You hardy folk who have patiently and faithfully followed this adventure, holding on even as the once plentiful flow lessened to a tiny trickle and finally seems to have dried up. This is a notice that I have begun writing again only at another site, because if you want to hear the end of this particular adventure you may have to buy the book ;) But if you enjoyed my writing please follow this link www.davinasdreams.wordpress.com and read on!
And to any new readers who have just stumbled upon this blog and are interested in the story of a girl who sets out to follow her dream and sail the world. Well then, I suggest you scroll way back to the beginning and enjoy the story at your leisure!
October 3-13 2010
When we were kids mom use to read us novels; Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit series, My Side of the Mountain. We would gather round her as she lay on her belly in front of the fire, our imaginations soaring with the narrative. Sometimes she would get to the end of a chapter and declare us done for the night. Invariably we would protest and beg her to continue, coaxing her with promises to scratch her back with the hairbrush for every minute more.
For all of you who’ve been gathered around me listening patiently to my story, I’ve just now realized, I came to the end of a chapter, but never finished the book. And here I am jumping to the next one, leaving you all wondering what happened? You can’t read most of a book and not finish! How rude! So. Scratch all that other stuff. We’ll start that one when this ones through. Now where were we. . . .
I had just arrived in New Zealand after 10 days at sea from Fiji. Ten months of pursuing it and my dream of sailing around the world was proving very unsatisfying. I was eager to batten down somewhere, write my book and figure out what the next, more fulfilling step was. Doug, the captain of my last boat, had dropped me off in Auckland. . . .
Snicker faced. Ha! Though I was slunk low and quiet in the back row I couldn’t stop the hiccup of laughter bubbling out of my chocolate smeared mouth. After ten months of foreign countries and being at sea, it was good to be doing something so familiar as watching “the Simpsons.” Lisa had a new boyfriend, a Sid Vicious look alike who got her hooked on his insatiable addiction. “Let’s get snicker faced!” They crammed candy into their mouths until they were reeling with the buzz, then Sid beat his head against the wall. Ha! I couldn’t help it; this episode seemed aimed directly at me. I’d bought enough chocolate to make myself sick.
I was sitting in a corner near a ceiling high window on the dirty couch of a backpackers (hostel.) There were 3 rows of sofas radiating out in a semi circle from the big black box that was suspended from the ceiling. It was the middle of the afternoon and lounging on the grubby cushions were an international assembly of mostly under 30’s. There were rosy faced blond girls from Germany, just using the hostel as a stop over while they organized their trip, various dark haired single guys from Chile here to work and learn English, an enthusiastic Japanese kid who just got a job despite his lack of the language and a few rougher looking English regulars drinking beer, who’d made this seedy hostel their home.
I had 10 days to wait until the meditation course I’d signed up for. I’d done the same Vipassana course five times in the states and in Europe and knew it was just what I needed to cleanse myself of the crap I’d accumulated while traveling; emotionally physically and mentally. Hopefully I could hold out until it began.
Wearing the only set of warm clothes I had, and shoes for the first time in ten months, I wandered aimlessly around the city, through hoards of nameless people who all seemed to have somewhere to go. My computer wasn’t working and I couldn’t afford to write by the hour. I felt uprooted, displaced and disconnected- so sick of traveling. Unlike the States, all the addictive luxury items here were expensive; chocolate, coffee (cigarettes and alcohol, though I wasn’t using those) but I still indulged in plenty of subway sandwiches, flat whites (coffee with steamed milk) and “biscuits” (cookies) numbing my bad feelings with food and wishing I was back in Boulder, in my old, happy, active, friend-filled life. I was feeling sorry for myself and made the decision. Fuck it, I would give up and spend the last of my money on a ticket home. I followed a sign advertising free coffee with two hours internet usage, down a dimly lit staircase into a cardboard basement, planning on Skyping my mom and buying the ticket. The coffee was cold stained water in a tiny styrofoam cup and the computer screen was infiltrated with dancing pop up ads in Chinese. I was having a very bad day. My mom must have been also because when I mentioned coming home she was more concerned about upsetting her roommate than welcoming me. Fighting back tears of rejection I hung up on her and stomped out when the old Chinese man wouldn’t refund any of my money. I’d only used 15 minutes.
