Refugee Rescues on a Sea of Plastic

Swell hits the sea watertight after a series of miracles that followed the shaft tube extraction. When I emailed the news that the tube was out, Fin and Doug offered to ship me an epoxy replacement tube and cutlass bearing for half price, and cover the shipping! And then a willing glasser had appeared to install it. After two long years in and out of the yard, I can finally say that the leak saga has ended, but I feel depleted and a little lost.

Adopt Refugee Orphan

The trade winds are out of breath today; I need to get back in the water. I have a hunch about a wave that might be breaking, so I grab my board and shove a pareo, a grapefruit, and sunscreen into my pack and jump in the dinghy. The worn-out hunk of rubber is barely hanging on, but again that day, it delivers me to the pass.

A few waves into the session, an enormous thunderhead swallows the high mountains behind me. Thunder cracks and cold rain pelts down so heavily I can barely see. I paddle back to the dinghy through the bullying drops and wait out the storm under my board bag.

Refugee Rescues on a Sea of Plastic Photo Gallery



Refugee Shelters Near Me

By the time it stops, the squall winds have ruined the surf, so I slowly putt back toward Swell. As I turn the corner of the reef, the sight ahead is startling: a half-mile-long stretch of muddy brown water lined with drifting wood, leaves, and trash. The heavy rain must have opened the river mouth and flushed the debris into the lagoon all at once. I turn off the motor and row through it, collecting the scattered plastic trash.

As I pluck out bottles, bags, and wrappers, I notice movement among the flotsam. Creatures are everywhere. The geckos, lizards, grasshoppers, beetles, snails, and bugs must have been caught in the flash flood. They cling to logs, trash, and clumps of leaves.

One by one, I catch them or offer my oar, and load them aboard. My dinghy quickly morphs into a refugee flotilla for life of all sorts even a CD-sized cane spider. I spend two hours paddling like Pocahontas and loading my ark like Noah.

Refuge Rescue Woodstock Ga

Amid the rescue efforts, a cockroach comes swimming frantically toward me, but all I can think of is that nasty family of roaches that had infested Swell. He struggles in the little whirlpool from my paddle. I look forward and try not to think about him. But how can I leave only him? I decide to turn back, but he’s already gone.

When we reach the end of the debris patch, my new crew and I head toward the nearest islet. All sorts of little feet grip the dinghy’s flexing, half-deflated hypalon tubes in the evening air; a salty gecko coolly tips its nose into the wind. I snap a picture of the amusing scene for Barry.

I set the creatures free, one by one, then collect even more plastic on the trash- covered islet. On the way home, the dinghy’s floor seam suddenly parts from the port tube and the boat fills with six inches of water. We limp slowly back to Swell just after dark, brimming with soggy plastic trash and a few straggling stowaways.

Money and Men

Swell’s dock lines slacken and then tighten again. I watch them for a moment, the water droplets leaping off as the lines pull taut. Stepping onto the dock, I stroll around the Tahiti marina. It’s a cloudy afternoon and the breeze softly animates the ironwood trees; rain sprinkles intermittently. I suck at the thick sea air and delight in the simplicity of watching my bare feet step rhythmically over the dirt, weeds, and puddles along the marina walkway.

Refugee Rescue Committee

It’s good to be back in a baggy T-shirt and cut-offs. It’s taken a few days to decompress from the rush and hustle of Southern California. I had flown back to finish up the blog project, but despite the potential financial benefits, I ended it completely. It didn’t feel right, so I returned the advance money. I also broke it off with a really great guy I’d started dating. I had been torn about both decisions.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere anymore. I’ve been doing this for five years now and friends have stopped asking when I’m coming home. Only when I’m aboard Swell or in wilderness do I feel a sense of true belonging. I try not to judge myself for still being single and nearly broke at thirty years old, but I constantly wrestle these irritating subconscious beliefs about needing a permanent partner and an accruing 401(k).

Of course, I want lasting love, but not at the expense of freedom. And a steady income would be nice, too, but only if it comes from doing something I believe in. Anything else feels like surrender, captivity. I’m now receiving offers to star in television shows and documentary films, but I cherish my anonymity and the purity of the experiences that come from voyaging like I do. The thought of constantly caravanning with a follow boat or film crew makes me cringe.

