Cyclone season is well over. It’s time to start prepping Swell for the voyage back to French Polynesia. But the longer I stay somewhere, the longer it takes to leave more algae to scrub, more things to put away, and more goodbyes. And I must deal with my stowaways: A hardy family of cockroaches joined me at the marina in Tahiti and has taken up residence aboard. I’ve poured boric acid into nooks and corners and sealed off any accessible food sources, but they have only strengthened in numbers. As the battle to reclaim Swell persists, I’ve learned that Tahitian cockroaches are as strong and tough as Tahitian men, although the sight of their bronze bodies weakens my knees for entirely different reasons.
Luckily, some new cruisers in the bay have a trick. Larry and Trinda roll boric acid and evaporated milk together into irresistible cockroach candy that they distribute throughout their boat. I have both ingredients, so I pull everything out of the storage lockers, mix up the deadly treats, and toss them into Swell’s deepest corners, hoping to end the roaches’ sailing vacation.
Farewell Frenzy Photo Gallery
I then stow everything back in its place to some Jimmy Buffett tunes, then look over the engine. The alternator belt needs changing, as do the fuel filters. Transmission, coolant, and V-drive fluids need topping off. I solder an unruly starter wire. The next day I patch a few small rips in the mainsail and reverse the lines on the wind vane so Monita has fresh friction points. The headstay seems oddly loose, so I tighten it as much as possible at the fitting on the bottom. After adding extra pages into my logblog binder, I assess what’s left of my food stores rice, flour, a pumpkin, and some picked-through cans of food remain. My stores of propane and gasoline for the dinghy are nearly gone too. Everything must be rationed.
The next morning, I begin mowing the underwater lawn: Donning mask and fins, and armed with a scraper, I leap over the rail to clean Swell’s hull and anchor chain. As I finish the port side of the hull, friends Chris, Henry, and Reaua from the first island appear aboard Elise. Now it’s even harder to concentrate on leaving.
I start goodbyes to local friends and, knowing I’ll be where I can buy things soon, assemble a pile of items to give away. The isolation of this remote region intensifies my fears of scarcity, but I fight the instinct to cling to my possessions especially because Gaspar frequently told me I was greedy. I pass on flashlights, dive gear, clothing, cushions, sunglasses, my retired headsail (which can be turned into smaller sails for the local canoes), knives, crayons, paper and pens for kids, two sets of foul-weather gear to Teuta, spare line, glues and resin, shoes and sandals, and a spare camera. I give my bike to a local family and they load me up with handwoven pandanus hats and mats in gratitude. I know I must live up to the principles of generosity through which Barry, my father, and so many others have made living this dream possible. Contrary to logic, the giving actually makes me feel richer.
It takes another two weeks before I am finally ready to go. On one last drift dive at the pass I say goodbye to my undersea friends and urge the octopi to hide themselves well, as it’s nearly Loreen’s hunting hour. I have one last item to give away the pumpkin. It’s a precious commodity here; and with my seasickness I’m certain I won’t cook it underway. I decide to give it to Loreen, despite not wanting to see her again.
“Every great teacher deserves a pumpkin,” I joke with Chris. He thinks I’ve gone nuts.
I take a deep breath and head over to her boat. She is outside hanging laundry.
“Hi, Loreen. I’m leaving tomorrow. I know you’ll be here for a while longer, so I wanted to give you guys this pumpkin and say goodbye.” She accepts it gratefully, voice cracking.
And then she continues, “You’re leaving? But first, there’s something important Richard needs to tell you. It’s something Gaspar said before he left, but I can’t tell you. Only Richard can.”
What is she talking about? She calls to Richard, but he’s busy drilling a piece of teak in the wheelhouse of the barge and can’t hear her. I’m itching to get going. “Why don’t you just tell me, Loreen?”
“Well, it’s just that remember the day that the cruise ship came in?”
“Yes,” I reply. Her face lights up.
“Well, we crossed Gaspar on the dock that day and he told us that he was ‘going to look for hot chicks.'” Her face becomes eerily pleased.
I remember the day she is talking about. Gaspar had come back smirking, saying that he’d given Loreen something to gossip about.
My thoughts race. That is the important thing she wanted to tell me? She’s still desperately looking for a way to hurt me!? As far as she knows, Gaspar and I are still a couple. I fall silent and my hands begin to sweat. She reaches over and rubs my back as if trying to console me.
A surge of anger crawls up my spine. My vision blurs. I want to knock her bitchy, wrinkled ass right into the water. I want to scream and tell her she’s pathetic, conniving, and cheap, and that she is pushing the local octopus population to extinction. A few years prior I would have, but I use every bit of self-control I can muster not because I want to be a good person, but because I know she’s looking for drama. She is hoping to upset me. I take a deep breath and slip away from her bony fingers. Melanie’s words echo through my mind, “Turn your poison into medicine.” I turn to face her.
“Oh Loreen, that’s really no big deal. Please don’t worry about it anymore,” I say. “Enjoy the pumpkin and good luck with yourself.”
As I push off in the dinghy, I see Richard is waving. “Bye, Richard!” I call. “Thanks again for the hat!”
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