The daily death of the sun is such a pretty thing to witness, don’t you think? I wish I bled all pink and purple and tangerine like that. And I wish you could measure me by how colorful my clouds were.
The Meskalyne Islands had beautiful sunsets and I loved them, but I couldn’t stay there any longer. It was hard to handle the wind, and the banana boats full of men, and the lack of sleep. Plus there was the lying chief who looked at me like I was a cow that he wanted to milk the moon out of.
I’ve spent the past three days working my way up the dog-shaped island, past the Bougainville Straight, and now I’m on Espiritu Santo, sitting next to a resort pool, eating a pizza, and drinking a pina coloda while waiting for my laundry to dry.
It’s nice when resorts are cruiser friendly. It’s nice not to have to do laundry in a bucket. It’s nice to have a cocktail. It’s nice to have food cooked by someone other than me, even if I could cook it better. There are big winds coming this weekend and I might be stuck here a while, but I’m not fussed over it.
Now it’s midnight and I’m more awake than a grave-robbing ghoul. I was asleep, but then this squall came and I had a bad dream. I dreamt that I got a birthday card from my dad – you see my birthday is on July 15th which is only days away and my dad loved to send cards. He had a closet drawer full of them. In the dream I could see his handwriting and everything clear as crystal “Love, Dad.” Then I woke up crying because I don’t know if I‘be saved any cards he’s ever given me and there won’t ever be another one. His handwriting was really beautiful. More beautiful than mine.
This storm is as rambunctious as a team of winning football players. There is the sound of metal on metal and a grinding and jerking. It’s as if I’m dragging but I’m not. Maybe my bridle fell of the chain? I run up to the bow in my baby blue nightgown that matches my eyes. The bridle is still on. Maybe my chain is caught on something? I look at the chart. There is a shipwreck nearby. It says it’s only 2.5 meters deep at low tide. When I scroll further down on the chart there is an updated note saying the place where the shipwreck is marked is wrong and it’s actually 10 meters to the southeast, which is about where I am! Good God!
Anyway, there’s nothing I can do about it now but cringe and since I’m awake, I might as well tell you about the past few days….
If you just want the highlights; I briefly ran aground, fixed my anchor chain stripper, got sucked east by a squall, almost got eaten by a gang of hungry chickens, and discovered that sailing with a headsail only in light wind and swell is way better.
From the Meskalyne’s Gecko and I sailed up to an anchorage called Pankumu Bay on Malekula (the dog-shaped island). We want to go to another anchorage closer, but when I read the reviews people say a boatload of kids came and threw stones at their vessel because they didn’t have any candy onboard, so we picked Pankumu.
Holly messages, “Wait where exactly is that anchorage?” I write back, “See where the dog’s collar would be? It’s just below there.” Then she messages, “I think I fixed my oil leak. Is it bad if there’s too much oil in it?” I’m like, “Yes! It will turn your engine into a crocodile!” New message, “Look, I don’t know exactly why it’s bad, but it’s bad because my engine manual says you can’t go past the fill mark and if it says that it means something bad will happen if you do.”
Malekula Island feels like it goes on forever. I could spend a year here and still never know it. It is divided into two tribal groups; Little Nambas and Big Nambas. Remember darling, Nambas are those spiritual penis sheaths worn by the men and I can’t even begin to tell you how many penises wrapped in sheaths I’ve seen since I got to Vanuatu. Tens of thousands. It’s a nice look- penis tucked in leaves, butts out, berries hanging wild and free.
I am not wild and free right now. I haven’t eaten all day and my cockpit is a mess of ropes and balls and buckets and this sail is rough. There was the swirl of a squall off of port that was sucking up all the wind and dragging me to the east and for many hours it was low winds with sails luffing and lots of jibing, and now I am in an obscene amount of wind. Holly and I have been bitchin to each other all day about the lack of wind and now here we are blazing into Pankumu like firecrackers on a runaway horse.
I don’t see any penis sheaths or huts in this bay. There’s just two people on the beach with a fire. We drop our hooks. Holly comes over and we are so tired and hungry that we eat pasta straight out of the sink it had fallen into. Then, dazed and in the fading light of day, we look at my broken anchor chain stripper. It takes a minute to get the other bolt off the stripper. Holly teaches me a trick so I can do it in my own. I can wedge a flathead screwdriver next to the nut to hold it in place, while I spin the bolt on the bottom with a wrench, that way I don’t need four hands.
We get the stripper off and it’s bent like a tree that’s trying to find a crack of light in a forest. Holly says I need to find a car shop and have them straighten it out for me. Then she rows home. I don’t know where the next car shop is and I need this thing to work now. I clamp the stainless steel stripper to a piece of wood and then I bang on it with a hammer. It gets straighter but it’s not perfect. I bang and bang and bang on.