That was as low as I was going to go. I sat myself down in a park and gave myself a stiff talking to, “your going to have to buck up and tough this out girl, you can’t just go crying to your mom every time.”
As if I’d been heading down to the sea floor I turned myself upward and gave a good solid push off the bottom. It’s amazing how the universe responds to this sort of attitude adjustment; instantly it supported me by supplying a few choice friends. Pete, an English guy I met in the hostel (probably the only person there over 40) had just made a huge change when his wife divorced him by following a life long dream to move to New Zealand. He was energetic, healthy and positive. We did the 14-kilometer coast to coast walk across Auckland together over both inactive volcanoes. Tracy I met while ducking in from the rain on top of Rangitoto, an island volcano. She was my age, a corporate workaholic whose company had sent her to New Zealand for a year. Her time was up and she was dreading leaving. She took me to her favorite beach and to dinner at a great little Mexican joint (my ultimate comfort food,) and infected me with her love for the place. Like this the days passed. The activity and inspirational company lifted my mood and from then on I was moving steadily towards the sunshine surface.
September 21 -30, 2010
Fiji-New Zealand, Hakura
I am so far away from the blogs that remain, the last few I should write, at least to get you to where I am now. Those stories are like an old black and white movie where I am the hero and the story is adventurous. Where anything could yet happen. The internal dialog dubbed over each of the actual moments I lived is gone, and even the hard scenes seem lighter in retrospect. In them I am the star, the fearless sunny me, who is social and exciting; who can sail the world and make it all happen.
Maybe that’s why writing these last few blogs is such a chore. Because that me is so far away from the me I am now. I have woven myself into a completely different story line. But still I have committed to this blog, even if writing has gotten really hard and the dream of publishing my adventures as a book comes and goes like the tide. I’ve been faithful to this undertaking for more than a year and a half. Okay, I admit I haven’t been very attentive since I moved ashore. But . . I . . will. . . . finish this story.
Well, at least up until the start of my next phase, the child rearing years.
So. Where were we? My last post had us leaving Fiji, heading south towards New Zealand, into a big sea at night. After a few days of tantrum, the ocean finally wore itself out and lay down like a tired child and my nausea disappeared.
Without a sunshade tent obscuring the sky, a center console blaring circus lights in my face, or the autopilot running the show (like the other yachts I’d been on) I was forced into a more active role and to being fully aware of the subtler, timeless performance taking place all around me. At first it was hard to stand and steer for three hours straight without even the distraction of my iPod for fear of a wet slap. But soon I was riveted by the way the elusive air contours perfectly to the undulating body of the ocean, and I wondered who was leading who in this endless and intimate dance of sea and sky.
Having to actually work while on duty made my six hours off feel like I’d earned them, and since I paid my way I was relieved of the nagging obligation to be more useful. I love when the rules, timetables, and expectations of normal life are thrown out the window, like after a natural disaster; and the only remaining rhythm is created as you go. Here we were, finally, Doug, John and I, with nothing left to do but sail this little ship to New Zealand. Eat, sleep, and steer. And the nine days it took us to accomplish this goal were exactly what a sailor would want them to be: uneventful.
The first three or four days were cold and after ten months in the tropics I was glad I had purchased one of the few existing sweatshirts in Fiji. Doug’s girlfriend had left boots aboard that fit me and just to demonstrate how little land-based hygiene applies on a 36-foot boat at sea, after I was all suited up but still barefoot, I’d perch in the companionway ready for my watch. John, while still at the wheel, would remove his boots and strip off his one pair of slightly moist, overly ripe but warm socks for me to put on before I crawled out into the chilly night.
