Apologies for the silence…time just seems to stop when the swell turns on!?!…And when it stays on, life gets really basic: surf, eat, sleep, and surf some more…nursing some reef wounds and a thorough sun baking…gotta fill the water tanks, do some provisioning, ding repair, clean the hull…and write some blogs! For now, check out these pics of the lunar eclipse from December 21. I didn’t even know it was happening…looked up and thought, hmmmm…that’s not normal? Then turned on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and watched the earth’s shadow pass over the full moon until it was bright and full once more. The beauty and magic in nature never stop satisfying me…
With the New year came lovely weather so Dad and I sailed off to tour the outer islands. On our various passages over the next week, the ocean showed us a bit of everything. We had a glorious 15 knots on the stern quarter, some squally 30 knot upwind slogging, rain and rainbows, gusts and lulls, and even spotted a waterspout! Every type of condition seemed to thrill the ‘Dadmiral’, it didn’t matter, he just loved to be at sea. Swell seemed happy to be underway, too, performing for her honored guest. “She takes off like a racehorse through the water!” he’d exclaim as a gust sent us bounding forward.
I leapt about trimming the sails to show off Swell’s sailing prowess. I’d often blink my eyes and re-open them…”Yep, he’s really here with me!?!” I told myself more than once…Right there in the cockpit sat the man who was highly responsible for this wild dream and its fruition… Without his constant support and encouragement from the time I was a wee deck rat in lifejacket who didn’t know a halyard from a dock line, I would never have made it this far…My father ALWAYS told me, “You can do it.”
It didn’t matter what it was—long division, driving stick-shift, captaining a boat, changing engine oil, riding waves, or sailing across the Pacific—He always said, “Yes, you can, and I will support you.” Driving or flying off on surf trips, or to the mountains for the weekend, or sailing his boat out to the islands with my college friends…I look back now and think he must have been mad to let me do all those things! And he hasn’t stopped. Look at me now!? And moreover, whenever the going gets tough, whenever I’m down or tired or doubting myself, my father listens patiently and with his fullest attention, then bestows his constant wisdom, and reassures me once again, “Yes, you can do it, Sweety. You don’t have to at all, but I know you can.” Whether or not I believe in myself, his profound belief in me makes all the difference. In the critical moments, when everything becomes instinctual and reactionary, I always feel his strength and wisdom in me. He’s got my back, no matter what happens, and it’s that notion that counts when you live alone at the will of nature and your wits. Not a mile or minute of the thousands I’d spent aboard Swell did I not feel him right there beside me.
And there we were sailing together, the open sea restoring our souls! I felt so grateful that everything seemed to shine! Divine were the dancing sunbeams all around and the velvet trades on our cheeks. And the neon blue ripples extending to the unbroken horizon. Divine were the erupting cumulus domes trotting across the sky above. Divine the seabirds looping and swirling in the squalls and the gusts that made Swell lean on her rail. And divine was our vessel!–A gliding conglomeration of both our love, labor, and luck. And the miracle of all these elements at work, holding her 30 degrees to the wind–the ropes and sails, shackles and cables, struts and stainless, and nature’s force and physics that propelled us toward ‘that one particular harbor’!
Yes, it was…Divine was every moment with my father in the South Pacific. Because we see the ocean’s beauty and magic the same. And because he’s not only the best father in the whole world, but he’s also a best friend. We laughed from sun up to sun down; I never tire of his company!—the repetitive jokes, his ridiculous span of knowledge, impeccable memory, humble presence, open mind, propensity to try anything, and his inexhaustible positivity!! Together on the sea, or at anchor in the turquoise lagoon, eating papaya breakfasts, whizzing off on a dinghy adventure, troubleshooting a boat project, or cherishing the crescent moon–it couldn’t have been a more precious and wonderful time on my voyage, and in my life…
Thank you, a million times over, for being with me, and being YOU, Dad!!!!!
The weather had postponed our plans of a passage to the northeast, but dad’s ‘go with the flow’ attitude paved the way to good times wherever we went…we sailed all around the island, visited the sacred ‘marae’, installed Swell’s new refrigerator, and met lots of my friends. On a visit to introduce dad to some of my Tahitian friends, we were invited to celebrate New Year’s eve at their house, so on the 31st we sailed back toward the Papa family’s ocean-front plot and showed up that evening with a case of Hinano and enough mashed kumara root (kinda like sweet potatoes) to feed thirty!
All the family, extended family, and friends were there–grandmas to groms, cousins to caretakers, and us two smiling ‘Marites’ (Americans)…Just as I suspected, despite his nearly complete language barrier, Dad melted smoothly into the mix. Matahou, the English-speaker of the group, instantly took him under his wing, and they yucked it up like old chaps over icy cold Hinanos where all the men were gathered around the smokin’ hot barbeque.. Mind you, this was no ordinary barbeque. I’d have to say I’ve seen a few styles of bbq-ing around the world, and we Americans consider our gas-powered Grillmaster 5000s to be pretty supreme…but, this contraption took the grand prize. Even George Foreman would have been in a fluster…It was custom built of re-bar and steel, about 5ft by 3 ft at least, the grill held nearly 40 steaks at once and spun on a spit. You could even adjust its height to 3 levels according to the heat of the fire! Dad and I were blown away…he leaned in asked me if I thought they’d once used it to cook up their slain enemies! Ha!! Cannibal jokes go a long way down here…but it was seriously big enough!