I feel committed to adhering to my truth, and making choices that feel right. I’m

constantly working hard, but most of the time it isn’t for money. I stay up late responding to emails, encouraging people to live their dreams. I write blogs to inspire, research environmental issues, connect people, help my neighbors without any paycheck. But it all comes around. It seems the more I live from the heart, the more my material requirements show up when I really need them.

Patagonia pitched in significantly for the final round in the boatyard. Achilles just sponsored me by providing a new dinghy. A variety of small companies and individuals who are inspired by my voyage often help out with products or donations. Just when I’m down to a couple hundred bucks, I get a request to write an article or sell a photo, or a check just arrives in the mail. A sweet family from South Carolina sends donations from time to time, signed with “Be Encouraged. Love, The Seshuns.”

I’m choosing this life adrift, even though it doesn’t make it easy to commit to either men or money. I’ve found that guys with good jobs generally have too many commitments. But men with few commitments often don’t like to work hard. Longdistance relationships are no fun, and language and cultural barriers have proven difficult with the few foreign men I’ve dated. Add the fact that my list of perfect man requirements just keeps getting longer. I’ve started to wonder if I’ll ever find the Yin to my Yang.

In the past, I always liked to have a relationship brewing. I needed a friend to adventure with, and often it was easier to find eager guys than girls. I gleaned confidence from having a man adore me, too. I drove a few mad because they couldn’t hold onto me. Other times I got clingy my abhorrence of abandonment keeping me from leaving or making smart boundaries. Sometimes we both knew the romance was situational and purely for fun. There were excruciating heartbreaks too.

Whether it was just one date, a week’s fling, or a longer connection, I’ve learned from every man I ever spent time with. Some taught me what I don’t want in a partner, but most of them offered something positive. My first boyfriend taught me not to be a kook in the surf. A few others also helped me hone my wave-riding skills. The fisherman showed me the magic of generosity and nonattachment. The poet made me feel securely enraptured by his love. I had mad chemistry with the carpenter. The yes-man taught me how to have more fun. The lifeguard knew how to keep things light, loving, and simple. But these romances all ended for one reason or another. Paralleling paths are precious while they last, but holding onto a relationship for longer than it serves both parties does neither any good. Casual romance doesn’t interest me anymore; I want the real deal.

When will a man show up who really complements my strengths and my lifestyle? I’d like him to be tough but sensitive. Strong and charming. A surfer. A thinker and a romantic. A nature lover and thrill seeker. Positive and funny. A dreamer and a hero. Spontaneous yet patient. Confident yet not too prideful. Spiritual but not a know-it-all. I hope he enjoys dancing. He’ll have things to teach me, but also be willing to learn. Most importantly, he should make me a better person by setting my heart ablaze and forcing me to look at my blocks to fully loving and being loved.

While I’m waiting for him to appear, though, being single feels okay, spacious I guess. I walk on, watching raindrops hit puddles and finding great contentment in giving my whole attention to the present. My father is coming for Christmas. I have two months to get Swell dialed in, catch up on my writing, and enjoy some surfing and sailing.

Before long, while walking back to Swell after doing laundry at a friend’s house, I see a bunch of guys I know sitting around a small dock they’re building. A tall, handsome stranger is among them. They’re finished for the day and offer me a beer. I have a sip or two to be polite, but I can’t stay. I have things to get done before my departure tomorrow morning.

“Thank you, but I have to go put my dinghy on deck before dark,” I say in the local mixture of French and Tahitian.

“Tu veux un coup de main?” (Can I give you a hand?) the new guy asks.

I look at the other guys for approval. I rarely take the help of a total stranger, but four hands would make it so much easier. They nod and encourage me.

“Je m’appelle Rainui” he says, sticking out his hand respectfully. It closes around mine, strong and callused. He picks up my sail bag full of clean clothes and follows me to the dinghy. Together, we quickly get the dinghy and motor on deck. He is quiet and gentlemanly, and I thank him sincerely before he swims ashore in the coming darkness.

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