One day, unbeknownst to us, a big bull mahi-mahi took the bait we were trawling. We weren’t very attentive or enthusiastic fisherman and by the time we realized we’d caught something, he had been dragged to death. If he had been alive we would have let him go, he was nearly four feet long, enough to feed us for a week but without refrigeration there was no way the meat would last that long. We all lamented this beautiful shimmering loss and Doug chopped off a sizable chunk of his tail before letting the rest slip overboard. We only skinned enough for that night’s dinner, leaving the end bit with the impressive tail wrapped in a burlap sack in the cockpit for breakfast the following morning.
By now the weather was heating up. Being from the northern hemisphere, where equating south with sun is normal, I took it for granted that even though we were heading away from the tropics, each day got warmer and required less layers. At about halfway Doug had a birthday and to celebrate we all put on clean clothes. In the cockpit we set up the table and lay out one of the cherished rounds of cheese, a packet of crackers, sliced tomato, fresh mango, and a packet of peanut cookies. But the real treat: it was time to decant the ginger beer. In Tonga I had met a great couple from Tasmania. We were just clearing in and they were clearing out, so our respective boats were alongside the immigration dock. We got to chatting and they invited me aboard their cozy floating abode for a glass of their home brewed ginger beer. I checked out the boat while she poured me a little of the starter and instructions on how to brew it as a gift. I’d been feeding it with fresh ginger and sugar, had bottled it with water and lemon juice and after weeks of fermentation it was finally ready to try.
Since Hakura didn’t have a water maker, fresh water showers weren’t an option. By about the end of a week we were feeling pretty ripe, and John, who liked the idea of keeping up with these sorts of things, instigated a seawater wash down for the crew. I was at the wheel when he appeared in his Speedo with the soap. After catching a bucketful of water, yanking it up quick before it dragged under with the weight, he squatted down in front of the wheel and began slowly scooping it over himself. I sped up the process by dowsing him with the whole icy bucket load, which made him squeal with shocked delight. This inspired me and soon I was in my skivvies screaming with laughter as we soaked each other with pails of the bracingly cold south pacific.
After nine days Aotearoa, which means “the land of the long white cloud” in Maori, appeared as a long dark smudge. That day as we approached New Zealand the sun was so warm we sunbathed in nothing but togs (kiwi for swimsuits) as if we had magically carried the tropics with us. We passed a few seals that had the same idea; they lay on the surface, each with a fin extended skyward. ”Whadda you looking at?” they seemed to be thinking, as we circled them gawking.
The sun went down in a fiery glow and in the remaining purple twilight the silhouette of a dragonhead stood guard over the Bay of Whangarei (pronounced fung-ga-rey.) As we passed this sentry, the mystical bubble of our sunshine voyage popped and we were enveloped in the heavy clouds and rain of a typical early spring in New Zealand.
That night we tied up to a cement floating dock at a deserted marina within what looked like a brand new housing complex and slept the deep, watch-less sleep of the safely landed sailor. The next morning the immigration guy came aboard like an old friend, “Hey Doug, how was your trip?” and stamped my passport even though I had no ticket to leave or money to stay, though I did have my job offer [see blog: Trusting the River.]
It was one day’s motor up the bay where Doug’s slip was and the rolling green hills, quaint looking villages, and colorful boats bobbing at anchor charmed me. Doug pointed out the terraced hills and explained that these were called Pa, where the fierce Maori warriors defended themselves from the British. The waterway narrowed and filled with boats until it finally ended near a low bridge; his slip was a tight squeeze among neighbors surrounded by touristy cafés and nautical restaurants. The first thing we did, once securely tied up, was walk across the street (where the cars came from the wrong direction) to the dairy (Kiwi for convenience store) where Doug shouted us (bought us) an ice cream cone dipped in chocolate. I had Hokey Pokey, vanilla with crunchy little bits of teeth aching toffee, since according to him it was the New Zealand favorite. While wandering around the small downtown we came across an opening at an art gallery and I got my first experience with the native culture. The three Maori artists greeted each other with the hongi, mindfully touching foreheads and noses and taking in a deep breath, then welcomed the crowd with a small ceremony in English and Maori. There was food and drink, beautiful pieces of tribal art in carved stone, flax, and feathers and an eclectic crowd. Lorraine and Sharron had joined us, Doug and John’s partners, and Doug shouted us a nice Italian dinner. Afterwards they went off in pairs, leaving me the luxury of the boat all to myself for the night.
I fell asleep thinking of this beautiful green land. Though the native people had had to fight for their rights, and there was still plenty of injustice, they had retained much more of their culture than the natives had where I came from. In New Zealand nuclear power was nonexistent, the government supported single moms, and medical care was everyone’s birthright.
After ten months my head was spinning from all the traveling I’d done, crewing on other peoples boats was the opposite of what sailing had always represented for me; freedom. I didn’t know what my future held but I didn’t think it was more of that. I felt like laying facedown, arms spread, to hug and kiss this spacious mass of solid earth. It might be a tiny island nation but it was a lot bigger than all the other islands I had visited and it had all the luxuries of the U.S. I didn’t have to jump on another boat or leave anytime soon. They spoke my language and couldn’t tell I was a stranger just by looking at me. Doug declared, during our crossing, that he thought my destiny was in New Zealand. So far it seemed like a storybook place and whether I could feel a whispered premonition, or it was just the fact that I didn’t want to go anywhere, I could imagine my story weaving itself somewhere within its pages.
September 12, 2010 Beach Comber Isle, Fiji
I jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn. It was Pirate Day for the Musket Cove Regatta in Fiji and I was free; released from the commitment of sailing to Australia with a captain I didn’t like. I was ready to take this party by storm.
Sailors are into pirates. You’ll often see the skull and crossbones waving among rigging, decorating someone’s bandana, or brazenly printed across a tee-shirt. But what is this fascination with pirates? Why are these vicious and violent thieves so popular?
To understand sailors’ current fascination with the pirates of old, you first have to understand the context in which they lived. During the late 1700s there were naval ships from various countries (England, Spain, France, ect.) roaming the seas in constant bloody battle. There were privateers, who were basically pirates, only they were sponsored by kings and queens, paid to loot the merchant ships of opposing countries to fill the royal coffers, (often after being outfitted by royalty, privateers would turn pirate and keep the booty for themselves.) There were public hangings and beatings. Slavery was in full swing. It was a dangerous time and like sovereign powers pirates used violent means, only they were self-employed. Instead of accepting a life of servitude, they were the infamous and often respected entrepreneurs of the deep.
Because of their refusal to be enslaved in the system, pirates remain in the collective consciousness as symbols of freedom and self-reliance. A pirate is an archetype for someone who takes control of their own destiny despite the odds.
No sailor throws herself more whole-heartedly into the pirate theme than me. I was stoked I’d been kicked off Mistress 3 the night before, just in time for the festivities. After filling my pack with all my belongings, playing music louder than was considerate, I dressed in my skull and cross bones bikini top, cut-off jeans, thick leather belt with my knife in its sheath, and a three strand line wrapped around me for extra effect. The rowdy, “I don’t give a shit what you think,” pirate spirit was upon me and I felt ready to cut loose for the day and charge into my future without doubt or fear. Of course I was excited to see Steven again [see last blog: Musket Cove and the Aligning of Stars], but my happiness and power lay buried, like a treasure, deep within myself. And no matter how it panned out with him, I wasn’t going to give it away or let anyone steal it.
The crew Ivan found the night before to replace me came around in an inflatable to see his new boat. His skin looked rubbery grey and sweaty with a hangover; a cigarette hung between his lips. He couldn’t be a poorer choice for Ivan and Mary’s “healthy lifestyle.” They might eat clean and not drink, but their negativity and lack of appreciation was toxic. The poor kid didn’t know what he was getting himself into. He agreed to take me to shore and I threw my overstuffed backpack into the dinghy and hopped aboard.