Certain things remain constant regardless of culture, so while the men tended the meat, the ladies busied themselves in the kitchen, and the kids helped set the table. I scurried between the three, lending a hand wherever they’d allow. Soon we were called to eat…”Tama’a!! Tama’a!!” and gathered at the long table set out on the veranda. With our plates piled high with an array of edible delights, the live band pumped out island versions of classic American hits along with local Tahitian favorites. We dove into the poisson cru, taro, potato salad, rice salad, couscous, fei bananas, and uru just to start. Uncle Heipua brought round after round of steak, veal, chicken, and fish kebabs off his grill of all grills. Tahitians seem to have no vegetarian inclinations…
The evening ambled happily on towards midnight. Dad and I stuffed ourselves like good guests do. His smile was bigger than ever…I looked out at the sky for a moment. The rain had stopped and the sliver of waning moon hung high amongst some scattered stars. The island music pumped cheerfully into the valley around us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude…
“Canq, quatre, trois, deux, un……woooooooooooo hoooooooooo!!!!!!!!” The New Year had arrived…Kisses and hugs all around… I squeezed my dad tight, planting a New Year’s kiss on his lips…with a start like this, I had a feeling a good year was to come…
The kids lit fireworks in the yard and the neighborhood dogs happily scarfed down table scraps. I inhaled a piece of chocolate cake just as dad and I were swept into the conga line for a lap around the party ending in the Tahitian version of the “Hokey-Pokey”…
At that moment, I couldn’t have agreed more– “This is ‘what it’s ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL about!’”
We woke to thundering rain on the 30th of December…I peered out my porthole and glared at the sleeting squall and brooding dark sky…My somber glance turned to dad, who, to no surprise, was cheerfully lighting the tea kettle and watching the drops fall with a ridiculous grin on his face. My father has the unexplainable ability to wake up SMILING EVERY MORNING of his life…It doesn’t matter what the day will bring, rain or shine, ups or downs, flying from San Diego to Baltimore or New York or Michigan, fixing a toilet, or helping me do my taxes. I can’t remember a single day in my life that he didn’t leap out of bed with cheer in his voice and a twinkle in his eye!?! Despite all my wishing for perfect winds and sunny skies during his visit, we were having stronger than average trades and RAIN, RAIN, RAIN for the second day in a row.
“That’s how it goes, honey,” he cooed after my dramatic sigh. Another black cloud closed in over the bay… “It doesn’t matter where we go or what we do. This is exactly how it’s supposed to be! I’m enjoying EVERY minute! In fact, this reminds me of a song I recently heard on the radio in Grand Rapids. And he instantly broke into a bold country twang, “I LOoooooooooooooVE the RAAAAAAIN…cuz the raaaaaaaain makes the COOOOOOORN and the CoooooooORN makes the WHIIIIIIIIIIIIIISKEY, and I LOOOOOOOOOOVE WHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY!!!”
“Is that really a song, Dad? Or did you just make that up?” I laughed.
“I could hardly believe it myself when I heard for the first time. I kid you not, I heard it on the radio. The Midwest is a world apart from California…” He chuckled.
He didn’t really love whiskey, but the point was clear…We had to love the rain!! Complaining wouldn’t change anything, only spoil the mood, all we could do was embrace it. He’d walloped my rainy day blues with a ‘left hook’ of humor, leaving me no choice but to smile and sing along too for another round together…
“I LOoooooooooooooVE the RAAAAAAIN…cuz the raaaaaaaain makes the COOOOOOORN and the CoooooooORN makes the WHIIIIIIIIIIIIISKEY, and I LOOOOOOOOOOVE WHIIIIIIaISKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY!!!”
We donned our Patagonia rain gear and headed out to meet the day, singing through the showers!!!!!
It was shocking to think that in the 7 years I’d owned Swell, my dear father had NEVER sailed with me!?!…He’d spent more than a dad’s share of hours working aboard Swell while she was tied to the dock in Santa Barbara and when he came to my rescue in the Puntarenas boatyard in Costa Rica, but the one and only time we’d left dockside together aboard my vessel was on the day of the sea trial back on February 10, 2004. A typical winter day in Santa Barbara it had been–not a breath of wind and a fog bank lying just offshore. We went out past the pier, around the last green channel marker, unfurled the headsail just to have a look at it, and then motored back to the dock…hardly sailing, but we felt that a Cal 40’s sailing reputation was enough.
Since Swell’s recent repair saga had ended, I’d been yearning for a visit from my dad—to show him how Swell and I had transformed, all that I’d learned, and all that I loved about the South Pacific…and then surprise! An email from Dad with a 2-week holiday itinerary…yeeee haaaa!
It didn’t take long for pops to take to Polynesian life…Christmas day hosted classic South Pacific weather–moderate trades whisking handfuls of cumulus clouds across the grand ceiling of blue, making for the perfect human climate…77 degrees and a light breeze…ahhhhhhhhhhh…kick back and enjoy, Dad!!