Travel drawing from Fatu Hiva

Marquesian Marooning

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I was reading when the spinnaker began to fold over on itself. I looked at Lido’s passive features, calm as Sunday as he stood at the helm, turning the wheel to find the wind. It was a remarkably blue day on a journey of only blue days, and I was in a good mood. I had just decided that the clouds ressembled mashed potatoes; Shantaram was regailing me with tales of the sub-continent; the wind was toying like a clown fish in my hair. The spinnaker had been alone and steady for hours, so it seemed that Lido was experimenting as he often does.

“Looks like the starboard sheet is a bit long,” I offered when after a short time the sail persisted to be unruly.

Then, abruptly, he glowered at me, and his face was as if it were suddenly overshadowed by a deep rain cloud. He turned to me and hissed, “Do something about it! Don’t just sit there, get up and do something!”

“Whoa! Hey,” I retorted as I stood and began making my way to the starboard winch.

“You just sit there, doing nothing!” the skin of his face was drawn back in a scowl.

I made it to the winch and discovered the line hadn’t been locked in the jaws correctly.

“You looked calm and easy, Lido, I didn’t think you wanted help, and now you’re just blowing up!”

“Fast, fast, fast, fix it, fast.”

I worked the winch, and pulled the line through the jaws. “Tight enough?”

“More more.”

“Tell me when.”

“More, more more. OK, stop.”

The spinnaker had retaken its shape. I sat by the winch saying nothing. The air was tingling with displeasure, with stress and with a shivering anger. It had been a swift atmospheric shift, and for me it had gone from thoughts of happy blue to a now dull gray filter over the ruined cheerfulness in my eyes.

Once the spinnaker had been flying steady for 10 minutes, I decided to confront Lido; I was tired of playing the drain.

“Lido, I wonder if you could see things from my perspective from time to time. I was sitting, reading, and you were playing around with the spinnaker, I offered a comment, and you exploded.”

When his eyes fixed on me, I could see that they were on fire, lit by a bold resolve.

“It’s all about you,” he growled, sucking air. “Everything is about you. Everything has an excuse. Whenever I tell you to do something you say, ‘oh, ok, but I’m ok.'”

He was looking at me, an expression of bewilderment drawn over his brow. I stood there, searching his features, trying to spot a clue through the stifling air that might tell me why it had come to this again; to try to understand why once more I had to deal with pent-up energy coming at me in a torrent. “I’m sorry, Lido, but what do you mean?”

We were standing on the cockpit benches, separated by the boom. Perhaps it was there as a neutral barrier to referee our discourse.

“What do you mean what do I mean–what I say; it’s all about you.” Each and every word was sharpened, and they swat across the air between us and scratched at my skin with candid vehemence.

I couldn’t find speech to respond. I was flabbergasted. I was exhausted. I was tired of being at the receiving end of such sudden volleys.

“And you are totally unaware,” he continued, “You sit there and you read. It’s not possible! You spend 10 hours reading. You can read anywhere! You can read in Wyoming! Why don’t you do something.” His eyes shot about the deck searching for something they couldn’t find. “Anything, just do something.”

“Is my reading a problem?”

He hesitated. “Yes. No,” he said, releasing a flustered grunt. “You’re completely unaware of what’s going on. We have to walk over you. You’re on a boat: you must be more aware.”

“It’s kind of hard not to be in the way on the boat,” I said. “Just tell me what you want me to do.” I scratched at the loose fibers of the polyester roof, examining them and releasing them to the wind. “This always happens, Lido. You wait and wait and let something build and then explode at me. Man, if I’m doing something you don’t like, tell me in that moment.”

He didn’t seem to hear me. He went on: “You’re just… slow. I want you to do things without me having to ask you to do them.”

“Lido, man you’re the captain, you need to tell me what you want. I do plenty without you telling me, so I really just don’t know what you’re talking about.”

My chest was galling. It was the feeling of my struggling pride as it wrapped duck tape around its burgeoning reddening mouth, trying to keep new words, stronger words under wrap, trying to stifle opinion completely and accept the reality of the situation. Pride is smart; it knows that these circumstances ressemble more and more those of servitude; but pride is also bigmouthed, and dangerous if one has a goal. Of course I felt unjustly ridiculed; I could lay out evidences against the accusation, but it would come to no avail. It would be like trying to get the tomato harvest inside the grocery store by throwing them against the brick wall. I fumed silently, and retook the ever-irritating disposition of self-deprecation.

I did not say, “this, that I’m slow, coming from a guy who always says ‘slowly slowly.” Of course I didn’t say it; I liked when he said those words–they were a sort of indicator that the air was clear and fresh, that I was dealing with the glad Lido who took everything in long, thoughtful strides. Sometimes, I might as well have thrown a coin to see which kind of day it would be, or begin as. Now, it was tails, and it was lashing me in the face.

“Here you are, this is your chance to cross the Pacific, and you have such a good deal, I don’t charge you anything,” he said. I shot a sideways glance at him to catch sight of his fading snarl. It upset me to be compared to paying crew–I never compared the circumstances to paid crew, which I knew to be not unlike those of the former. Why does he say these things, I thought. Why such hot air? Red-hot metal doused in water. Does he think I don’t appreciate him, the opportunity this time affords? If only he knew how much I truly did; if only he knew.

Then he sighed, and some of the heat dissipated. “And whatsoever,” he said, softly. “It’s also that we’ve spent 25 days at sea, in limited space. With a kid.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s difficult, it is, I know.”

I looked away. The blue-green sea greeted my eyes wherever I led them. Plump perky cloud plumes crowded at the horizon, where somewhere the next day we would spot the jagged outline of land. I felt squelched. I felt subdued. I felt as though my character was being kneaded into a mold that it was supposed to have sunk into from the beginning. Maybe I talk too damn much, I thought. It didn’t matter; what mattered was that I had to do more, or at least look like I was doing more–for I couldn’t imagine what more there was to do. The only thing I ever asked of Lido was to tell me what to do, to not assume that I could predict always what I should do–that was his responsibility as a captain. It didn’t matter if I cared or not about fairness. The problem was that none of us aboard felt appreciated, me none the less. But in my case, I am not free to complain–I am crew.

 


 

It began as a sliver of dripped blood coasting above the thin horizon line. Slowly it grew skyward and traveled the spectrum of light until finally it was standing upright, coffee-colored, and in front of us. It’s land, my mind told me, and a shiver ran giddily through my muscles. 26 days spent on the open sea, and now, arriving to land, I could turn to Lido and Kelly, and see little Gil, and wonder if all of the frustrations had been a dream. For that is the effect of landfall; it is the blossoming appreciation you feel for your fellow survivors, because that is what you are, together, having been unbound from the safety of connectivity for so long a time, miles above the abysmal plain, alone on the sporadic and magnificent ocean. Dirk’s words whispered in my conscience then; the best part about sailing is arriving.

Fatu Hiva stood before us, a mountainous island not 5 miles wide, with sheer mountainsides that greet the easterly tradewinds, lifting them up, and depositing them in the form of torrential rain and winds through the funnels of its western bays.

Virgin Bay was one of these, and as we neared, its reputation as one of the most beautiful in the world presented its reasons to my eyes, which themselves were soon caked in the moisture of wonderment. We entered a towering city of volcanic rock, whose pinnacles of rounded stone and sharp inclines diving into the narrow bay were so impressive that one might call them, after a month at sea, climactic. The feet of the slopes met the water as cavernous walls gouged by the tide and time, and it looked like a cross-section of a wormhole ribboning the base of the coast. Above these grew a skirt of palm forest whose sonic fronds moved in the high winds. In groups the palms looked alive, disturbed, rallying and agitating–but ultimately impassive. The name Virgin Bay was a sanitized title of the native original, which, because of the shape of the most prominent of the rock pinnacles, seemed to me a much more fitting name–Penis Bay. One has the omnipresent missionary to blame or to thank for that.

 

Drawing of Fatu Hiva's Virgin Bay in the Marquise of French Polynesia

Virgin Bay is said to be among the most beautiful in the world (and least accessible). It was once called Penis Bay, but the missionaries sanitized the title.

 

I was at the helm as we motored in between Isham’s Yapa and the sloop Zenna, aboard which my friend Florent, who camped with me in Panama, had many months previous debarked (and who coincidentally I shared a beer with in San Cristobal, but who now was nowhere to be seen).

Every boater, and there were 7 or 8 sailboats, was on their deck watching us prepare to anchor. It was strange at first, but then the gusts showed us how strong they can whip through the valley–some at 50 knots. We were too close to Zenna. I blinked rapidly, as though to refresh the scene continually, trying to hold the boat straight, listening to Isham yell at Lido in German what he thought to be the most prudent course of action.

There was no space; I was nervous, I was in charge of our drift but to what extent? Motoring forward, shift to reverse, keep the rudders straight. We had to move away from there; a shift in the gusts–and they came in from one direction one moment and another the next–could push us into Zenna. Finally Lido had shackled an extra line to the chain, which we let out entirely as we drifted back out toward the sea, clear of the other yachts.

When we set out from Panama’s Perlas Islands after having spent a week beaching Sarim with Dirk and Isham helping us, only Dirk had met us in San Cristobal. Isham had steered directly for the Marquesas. And so, two months had gone by since Lido and his good friend had seen each other.

When he came over to Sarim, Isham was all smiles beneath his friendly arched blond brow, the light of his cerulean eyes kindled at this jovial reunion that immediately produced glasses of rum and lime for our hands. So it goes.

When the pleasantries and small-talk of our respective voyages had been shared, Isham told of us of the islands in which he had been now for several weeks.

“So you came down from Hiva Oa?” asked Lido.

“Oh yes, you go to Hiva Oa first of course… legally… well, they are very relaxed now that the season is on it’s final leg, so even if they saw you here in Fatu Hiva they most likely would not bother you. But you must check in there. I have to say it’s really nice here though, there is fruit everywhere–we just traded a bottle of rum for a whole wheelbarrow of fruit; mangoes, bananas, pamplamouse, breadfruit, lemons, oranges. They have really a lot of fruit, you just walk down the street and they give it to you.”

Isham spoke in the same manner that Lido responded in, with superfluous words. So much time at sea with the same people makes a conversation with someone new especially longwinded.

“Oh mate, it just feels good to be off blue water,” said Lido. “Good to see you man.”

I sipped on the rum, and said little, letting these friends bring positivity back into each others’ lives. They were both bored of their circumstances. I could hear it in the curt way Isham spoke to his wife, and in how Lido would allow a frigid shoulder to play between him and me. They revitalized each other, and gave the other reason to look forward to more sailing as buddy-boats.

The initial luster of arrival had already begun to fade, and, settling back into the regular state of affairs aboard Sarim, I began to pick up an undercurrent vibe from Lido that would only reveal itself in the days to come. Our argument was still fresh on my mind.

“French Polynesia is a toy,” said Isham. “France’s toy. You go ashore here, you’ll see what I mean. They all have big new 4×4 trucks. They have new motors for their aluminum speedboats, satellite TV to get TV5. France just gives French Polynesia money money money. It’s because of the bomb. You know? France tested nuclear bombs in the atolls, the Tuamotus–we have to go through those to get to Tahiti. You know they blew up an atoll called Bikini right when the swimsuit was becoming popular and that’s how it got it’s name, cause the girls in ‘bikinis’ were bombshells.” He laughed wholeheartedly and slapped Lido on the back. “The bombs, that’s why France gives so much money, ‘sorry we blew you guys up, here’s riches!'”

“It’s not actually part of France though, French Polynesia?” Lido asked.

“Oh no, not a department, no. But they’re a territory, an autonomous territory. Marquesas the first island group, then the Tuamotus atolls, then the Society Islands with Tahiti as the capital.”

“There’s no industry here?” I prompted. Of course not. There was fruit, but there was no industry, especially not on Fatu Hiva. It was a small village at Virgin Bay, with maybe 300 people. Perhaps at one time the British thought that breadfruit could make an acceptable substitute for potatos. An expedition experienced a mutiny, though, when the crew was upset that their water rations were being given to a few breadfruit trees that their mission called to be returned to England. We later grilled breadfruit–it is no substitute for potatoes.

We were impatient to debark after so long, and after finishing the drinks we loaded into the dinghy and went ashore.

Through the bay the wind was constant, and sometimes the yachts shifted stern to bow, but Sarim had let out so much line that she was alone at the mouth.

We zoomed around a bend to find local children and adolescents jumping and playing in the water. There was a flat mooring dock where small aluminum fishing boats were tied off. The concrete dock was built against a towering cliff face promontory, but it was wide and uncluttered, and as soon as we came up one of the young men extended his hand to help me out of the dinghy.

I took his hand. “Buen dia,” I said. I realized the mistake, and muttered a broken “Bonjour”. Back to bonjour and baguettes.

“Bonjour,” he replied smiling, and then dove into the water.

We strode through the groups of Polynesians, who were calling to each other in a mix of French and Marquesian. I studied their faces with conservative glimpses, noting their features; the prominent forehead, the wide, small, upturned nose set into round faces of clear and smooth copper skin, dark brown or hazelnut irises beneath a shelf of black brow. Many bodies were large, and Isham mentioned later their national proclivity toward the sweet stuff. The women, as we moved inland, wore single-piece floral dresses or momos, but the young girls strutted in short-shorts and tight t-shirts.

As we entered into the village, away from the dock, it surprised me that there was this thin ribbon of flatness where civilization had laid itself becomingly, undetectable from where we had dropped anchor. We were engulfed by vertical formations of basalt, studded here and there with an awkward palm tree or tropical fern. There were concave scoops where the rock had fallen away, and further east the tunnel of valley continued on and on until a dam of jagged mountain rose and blocked out half the sky.

There was only one paved concrete lane in the village, frequented by Suzuki Samurais. The road was lined with crisp homes fronted by wire fences and populated by trees blooming pink, white and red-tasseled flowers (those that are iconic of Polynesian society, where both men and women wear them above their left or right ear depending on sex and availability). There were bright yellow plants like unfolded fans that grew where one might otherwise expect hedges. Lawns were scattered with fallen mango, lemon and grapefruit. Waxy banana trees shared the space, their green fruit bushels craning toward the ground. The homes themselves were green, white or pink, roofs of clean corrugated metal wearing satellite dishes atop, and each structure sat on wooden or metal pilings elevated by concrete cones to keep them from the moisture in the earth.

There was a very large woman who walked beside us, naked from the waist up, with crossed eyes and the features of down syndrome, and she was moaning loudly in conversation with us.

“You know, it’s actually not uncommon for birth defects to happen here,” said Isham after the woman had meandered off. “There are 300 people here. So they end up sleeping with cousins, or second cousins.”

“Is that right?” asked Lido, swinging Gil betwen he and Kelly.

“Did you hear about the German boater last year?” asked Isham.

Lido snapped his finger. “Didn’t someone die from a tropical disease in the Marquesas, is that it?”

“No no no, this guy, a German, Lido,” Isham said, wielding an ironic grin, “he was invited to go hunt for pigs, which, here, is the thing for a man to do to prove himself a man. Anyway, the guy he went with killed him, and ate him too. Schizophrenic. Not uncommon here, with the intermingling DNA that’s too close in relation.”

We came to a set of bizarre minarets of rock and turned to walk barefoot across a small creek bed, saluting some local men as we went. I kicked a piece of red pitted cinder as we walked on. Guarding properties were Tiki statues, those bulbous wooden carved figures that Polynesia is known for. We met an artisan who called us over to peruse his work behind his home, where he had a workshop and produced rosewood tiki carvings of all sizes.

By the time we’d come full circle and were back on the principle concrete lane, the sky had faded to evening’s violet. Lido, Isham and their families found the one-room shop, while I sat on a rock wall that encompassed the local churchyard, where white light emanated from the paneless windowframes of the chapel and cast a sheen over the prim green grass. Mass had begun, and I saw people standing inside, listening to the preacher. Isham was then suddenly beside me.

“It’s really the perfect community,” he said, his eyes fixed on the bleached-white chapel. “The village is small. They’re devout but it’s ok because that’s what brings them together. They have fruit, they have no financial worries. They’re not plagued by the world. They don’t have to care for the world’s problems, because here they are living how we’re supposed to live.”

When the parishioner began to sing, I felt the warmth of their voices caress my heart, for they sang in such perfect key, and it was so expertly harmonized and different from any other chapel music I’d until then heard, that I couldn’t help but sigh, transported by such a wonderful sound to that place where you feel weightless.

 

Fatu Hiva, in the Marquises of French Polynesia

It had been one month on the sea with Sarim, the aluminum Wharram catamaran. We arrived in the Marquises and I sat to beautiful choruses coming from the church.

 

We stayed 5 days in the bay. Isham and Lido, with their families, went on hikes, or spent days in the village, or together dove for lobster in the evenings. I swam to the shore where tide had carved a crescent out of the rock along the waterline, and picked my way barefoot over the hostile volcanic surface under the overhang. Looking out beyond the bay and down the coast, I saw cliff formations like aquiline noses that reached to the breaking seas and hovered just above the surf, sniffing. I climbed into the forest of gaunt palms, which I couldn’t climb, but on the ground I found fallen coconuts. I fashioned a basket of fronds and hauled a dozen back to the water, and tossed them to Lido awaiting in the dinghy.

“You know you can make coconut milk?” asked Isham one day.

“Coconut Milk Run they call the South Pacific route, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s right. That’s right. Anyway, if you want to make coconut milk you have to take the meat and, hmm, what is the English word, you know raper, in French? Rape, you have to rape the meat.”

“…It’s grate, you grate it.”

“A yes, grate.”

Isham showed me how to make coconut milk, an easy process whereby one grates the hard meat of the nut into a bowl, adds water and squeezes the milk from the flakes by hand until they are tasteless and there remains about a cup or two of milk. In the following week I made a sufficient supply of fresh coconut milk, which allowed for satisfyingly creamy pasta sauces.

After the second day’s breakfast of pancakes, Gil, Kelly and Lido went ashore, and I remained. I felt listless until I undertook preparing the deck and cabin for their return; after the argument, I felt that I ought to keep the place immaculate. I gathered miscellaneous clothing and pinned it to the safety lines. Lonely and random cuts of wood I collected and stacked behind the cockpit. The navigation desk had to be organized, and the stovetop washed down. Gil’s legos went back into their bin, the cushions lost their ruffles, the dishes: clean, dry, away. Lines coiled, miscellaneous ropes collected, tied together, tucked. Everything had a place or I gave it one. I wanted an effect, something that would show my worth, because I knew I was supposed to be working, but Lido hadn’t given me a project.

“Wow,” said Kelly when they had returned. “So clean.” I looked at Lido , who was hunched over and tight-lipped. When I suggested that I might borrow the kayak for a sojourn along the rocks, Lido entered a trance of thought, staring at the teak deck slats.

“You know what, no.” He had locked his eyes on mine. “I expect you to give me at least 4 hours of work per day.”

I studied his expression. “That’s fine,” I said, “All you have to do is tell me what to do, you know.” His eyes broke and fluttered briefly before they turned away. Sometimes, I wondered whether he wanted me to react angrily, and if that’s why his orders scented of confrontation.

I spent the next few days diving under the boat with a scrap of wood to scrape at the barnacles and growth that had accumulated during the voyage. I took up the cockpit teak slides to wash them of their grime, and that of the metal floor. I began sanding where the paint under the cockpit benches was chipping away. The idea, I could see, was to begin work to prepare the boat for sale, eventually, in Australia.

But still there was something amiss aboard Sarim; something secret that like a knot in my back flared up when the chill of tension would coalesce with the sun-filled days. I decided to hold off bringing it out of Lido, but I knew it would come to that again eventually. We were a day from Hiva Oa, the administrative island where all boats were required to check in. I’d begrudge my captain submission, but only until then, at which point I would try to discover the secret.

Lido dropped me ashore one day, and I went off alone, following the single lane inland. I passed a tickling stream crowded by tropical foliage. I passed a gathering of towering bushes blooming pink and white flowers which stuck their polyp tongues out at me. There was iridescent waxy green abounding and cupping other wonderful colors within tentacles or spines, or washes of leaf, or prankish vine. These held mustard-yellow, and rose-red; frothy purple-white and vexing blues–all flowers diverse as can be imagined. There were fruit trees, palm trees and a ground littered with the browning nut, which were still good eating. Star fruit, grapefruit, banana, orange. That copper jagged skyline, the ebony shine of volcanic outcroppings–immense geological figures watching my feet trudge the lane turned dirt track.

 

Travel drawing from Fatu Hiva

In Fatu Hiva, the first island we arrived to in the Marquises, I followed a stream, and made this drawing from the Fatu Hiva hike.

 

I followed the trail for a few hours. It took me into the dense-canopied tropical forests of the island, and I rose with the slick rock slope, waving my hand before my face to keep insects away. When I could go no further it was because I’d reached a sheer rock face that had been worn even and smooth by an array of trickling waterfalls. These fell as showers into a shoreless watering hole; the cliff made up three sides of the bean-shaped reservoir, and a rocky junction kept it damned and gave me space to set my clothes. I dove into the crisp, cool water. Small fish picked at my skin, and I dove deeper, surfacing in the midst of the misty atmosphere that hovered just above where each waterfall disturbed the enclosure. I found a gorge scooped out from the wall and propped myself in it, behind one of the waterfall’s curtains. I became aware of a smile drawing up the corners of my mouth. I held my knees to my chest. I watched the water, and listened to its unceasing chorus tapping out a steady rhythm. I was free. There was no one around. No crying Gil. No tensed captain. No feelings of what should or couldn’t be done. I wasn’t thinking about what I hadn’t done, or what I would do. I was alone with one of nature’s precious spots. Following the river or the creek up, one unfailingly finds them–these precious spots. They bring you into yourself, and remind you that you also are a part the way of the world.

 

A drawing of a enclove waterfall on Fatu Hiva, Marquises, French Polynesia.

A drawing of a enclove waterfall on Fatu Hiva, Marquises, French Polynesia.

 

When I left the spot, I began to think that soon I would once more be aboard Sarim, and without choices of my own. I was a cog at the mercy of someone else’s indecision, which meant I almost always had to be at hand. I was not truly free to learn, by the best method I know, of this new culture. I could not take my backpack and make myself free to the schedule of happenstance, which is no schedule at all. I was not free to allow actors on my immediate experience of life to write and rewrite my plan; I couldn’t decide left or right at any time of day–I had to be somewhere at a certain hour, for I had the rubbed-off responsibility of family, and of work. The man who stopped me and handed me four big round pamplamouses could not change my direction. Were I to jump ship, I would be free, alone, maleable to new acquaintences such as this. Would I ask to camp here on his property? Would I learn something from this small-island farmer? Would I participate in chopping coconuts and laying them under these open-air sheds I see around to let ferment? What possibilities are shrouded by the boat! What weakness that I have in myself: to go onward; because, after all, I could jump ship. What is it then? Do I not want to be stuck somewhere? Is it that I won’t fly? Wouldn’t I? Islands. I dislike islands, and there’s a season for getting off these islands in my vagabond way, and that season is now. Perhaps sailing as crew is creating new capacities in my character, and I’m learning just as much in this stressful world as I would learn in the company of small-time Fatu Hiva residents. Oh, I don’t know. The watery road beckons onward, and onward I’ll go until a place keeps me for no reason.

The pamplamouse, or grapefruit, was of a green-yellow, and its meat golden; they are succulent, sweet, not at all tart like their rosy cousins. I ate one as I walked on, turning over the catch of crewing in my mind. The juice was good. I knew that without a position crewing a boat I would never have arrived here, nor to many places I would presently be visiting. Conversely, I knew that arriving in a big yacht to these small villages made my heart ache–I wanted to hang from the rubbertramp vagabond’s rung: the lowest and easiest to access; I wanted to be a wanderer with nothing but the things on my back. I wanted these to be my circumstances in front of strangers, because I don’t want my fabulous belongings or lofty status to garner me their respect–I want to earn it organically, if at all. But no. Instead I roared into the bay on a dinghy, the boat of Sarim, a 50 foot catamaran whose buying price is made petty by the cost of up-keeping such a lifestyle. Granted, I was working for my berth and meals, but
I was attached to the boat, and to whatever estimations the landlubbers who saw us had fomented about boaters, as each year more and more big sailboat yachts come to their small bay and gawk at the penis rock.

Lido traded an opened bottle of gin for fruit. The men had come to Sarim aboard one of the small aluminum fishing boats–they wanted booze. “Alcool, alcool,” they had said in a R-rolling French. “On vous donne du poisson, des fruits, we give you fish, here, and fruit.”

“Ciguatera?” Lido had asked.

“No, no ciguatera, dis good fish, from big waters.”

Ciguatera was a disease the books constantly warn about. Small fish eat this bacteria off the reef, and bigger fish eat the smaller fish and contract it. Humans have eaten the bigger fish, and the disease is known to kill.

“Dis fish from big water,” the man had said. “No ciguatera.”

Lido handed over the gin, and a few hours later when the men returned with a load of fruit for us, they were sloshed. They could hardly control their vessel, which Lido prevented from crashing into Sarim with a fender.

“They don’t know how to drink here,” said Isham later in the evening when the winds were gusting at 50 knots and we had lit his Weber to grill meat. “Alcohol is illegal in this village.”

A gust blasted across our ears and sent ember sparks flying. “Wow, mate!” cried Lido. “This is the windiest barbeque I’ve ever had!”

I roasted potatoes, and the inseperable Isham and Lido handled the seasoning of the meat.

“Thanks for the meat,” I said to Lido, “You know that you don’t have to include me in that, it’s kind of a luxury and I’m fine with working for the cheap eats.”

“Come on mate, it’s all well,” he said, and I remembered that he could be magnanimous. It’s difficult to see through the psychological murk created by 26 days of being trapped together at sea.

I sat outside the chapel the night before we left. As I was drawing its lines, the congregation spilled out of the doors. A group gathered about me, peering at my work. Two kids ran around, and one of them decided on the course of action that saw him pull my pencil from my hand and draw in the the steeple himself. I obliged him patiently, then gifted him the pencil, and he trotted off bragging to his friend.

June was coming to an end. The town was alive with music, which floated like heat bands over smoldering pavement. They were preparing for July 14th, France’s Bastille Day. There would be dances and music for a week, culminating on that date. We were fortunate enough to be idling on the dock, Lido and I, when a large group of musicians sat around together facing a grid of dancers putting movement to the tunes. There were ukeleles, guitars, djembes, large intricately carved drums of an unknown sort. It reminded me of drum circles that I never joined in Eugene, except here the group was formed by men and women of all ages. One man looked to be the leader. He wore a long mustache which was like a crescent accent over skin tinted deep brown, gilded under the amber light of a single street lamp. Some participants were from the church, and I realized then the importance that Polynesians place in their ability to sing and harmonize together, and their music was lovely.

Opposite this performance, we found a concrete hall wherein another dance was being choreographed. Lido and I peered in, the only white men among an ogling crowd of Fatu Hivans. The men inside were lined up in rows, bending their knees so that their thighs were flared almost level with the ground. Their faces were awash in fierce expressions as they sang and chanted in aggressive accordance with each movement–slapping their elbows, moving crab-like in a semi circle, their back and arm muscles flexing and catching white highlights off the halogens. There were women among them, their role to toy with the men; their faces were proud and indifferent, and their vocal calls were high howls in response to their mens’ courting movements and grunting utterances. The whole spectacle was chaperoned by the largest figure in the hall–a tall, bronzed, muscled transvestite in a floral momo that reached just above her knees, her bleached hair held high in a fashion that seemed to declare her dominance as she adjusted her participants’ movements. The whole thing displayed artfully and intensely the war of love.

We moved and stayed for two nights in a harbor south of Virgin Bay before weighing anchor and sailing with the island gusts northbound for Hiva Oa, buddy-boating with Isham’s Yapa. I took the night watch, keeping Yapa’s navigation lights well off the port bow, and by morning we were just windward of Tahuata, and Hiva Oa had grown into a collosus before us.

We motored into an expansive space of water shaped like a gargantuan croissant. The land was skyrocketed like the petrified exhaust of the space shuttle, a near vertical mountain face that made us into a small speck against it for anyone looking. If Fatu Hiva’s bays were cramped and dramatic, Hiva Oa’s was a sprawling civilization of stone heights visible for miles across the water. This bay was guarded by a massive islet coated in lime-green grass formed like an elephant, which we passed to starboard. Around the breakwater that we found on the far eastern side of this immense natural crescent were a dozen white toothpicks sticking up; masts signaling the anchorage.

 

Travel drawing of Marquises, Hiva Oa

The Marquises Islands are jagged, mountainous bits of land. Here, I found a good spot to draw the bay at Hiva Oa, known for its Tiger sharks.

 

“Alright let’s drop anchor just at the mouth of the harbor,” said Lido.

“There’s already a boat there,” Kelly replied in a base tone, but Lido was decided. I took the helm, and he ran up to the bows to work the electric windlass. He gave me thumbs-up or down to throttle forward or backward, and a flat hand to signal neutral. The anchor held good, and I let my hands slide from the peeling varnish of the wheel.

Hiva Oa. The administrative necessity for all yachts. It would be here that we would check in to French Polynesia legally, and it was this island that had been racking my mind with assumptions and uncertainties for months. Some information said that I would get a month, and I would have to pay 60 bucks for a 2-month extension. Other information said that I would get the 90 days that the Europeans get. One thing was certain–as a non-European, I had to pay the infamous bond, which is the equivalent of the price of a plane ticket to my country, the United States. That, or I could give them proof of a return flight. I had considered this as a legitimate option, to just buy a refundable plane ticket, present it, then refund the thing. I didn’t do this because we were never sure when or where we would make landfall, and I didn’t want the authorities to look at the flight date which might’ve been, say, in two months’ time, and therefore only grant me two months instead of three. I need as many months as I could get, because Lido and Kelly might use the entirety of their allotted time–I knew there were repairs to be made once in Tahiti, and that could take anywhere from a week to a month; I also wanted to ask the officials whether I could get an extension on the basis of being crew on a hauled-out yacht. I never bothered making a fake airline ticket for fear of the French authorities’ proficiency at thoroughness. In retrospect, it is what I ought to have at least tried–it had worked for Panama and Brazil, anyway.

I was prepared for the bond, or so I thought–I’d been Stateside, I’d worked under pallid lights, I’d saved enough for emergencies and bonds and visas and bullshit. I just needed to know how much time I could get, and I needed to know how to deal with the bond in light of being with a European family. I wanted to see about my options. The bond, the time, the distance and the island hopping–these were like inflating balloons pressing up against the inside of my skull.

The dinghy dock was a precarious thing, and we had to set the dinghy’s anchor then tie up so that it wouldn’t drift under and into the sharp rocks. Behind the breakwater small berths held the mooring lines of likewise small fishing boats. The yachts dotting the murky bay waters were all anchored with main and stern anchors, because the sea swell entered the poorly-guarded harbor and caused the vessels to roll about. The land of the bay curved around to a palm-studded muddy beach, and onward the road carved its way higher, and then disappeared around a bend at the point. On shore we found the gas station with a shop stocked with baguettes and horribly expensive fare. Here all the town’s 4x4s and Samurais and Land Rovers came to refuel, which made hitchhiking into town easy. We opted to walk along with Isham and family, smelling the armoas of fresh land and its pictoral plant life, petting a lonely horse enclosed among scattered coconuts, feeling the breaking rays of sunlight on our faces as it alternated with the canopy’s shadow.

40 minutes later, around the point, we descended to the town, which was many times larger than the village on Fatu Hiva, and was home to perhaps 2,000 people. It had sprawled out inside the confines of a bowl valley, reaching to the base of the towering petrified-exhaust mountain. We walked among Polynesians who spoke mostly in French. “It’s always the colonial language in the big city,” commented Isham. Gil held his mom’s hand, and was mostly quiet during the walk. He’s a shy kid after all, and only opens up when he’s in his familiar zone of Sarim’s cabin, with its contingent of legos. The Gendarmerie was closed this late in the day. I bought a baguette for 50 French Polynesian francs, approx. 60 US cents.

That the check-in had been delayed a day did not allay my anxiety about the bond–I was as restive as the eggs bubbling in Kelly’s skillet. It was the next morning, and the question of the day’s bureaucratic misgivings was fresh on my mind.

“So how many months do you think I ought to try to get?” I asked Lido. We were in the cockpit enjoying the morning sun, and preparing to head ashore.

“Cale, you do what you have to do,” he said, but there it was; that something amiss.

I hesitated. My gaze fell on the warped teak. Years before, Lido had cut the planks for the cockpit benches too thick, and over time they had curled under the sun’s onslaught. Dirk had said, “that’s why they cut them so thin–the warping.” A feeling of wretchedness crept and coiled into my gut; would I get to see Dirk again? Why, why the hell was I receiving so abrasive a vibe? What is this feeling? Why whenever I ask about the future of the trip I come up against fire? Jesus, I thought. Fuck.

“Lido, do you still want me to come with you to Tahiti?”

His body language changed then, and I found myself confronted by someone I didn’t know. His lip curled before he spoke. “The deal was never that you’d come to Tahiti.”

“What?” I stammered, “of course I was, why do you say that?”

“Look, Cale, when I told you you could come with us, it was to the Galapagos to see if you were compatible and then to the Marquesas, not further.”

“Lido, that’s not what we agreed at all. About the Galapagos yea, but I was sure you wanted me until Tahiti. In fact after I’d been on the Canadian boat, I made sure that I negotiated to Tahiti, since Erica had told me it’d be too difficult to crew from the Marquesas and that Tahiti is the main crew change port.”

“You know, you can’t just assume things,” he snapped. “I never said you’d come with us to Tahiti.”

“Yes you did!” I insisted.

“No, I did not.”

“Lido, we talked about that girl that was coming aboard in Tahiti, and I asked you how it’d work out and you said that we’d just be 4, that she’d join us. Man, we talked about clubbing in Tahiti. Lido we even talked about where we wanted to go after Tahiti!”

“There’s a difference between the deal and options,” he said. “We made a deal, Cale. You’d come to Marquesas. You have been acting as though you would come onward with us, but you never were agreed to.”

Kelly was behind Lido smoking a cigarette, her eyes conveniently shielded by shades. “Yes,” she put in, “You said you come to Tahiti with us in Galapagos to me and I thought ‘oh, I didn’t hear this before’.”

“What?” I retorted. “Are you serious? Why wouldn’t you say something then? That’s fucking cruel to let me believe something like that. Jesus, Lido, we talked about building sandcastles in the Tuamotus for Gil.”

“The deal was to the Marquesas, I never said more.”

I stared into his eyes, scrounging around their duplicity, trying to irk them, to make them flitter and fail–but they would not; I was interacting with someone whose personality had festered too long in a bureaucratic world where one who has seen business and authority can feel justified in saying one thing, classified as a “deal”, but doing another. Even Kelly, days earlier, had admitted to me that Lido was a Gemini, and saying that he was a true Gemini. “There is not one Lido,” she had said. “There are two. But, I can only live with one of them.”

“I do not want to feel obliged to do anything,” continued Lido. “This is my boat, and I will do what I want to do, and no one else’s plans will interfere with mine. It’s all about me.”

“Lido, I’m not saying that you should change your plans on account of me. Man, all I’m saying is that you ought to have considered me.”

“No, Cale, this is my boat, my family, my trip–”

“–I know that! Damn it, man, I’m just saying that I’m here, and it would be humane of you to recognize that although it’s your boat and your family, I’m a fucking person too, and I have my life, and just because I’m on your boat doesn’t mean that you can treat me otherwise.” I looked around the deck. “Lido, I gave you all my time, in the Galapagos.” I scratched my neck. “I could’ve gone with Dirk.”

“What?”

“That’s right–I could’ve gone with Dirk, probably, maybe, but I was so sure I’d go to Tahiti with you anyway.”

“That is not my fault.”

“No it’s not your fault, but what I’m trying to say is that Dirk was going to rescue me from the Marquesas were I to get stuck here and the circumstances now are that we were behind him and–”

“–do not place that on me!” he frothed.

I think I might have choked, or my conscience hiccuped. “Do you guys even want me onboard anymore? It seems like I’m always having to make you spill your beans, and you always explode, and make me feel like shit with this stress and this tension.”

“Look, Cale,” Lido shifted, straddling the bench, and leaned slightly forward on his hands set between his legs. “It’s a question of privacy.”

“Privacy! This is the first time you’ve mentioned that. Damn, Lido, have you ever been a guest? I mean a guest, in someone’s home, for a long time?”

“I’ve stayed in someone’s flat, yes.”

“I mean a guest on a boat–everything I do I do for you. Every single action and movement I had thought through, because I’m your guest.”

Kelly released a breath of disapproval.

“Whatever,” I said. “It’s true and you guys probably don’t get it, can’t get what it’s like unless you do it. Crew.”

“Look, we’re probably going to stay the season in French Polynesia. It was wrong not to tell you before, but we only started thinking about it a few days ago.”

“What about your new crew, the German girl. Isn’t she meeting you in August?”

“Yes. Well, I never told her anything specific would happen.”

My bloody heart was already pumping heavily, but the empathy I felt for this girl calmed me, and gave me confidence. They would do the same to someone else, someone with expectations, with an idea that they had given her, but which would be crushed by a hammer and swept up by a broom bristled with excuses of “that was never part of the deal.”

“Look, we’ll go to immigration, check into the country, and see what we can do,” he said.

It was rage, I believe, that I felt; I no longer cared to preserve this relationship. So I said: “No.” I rubbed my hands over my thighs as I adjusted to sit facing Lido. I was marooning myself. “I want you to tell me now whether you want me with you or not. I can’t be making a good impression any longer, but I’m sick of being used.”

“You feel used?”

I shrugged.

“Then,” he sighed, “you should start looking for another boat.”

“…That’s messed up,” I murmered. I said it with the gentle force of one newly liberated–confident, patient, lucid. “Good.”

I stood then, and repaired to my cabin to begin packing my things. When the backpack was made, surprisingly free of the corrosion crud that typically plagues metal zippers on the salty seas, I returned to Lido. The waters had cooled, but in my mind I would not forgive, and the rage raged on. I wanted to be mean. I wanted to breathe deep of this morbid aggradisement that was suddenly my upper hand. But no, I couldn’t–how could I? My nature was to be nice. I always succumbed to the horrible kindness and polite niceties of a spirited forgiveness. Some might say that these are marks of humility–that you have to make enemies in order to excel in the field of success; but I say that they are curses, that I’ll die complimenting and flattering the weapon’s wielder.

We were foreward of the cabin, away from Kelly and Gil. “Lido,” I began. “When you get your girl crew in Tahiti, just tell her outright what your quirks are.”

“Quirks? What is a quirk?”

“Your quirk is that you don’t tell someone when something is wrong until it explodes days later.” I spoke into his eyes. “Tell her that there are two of you.”

“Mate, you’re right, I know it can be hard. I know I’m the cause of my clutter. You’re one in a hundred that could’ve survived with us here. You can stay here onboard until you find another boat or we leave, and maybe you come with us.”

“I think this is enough, Lido. I am going to get off the boat.”

“Well, you know what I say,” he said, slipping for a moment in his second language–I always forget English is foreign to him. “So we go to immigration.”

“Yeah.”

“And you have to do something beforehand?”

“I don’t know, I have never been here before. I have to just go ask the officials, see about my options.”

“The bond?”

“Yeah. I know how it works, legally, I think. I know where the responsibility lies… I know this part of maritime law.” I said this last, my eyes dry, fixed on the horizon line beyond the clutches of land, unblinking. It was the only calculated threat I would allow myself–the technicality of responsibility. You have to sign a sheet that says I’m not responsible for your life if something happens. They were words which now entered my head, 2 months after they were said to me the first day aboard Sarim in Panama City. I never signed such a document, and it would be meaningless anyway–maritime law makes the captain responsible for his crew even on land. I wanted Lido to know that he was responsible for me, after all, even for the bond, were I to negate my capacity to pay it myself. That’s why Lido wanted to wait to make any decision until we had checked in, because I’d be off the crewlist. I was an option, an accessory, an auxiliary heartbeat–it felt demeaning. I wanted my dignity, and I took it by means of forcing him to decide to essentially kick me off the boat before he had all the cards in his hand–I was finished being the cog, the laboring ace up the sleeve. Now, I would be free, released on the island, to camp, to learn, and to eat baguettes.

We weighed anchor and tried to move Sarim closer to the beach, but the notorious rolling bay water proved too difficult. I had to jump into the dinghy and motor against the portside hull to get the boat straight in order to get out of there. I felt embarrassed in front of other boaters who looked on. One of them was busy on his bow–it looked like his entire bowsprit had been torn up… we hadn’t encountered weather that could do that much damage.

Isham and family came along with us to immigration. I spoke for myself in French, and Isham translated for Lido and Kelly. The officials looked at my passport.

“Vous avez deja paye le bond? You’ve already paid the bond?”

“Non, I have to do that.”

Socredo bank was three blocks away. All the houses had gates around them–typically French. When I arrived, there was a wait, and I sat until called, at which point I found out all the unpleasant aspects of this most ridiculous of legal stipulations.

“1800 dollars!? You have to be kidding me.”

“Non, messieur, c’est bien ca, 1800 dollars.”

“Motherfuck” I muttered behind my teeth.

“Messieur, you could contact Sandra, the agent, to get a letter dismissing the bond, but her fee is 300 dollars.”

I had to think. The bond was far greater than I had thought. The bank took a fee of 35 dollars. The money would be instantly converted to French Polynesian francs at a losing rate. Then, when I would leave the country, they would give the money back to me in cash and in francs. I’d have to change all that money back, also at a losing rate, and then send it home again for a fee. Was 300 bucks cheaper?

“Hey are you paying the bond?”

The English voice came from the corner. It’s bearer was a gaunt man with silver-gray curls of shoulder-length hair, and the light in his eyes was deep. His skin was tanned, and judging by his physique I assumed him to be a cruiser.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Hey, I’m on Tribe, out there in the anchorage. I also gotta pay the bond, for my wife.”

“It’s crazy. They give it back in cash.”

“I know. But it’s ok for us, we’re probably going to spend that money pretty quick–you know, sailing.”

“Sailing’s money.”

“Yeah. Why don’t you just ask your captain to pay the bond? That way, he gets the money back when you leave the country, and he can use it here. He’s gonna use 1800 bucks don’t you think?”

The sailor was sitting down, and I’d moved to halfway between him and the teller, trying to hold my place at the booth and talk to him at the same time. I realized then that this man, a captain on another cat anchored in the harbor, had a good idea, a valid point, and a probable solution. I should’ve known better; I should’ve known how Lido would react.

I was back at immigration, speaking with Lido outside about the captain’s idea.

“So that way, when I leave the country, you get all the money–and I’ll pay all the fees so you won’t lose any–and you can use the francs, and that way I won’t lose so much money to converting it back to dollars and to fees for sending it home.”

His response was characteristic.

“I’m sick of this! Deal with this, now, Cale, go, now, hurry, go and deal with this, this is your problem, do not try to put the responsibility on me.”

I tried to calm him, because his face had turned cherry-red and his whole body was seething. “I didn’t expect you to say yes Lido, it was just a suggestion, a legitimate one at that, and not even my idea but another captains!”

“Get back to the bank, NOW, pay your bond, get back here, you’re making everyone wait on you.”

“Lido chill out,”

“Do not tell me to ‘chill out’, you are being extremely immature. Go, now, go.”

“Fuck man, I’m going, but there’s nothing immature about–”

“Just go.”

“Stop treating me like that, be patient man.”

“Everyone’s waiting on you, you’re being totally inconsiderate.”

“Fuck, Lido, it might not be serious money to you, but it is to me, and I’m not going to rush through this. All I’m doing is seeing about my options, don’t rush me like this!”

“1800 dollars is not a lot, you can carry it on you, just go, now, pay it.”

I began to seethe myself, again, under the bombardment of his haughty tone. Be mean, I thought, tell the officials that you went illegally to Fatu Hiva first. I went to the officials and they tried to contact the agent Sandra, without luck. It was no matter, because I calculated that it would be cheaper to simply pay the bond. It didn’t surprise me that Lido had denied the bold suggestion that he post it, but his unwonted reaction caused within me a boiling fury against him. So I returned to the bank. It had closed.

Back at immigration Kelly and Lido wore the shivering cloaks of enemies. At least, they denied me communication. Nothing. No words. No eyes. I was still on their boat. But no nothing.

“The bank’s closed. It opens again at 2,” I said. France and their two-hour lunch. But all I got from Lido was: “we meet back here at two.” Then he and family walked out.

Isham remained. “Come on, man, it’s ok,” he said. “Let’s go and we’ll all have a beer.”

“I can’t,” I said. Then I opened up and strung an utterance together that lasted as long as 3 minutes, denouncing what drove me to madness aboard Sarim. The frustration, the stress, the wretched dichotomies, these horrible negatives that, just as they were doing now, shrouded the good moments that I had experienced aboard Sarim in the blackness of misused time.

“Lido,” I said to Isham. “He does not know reverence. None at all.”

“It’s true that Lido and Kelly, they don’t say when they’re upset,” replied Isham.

“That’s exactly right.”

“But your money is not their problem.”

“No it’s not,” I agreed. “But they could at least understand where I’m coming from and stop rushing me through the border–I need to know my options, and maybe 1800 bucks is nothing for him, but he can’t put that on me.”

“They’re also mad that they had plans to visit some tiki statues on the other side of the island.”

“To hell with their plans,” I said. “Fucking selfish.” I was shaking with resolve after telling everything on my mind to Isham, who listened patiently.

Isham’s upturned brow was perpetual, and he always looked friendly or tired. “Come, let’s have a beer, a Hinano beer. 6 dollars a bottle! Come on.” He started to guide me onward toward Lido and family.

I stopped. “No, Isham, no, no, I’m done. I’ve had enough, I’m always the one to correct these things; I think I like Kelly and Lido but it’s up to them this time, I’m not in the wrong. They’re just… unthoughtful. Tell them I like them, tell them I appreciate their taking me on to here, but that’s it, I’m done.”

I walked off in the opposite direction. Two hours later I had paid my bond–1800 big ones swiped off the debit card, like wiping smudge off glasses and finally seeing clearly. Goddamn money. Everyone was back at immigration–I was not moved by having forced them to wait on me–they can wait on me, they should. Sarim was checked into the country, as were its crew. I removed myself from Lido’s crewlist, and felt pampered by freedom–I finally felt free.

“Meet at the dinghy dock at 4,” said Lido, and pivoted out the doorway.

I turned to the immigration officials. “Il est bien perturbe, non? He’s pretty mad huh?” It was the older man, with chopped gray scalp and a long hawkish nose, who spoke. Then he said, flatly: “You have 15 days.”

“…What?” I froze. “How many days?”

“15 days, to get the visa.”

“What do you mean 15 days? Isn’t this stamp the visa, here in my passport?”

“We’re just an advanced post. You have 15 days to get to Nuku Hiva or Tahiti, to get the visa.”

“…You have to be kidding me. What if I can’t make it? I’m crewing boats and now I have to meet another one.”

“Et bien, then you’re irregular and we act accordingly.”

As I walked the long road back up, down and around to the harbor dinghy dock, I tried to slow down the processes that were running courses through my head like hamsters wearing their wheels. Everything had crumbled around me. The bond was worse than I had anticipated. They gave me a meager 15 days instead of 90, which wouldn’t be enough to get to Tahiti. I was soon to be marooned in the Marquesas, and at Hiva Oa, which was not even at the island I was supposed to be marooned at, Nuku Hiva, and it was that island that was made famous by Melville and London. I was leaving the boat.

I had spent a week in the Perlas beaching Sarim, and then 3 weeks in the Galapagos repairing that dry-rot beam. This was the end of the puddle jump. The boats were thinning out, the run to Australia and New Zealand was passing me by, leaving me clasping my hand around the fledgling tail-end of the fleet. In the days to come I would find internet and e-mail with Dirk, who was hauling out his boat in the Society Islands, and the Swedes, who were long-gone and warning me to get my ass to Tahiti before the fleet weighed anchor, which they would do, soon. I should have arrived at Panama City in the beginning of February, I thought. I’m in the middle of the ocean, and I’m very likely to be stuck here, or worse, I will be deported home with my own money.

My legs were dangling over the edge of the patio. It was a small shack at the dinghy dock, tourist information posted in its glass-pane sliding doors. 15 dollars for an airport transfer. 500 dollars flight to Tahiti. Contact Sandra on VHF 11. 3 dollars for a kilo of laundry. Visit the only smiling tiki statue in Polynesia. A man went by me, carrying a Polynesian canoe, an affair of length and slenderness, supported by a thin outrigger and moved with a short, wide paddle. He paddled out from the rocky ramp, and sliced through the water between the yachts. Oh, how I wanted to have a mind to talk to him, or to his buddies preparing their own canoes. I wanted to ask if Polynesians really can navigate just by the ocean swell. I wanted to learn about the history; Polynesia, the largest area populated by any one race on earth. They all had tatoos, and all over their bodies. I wanted to ask about that tradition. What do they eat here besides baguettes and coconuts and fruit? Oh! My mind is infested with the doubts wrought by this shifting sailing travel that forces one to be obsequious and subservient. Crew, damn it. I wonder if it’s always like this.

Lido and Kelly showed up then, here, at the dinghy dock. I had been dour during the walk back, thinking horrible thoughts and imagining evil words flowing from my mouth, and putting an end to this brief friendship. I should’ve known when he slammed the taxi door, when he threw rum at his wife. I couldn’t respect people who treated me like gold one minute and like lint the next. I wanted anger, I wanted to cherish and indulge my gritty enmity.

“Lido, can I see you? Five minutes, over here.”

“Sure,” he said cheerfully.

“Look, nothing that happened today matters,” I said. Shit. Already my gloomy grasp on hate had slipped. Say it, say it mean, and be horrible. “I don’t…” Be harsh, be truthful but be harsh, that he may feel it in his heart. “I don’t… I don’t want to remember the bad times,” I said. “I want to remember the good times. All this crap between us, it wouldn’t happen if not for the boat.”

My time on Sarim came to an end on July 4th, a proper day for my departure–Independence Day. Gil, the 3 year old boy, was crying when I left. I would miss playing legos with him. I’d miss smiling largely at Kelly when I tasted her cakes, and I would think about the good moments that I shared laughing with Lido. The thin film of expectancy was finally ruptured indefinitely–no more tension, no more having to be defeatist before the front of a captain. Away from boats, for once. No more boats, for at least a little while. I would now get what I had been secretly wishing for–the freedom to vagabond. I had already picked out a perch to pitch my tent, up there on the far ridge, by the seagrass container, overlooking the natural bay, the sea, the mountains. No more boats.

 


 

“I do not care about the sociology on your other boat. With me you will not find a Captain Bligh. On my boat I will tell you what you should do and I will tell you why it must be done. There is an etiquette to the cruising life that dictates that, when we are in Tahiti, we will either part or we will remain, and if we part there will be no hard feelings.”

I met Andrew on Athena on July 4th. He was the exact character of Professor Hammond from Jurassic Park–his speech the antiquated British accent of South Africa, his posture proper, his locution erudite.

I never camped.

I did not know it then, but the journey that lay ahead would take me on a course through all the facets of my character, and would test my capacities, to the bitter end.

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