We spotted Wind Borne at the marina and headed her way. Her captain, Avon, had invited me to join them for the party, and we approached the beautiful old ship just as they were pulling away from the dock, all loaded up with pirate-clad partiers. As we swept alongside, I stood in the prow with my arms up and screamed in my gravely pirate voice, “Arghh! Lets get this fucking party started!!!!”
We swooped around the stern and pulled up on the port side, I hoisted my pack into waiting arms and grabbed the proffered hand up over the hip high bulwarks (railing.)
“Aye sir, what ever ye say Cap’em.” I barked back, “You’re the only man by whose word I’ll abide.” I bared my teeth, wrinkled my nose, and growled at the two kids who, like everyone else, welcomed my enthusiastic theatrics.
“Don’t worry about the swearing,” one of the mom’s, Inger, lasciviously dressed in a black bustier, assured me. “They’re used to it.”
There were several familiar faces aboard, sailors I’d met the night before, along with some landlubbers on vacation. I greeted everyone in my cocky manner, and in the process I coaxed out some ruffian personas for my camera.
Wind Borne was a magnificent and proper pirate ship. I had noticed her in the anchorage, the way her bow dropped straight into the sea with her long proud bow sprit, the way her stern swept back, her classic wooden elegance tempered by her beamy hefty strength. She was a 62-foot gaff rigged schooner built in 1928 and Avon had done a huge amount of restorative work to her, including replacing her keel stem (the backbone of her hull.) Now that I had a chance to really check her out I loved her even more. On deck she was simple, with no winches or electric conveniences except for the hundreds of lines it took to maneuver all her canvas. She was built in the day when mariners were tough and sailing was work. Down below had a homey, lived-in feel. She had a comfortable wooden interior with a big open salon complete with a wood-burning oven, a relic Avon couldn’t part with.
We were off to a slow start; all the other regatta boats were spread out before us. To get us through the reef, Avon perched in the rigging for a bird’s eye view, and shouted out directions to Renee, his beautiful partner, who was new to sailing and nervous about being at the helm. The sailors aboard, not trusting Avon’s alternate and daring route, added to her anxiety with their conflicting directions. Avon screamed at them, “Shut the fuck up!” and I stood as a barrier between them and her, quietly cheering her on. “You got it girl,” I assured, “it means a lot that he’s making you do this; it’s not every man who will empower you like this. You got it girl.” I whispered.
She got us through unscathed and we motor-sailed the rest of the way. An hour later we approached Beach Comber Isle, which was a tiny island. Its white sugary beach barely broke the ocean surface, and I imagined without the palm trees that covered it and the protective reefs around it, it would have dissolved into the sea like sugar in my coffee. The only thing on the island was a resort with a bar and restaurant, and if the resort guests weren’t into pirates they best get off the island today because there was literally nowhere to hide. Boats of all sizes and models were anchored in the clear blue water off this tiny bit of land, and a taxi service was ferrying people to shore.
Once on land we funneled through a roped-off walkway, across fake hot coals towards the crowd, and were handed a shot of rum before entering the open-air bar. I was still not drinking and was probably the only sober adult there, but my brash, obnoxious manner didn’t give me away. I elbowed through the throng in a swagger, knocking people out of my path. One guy, getting in the spirit, growled, “Watch out wench, I’ll throw you in the dungeon.”
“Argh, ye wanna fight do ya?” I growled back, leaning into him and spitting my words in his face “I’ll have yur balls.” He loved it.
I didn’t win the limbo context, though I hammed it up and had everyone thinking I would. The kids didn’t know whether to fear me or love me, but either way they enjoyed the show. I caroused around, loud and engaging, got crazy on the dance floor with Inger and her fun-loving husband Paul, joked and played and felt completely free from all social restraints.
After awhile of coolly ignoring Steven who was coolly ignoring me back, I burst out of the crowd, practically tackling him. My buccaneer persona was done with playing such stupid games. He half-heartedly threatened me with his sword, and I twisted it out of his grasp. “Oh,” he murmured, when I forced it against his neck. His eyes lit up seductively.
Later, I advanced on the quiet table where he sat with a few people, all nursing their hangovers with more alcohol.
“Argh, cutie, who might you be?” I winked at the girl I knew was Melanie, and offered her my hand. He had told me all about her and their destructive relationship [see last blog] and I could see that Steven was enjoying getting attention from both of us. He whipped out his camera and I indulged him by grabbing her from behind and posing for the shot with my plastic knife at her throat, my tongue out and nose wrinkled in a Polynesian warrior grimace.
“That hurts,” she whined meekly.
“Oh, sorry honey,” I smiled, biting into a piece of fish I’d grabbed off Steve’s plate.
“It’d mean a lot to me if you watch the performance I’m about to do,” I told Steven and wandered away.
I had been rehearsing my pirate monologue on the sail over and now my window of opportunity opened; the band had quit and the DJ was setting up his gear. I jumped up, grabbed the mic, and bellowed, “I am a pirate of a new age.”
Instantly the crowd gathered around the stage to watch the impromptu show.
“I sail a pirate ship,” I roared, “I am a free agent, a citizen of the world.” My prepared words flowed naturally and I finally felt like they were true.
“I am not owned by government or state! I am not controlled by corporate powers or influenced by public opinion!” I declared vehemently,” I navigate by an internal compass. I am a high seas revolutionary!”
The crowd hollered their approval, which apparently annoyed the DJ because he unplugged the mic.
This only raised my fervor and I passionately declared, “I do not rape, pillage, and plunder! The power I possess I do not count in gold,” emphasizing my point by throwing a handful of plastic gold coins into the horde, who scurried like beggars to collect them.
“I know the value of true power, Source Power,” I divulged in a lower voice, “to which we all have access.”
“I capture the imagination of women . . . and the hearts of men,” I smiled, striking a pin-up pose. “But not by force! For it is always . . . more powerful . . . to seduce than to conquer!” When I paused to let that sink in, the DJ began trying to push me off stage. I stood my ground to finish.
“I know where the treasure is buried; I have the map,” I pushed back, uncrumpling a piece of paper from my pocket to prove it.
“Our fortune is universal,” I poked the map at the DJ, and then turned my attention to the crowd.
“The same X marks the spot for us all!” I pronounced before slipping into the swarm of people, escaping the DJ who by now was angry at my audacity and popularity.
By the afternoon, an onshore breeze kicked up and the captains began gathering their crew like ducklings, pulling us away from dancing and posing for exaggerated photos at the hangman’s rope. Steven, who saw I was leaving, came to say he would catch me later that night at Musket Cove for the after-party.
Once back on Wind Borne, Avon started barking orders in the forceful vernacular of a scoundrel captain whose crew lagged out of laziness and not just complete lack of experience.
“Haul the main sail! Make fast the sheets! Quick with it ya scurvy dogs!” After sailing with such an indecisive captain, I found myself loving Avon’s vigorous commands. And though I’d never sailed a square-rigged schooner before, I jumped to as first mate, translating his barked orders by visually tracing the lines and then divvying out duties to the green hands who wanted to take part but didn’t follow the lingo.
Avon, who remarkably could sail this beast of a ship by himself, fit the pirate role perfectly, and after an entertaining slur of vocal floggings, winked at me and confided under his breath, “I don’t actually believe in yelling and insulting crew, but the charter guests love this shit!”
We flew all the sails: the main, the stay’sl, forestay, and yankee, the fisherman, the course, and the grandy. Wind Borne eased over as all of her glorious canvas caught the wind. Her bulk sliced through the sea with grace and power, moving toward the horizon with a determination I wanted to emulate.
My future was a complete unknown; it could even be aboard this same ship to New Zealand. Whatever it was, I stood facing it at the prow, my feet firmly planted on the solid wooden decks, and my knees soft and bending to the rhythm of Wind Borne’s flight. We moved as one then, towards my destiny. I felt Wind Borne’s raw strength through me, melting away any fear or doubt that remained.