It’s a downwind spinnaker ride back to Denarau. The kite is baby blue topped by a sea turtle and it’s catching buckets of wind. Moving us like a cloud.
I’m in the galley of Seaglub flipping hot cakes and wondering about the souls of sea gods when a squall creeps up. The spinnaker sounds like a hundred cats caught in a bag, then bam. The boat is thrown down hard to port. Horizontal flight. Drop. Knife in my hands, butter on my head, jam between my toes. Oops, there go the running lights, ripped right off the bow.
Rise and soak, sunshine. Rise and soak.
I pop up into the cockpit and see black clouds and a rainbow to windward. Gusts are shaking up the water and I’m breathing like a bear in winter. I could fall into the drink beneath a frozen moon.
Chris rights the boat and blows the tack. Nobody loses an eye, thank heavens. Kites are forever traumatizing me. They’re peachy right up until the wrong wind blows. I got knocked down three times in a row off the coast of Mexico while flying one. The sail was smacking water, rails were under the sea, I was petrified. Hellacious. I’m still fighting flashbacks.
Eat my tears, will ya?
We’re getting closer to Denarau and I don’t know how I’m going to squeeze myself back onto Juniper after this journey. SeaGlub is posh. I’m mostly jealous of the radar, and the thousand watts of solar, and all the wide-open spaces, and of course the freezer. If I had a freezer, I would fill it with frozen fruits and I would make you fruit smoothies every morning.
The other day I told a group of well-to-do catamaran owners that Juniper was like glamping compared to their boats. One of them said “Juniper isn’t even glamping Olivia, she’s as rustic as you can get. She’s like sailing in a tin can.” Then his buddy said, “Yea, it’s a miracle to me that you made it out of Arkansas and sailed to Fiji.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but my answer to everything these days is, “Well hell, I’ve made it this far.” So that’s what I said, followed by, “Might as well keep going!”
The cane toads have killed all the dogs in Denerau- at least I think that’s what happened to the dogs, cruisers are dropping back home like flies, I need a holiday from my holiday, and it’s as hot as blue blazes. Everything burns; feet sizzle, hair fires, mouths smoke.
In the afternoons thunder rolls in with lightning-loving clouds. Flash. Flash. Life squirms beneath the boom of storms and the sky falls in wet drops that kiss the earth. Then it dissolves and gets all hot again. Forget bedsheets. I can’t get any real shuteye in Denarau between the heat and the no-see-ums biting all my bits, so I make it fast. A few days tops.
I try to sort out more anchor chain but my gypsy confuses everybody and the saga continues. I witness the tail end of a Fijian golf tournament where a woman is dressed just like 2pac. I take a bubble bath in a French hotel. I change my MMSI number on my EPIRB and VHF because apparently I’ve been sailing around the world with a number that’s only in a United States database. If ever I would be in an emergency, nobody would know who I was. And when you’re a nobody, nobody cares to save you.
If you ever met my mama she’d tell you that I‘m bullheaded. She’d also tell you that I can’t let go of anything. She says, “Olivia you hold onto stuff like a snapping turtle.” (Legend has it that they bite until they hear thunder.) or “Olivia, you’ve got the memory of an elephant.” (If you hurt that big-brained creature, it’ll remember.)
My mama‘s right and you know what I can’t let go of? The bill that Happy gave me. So I call him up out of the blue. Ring ring ring. “Hello.”
“Hi. It’s Olivia on Juniper. Listen, my boat is tiny. How on earth did it cost that astronomical amount to clean it?”
Happy says, “Your boat was filthy. You can ask my guys. I should have charged you more.”
My mouth is collecting flies, “Well, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck Happy! I don’t think it’s right what you’ve done, but if you can rest easy knowing that you did me wrong, so be it. God has a way of evening out everything.”
After that Happy falls off his high horse. He offers to come right over and do some work “for free.” He and three of his hot guys spend half a day removing all the tarnish from my brass portholes.
Forgive and forget.
What else? Coffee was making me tweak out inside. One cup a day and I was like a helicopter that couldn’t land anywhere for long. Life felt so intense, so I gave it up cold turkey along with all of my other vices. Now I have no energy. I feel like a scratch and sniff sticker that lost all its flavor. I feel like every smoker felt the day the Marlboro man died. I feel like I can’t write without all that jazz inside. I’m basically an amoeba these days, waiting around for my energy to rise.
Turkey. Thanksgiving is a feast in Musket Cove with a hundred pies. The blueberry one melts right into everyone’s mouth. I’m grateful for everything, especially this breath in this here moment. I light the party up with sparklers and paint my prayers onto the constellations. It’s far out.
I spend the rest of the holiday surfing next to the people that own Google. The top of each wave looks like an emerald sun. Crystalline. There’s a man riding a motorized foil board and he moves like magic. There are party waves, five women deep. Everybody is giggling, screaming, sundancing.
The ocean will always be there to bliss the blues right out of you.