Brianna went to surf at sunrise. I wanted to go, but rain was building on the horizon and the voice inside my head shouted, “Don’t go, you must stay with the boat!” When it comes to sailing I listen well to that voice, it’s always ripe with wisdom.
Not long after she leaves, the wind kicks up to 35 knots and there are white caps all around the lagoon. I hear my anchor chain bashing against the cables that run down from the dolphin striker. Juniper sounds like a zube tube, which is such a fascinating sound, but not when it’s coming from your sailboat.
I run up to the bow. My bridle has snapped and the anchor chain is letting itself out. Juniper is dragging and twisting and bucking. It’s like I’m in a circus arena going around the ring on some untamed beast.
I try to pull the chain up. It rushes back out. I loose skin on my left thigh. There is blood. I struggle on. The chain is going after my fingers now. I need help. I’m up against the elements and heavy metal and a dismantled mind.
I attempt to wave down a passing dinghy, it doesn’t stop. I see a man standing on his trimaran about 40 feet in front of me. I wish for him to come over, I look at him with that wish vibrating through the water. Ten minutes later he appears, on his dinghy, right next to Juniper. He is wearing some cool board shorts and a green t-shirt. He is older, but I don’t know how many years rest between us.
Hi my name is Chris, looks like you could use a hand,” he says.
Hot damn, wishes really do come true!
Chris and I make a new bridle with a shackle, my spare topping lift, and an old water hose that we cut into pieces.
I run back and forth from the cabin to the bow with needed tools and parts. The wind billows and blows my sarong wide open. I have absolutely nothing on underneath. I fumble to close it while holding a knife in my hand.
Chris says, “It’s hard to be a woman in this wind.”
I say, “Pardon me for the indecent exposure.”
Then the wind blows Chris’s shorts down past his buttocks. He turns his back to me and adjusts them.
I say, “It’s hard to be a man in this wind too.”
I learn along the way that Chris is Australian, but he has lived here for 25 years. He bought one of the Tikehau motus and built a resort on it with his bare hands. My lonely planet says his bungalows go for $750 a night and that they are powered by wind and sun.
Chris owns houses all over the South Pacific and he knows everybody who is anybody. He is close friends with the Cousteau family, as well as the mayor of Tahiti. He even knows the pearl farmers in Ahe that I am on my way to see.
I say, “May I ask you a personal question?”
“Shoot,” Chris says.
“How did you afford all these pieces of paradise?”
Chris said he dropped out of school at the age of 16. That he loved carpentry and never got into any drugs. He built some houses and sold them, and he just kept growing from there. By the age of 18, he had a team of 20 people working beneath him. One day, he got burnt out with life in Australia and sailed away. He started all over again when he got to French Polynesia.
I think carpentry is very sexy; to create using that which is found in nature and hands and fingers and tools and imagination. It’s way more admirable than me playing with words on a page or moving images through a computer. If only I were a carpenter.
I ask him why he stayed here of all places. He said, “The waves were nice, the beer was nice, and the women were nicer.”
Chris thinks it’s cool that I sailed to Hawaii alone. I tell him that it took 23 days and that I had never spent that much time by myself before. He says, “You must have gotten to know yourself really well and grown a lot while being out there at sea.”
Tears start to take shape. My eyes turn into a glass ocean. I begin grabbing my emotions and hiding them beneath sea foam.
I feel all mixed up. Through Chris’s words I recognize the significance of what I have done, which makes me ecstatic, but at the same time, I also feel so very disappointed with myself. Disappointed because after having endured all of that, there is still a part of me that is an alien and that alien keeps making the same mistakes. She is a foolish fool of all fools.
How could my sail across the Pacific Ocean not have flushed that alien out of the dark and onto the surface of daylight? I want to find her and smash her. I want her to break like porcelain. I want to bury her in the depths of the eyeless deep.
I chew my tears before Chris sees them. I take a breath. I smile. I say, “Yea, I learned a lot about myself.”
I want to tell him the truth. I want to tell him that I kind of feel like I could spend my whole life in solitude and still be searching for this alien. I want to ask him if he thinks anybody can fully know themselves, until the moment they meet death. But I don’t, we’ve only just met and the wind has already revealed far too much of my body to him.
We are waiting for these storms to pass and will be departing for Ahe on Friday. This weekend is looking like the perfect window to set sail in. The wind will be very east, even a little bit past east. My plan is to shoot down the south side of Tikehau and then cut up between Rangiroa and Arutua. That should put me on a close reach. Sounds so delicious!