A wave just threw me off of the throne, or head, or toilette, or whatever you want to call it. I left Port Mary at 5 AM. It was still dark and there was a man fishing underwater- the green glow of his flashlight pulsing as I headed straight out the treacherous pass without the aid of sun, yet again. I’m moving west. Fast now. My life as a cruiser will soon be over and my perpetrations to become a voyager will begin. I feel ok about it. If I had no uneasiness at all, then I hope that you’d be concerned.
I only have two weeks left in the Solomon Islands and there are hundreds of miles of water between me and the few islands I have chosen to see, so each sail is more than 24 hours. I’m on my way now to an island that has shipwreck on it- the best part is that you can zip line off the wreck into the water. After that I’ll go do some volunteer work with baby sea turtles on an uninhabited island. Then it’s go go go. A fast hop through Papua New Guinea, then Indonesia. I’ll store Juniper, go to Arkansas for the holidays, get my medical, safety at sea, and celestial navigation training, go back to Junie, and start working on the refit. Timo, the Italian with the silver orange-flamed race boat, will help me in Indonesia for the first stages of the refit. He’s like a mad scientist with octopus hands when it comes to boats. He can be holding his baby, baking you some focaccia, and be up your mast fixing something on the rigging all at the same time.
As soon as I got underway today my wind transducer stopped working. That instrument tells me what the wind speed and direction is. There is no number or needle to guide me anymore. Gosh I loved that thing. As you know before leaving Fiji I went up the mast like 30 times to fix it. Now it’s gone. I feel like jibing is gonna be hard without it, but I can’t let it matter because I won’t be able to use it in the race anyway. I might as well start ripping these instrument bandaids off now. One at a time. Slowly. Slowly. Ouch.
Port Mary is a cool place. The village we were anchored in front of is a mix of Polynesian and Melanesian people. Every single one of them is gorgeous- chocolate milk skin, golden sun hair. And they are reproducing on this island at the same rate as insects. An old man said to me, “There are too many kids. Some people are having up to seven or eight of them.”
At any given moment there would be hundreds of kids splashing in the water around Juniper. Teenage kids, five year old kids, brother cousin kids, kids on sinking canoes, kids on flamingo rafts, kids without any floatation device at all, kids hanging onto the Junie like a tail, kids climbing the the anchor chain, kids invading the dinghy, kids banging their boats into my hull like drumsticks. There were so many that I feared some sort of mutiny.
And all day long I’d hear “hello, hello, hello.” “What’s your name?” “I want chocolate.” I want chocolate too kid, where’s the damn Easter bunny when you need him? Sometimes I’d just be lounging in my cabin wearing only underwear and I’d look up and there’d be a kid standing straight up on their canoe, hanging onto my stern pulpit, and peep Tomming their way into my boat. I’d chew them out and they’d scamper. Oh and they loved to watch all of us take cockpit showers.
I talked to Holly who has been in the Solomon’s for a month longer than me. She said it’s like this everywhere here. She said she has to board up her companionway even when she’s inside to keep the eyes out. Heavens me!
You could get lost among the village on the leeward side of Santa Ana. It’s all sand and flowers and fruit trees and people and huts. There are a few basic stores with razors and oil and chocolate. A little girl is stacking coconut shells. A teenager is walking around wearing low riding pants, a Chicago Bulls jersey, and a red doo-rag, that’s some American style right there. The men in the village are carving wood crafts or building houses. And there is always a woman somewhere washing herself or her kids. I buy a coconut for .8 cents from a house that’s painted Barbie pink and watch two dudes play chess. I love chess. They lost one of their knights so they stole a purple my-little-pony-looking thing off a youngin’ and now it sits there sparkling on their board. We can’t stop laughing over it.
There is a crocodile that lives in the lake nearby and last year it ate a 9-year-old boy that was fishing on the lake’s edges. Crocodiles stalk your behavior, so we have been told not to swim off the back of our boats. If we make it a routine the crocs will get us. I can’t even fathom a death like that. Just fishing or swimming and poof into the mouth of a predator.
I walk through a path in the forest to the windward side of the island. It takes an hour. There is a village there. It’s pure Melanesian and the kids all have curly blond hair too. I like this side the most. The wind blowing through it, the roar of the ocean, the softness of the sand, the song about mangoes the kids are singing, and the Spirit House.
A Spirit House is a place of ancient worship that’s filled with the “head of man and bone or man.” Women aren’t allowed inside but we can sit and admire it from an invisible line that we’re not allowed to cross. There are carvings of ancient sea gods all over the spirit house. The bones are housed inside of canoes and fish and crocodiles. Fish hold heads. Canoes hold whole bodies. The bones inside belong to all the old chiefs and top warriors. People put taro pudding mixed with a little bit of pig into ceremonial bowls and leave it as offerings for the spirits in the Spirit House. The Christian church decided it was sacrilegious for the people in the village to put new bones in the Spirit House; so the current chiefs won’t get any pig or pudding.
When I die please don’t feed my spirit any pudding or pig. It’s essential that you feed it flowers and mushrooms and sage and crystals. And I hope you sing for it every once in a while too. And I hope that song is loud enough to create a ripple in the air that the diaphanous remnants of me can feel.
I learned about the local shark god. He started as just a plain old man from Santa Ana. One morning he woke up and killed his brother. I don’t know how or why, they skipped over that part, but I bet it had something to do with a machete and a woman. It always has to do with a woman. One brother probably slept with the other brothers wife, or something like that. Anyway the villages were chasing after the murderous brother in anger, o of course he ran away into the sea and turned into a shark. And nobody is feeding him any pig or pudding.
There is some swell and surf is breaking in the pass. I tried to ride it, but it only works at low tide and the reef sticks up like Stonehenge so I just can’t stomach it. The guys all got waves though. While I was attempting to surf some kid stole my sunglasses out of the dinghy. His name is JC and we all knew it had to be him. He cleaned Complicite’s hull and asked for sunglasses as payment. And he was hanging out in the dinghy while I was “surfing.” And after the sunglasses went missing JC brought me a coconut out of nowhere and said he wanted nothing in return.
I roared, “JC everybody saw you out there in the dinghy. Where are my sunglasses? It’s wrong to steal. Crocodiles love to eat thieves.” JC swore up and down it wasn’t him and I felt bad about pointing fingers, but twenty minutes later he came to back with my sunglasses in his hands claiming that a diver had stolen them.
Anyway I gotta jibe. I’m in out here dealing with the Indispensable Straight. What a name! I’m sailing on it up near Mount Ire and Waisisi harbor. Also nice names. I’ve been jibing jibing jibing jibing jibing all night and I’m tuckered, but I have got to jibe again. The sky is already turning navy and the morning star is dancing into one of my portholes, so the sun will pop up soon and once it does I can really sleep