At 2 pm on a clear, breezy afternoon, Swell sits at anchor one short hop from Rainui’s home island. I’m seated at my little desk in the cabin talking to my dad on the phone.
Suddenly I hear yelling and look out the window as a large catamaran barrels straight at us! Smash! The fifty-foot charter yacht T-bones Swell, ramming its port hull into her starboard side, just above the waterline slightly aft of the rigging. I hang up quickly and race up on deck.
The crash bends some stanchions, busts the lifelines, and kinks the forward lower cable of the rig. Rainui is yelling and cursing at a gray-haired American flailing his arms on the bow. The hull took the brunt of the hit. Its fiberglass wall gouged and flexed inward far enough to split and splinter the interior wooden siding, drawers, and blogshelf. I try to calm Rainui down while the captain, his wife, and a friend anchor behind us and then come over to assess the damage. They are less than apologetic, and even try to get me to sign a paper listing the evident damage.
“You know,” he smirks, “just in case this turns into a pissing match.”
My capacity for kindness hits the deck. He knows as well as I do that until the paint is stripped down, the rig is climbed, the closet emptied, and chainplates assessed, we can’t know the extent of the damage. He doesn’t care that he nearly just sank my home he is only out to cover his own ass, knowing that his recklessness is going to cost him. The fact that the boat is rented further complicates the situation.
Darkness and Light T-Bone and a She-Hero Photo Gallery
Rainui and I are both upset over the crash, but when Kepi, my tube guru girlfriend, comes to visit the next day, we try not to think about it and just enjoy hanging out. She’s with some male friends on vacation from Hawai’i. I’m excited to see her after a year, so we chat and tell stories in English, just relaxing.
As soon as they leave, Rainui starts asking me what I said to them. I translate but he doesn’t believe me. Maybe this is karma for the men I lied to, for all the hearts I sailed away from. Or maybe he senses that I’m pulling away as our trip is coming to an end.
He badgers me angrily that evening, but I have no more energy to give to his jealousy. I can’t even respond. I have offered him so much love and spiritual wisdom and so many opportunities to get his fear under control. He’s turned too many beautiful days gray. I have given him my heart, my soul, my body, and my possessions. I have pleaded with
him and praised him, banged my head against the wall to get him to understand how much I love him. I am defeated. Nothing works.
My failure to react frustrates him even more. He starts drinking all the alcohol he can find and lashes out pushing me around, hitting walls, and threatening to break valuables. I fight back at first, even try to punch him, but soon realize it’s useless. He takes my phone away so that I can’t call for help, and when I cower in my bunk, he harasses me, threatening more violence for hours.
When I open my eyes early the next morning, Rainui is sitting in the cockpit, still drinking, and having trouble holding himself upright. I can’t believe I’m in this nightmare. I have to get away, but I know he will stop me from taking the dinghy. I sneak out the forward hatch, planning to swim for shore to get help. At the bow, I hear the whiz of Kepi’s Jet Ski as she’s taking her friends out for a surf. I wave my arms wildly to hail her without making a sound. I’m relieved when she makes a sharp turn toward Swell. Grief is written across my face.
“Are you okay? What happened?” she says. I can hardly speak. My words are stuck in the shock and sadness that clogs my throat.
“Help me ,” is all I can manage to choke out. “I wanted to call you but he took my phone.”
Without hesitation, she whips the ski around toward the cockpit and calls to Rainui in French, “Hey! Yeah, you! You’re going to give back her phone right now. Then you either get on this ski and I’ll take you to shore, or I’m going to get my husband.”
He turns to me to defend him and I look away. “Get your bag together,” she warns him. “You’re getting off this boat.”
Alone among the reminders of the evening’s hideous events, I wonder how on earth love can express itself in such an awful way. Our romance is shattered into Plexiglass splinters on the cabin floor from the cupboard door he smashed.
Kepi saved me that day, but also in the days to come again and again from sinking into a pit of painful memories, crippling emotions, regret, and self-pity. She picks me up to go surf early each morning, then brings her adorable kids over to swim and jump off of Swell in the afternoon. And each night, she invites me to join her family for dinner.
Over the next three weeks, living on my poor damaged Swell, I show myself that I can still do everything on my own. My injuries still annoy me, but like I did before Rainui, I find a way to take care of every task. Some days I lift the water jugs with tears in my eyes; other days I lift them with a fierce love of feeling free again. Some days I see the machete he left behind and feel sad; other days it makes me look away.
I don’t want to go anywhere near him ever again, but there’s one problem. The charter company that owns the offending catamaran is based near Rainui’s parents’ home. I have to go there for them to assess and repair the damage to Swell. I try to figure out an alternative, but there’s no way around this. So with a ticket to fly to California in five days, Swell limps back to the rental base with her cracked hull and damaged rig. I figure I have just enough time to get her hauled, get the repairs going, and get the hell out of there.
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