super glued to the cockpit. It’s a mean looking foul-mouthed massive thing and it’s got hair and teeth and eyes and a tail too, and holy shit, is that a water sprout coming out of it? It looks like this squall just flys around eating the living day. I’ve never seen one this big or dark before, if the devil had a baby, it would be the color of this.

The air just turned the temperature of snow. I’m loosing my blue. There is rain and when it rains it rains right on me. The wind is spinning in circles. Juniper is twisting around trying to stay in motion. Her sails are bashing back and forth. I furl the jib. I stop the hydrovane and take the helm. I can’t find the wind and I can’t get the main to do anything. Where is that voice inside my head that commands me? Tell me what to do! Somebody! Are you there God? It’s me, Olivia. I’m terrified, not of these conditions, but of whatever is coming after these conditions. My head, undone. My heart, a firecrackering thing.

Bang. Bang. Bang. I’m going to destroy the main if I don’t take it down or create wind. I was trying to do this whole journey without my engine, because sailing without an engine will teach you a lot of things like patience and how to really sail. But damn the life lessons, I’m petrified and I want something else out here with me, even if it is a machine.

I don’t even know if my machine will start. I put the engine in neutral. I press a finger on the glow. I press another finger on start. I pray. She fires! I hate the way she sounds. I wish the machine could sound like a birdsong or something pleasing like that.

I motor slow, I’m waiting for the strong squall winds to kick in. It looks like I’m sailing inside of charcoal colored fog or a black hole or the center of the earth. It’s all so eerie, the stillness, the darkness. I’ve never known the sea and sky to look like this without any wind and such little rain. I look up. Some clouds crack. I can see the moons light and a few stars. It makes me feel warm. The clouds close shut again. I’m back in the hole and cold.

The main is thrashing again, even with the engine on. I throttle back. The wind instrument is spinning in busted clock circles. A lot. More than I’ve ever seen. Faster than I’ve ever seen. Longer than I’ve ever seen. Is this the beginning of a cyclone?! I’m reading an autobiography of a sailor and that’s what their wind instrument did right before it hit. I have visions of my boat and body getting twisted up in the G-force jiggle of heavy winds and us getting spun around like bodies do in that ride at every fair in every town called the Gravitron.

It’s breaking my heart to hear my mainsail smash around, plus it could rip. I clip on and go up to the mast to drop it. The feeling of being at sea without my sail up also scares the bejesus out of me. I’ve had to drop it before, once for three days straight, but tonight everything looks and feels different and I don’t like my main being out of the mix. What if big winds come and I can’t get it up!

I want to stuff a bunch of chocolate into my mouth right now, but I’ve had so much junk food that there are pimples all over my face. I feel like that chick from the book “Eat, Pray, Love” over here, the part where she eats her way through Italy. I’m eating my way to Vanuatu. And praying. And what I wouldn’t do for some loving. My libido is off the charts since the funeral. Nobody talks about this side of grief because it’s embarrassing, but I looked it up and this is a real thing that happens after a death and there is science to prove it. My brain craves that chemical release of oxytocin and what not. Anyway, I’m alone out here and even if something to love were to swim by, I look about as good as a crumpled up $1 dollar bill from 1962 that’s been stuffed under somebodies dirty mattress, and have pimples, and smell like a pile of hot trash, so that’s that.

I go inside the cabin to use the head and message Complicity. The cabin is a mess, my life is all over the floor and the top broke off of my shampoo bottle so everything is also covered in shampoo. I ask Complicity for their coordinates and conditions. They say the winds are shifty, but no squalls yet. And get this, they are only 10 NM ahead of me. So it was them that I saw yesterday! I don’t know how I got ahead of them after they passed me a few days ago because I’m the most chicken s*** sailor you’ll ever know. I think a lot of the magic happens at night when I’m sleeping and the ghost pirates or the dead crew members of the Mayflower take over my helm.

I go back out to the cockpit and I’m shaking like a twig from the cold and the fear and the dark. I motor a bit more until I find wind. I go head to it. I loosen my mainsheet so I can get the topping lift up and clip onto my jacklines. I get the topping lift up, then the mainsheet goes way loose in the swell and the entire boom is rocking from side to side of the boat. I about near get knocked overboard. I drop the boom back into it’s cradle. Breathing heavy I go back to the cockpit. Loosen a little of the mainsheet then wrap it good around the wench. I go back to the mast. I didn’t loosen the sheet enough to get the topping lift up. I hoist the main without it. I go back to the cockpit, loosen the mainsheet more, lash down the preventer line, then go back to mast to hoist the topping lift.

Flashing in my headlamp I see something up near the bow of the boat. I’m worried something broke. I shine my light right onto it. It starts to move. It’s a big bird dark feathered bird. It doesn’t look like Pluto. It’s a new bird! I think it’s a lady bird. She flies off when the light hits her. I’ll call her Aphrodite.

I go back to the cockpit, pull the jib out and get the boat is moving again. Aphrodite lands on my bimini and hangs there for a while. With my life back in motion, I lay in the settee, cuddled beneath my Mexican blanket and fall into a saltwater perfumed spell.


  1. You writing has me on the edge! Do you remember what I told you the morning you took off from Fiji?

  2. Holy moly, whoa, what a ride!!! I’m so happy you had another bird friend find you at sea! I checked your tracker and it looks like you’re almost there (if I’m reading it correctly)!

  3. This Fiji to Vanuatu series has me hooked. Seems like the tension you’re under while solo sailing really brings out the best of your already incredible writing.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: