Landfall Manihi

For five days, we watched our friends in their misery.  I could empathize with their frustration.  Crystal asked me a number of times, “What are you thinking?” referring to our decision to go cruising. This is not something I can answer while out at sea. I hoped that like for us, when she returned to land and waited the requisite three days, Manihi would work its magic.  Soon, all her misery-memories would fade, and instead, be replaced with experiences one could never achieve on a normal vacation. Manihi “island” is a circular strip of coral, three city blocks wide at its widest.  In the center of the circle is more ocean.  To access the center circle, we wait until slack tide then use Sonrisa’s trusty motor to push our way through a narrow slot in the coral.  The depth drops to 7 feet, I follow the channel to the left, then to the right and we pop through the other side.  Once inside, we pass fish traps, pearl farms and coral heads looming just below the surface.  Crystal and Andrew stand on the bow, trying to spot the coral and steer me away.  We follow the handy access instructions provided by a local, and hover over the GPS coordinates he gave us for an anchorage.  At its most shallow, it is 62 feet deep.  This means, in order to anchor safely, we need at very least 400 feet of chain out.  400 feet of chain will undoubtedly wrap itself in knots around the coral.  This will not work.  We motor further into the atoll and try a second area of GPS coordinates, but it is also, unworkable.  We try our own spot in a shallow 35 foot area, but it is far too close to shore for me to be comfortable.  We have the chain down for a total of five minutes when Andrew jumps in to take a look; it is already tied in knots.  Sharks circle beneath him while he guides me around the coral heads to pull up the anchor and try a new place.  We head to the second anchorage indicated by the local’s GPS coordinates, and we have the same depth problem.  As we try to decide what to do next, the sun is covered by clouds and we are pummeled by another rain storm.   Soaked, frustrated, and fretting about hitting a coral head, Andrew hangs his head and considers dumping Kevin on land to find an airplane while we continue on to a more developed atoll with moorings.  Andrew’s “give the boat away and go home” mood is developing. We slowly make our way back toward the main village where we saw a marina/quay with local’s boats.  It was tiny and very shallow. I was worried that if we drove Sonrisa inside, I wouldn’t be able to turn around to escape.  But, there was an 80’x80’ space with sand on the bottom that may allow us to put the anchor down, swim to shore and ask a local for a better place to moor or anchor.  We inch our way in, garnering the attention of various locals.  They watch us with their heads cocked sideways. When we reach the center, Andrew drops the anchor and the locals start pointing at us.  Despite the fact that the marina was barely twice the size of Sonrisa, a local steps onto a 40’x20’ barge and maneuvers it with precision until it just hoovers next to Sonrisa.  He explains we can’t anchor in the middle of their local anchorage, they have to take their boats out for work.  Translated to English: “You guys are a menace.”  In my French, I muster up the explanation that we needed a temporary spot to ask a local where we should anchor.  He points back at the anchoring spot we just tried, but I explained to him that it is too deep for our anchor chain.  Do other boats just anchor there anyway?  What are we missing?  We thank him, and turn to go back out for more brainstorming. Then, seeing our soggy foul weather gear and drooping spirits, he changes his mind. He squeezes the barge past Sonrisa and parks it in a different spot.  He waves at us to stop and indicates we should pull along side the barge in reverse.   Unfortunately, this requires me to back up in the direction that Sonrisa cannot go due to her prop walk.  She detests — no, refuses — to back up to the left without room to get a running start.  I give her some gas and she pulls straight back on the anchor chain.  I turn the wheel to the left and go forward, pushing her bow around the way I want it to go, but just barely.  I back up again.  Now, this helpful local begins driving my boat from shore.  Standing on the dock, he yells out instructions in French, points for forward and reverse, then circles his hand with palm out indicating I should turn the steering wheel.  I follow the instructions, and complete a 10 point turn moving forward, back, forward, back in tiny increments until Sonrisa’s stern has inched its way around and we can throw the ropes to our new friend.   Soon we are all tied up, I thank him profusely, and offer him a beer for his help.  He laughs and explains “No, thank you. I am the police chief and I ha

Source: Landfall Manihi

The Future of Us


The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Macklin
The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Macklin

The Future of Us is a book about time travel, and why one should be careful when messing with Temporal Mechanics. It’s a romance, which is one reason that it works so well. Josh and Emily are livelong friends living next door to each other. One day they get onto AOL with one of those shiny new discs that AOL is forever giving out (it’s set in the 90’s, you see.) Once connected to AOL they discover that they can connect to something from the future, something called “Facebook.” Never mind that doing that on a dial-up connection would try the patience of a saint, they pull it off. And they discover that they can alter their future destinies by changing what they decide in the present. (Well, can’t we all, but can we see the results? I didn’t think so.) But, is it a good idea to try to deliberately arrange your future in a specific manner? Well is it?

It’s a heckuva good read, for a young adult or just a plain old adult. Seriously, try it and see!


Crystal and Kevin’s Manihi Shakedown, By Sonrisa

“Are we going to die out here?”  Crystal inquires with a touch of fear in her eyes.  “No, no.  We are fine.” Leslie responds, huddled under her foul weather gear soaked by wall after wall of rain.   It is day three of five on the passage from Ua Pou, Marquesas to Manihi, Tuamotus, andthis has been a difficult passage. Everyone started out with high enough spirits, but Crystal was nervous and Kevin was a little green around the gills from the start.   Upon departure there was no wind at all.  The sea was glassy like a lake and I jittered along under motor. The sky performed a beautiful rainbow dance, and dolphins came to visit.  Crystal and Andrew sat on the deck and tried to reach their feet down to pet the dolphins.  One of the dolphins would look up and over his shoulder, swooping in my bow wake, taking a running start and jumping to try to meet the distance.  “Dolphins out of port are good luck!” Kevin explains to Crystal, and this is true.  They are good luck, but they also like to keep you company when the sea is testing you.  On this passage, Crystal and Kevin will be tested. The first night watch was filled with stars and no moon.  Leslie kept hoping the ocean would settle just enough to reflect all the stars, and it almost did but a haze of ripples obscured the globe just enough that the stars were like a mist on top of the water rather than a direct reflection.  She sat on my combing watching a ridge of neon green phosphorescence curl away from my hull.  Crystal nestled into the beanbag listening to her audiobook.   The second night watch brought some rain.  It wasn’t too much, but it was an omen for what was coming the next four days.  By morning, the wind was up and I was sailing along.  Finally, my engine was silenced.  The waves were building a little, 90 degrees from my port side.  They would approach, lift my hull one way, roll under and lift me the other way.  We swing side to side, and Kevin becomes more and more pale.  He suffers in silence, but I know he is miserable.  As the sun goes down on the second night, the wind is a boisterous twenty knots and I am having a great time sailing along.  But now, the waves are coming side on with a few from the front and a few from the back as well.  We are rocking, jumping, swinging and bouncing.   Crystal and Leslie were on deck for their night watch when Kevin crawls through the companion way moaning with nausea, wild eyed with frustration.  “Aauughh!  I can’t be down there anymore.  I’m going to puke.  I can’t breathe.”  Crystal helps him lay out on the beanbags.  Kevin closes his eyes and lays back, breathing and concentrating on keeping his cookies in place. His body is shaking a bit from the anxiety and irritation.  Crystal and Leslie set him up with a pillow and a blanket.  Crystal feeds him nausea medicine, sea sickness medicine and a Zanax.  He seems to settle down a bit and Leslie sends out a little request to the sea to go easy on him.  But, she knows better.  Peeking out from my cockpit, Leslie can see a black squall cloud approaching and fears it is about to rain.  She gathers foul weather jackets and spreads them over Kevin.   And rain it does, dousing everyone on deck and forming “cool-pools”  in the beanbags. The squall comes and goes, and Leslie makes a pleading request that the rain stay away so Kevin can stay on deck and dry out.  Twenty minutes later, another rain comes through; then another and another.  By morning, the sky is a thick grey and the rain is almost continuous.  Kevin is laying in a pool of water soaked from the top and the bottom.  HIs toes are curled around a shelf on the bench, trying to steady himself in the rolling, but otherwise, he has not moved all night.   By the next afternoon, the waves are slightly more to my stern and I am still sailing along in good wind. The rain continues.  Kevin suffers in silence.  He hasn’t eaten anything for 24 hours, and he is soaked to the core.  This is warm tropical rain, but eventually this will become a concern for hypothermia.  Crystal is taking good care of him.  She helps him into dry clothes during a break in the clouds, but fifteen minutes later he is soaked again.  The rain will just not let up.   Leslie and Andrew consult.  Can we turn around?  No, that will just be upwind.  It will take longer to go back than it is to keep going.  Crystal and Kevin are experiencing the profound difficulty of a passage:  once you are out there, you have little choice but to stick it out.  The crew decides Kevin has to go down below, whether he likes it or not.  He agrees, and the four sailors start the process of getting him into the bed.   I try to hold as steady as I can, “steady and smooth, steady and smooth” I say to myself.  But it’s to no avail.  The sea is still a jumble, and I have no choice but to ride it.  Kevin finally loses his

Source: Crystal and Kevin’s Manihi Shakedown, By Sonrisa

Ua Pou

Our next move another new island, Ua Pou.  We started the day off with our official (and rather disconcerting) safety schpille.  “In the unlikely event of a water landing…” We show Crystal and Kevin the location of the liferaft, ditch bag, flares, the crash pad, rescue beacon, medical kit, how to use the radios, how to pump water out of the boat if necessary, where to hold on to the boat as it moves around a lot, how to aim at the toilet while it is a moving target, how to use the propane stove in a manner least likely to cause a gas explosion, etc. etc.  And the most important instruction of all: do not fall off the boat.  The highest risk of death comes from falling off the boat.  If you fall off the boat out there, it can be very difficult to find and retrieve you.  So, the safety schpeille begins and ends with the most important instruction: Do not ever fall off the boat.   No matter what.  No peeing over the edge, if you must puke, puke in a bucket, if you are walking on deck hold on to something stable with at least one hand, keep your center of gravity low, and always wear your lifejacket and tether attached to the boat.  Crystal and Kevin both took the safety schpeille in stride and immediately donned their lifejackets and tethers.   We set off on a five hour sail in friendly breeze and a sunny day. At a distance of about 25 miles away, Ua Pou looks like haze in the distance.  As we close the gap, the landscape sharpens into focus.  Seven spines of rock jut out of the island’s ridge, like rockets shooting into the sky.  Mist and clouds collect at their peaks.   We enjoy the view as we pull into a tiny and rather crowded anchorage. We drop a front and a stern anchor to reduce the rocking back and forth, and unfold Grin.  We only planned a couple days here, so we must set to exploring immediately.  We head to town and walk through clean, beautifully landscaped yards and tidy houses.  The villagers are out and about, playing soccer and volleyball, shopping at the three markets, or playing at the beach.  The majority of our time in Ua Pou is spent working.  We need to pick up more provisions, do laundry, fill up with potable water, and find a little more diesel fuel here as we are heading to the remote atolls of the Tuamotus for the next two to three weeks.   It’s incredible how fast the laundry builds up around here.  Sweaty clothes, swimsuits, hand towels, shower towels and sheets all get dirty so fast!  So, Crystal, Kevin and I spend the next morning hand washing again in buckets.  We hang everything to dry, and Sonrisa looks like she is a floating laundry line.  Our hands are prune and tired from all the scrubbing and wringing, but the view from our laundry room is acceptable. Meanwhile, Andrew makes three laps from Sonrisa to shore to fill up our water tanks with fresh water from shore.  We have a reverse osmosis water maker that makes 6 gallons per hour of run time.  However, all the anchorages in Nuku Hiva have been so murky that it will clog up and ruin our filters.  The water maker really should only be used when we are out at sea or in a clear water anchorage.  Therefore, we are down to only ten gallons in our tank.  On each lap, he fills up a five gallon water jug and as much of a twenty five gallon bladder as we have the strength to hold.  (Water is heavy!) Then, he lugs the tanks back to Grin, rows back to Sonrisa, lugs the tanks aboard, and empties them into the fresh water tank.   After water and laundry, we head to town to pick up provisions.  We each take the biggest backpack we have and carry them empty into town.  We hit the grocery store and pick up frozen meet, frozen veggies, fresh veggies, a few canned items, crackers, cookies, cheese and pudding.  We need a lot of snacks to feel good on passage.  We stuff it all into our backpacks and hoof two weeks worth of groceries back to the boat.  By the time we returned to the boat, we are dripping with sweat.  The waves in the anchorage continue to rock Sonrisa back and forth.  For a moment, Sonrisa is cluttered with the detritus of new food that needs to be packed away, and we are four grown adults stepping politely around each other in a total of 480 square feet of space that is also filled with boat furniture, engines, sails, and all of our personal gear.  About the time I have all the cushions torn off the salon benches to hide away our canned goods, Andrew realizes that a hoard of flies have suffocated onto top of the toilet vent, clogging air flow and creating a rather…human…stench to fill the boat.  This nausea inducing concoction of heat, humidity, clutter, fatigue and stink just about sends us all over the edge.  We hold it together just long enough to finish putting away groceries and for Andrew to scrape the fly bodies from the vent.  Then, we jump into the backyard swimming pool to

Source: Ua Pou

Writing 201

A couple of reasonably well-known writers.
A couple of reasonably well-known writers.

At a certain point, one is simply not a beginner any more. This may or may not happen before or after you actually start selling stories. For myself, I don’t think I’m actually a “rank beginner” any more. Sure, I’m not a post-graduate like Stephen King or someone like him, but I basically know the rules. I may need another thousand hours of practice (assuming that 10,000 hour statistic is valid) but basically, I know the drill.

Some hints:

  • I no longer love my first drafts. In fact, I hate ’em. But they are useful, because at least there’s a story under that mess somewhere.
  • Every so often I can break a rule, know why I broke the rule, and actually get away with it. (“You must know the rules like a professional so that you may break them like an artist.” — Pablo Picasso)
  • I know, in my soul, what is wrong with superfluous modifiers. They’re really, very, truly, bad.
  • My contact list is more and more filling up with writers, agents, editors and book lovers. Eat your hearts out, you who are being forgotten.

I’m still just a sophomore, which is why I titled this post Writing 201. That’s the beginning of the year where you start to think that you know something, but in fact you really don’t. Hey, that’s me! Except at the movies. There, I’m a senior, for sure!

Hakatea Bay – The Adventures of Huckleberry Grin

The music festival flop was a sign we had lingered long enough.  So, the next day we broke camp and made the short jaunt over to Hakatea Bay, a location featured on the first season of Survivor.  As we slid along side the island, we saw no opening in the craggy, sheer cliffs, but the chart insisted we had arrived at our destination.  We had been warned this bay was a little hidden, but it seemed like we were sailing directly into a cliff wall.  We wove through the navigable slot shaped like a “Z” and found ourselves in a lovely calm bay with cliffs towering above Sonrisa’s mast.    We set up the sunshade and made some lunch.  Looking for a suitable activity that Andrew could participate in with his still fresh and healing tattoo, the Rowersons declared dinghy racing to begin.  We unfolded Grin and set up the course.  Row from Sonrisa, to shore, run out to grab a leaf from a tree without losing Grin in the tide, get Grin floating again, hoist yourself back in the boat without flipping it over, then return.  You will be timed. As usual, I was trying too hard.  Crystal and I finished within less than a second of each other despite the fact that I almost tipped Grin over trying to get back in, and she got caught in a wind eddy that took her sideways across the bay for quite some distance before she could paddle out. After that, we swam in the ever changing scenery of our backyard pool, and took a shower in our open air shower with a view of a rainbow.  Hopefully, the view makes up for rocking Crystal and Kevin back and forth for a week straight?  They remain rather uncomfortable.  The next day, we woke early to hail “Paul” on VHF 9 or 72 with the hopes of getting a guided hike to the third largest waterfall in the world, Vaipai Falls.   When we achieved success, we loaded into Grin and started a fairly long row.  Our challenge for the day was to row up the mouth of a river that flowed into the ocean and/or ride the waves to the beach without flipping Grin.  Crystal and Kevin didn’t realize that yesterday’s rowing event was training for actual field work.   Kevin and Andrew take the last (and hardest leg) rowing into shore.  “You should probably put your camera into the dry bag,” Andrew advises Crystal.   She looks at the waves on shore, they are small and friendly. Crystal takes a couple more pictures, then starts to put the camera into her bag. Just then a wave folds over itself from behind, growling like a baby tiger.  “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle harder!!” Andrew cries, terror in his voice.  Crystal and I look back, and at first Andrew’s fear seems laughable, until all of a sudden the roll of the wave grabs Grin’s stern and throws it sideways to the verge of capsizing. Crystal is wrestling her dry bag closed, Kevin is being tossed backward from the pitching bow, and I am throwing my weight inward to counter balance the tip.  Andrew tries to paddle, but his paddle cannot find purchase in the foam.  Each time he misses, the paddle waggles around in the air, rather than the water.  Water is rushing over Grin’s port side, and the wave continued to push the starboard side higher and higher into the air.  There is wailing and gnashing of teeth, our faces contorted into the elongated “O”, just like Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Then, like nothing happened, the wave passes beneath us and Grin straightens himself out. Our guide Paul looks out at us from the beach with waves lapping at his ankles.  He looks confused, but waits for us to land on the beach.  We jump out and walk Grin the remaining way to dry sand.  “Why are you paddling like that?” Paul asks.  That is such a good question.   After introductions and niceties, we take a moment to survey our surroundings.  This place is gorgeous.  Black sand beach, palm trees in a row, a cool river flowing into the ocean, cliffs rise straight out of the blue water into a sunny sky.  Paul breaks off two light, strong and straight sticks for Crystal and I to use on the trail.  He shows us his family’s homes, a Catholic church, and his kitty all sitting atop ancient Marquesan village foundations.  We walk through orchards and fruit gardens.  He explains the history of the valley as we walk.  Pretty soon, we come upon an old Tiki nestled amongst all manner of jungle greenery.  Paul greets the Tiki and places his hand on the Tiki.  “This Tiki is good for making wishes.  Tikis are not Gods, they are protectors, like angels.  You don’t have to believe me, but if you want, you can make a wish.”  I am not one to pass up an opportunity for a wish, so we all get in line and one by one greet the Tiki and make a wish.  We continue forward through ferns, rivers, man eating mosquitos, mud and rocks. Paul stops to hit the roots of various trees with a rock.  His taps echo with the smooth intonation of a drum.  “I tap on the roots like a drum to say h

Source: Hakatea Bay – The Adventures of Huckleberry Grin

Nuku Hiva Jubilee!

1468228416442[The internet quit working in all of French Polynesia half way through uploading photos on this post.  So, I will post text only until we are able to get internet up and running again.  What would happen if the internet quit working for five days in the US?  Mayhem.  Here, we just go spearfishing.] We intended to leave Nuku Hiva on Wednesday, but as luck would have it, a local invited us to the 50 year Jubilee Celebration at the Catholic church, for Thursday night.  Islanders from all Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Ua Huka, and Ua Pou all traveled to Nuku Hiva to perform traditional dancing and singing for Catholic and French dignitaries.  Everyone was in town to celebrate the arrival of the Catholic Church on Nuku Hiva fifty years ago.  We also learned that the locals enjoy a market on Friday mornings at 4:00 a.m., and we happened upon a flyer in the post office indicating a music festival was to take place on Thursday from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.!  Wow!  This place usually shuts down at 9 p.m. every night – this music festival must be a big deal.  So, we decided to stay.   The Jubilee was absolutely worth it.  As we approached the church, we could see it was decorated for the occasion.  Grass tufts were strewn across the road, making the entry look island regal.  Tents were set up, with the traditional decorations of flowers and grass wraps ensuring one cannot see those garish tent poles.  Islanders streamed out of the church and began milling about a center square.  We found ourselves ringside seats next to a local who introduced himself as Leonard.   The locals were dressed to the nines with flower headdresses, bore’s tooth necklaces, pua shell necklaces, and brightly colored clothing. We knew something big was going to happen when they began carrying human sized torches near the square.  Boys gathered around drums, tapping nonchalantly and occasionally tooting a conch shell. Leonard explained that the North and South Islands each prepared a performance for the Catholic dignitaries.  But first, everyone was going to eat.  He explained that if we bring our own plates and bowls, we were invited to eat, too.  I told Andrew we needed to buy some plates/bowls, but he insisted that my French to English translation was incorrect as none of the locals had plates or bowls with them.  We enjoyed the cooling dusk temperatures and watched the people mill about until at 6:00 p.m. the locals pulled out plates and bowls and made a beeline to the buffet tables.  I poke Andrew: “Look!  They all have their plates!”  He sighs and heads off to the magazin (store) to buy plastic plates.  Luckily they were still open. When Andrew returns with plates we take turns going to get food so as to reserve our ringside seats.  Andrew and Crystal go first, returning with banana goo, banana cake, banana weeners, banana tapioca goo, steamed breadfruit and pork.  Apparently poisson cru was also available, but we all had had our fill of raw fish over the last few days.  Kevin and I take our turns, arriving at the buffet table to see a manajorie of women with flowers in their hair scooping all manner of goos from bowls onto our plates sometimes with spoons, and sometimes just with their hands.  GO-GO-GADGET-IRON-STOMACH. The pork was tasty and everything else either tasted like bananas or had the texture of a banana. Leonard was extremely pleased that we were staying, enjoying and eating.  He conversed with our Captain (Andrew), with Andrew occasionally consulting me regarding translation.  Leonard admired Andrew’s new tattoo, but proclaimed he could have done the same thing for $80.00.  A vision of a bone point and chisel flashed through my mind.  Leonard and Andrew hit it off and Leonard invited Andrew to morning coffee the next day.   Soon, the performers began to line up and we all quieted down.  The Tahuata, Hiva Oa, Ua Huka contingent arranged themselves in the square and began by adorning the dignitaries with thick, white flower leis.  They step away, sit down and the leading woman began with a loud and joyful sounding chant in Marquesan.  In response, the group began drumming and singing.  Then, a young girl stood in the center and added her own chat, the group responded with a conch shell and more singing.  When this performance was over, the twenty-five people in that group exited and the larger contingent from Nuku Hiva began gathering to start their performance.   There are no items to display from the selected collection.   The men in the Nuku Hiva group took a more active role.  The primary chanting was started by a large polynesian man with a shell lei.  Five tattooed, muscular men with bore’s tooth necklaces ferociously stomped and exclaimed war cries into the otherwise peaceful night air.  Immediately upon completion of the war cries, six drummers began drumming ferociously, hands flying, bo

Source: Nuku Hiva Jubilee!

I’ll Show ‘Em Yours if You Show ‘Em Mine!

As I get deeper into being just a writer, I am paying more and more attention to other people’s blogs, and also reading lots of articles on promoting one’s work. To that end, I repost other people’s blog posts (especially those crazies sailing to San Diego via the Mediterranean Sea, but also others.) And I have links to some of my favorite blogs in the sidebar. If you are a writer who sees this and would like to do some reciprocal linking, drop me a note (you can just comment here if you wish) and perhaps we can set something up.

I know, I get solicitations to reciprocate from time to time, but so far, none has appeared to be legitimate. But if you are, especially if your name rhymes with “Chuck Wendig,” drop me a line!

Nuku Hiva Meltdown #3

How do you distill your life story down into something that can be explained in a nutshell, in a foreign language?  I don’t know, but that is just what we were instructed to do by our favorite Marquesan Tattoo artist.  Tattoos are a significant part of the Marquesan culture.  All the locals have tattoos, men and women alike; many people even have face tattoos.  These tattoos are beautiful, generally forming a major image using various smaller Marquesan symbols. You don’t get to choose your design; instead, you describe your life to the tattoo artist and he designs your tattoo based upon the story you describe.  Marquesans can read the symbols in your tattoo like a story.  For this reason, it is taboo to copy another person’s tattoo.  You cannot live another person’s life, and therefore, you couldn’t possibly have the same tattoo.   Likewise, tattoos are a significant part of sailing culture.  Sailors have a long list of symbols they tattoo on their bodies once they have accomplished various sailing feats.  For example, you can tattoo a sea turtle standing on his hind legs once you have crossed the equator or the international date line.  Just like the Marquesans, sailors can read the symbols identified for various sailing feats and know another person’s sailing history.   The tattoo artist we have chosen has been recommended by a number of people as the best in the Marquesas.  He is in his twenties or early thirties and is, himself, covered in tattoos.  Intricate Marquesan symbols are tattooed even in his hairline and around his ears.  He has long black hair, pulled neatly in a ponytail.  Like everyone, he wears flip-flops and shorts.  For the third morning in a row, we woke early with the tattoo as the intended task of the day.  This time, Moana was waiting for us, and we had our life stories written in French in hand.   Neither Andrew nor I have ever gotten a tattoo in the past.  It seems with the confluence of our sailing experience and our exploration of the Marquesas, this is as sensible of a time as any to make the leap.  Our tattoo artist takes us behind a curtain made of brightly colored island fabric.  There is a bench with a red cushion and a red pillow.  A poster depicting cheerful Marquesan Tikis hangs on the wall.  Various colors of ink is stored in a shelf, just below boxes of freshly wrapped and sealed needles.  A window without glass is open to a lush, tropical view just outside.     I start.  I give Moana my life story, he reads it, and then instructs me to take a seat on his work bench/bed.  He asks me on what part of my body I would like my tattoo, and I tell him I’m not sure.  He suggests the ankle, but that is not my preference as it would show beneath skirts at work.  So, I suggest my shoulder.  He draws a beautiful design using markers, and I like the symbols he chooses very much.  When I look in the mirror, though, it just doesn’t strike my fancy.  It isn’t me, but I can’t put my finger on why.  Andrew takes pictures of me, and when I look at the camera screen I can see it in my eyes that I’m not that into this tattoo thing after all.  Maybe it’s the location of the tattoo?  Maybe I don’t like the shoulder?  I don’t know.  Andrew is next, and again, the tattoo artist reads Andrew’s story and asks Andrew where he wants his tattoo.  Andrew wants a band around his leg.  The tattoo artist starts sketching and draws a symbol for Andrew’s beloved mountains, growing his garden, his friends and family, his marriage, the sailing trip to the Marquesas, and the symbol for “the explorer”.  As soon as I see Andrew’s tattoo, I love it.  I think it looks great on him, and the symbols are spot on.  Andrew is ready to pull the trigger.  I tell him he can go first, and he hops up on the bench. In the meantime, our friends hail us on the VHF radio and they are ready to come ashore.  This day not to be without dinghy drama, I leave Andrew to head out to Sonrisa to pick them up.  Back at the quay, all by myself, I look down at Grin with trepidation.  “What crazy trick are you going to try today, Grin?”  It is low tide again, so I have to make the long jump.  The motor is still not quite right.  Andrew tried to describe the push this, shove that, and hold this down strategy for starting the motor, but when I try to jerry-rig the thing by myself I can’t quite figure it out. I would rather row then break the motor, so I break out the oar.   I think as I paddle:  What if I don’t like my tattoo?  Isn’t it a little unbalanced?  Should I have it wrap a little more to the back of my shoulder? The designs on my tattoo are so small and delicate, what if over time they smoosh into one big blob? On the other hand, I am not likely to be in the Marquesas again for the rest of my life.  If I am going to get a tattoo, I like the idea of this tattoo.  My mind raises argument

Source: Nuku Hiva Meltdown #3

Nuku Hiva – Melt Down #2

What did we take our friends to shore to do?  Laundry of course.  Having spent three days of air travel trying to get here, Crystal and Kevin had already stacked up a bit of laundry between the two of them.  When Crystal asked me what we do with our laundry, I had no choice but to break the bad news: we do it by hand, in buckets.  But luckily, today we have sinks on shore with a spigot of free flowing water!  Luxury. Andrew had some boat work to do, so he dropped us off on shore to do laundry.  Crystal is a laundry machine.  Within just minutes she has all her laundry soaked, soaped, and she is elbow deep in suds scrubbing fabric against fabric to jostle the airport stank out of their clothing.  Looking over my shoulder, I notice she has made a significant dent in her pile while I mosey through my batch of clothes as if I have nothing better to do all day long.  I am adapting to island time.   Finishing more quickly than anticipated, we hail Andrew on our mobile VHF to come get us.  Pretty soon, we see him zooming across the bay with Grin throwing out a solid wake and planing like a ski boat.  As Andrew nears the quay, with its tangle of bouys, dinghies, and fishing poles, he doesn’t slow down; in fact, he speeds up.   “What the hell is he doing?” I think to myself, at the same time I notice confusion, a flash of panic, then terror spread over his otherwise deadpan face. The engine revs even higher, Andrew swerves and Grin fishtails.  Fear grips my stomach and I think I am about to watch my husband die. The space between Grin and the dock is closing in so quickly now it seems like just seconds until Grin’s bow smashes into the quay and Andrew is thrown face first into the cement.  Time slows down, and I am completely helpless standing on land.  I duck beneath my hands, run in the opposite direction and shriek “Don’t die!  DON’T DIE!!!”   What else could I do? Our friends look from Andrew to me, and back to Andrew.  Crystal (being the fabulous nurse that she is) begins to head in Andrew’s direction, Kevin just watches.  Suddenly, Andrew cuts the motor and silence falls over the dock.  The locals mill in the direction of the commotion, curious to see what is going on.  I am cussing and pacing around in circles: “God damn it!  What the hell?  God damn dinghy motor is going to kill someone!  This is why we should fix the damn thing or just row!”  My heart is still pounding and now I am nauseous.  In the meantime, Andrew pulls out an oar and moves to the front of Grin as if nothing happened. Sitting on the front seat, he paddles on one side, then the other, because we have two mismatched paddles that cannot be rowed like a normal rowboat.   By the time he reaches the dock, Crystal is doing her best imitation of me running in the opposite direction yelling instructions that Andrew not die.  “What? I had it under control.  Everything is fine,” Andrew explains with his “obviously everything is fine” tone of voice.  And with that, my fire breathing dragon lady wakes.  I take my laundry and put it in Grin.  With the biggest smile and the most cheerful voice I can muster, I tell Crystal and Kevin they are welcome to stay on land to use their suspension trainer if they would like more time away from the rocking boat.  I offer to hang up their laundry for them, and I get into Grin.   Andrew gets into Grin and moves to pull the cord to start the motor.  I am already paddling from the front – one or two strokes each on the right then the left, zigging Grin back and forth through the anchorage.  “Are you insane?” I ask Andrew. “What the hell is wrong with you?  If you start that motor I am jumping out of this death trap.”  Andrew continues to work toward his task of starting the motor again.  “I will jump out!  Do not start that motor. What the hell happened anyway?”  I ask as I row at a brisk pace. Andrew explains he was trying to fix the motor when we called him for a pick up.  He had fixed the gear shift enough that now he could use the hand lever to shift from neutral into forward (rather than having to open the engine and push the gear), but he didn’t realize that the gear would not shift back into neutral until he was about 25 feet from the quay.  When it wouldn’t shift into neutral, he tried to turn the gear the other way, but of course that just opened the throttle.  We arrive back at Sonrisa and I throw the laundry on deck.  I set about the task of hanging all the laundry to dry while I explain to Andrew that I do not want to watch him die on this trip.  He scared me!  And, heading out from Sonrisa in a dinghy with a fluky motor that cannot be trusted is asking for trouble.  He gives me a hug and apologizes for scaring me.  He does not, however, promise not to use the dinghy motor – probably because he doesn’t want to be referred to as the Rowersons.  At this point, I a

Source: Nuku Hiva – Melt Down #2