It’s difficult to sleep. The anchorage is rolling me around like a pinwheel. I wake up woozy. The tone of my face is paler than a beach stone, my eyes half-open. It’s been a lot of days of little sleep and tons of sailing.
Holly comes over and we put the stripper back on. I tighten the bent side down real hard. Hollys going “Tighten it harder, turn more, more.” I’m grunting and tightening and then there is some massive release and dang it all if I didn’t tighten so hard that I broke the bolt!
But the miracle is that a combination of the hammering and the tightening has made the stripper straight enough to work with only one bolt on it! I’ll find another bolt and put it on later. It’s time to cruise up to Crab Bay.
We just got to the bay and I can’t wait to anchor and collapse like confetti into a deep sleep.
Uhuru, the Oyster full of men is here. By the way, you should see that boat. It’s gorgeous and pristine and they have an electrical panel that I can’t stop drooling over. It lights up blue with a cut out model of their boat on top and I bet it never catches fire. After I first saw that Oyster I felt dirtier than a mud bug and I went home and scrubbed myself and Juniper from top to bottom.
Crab Bay is an ecological reserve and there are coral bommies all over it and it’s almost low tide. Holly’s boyfriend helps her anchor and then she comes to help me. We find a spot 12 meters deep which is quite deep. I want to try one other spot. We motor deep into the bay and it’s a tight squeeze and I decide to bat turn out of there.
Holly is holding a satellite image of the bay on her phone and telling me which way to turn. I see the depth getting shallower. 5 meters, beep. 4 meters, beep. 3 meters, beep beep beep. I scream, “Shit, which way do I turn?” She says, “It’s ok. We’re ok. Go hard to port.” I go hard. 2.5 meters. Beep beep beep beep. Juniper touches bottom. I’ve run aground…again! It’s a quick bump, she bounces up, and then floats again.
I feel about as good as I felt when I pissed my pants in front or the entire first grade class. The landscape of my life is a giant floating soap opera.
I waddle back over to the 12 meter spot and drop the hook. If I drag I’m dragging onto a reef the size of Canada! I say, “I hope I don’t drag,” Holly says, “You need to get an anchor you can trust.” I say, “I know,” with my eyes looking down at the water. Holly found her anchor in a dumpster. It’s a Delta. I hope I find an dumpster with a Delta in it one day.
I swim the bay. I see a fish the size of me, a shark, a sting ray, a dog-faced puffer, sweetlips, and countless clams. It doesn’t matter how many times I see these creatures, it never gets old.
I’m getting older. There are two of us Cancer crabs in Crab Bay so we celebrate our birthdays with a crab race and a bonfire. Missy Elliott is playing on a speaker in the background. I eat a lot of roasted marshmallows. I just stick them straight onto the flame so they cook fast and I can eat more of them. Chubby bunny. Chubby bunny. Chubby bunny.
I sail to this next bay alone because it will shave 10 nautical miles off my sail the following day.
The wind is mellow, but there’s a bit of swell; so I’m sailing genoa only, moving at 3.5 knots. I’m loving sailing with a headsail only downwind in light air. Freaking loving it! I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this forever. It’s so smooth and there’s no luffing from the mainsail blanketing the genoa and I can sail way deeper than I can with with main up. I still don’t have a whisker pole yet and sailing deep is hard without one, maybe I’ll find one of those in a dumpster too.
I anchor in front of an idyllic looking village. I row to shore and wander around. I want to live here. You should see these huts. This garden. The papayas dangling. The bananas ripening. It’s a fairytail, I’m expecting the birds to start talking to me, and for a witch to pop out of these green woods at any moment who tries to chuck me inside a boiling pot of herbs that’s meant to turn me into a unicorn, but just before she gets me in the pot a merman pops out of the water and saves me, then I kiss him and his tail dissolves and he has legs and a treasure chest filled with rare gems and it turns out he loves to fix everything that’s broken on my boat and a year later I give birth to his fish and we sail happily ever after.
I’m walking around saying “hello, hello,” but there’s not another loving soul on the island and the chickens are hungry. There are at least fifty of them following me around and I swear one is trying to eat me. I scream as it goes hard for my feet. This fairytale has turned into the beginning of a bad horror movie. I escape before my toes get eaten.
I find out later that only a family of three lives in the fairytale “village.” They must have a hut for everything; a hut for cooking, a hut for sleeping, a hut for fishing gear, a hut for making love, a hut for I don’t know what.
Now I’m here and you knows what’s happening. It’s night and I’m caught on a shipwreck and I won’t sleep but you should.
*I will post photos this week. In the meantime, please watch my Instagram stories and posts for visuals.
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