The water is purple. It’s 4:30 AM. I feel like I’ve been hit by a comet- glowing and fuzzy. Even in the dark I can see the outline of Emae. You know what this island looks like? Like a three boobed woman in a bullet bra. And she’s all densely wooded with conical rock and ghost-colored coral.
My hair is still braided from last nights beach fire with the local family. Did I tell you they have a baby pig? I pet that pig like it was a pup. You can trade a pig for anything around Vanuatu. Even a bride. Even a mask for your custom dance. Even a bicycle!
Anyways, I look like your little sister looked when she did her own hair in elementary school, cool but crooked and on some level embarrassing. Or maybe I’ve got the look of a lead singer from some early 90’s grunge band. I’m on the bow of the boat, weighing anchor, with my hair weirded up in braids of all sizes and wearing nothing but my pink underwear and a green tank top. “All I can say is that my life is pretty plain.”
I don’t want to leave Emae, every island I visit is a new universe that I need to explore more. In this universe I didn’t even get to shake the dugongs forked tail or see the whale bones, but I have gotta get to this Black Magic Festival which is the day after tomorrow on an island called Ambrym which is 60 nautical miles away. Getting there could take me at the very least 12 hours. If I don’t leave now, at this purple hour, then I’ll never make it in time. I don’t mind going now, I’m not sleeping so well these days anyway. I’m like a vampire.
When I want to go to another island it’s not like getting in your car and turning a key. It’s like packing up half of your house and then putting all that in you car and then having to jack your car up to look at something that’s rattling underneath and maybe changing the oil and a tire or two-and good lord what’s up with the break pads- then turning the key.
And I can’t just go wherever, whenever I want. I have to check the wind and the weather. That’s what I’m doing now. It looks good. I stow everything, lest it fall while I’m jibing. Set up my windvane. Take all the sun covers off my instruments and helm. Turn my battery selector switch to all- so that my engine starter battery is in play. Turn on my instruments. Start my engine- let that run for a minute to make sure it’s not overheating. Run up to the bow and weigh anchor by hand which takes me about twenty minutes. Run back to the cockpit. Steer out of the anchorage. Turn the boat into the wind. Run up to the mast and hoist my main. Go back to the cockpit, turn the boat toward my heading. Unlock the furling line clutch. Unfurl the jib. Turn the engine off. Put the engine in reverse so my prop doesn’t spin off. Turn the battery selector switch back to house only. Lock the helm. And set my windvane. Are you tired now? I am. It feels like I just ran a marathon.
Here I am. With the wind aft, sailing smooth into the void. The water is a deep blue with a million suns dancing on its surface. The birds are a flying flutter. The fish are doing the hula. The seascape is sculpted by volcanic islands in every direction I look.
The wind just flopped down to almost nothing. The boat has slowed right down and my sails are flapping. I drop the main, furl the jib, and drift for a while. I won’t make it to Ambrym before sunset. I’m so tired, my head is moving as fast as a caterpillar and there is a magician inside of it playing tricks.
My new plan is to sail to an island in between called Epi, sleep like the dead, then high tail it to Ambrym the next day. I check the updated wind forecast. The wind is gonna die even more tomorrow. I have to keep sailing through the night to make it on time!
I unfurl the jib and leave the main down. This sail feels so good on my body even though I’m tired. Even though I’m only going like 3 or 4 knots. I am a swan, a flower, a dream, floating across a pond. Water is lapping against the boat, I wish you could hear it, ecstasy. As long as I’m moving in a good direction, I don’t care how fast I go, but if your watching my tracker it’s probably like watching anything slow grow. As boring as watching ping-pong.
This whole world is unreal. I pass Diamond Bay, Fireland Bay, Ringdove bay and Malekula which is shaped like a sitting dog. I like to look at navionics-which is this nautical chart on my phone- so I can see the names of everything and watch my boat move across the screen as if I’m playing some video game. There’s something soothing about that.
The sun is setting. It’s the opposite of violet- as are rubies, watermelon, fire, and blood. There are dolphins swimming in the wake of my bow. I count fifteen, no twenty. What a lullaby!
It’s night now and night always feels foreign, but I find comfort in knowing that the moon is with me through thick and thin. I’m steering my boat between islands and catching sleep when I can- thirty minutes at a time. Goodnight all you little eyes in the sea and sky.
It’s some hour after midnight. I am rounding the top of Ambrym. This island has a strong earthy scent. It is known for it’s potent sorcery because of it’s two volcanoes, Benbow and Marum, but an earthquake has buried their lava lakes.
The wind is almost in front of me now. At this angle, with only the jib out I’ll sail in circles. I hoist my main to stay in motion. I hear something that sounds like a wind generator and there is a light flashing on me occasionally. I can’t see another living thing. I assume the island has a wind turbine and an unmarked a light house.
I lay down to sleep. The God voice in my head commands me to, “wake up and turn on your AIS.” That’s the device that shows me other ships nearby. I listen to the voice. The system is still firing up as I step into the cockpit. The sound of the wind turbine is even louder and the lighthouse light flashes right in my eyes. As it passes I can see clearly now that the lighthouse is a ship and it’s so close that I shake. There are only a few lights on it. It looks small. Like a fishing vessel, maybe? What if those fishermen’s nets are fish-less and they are thirsty for flesh. What if they come closer and board my ship! Should I get a knife out?
The AIS kicks in. That fishing vessel is actually a 121 ft cargo ship with a 26.2 ft beam and her name is Ocean Chief! I alter my course to avoid any collisions. God bless the God voice that guides me as I traverse these waters all alone.
I lose wind and I just drift for hours and sleep. I can’t pull up to the anchorage before sunrise because I don’t know exactly where I’m going. A man from the black magic village named John has put a white flag up on the beach to mark my anchoring spot and I need sun to see that.
I’m awake. It’s 5:30 AM and there is sun and a little wind, but I have a meeting with National Geographic so I stay drifting because I need to focus.
The meeting is over. I didn’t get the grant I wanted but now at least I know why and I can apply again in April. I get Juniper moving again and call John in the magic village. He describes where the white flag is in relation to me. I can’t see it but I steer towards it. He is saying, “Come closer. Come closer.” I can see him and the flag now. “Come closer.” I am in 5 meters of water already and it’s high tide, so who knows what that height will be at low tide. I say, “John, I’m gonna anchor here. I don’t want my boat to hit the earth.” He laughs. I set the hook. He asks if he can row over and talk about the details of the festival. I say, “Ok, but I haven’t slept and I smell and I’m wearing the strangest clothes and my hair looks like an octopus.” He says, “Don’t worry, I’m used to dealing with white people.”
Hey darling, I have a lot of boat expenses. The device I use to send you these emails costs more than $700 per year, also there is the cost of having this website active and I need to pay for all that soon. I also need to get some new things for safety, like a fresh anchor chain which is more than $1,000 and I am trying to find ways to keep this journey going. I am pouring my heart into these love letters and the Instagram posts and the YouTube videos. If you are liking what I’m creating, please consider becoming a Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/wildernessofwaves
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