It’s 6 AM. Juniper is a disco, fish are flying across the water, and the sun is a dusty rose thorned by clouds. I feel like I’m in some body of water swimming around, but I can’t see anything and I don’t know which direction I’m going, and all I want is to crash into something soft and gold.

You know the way that something that lives in the water smells as soon as you put it on dry land? Vile, fish-scale, rot. That’s what it smells like right now.… everywhere on this boat. I’m looking for cold corpses with wings in the cockpit, in the cabin, in my pillows, but there aren’t any. I guess this is just the must of Juniper.

My boat probably smells like fish-rot because I’ve been in Port Villa- the capital of Vanuatu, on the main island of Efate, for eight days. It’s a sleepless city and I’m sleepless in any city. If you’ve ever slept beneath the stars in the middle of a great wide nothing, then you’d know why sleeping close to cities no longer appeals to me. I like to get spaced out, you know what I mean?

So here I am, sailing to somewhere more serene. Technically I’m motor sailing but the wind is about to blow, I can feel it coming alive on my face. Yes. Here it is! It has arrived. My best friend, the wind. Twenty knots off my stern quarter. Hot damn. I throttle back. I unfurl the jib. I kill the engine. I set the hydrovane. I feel the flow. The water is deep-eyed and bubbling and I’m in that place where nothing else matters.

What can I tell you about Efate? The marina is in the throat of the city and it’s got a bunch of yellow mooring balls. I say marina, but it’s just a house with a fuel dock in front of it. The water is so calm there that it feels like my boat is sitting on phosphorescent glass, but there is noise, and pollution, and lots of people. I only have one dream while staying there and in it the blue ran out of my eyes. By the end they were just white. It was a nightmare rather.

The city has all the hustle and bustle of any populous place. Casinos, pharmacies, grocery stores with “bush knifes” (machetes) on display, souvenir shops, parks with slides and swing-sets, the greenest vegetable market you’ve ever seen. The city people come from different countries and cluck around like roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing on kava and whatnot until well beyond the angel hours. Someone in the city tells me that men drink kava root to connect with the afterlife and I can believe it.

On the outskirts of town kids ride in the backs of trucks screaming “I love you.” Piles of women all dressed in similar patterns and colors walk down the streets on their way to a village wedding. Pigs cross the road, only to get chased by dogs on the other side- the oinking, the barking. A grandma sells purple lilies on the side of the road, I buy some, she calls me “Sleeping Banana.” Her grandchildren laugh as if she said a dirty word.

I’m a sleeping banana.

One day I venture to a turquoise blue hole, surrounded by cliffs, that I rope swing into. The water looks just like a gemstone I long to wear. It takes me eight attempts, and detailed instructions from a local man whose drunk at 11 AM, to nail the rope swing. I hate to be bad at anything! At first I’m just flipping in the water like a worm, but by the end I’m flying into it like a bird catching the worm. I do a final swing and swim and swim and swim, past all the tourist and a jungle of strange plants and strong currents and forgotten dreams, until I find that special, secret, pure place where the blue hole and the sea collide. It’s a gorgeous memory to float back to, me alone in that wild blue-green-salt place.

Behind the mooring field there’s an empty island casino all lit up, so of course I go to it! It’s just me and the flashing bling of the thieving slot machines and a three-armed dealer at the black jack table. I say, “hit me honey,” She says, “bust,” an unfathomable amount of times. I’m a loser and the Vanuatu Vatu is confusing because it’s got too many zeros and I think I’m betting $1 when actually I’m betting $10. Casinos are sad places where the dealer always wins. Why on gods green earth did I come here?

One morning I wake up and all I want is to see a nudibranch, so that’s what I do. Is that ambitious enough for you? Nudibranches are these colorful tiny worms that live on coral and have fru-fru things coming out of their heads and butts. A dive shop takes me down to see them. It’s me and a dive master that they call “Eagle Eyes.” Together we find a hundred nudis. We take a break on the boat then go down for a second dive and I don’t know what happens down there. After 15 minutes I get cold and I panic about the fact that I’m underwater and my heart starts hammering and I want real air, not air in a tank. I feel trapped. I feel faint. I feel imprisoned by blue. I can’t calm down. I can’t see the beauty of the fish. All I want is up. I look at the dive master. I give the signal for “not ok.” I point to the surface. I point to my heart. He takes me back up. I am embarrassed. I love to do this thing that my head doesn’t love for me to do. This is the dichotomy of my life.

I am a woman with womanly desires, so of course I check out the local clothing shops. I try on a pair of green and white checkered pants that remind me of an Alice in Wonderland chessboard. I ask the young chick in the shop what I should wear with them. She’s got style. She brings back an orange tank top bra. I put it on in front of the mirror. “Does it look good?” She grimaces, pokes the padding in the bra, and says “no, take the mattress out!” We die laughing as I pull out the “mattress.”

I’ve had enough of the city. I find a quiet anchorage on the edge of town by an island called Hideaway. I like to hideaway. I like to flyaway. I like to runaway. I can do all that there. On Friday nights they have a fire show on the beach. It’s so very razzle dazzle. And there is a waterfall I can hike to- Evergreen Cascades. It’s owned by a Vanutu man on the bottom and a Chinese man on the top, so you pay twice to see it all, but it’s worth it. Ginger flowers, bamboo forest, mountain water, moss, girls in bikinis. The waterfall is a powerful giant with a face and a force like a jet stream. There is a cave behind the giant and I cling onto the side of the mountain and push myself past the raging water to get inside it. The waterfall is intoxicating. I feel high, like I’m on a strong drug and can’t come down.

I dig the Hideaway anchorage until a south swell comes and Juniper turns into a galloping horse and I sleep like hell. When your bed is made of water you have to consider a lot of things before you drop your anchor; like swell, and currents, and wind direction, and depth, and composition of the sea floor, and bommies.

Anyway, here I am, eyes glazed over, out at sea. It’s Father’s Day and I feel exactly like I felt when I was scuba diving. Panicked. Airless Trapped. I want to send my dad a plant or a tree, like I always do, but I can’t. There are tears. There is the rush of discomfort in the heart.

The wind is misbehaving. It’s going from 13 knots to 22 knots in short bursts and I’m on edge. I reef for the puffs, then eat some pink pamplemousse and forget about it. There are emerald islands to my left and right and three black and gold butterflies are hanging out on my boat. Dandelion is behind me, it’s this Cat that I saw back at Hideaway.

I’ve decided that I’m going to sleep next to a tropical island called Pele. It looks nice from the pictures. I’m almost there. The wind is squirrelly. I turn towards the island. There is 25 knots of wind war-whooping straight into my face and the sea is chop. The wind is coming directly from Pele and there’s only 7 nautical miles to go, but I can’t beat straight into this beast of a wind. I tack back and forth and back and forth for an hour, maybe more. What is time, just the space between sunset and sunrise, and that’s all that really matters to me out here.

I am almost to Pele. I see white sand beaches, a jungle of trees, and teal still water. I don’t hear any noise beyond the wind. I weave my way past bommies. I watch my depth. Dear God, please don’t let me hit anything! I make loops around the anchorage. I drop my hook. I am here. My new bed on the water.

I have a new YouTube Video:

Thanks to my Patreon’s for making this journey and these videos and blogs possible:

2 Replies to “SLEEPING BANANA”

  1. Wow, a very descriptive writing of your journey. Glad you found a quieter place for you and Juniper to rest. Xoxo

  2. Just in case you need reminding… you are a fantastic writer. Juniper AND you are disco! 😉

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