I was attacked by jealous Fairies. That’s what the locals think. At least that’s what they told me as they were pouring fresh coconut mixed with bush lime down my throat and searching for sand to rub on my face. Then again, they blame the Fairies for everything.
You see, for many, many, many days I have not been able to keep food inside my body. It started when I was on the island of Kolombangara in this flat-as-a-mirror bay called Vovohe. It’ like the Garden of Zen. Water like emerald surrounded by crocodile-filled mangroves. Sunsets that crash down and swim across every inch of the water. Air so still that you can hear the wings of the Hornbill birds flap as they fly in coupled pairs. Woosh. Woosh. Woosh.
Vovohe doesn’t even feel like the rest of the Solomon Islands. It feels like somewhere in Asia and you imagine that just beyond everything there are rice fields and people wearing triangular straw hats. It’s all Jurassic and wooded and there are enough teak trees to build Noah’s Ark. And you can paddle up a river and bathe in fresh water and drink water straight out of a mountain hole. And not too far away there is a coral garden full of pink anemones and baby clown fish.
In the Solomon Islands you are either saltwater people or bush people, but the people of Vovohe are both of the salt and the bush. Some people have houses built right on top of rocks in the water. Others have houses on stilts set inside the bush of the mangroves and on most tides they can only get to their house by boat. A lady in the mangroves tells me, “We live like a bird in the trees,” as she and I swat mosquitoes off our bodies in her two-roomed hut that’s surrounded by roots and water.
The people of Vovohe also make the best panpipe music. I saw a band of twenty men go hard at the panpipes and a drum set that was made out of a metal salad bowls. It’s still mind-blowing to me how good a bunch of plumping pipes tied together and struck with an old flip-flop can sound.
Anyway, I was living in Vovohe and working my fingers to the bone to prep for the Golden Globe Race. At the moment I need to use a lot of internet and make a lot phone calls to create connections for the race. On sunny days in Vovohe I was having to kayak out into the middle of the bay to make calls. On cloudy days I was kayaking to another island and then walking a mile to the other side of that island, just to make a call. One day I even took an expensive long boat ride to Gizo- just to get a connection, but the boat ride back to the bay was the wettest ride I’ve ever been on- sea swamping all over everyone- I might as well have swam back, not an inch of me dry and it’s a miracle my laptop still works.
The Solomons’s Islands are remote, but I don’t mind being remote. Plus the remoteness adds a real rush to all of this. The race. The process. The living and breathing and beating of my life. If you want to make a dream come true you have to let it consume you. Despite your circumstances. This fact is inescapable.
Anyway there I was working, plus looking for a safe place within a country of thieves to leave my boat for three months, when the sickness hit me. It’s quite severe and unpredictable and the symptoms check every box for Malaria. In the Solomon Islands there are to types of malaria and a lady from Vovohe recently had both types at once!
I was struggling to find a cure for my malaise, and my boat, and the internet with only days before my departure to go. I could leave my boat in Vovohe. It’s calm enough for cyclones. Plus there is a German lady permanently there with her six boats- a functioning sailboat, a derelict sailboat, a long boat, and three kayaks. A French couple already left there sailboat there in her care. The trouble is the bay is deep and the bottom is soft mud and I don’t have enough scope for long term storage.
A local named Sisi agree to build me a mooring. He used some old machine parts from a tree mill and some chain and I inspected it all and approved and it was raining and we were in the long boat and we had just found a spot in the soft mud to drop, when this man comes over in his canoe yelling. Sisi and the man start going at each other like alley cats. Hissing and everything and I don’t know what to do, so I’m hiding from them and the rain in the bow of the boat.
When the fight is over Sisi tells me that the water is under tribal dispute for ownership and that that mad man, who is probably Sisi’s cousin brother, won’t let us drop the mooring there. So I pack up Juniper and my aching body and sail to the only option I have left- Liapari Marina. The foreign owner of that marina died and now it’s a lawless place run by locals and has the worst reputation. Boats getting robbed, boats getting flooded, boats getting overrun by rats.
I’m too sick and busy and time is running out, so I can’t care. On the sail all I can think about is a massage for my aching body, and the fact that I forgot to tell you what happened with my gooseneck! I fixed it way back by the turtles. In the end it was just the pin that holds the gooseneck to the mast that broke. I found the pin on deck- it was sheered off on one side. I dug around my bits and bobs until I found a bolt the same size. Then I dug around some more until I found a lock nut. Then I called over the gals from Cerebral over. Together they lifted my boom and I popped the bolt in. And I also forgot to tell you that I fixed my Wench by cleaning it, and my chain stripper by hammering it.
I arrived to the marina around lunchtime, but I’m so sick that I’m too scared to eat. The marina doesn’t even have a functioning VHF or cell service but this guy Levan, who is the muscle for the marina, sees me coming and motors out to guide me in. The entrance is a narrow channel indecipherable by satellite. My depth alarm is popping off. The body shakes, the breath quickens. I make it to the mooring. The marina is falling apart but beautiful. Water. So blue. There are some old pirate-looking boats and rumor has it that the owner of one belongs to a man who is now in prison in South America for drug trafficking. There are birds too, so many birds, already on my boat and pooping purple onto everything. I need a scarecrow.
I hire Levan and his wife and a witch doctor to help me put Juniper to bed; stow everything on deck below, sails off, tarps on, fridge clean. I’m of no use. I’m too weak to lift anything and going to the head a hundred times. On top of that there are welts on my neck. I say to them, “What’s wrong with me?” Levan keeps sayings, “It’s the Fairies. Many of them are jealous.”
The three of them start speaking in pidgin. Two of them leave and come back with a coconut and some bush limes. They mix it all up together and I can’t stop thinking about that bad ass Harry Nilsson song. You put the lime in the coconut….doctor ain’t there nothing I can take, I said doctor, to relieve this belly ache.”
I like this marina and quickly forget all the bad rumors. These people are sweet like soda pop. And I’m bad sick and they care. I ask more about the Fairies and Levan just keeps making my eyes bug out, “Yes. Yes there are many Fairies here. My people believe you have to protect yourself from the Fairies, or they’ll get you.” He keeps insisting that we need to rub sand on my face but I won’t let them.
Between trips to the toilet and sips of bush lime coconut I’m getting more intel on the Fairies. Levan says, “I’ve seen the Fairies lift up a boat and fly it across the marina. With my own two eyes.” And I’m like, “But where do the Fairies come from?”
Levan says, “We have Japanese fairies and American fairies. They’ve been here since WWII. Many many many died.” That’s when I realize that Fairies are ghosts. If you’ve never seen a ghost, they do have a striking resemblance to Fairies.
Anyways, I’ve got to rest now before the Fairies eat me and all that’s left of me are ligaments and I’m forever lost and dangling among the Fairies in this land of spears and smiles. But more soon, I promise.
P.S. check out the link below if you want to learn more about the race and how you can help!
Also, Little Rock, I will be there live and in the flesh for a fundraiser. Details here: