The cage is ready, the bird is dead


Not our bird-don't worry.
Lil' Pippy the Tern with the most astonishingly regular bowels on planet Earth, is just fine.

Captain Jon even bought her a nifty, purple, plastic bucket, which the kids fill with leaves and twigs,  
so Pippy can sit out on deck, listening to all the other terns and seabirds, while watching the clouds roll by.

( Jon may grumble about us adopting things but he usually turns out to be the biggest sucker of all)

No, the "Bird" i'm talking about, is metaphorical.

The saying, which was a new one to me, 
came up while sitting around Muktuk's galley table one night, 
sipping a potent, home-brewed, hooch from Chile.

We were chatting about life, adventuring and cruising.

Listening to Muktuk talk about sailing, is what I imagine it would have been like, to chew-the-fat, with say, Jon Muir about hiking, or Godel about mathematical theorems.

There is so much experience, deep understanding and "in the bones" knowledge of the subject, that it gets kind of elevated into the realm of the mystic.

Not that Ali and Karl see themselves that way-but I might.

Or it was the made from hay and chocolate, Chilean moonshine that made such an impression on me;
it's hard to say.

In any case, we were on the subject of building boats.

Jon and I were marveling about what a totally rad, boat Muktuk is.
They didn't build her from scratch but rather "customized " her by rebuilding and redesigning from what she was when they found her.

"Would you guys ever build a boat from the ground up?"  we asked.

"We used to want to..., "
 began Ali as she and Karl traded knowing looks.
"But, for sure, we would never do this now..." 

Karl leaned forward, refilling our tiny glasses with the magical Andean potion.

"It's a big job, you know, several years of your life, to do this..." he said in his somber, Austrian accent.

"We have friends, couples, that spent years, making a perfect boat..." adds Ali,
"a dream boat,  absolutely wonderful, but by the time they finished it, their kids had grown and their relationship was..."

"Phhhht "  says Karl, shrugging his shoulders.
"The cage is finished...but the bird is dead".

I was so struck by this.

How easy it is, to spend our lives, 
building the perfect cage, 
thinking IT will bring happiness,
and without realizing it,
we end up sacrificing what was the soul of the venture in the first place.

Finances, careers, houses, boats,
you can broaden the theory, 
to politics, social and personal development...

The list of Golden Cages is a long one.

Maybe it's Western, cultural thing;
raised in America, we are taught from an early age, to STRIVE.

It's how "more" ends up getting equated with "happiness".

In a recent, State of the Union Address; "What makes us exceptional," President Obama said, "Our allegiance is to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'"

Good stuff, no doubt.
Liberty, equality.  Heck, maybe even health care someday....

It's the ideology behind, "what makes us EXCEPTIONAL" and the "PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS", that confuses the issue and leads people to the "unhappy" belief that their lives oughtta be governed by constant improvements of some sort.

Maybe our collective tendencies to construct "CAGES',
(ideals of a perfect future that will hold our heart's desire)
stem from misinterpreting, this notion that, striving for happiness is, somehow, in itself, the thing.

I'm going out on a limb here, but, i believe that most people already have what they need to be happy.
(If we are lucky enough, to have the basics, like potable water, food and shelter) 
Happiness shouldn't be far off.

Chances are, it might even be closer than we think.

While searching for Bliss,
we may have already tread on it,
and its simply stuck to the bottom of our shoe.

In the past two years, we have lived around people that have the BARE minimum of what it takes to survive on this planet-
and they are some of the happiest, most generous, playful, people I have ever met.

It takes them most of a day to find, catch, pick or gather the food they need to eat,
or the water they plan to drink,
but once they've got that covered-
they simply enjoy life.

I haven't seen a lot of "wish lists" stuck to people's refrigerators.
Maybe thats because they don't have refrigerators.

They don't spend their free time buying more curtains for the hut, or searching for the best way to treat split ends or whiten their teeth.

-No one has ever made them feel that any of these things are important.

What is valued here, is generosity.
You are judged by how you behave in the world.

Are you brave, kind, tough, do you sing, remember the stories of your people, do you have a good heart?

People talk, if someone is too serious, about "making money" -it is frowned on as a "Western" affliction.

Holidays are taken seriously. 

You don't see people mending their fishing nets on Sundays-
what you do see, is huge gatherings at houses and everyone has a barbecue and singing drifts across the valley, 
from the Churches in the morning and peoples' front porches all afternoon.

Work sustains Life-not the other way around.

We have met people with two pigs to their name,
who would happily kill one for you on the spot, just because you said you like bacon. From these people, we have seen first hand, that generosity makes people happy...
that, and playing the spoons.

Polynesians, have this cultural thing, that took us awhile to figure out.
When they invite you to dinner, everything is already spread out on the table, ready to eat, when you get there.

But no one eats anything for a really long time.

Everyone sits and talks and laughs, tells stories,  plays some music, sings some songs, has a little dance, plays with the babies, the dogs or the pig...

When it starts getting late, someone will finally say "grace"( usually sung, a beautiful call and answer-type deal).

The hosts will not touch the food until you ( the guest) have taken as much as you want.

They will wait until you have eaten at least one plate and refuse to eat until you take another.
(of course, we make sure to leave plenty, knowing that everyone is hungry)
After they are completely certain that you are happy and full and have enjoyed everything they made for you,
only then, will they eat.
Not talk and chit-chat over the food,
Afterwards, its pretty much a given that everyone is gonna go to sleep, like in the next ten minutes (sometimes, right beside the table) as soon as everything is cleared up.

This is the way of people who know it makes no sense, 
to build a cage for a bird.

That in order to be happy, 
you have to actually spend time BEING HAPPY...
not just "working" towards it, like a goal.

Enjoy what you have in front of you.
Don't rush to the next thing, all the time.

I think, with practice, I can take a lead from these people;
unlearn, my Western preoccupation with "what's next?",
see it, instead, as an extension of "More",
a subconscious drive to build "cages" all the time.

So, when I wake in my bunk, with the sounds of exotic birds chirping outside ( or from their little purple bucket),
and I find myself, lying there, fretting about future scenarios;
what I will do for work when I get back home in a year,
anxiety about if the spare parts will fit when they get here, 
strobing about  if we will run into bad weather on our next crossing, brooding about how much I miss our friends and family...

I'll  remember to take my cue from the people i've have met on these travels:

Open the cage,
set the Bird free.

I'll just get up, make coffee, sit outside with my poopy Tern, and thank my lucky stars.
Then, go about my day, 
doing whatever work is on my plate,
engage in the active pursuit of doing good for others,  
with a goal of ensuring the well-being
 of my fellow man,
protecting my planet and all its miraculousness,
for future generations,
and maybe, if there's time... 

Learn to play the spoons.

Tahitian kids going bananas at the bike park

I'm pretty sure this was intentional...

so was this...

front flip

crazy awesome kite boarders on a windy day in Port Phaeton

Pura Vida's princess

Gravity feeding our American propane tanks from a french bottle.
Hey all you cruiser kids, at home...
make sure you build an adapter before you come to French Poly!

Pippi checks out Hunters report on White Terns...

Laundry day at a tap on shore and yes, thats a Betsy Johnson dress hanging over that tree...
A little Hollywood, in Port Phaeton, baby.

The view from my laundry room. That's Hunter and Kai in the dingy fishing for Pippi's dinner.

Rare albino, Tahitian tree monkeys

Waiting An absurdist in Port Phaeton

“ESTRAGON: I can't go on like this.
VLADIMIR: That's what you think.” 

Three weeks ago, Port Phaeton was just another lovely bay, with a wonderful grocery store.

A place to stop-over, restock on UHT milk and peanut butter, and then move onto other things.

We sailed away, with a song and a wave,
but this place had not finished with us...


We had not realized, there is a magical undoing here,
and that to come back, is to be swallowed whole.


The surrounding mountains are filled with Sorcerers.

The wind blows, 
there is more rain,
the sun shines,
the bay becomes glass.

The stars come out and tribal drums beat late into the night.
(i'm not even kidding )

Jon orders parts off the internet and goes for long jogs.

French customs confound us,
through thick coils of cigarette smoke, 
they make all things impossible.

 (apparently, this is their job)

We meet tortoises and adopt a tern,
who shits his body-weight every five minutes.

I teach science to the kids, 
we learn about coral reefs,
we play guitar,
 eat tropical fruit.

Mostly, we wait.

It cannot be figured out.

No matter how we look at it.

When it happens, 
it will be that.

The part will work.

Or it won't.

These things have changed us forever.


Mom and Dad
(Jon surprises me with roses)

Curiouser and curiouser...

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.” 
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

A view from the rabbit hole....

A dingy engine buzzes in the distance,
I know, before I see it, that it's ours.

(I've become the Jedi Master of recognizing harmonic variations in dingy outboards)

My finely tuned ear, was honed during endless hours, spent scanning a horizon with binoculars , 
while silently cursing, my well-meaning but daring, husband, under my breath...
"Jeepers, Jon, where the hell ARE YOU?"''

The rising anxiety, that had been carbonating my stomach for the past hour and a half, finally settles down as our dingy approaches. 
Jon waves at me. 
He's soaking wet, so I know whatever happened out there, was pretty hairy.
I hate it when I'm right...

Today was supposed to be mellow.

We had just survived our own near- emergency, when our engine failed, as we were about to enter a pass.
After a long night tacking outside the reef, we had limped in and tied to a mooring ball.

Dead in the water, Jon had removed our gearbox from the main engine block, tried to assess our damage and figure out just how screwed we actually are.

(pretty darn screwed, as it turns out).

After no sleep and with our transmission in several pieces on our deck, Jon hitchhiked into Papeete (an hour and a half away) to begin the process of getting emergency extensions on our visas.

Endless hassles rear up like many-headed beasts.
We make lists and try to handle things one ugly head at a time.

First up, was to arrange to stay here past our allowed visas (two week emergency extension and then a whole new process if we have to be here longer, which, we certainly will be).
Then, there's our engine issues;
the obviously, broken output shaft. What caused this requires further investigation, as does sleuthing out any additional wear and tear that might as yet be unidentified. This must wait until the Transmission is repaired, reassembled and remounted.
Find said replacement parts for our thirty year old engine, and then arrange payment and have them shipped, incurring penalties, import/export fees, taxes...
Dealing with all of this in a language we don't speak...

We won't lack for things to do.

Lucky for us, there has been a monumental outpouring of support from friends and fellow skippers.
Nakia, Manta, Papillion, Tortue, Marionette, Muktuk, 
all came to our aid with tons of advice and support from stateside and here in French Polynesia.

We feel better knowing we are not alone.

On his way into town, Jon was picked up by a local guy, with no teeth, who's on his way to the dentist. He notices the Marquesasn tattoo of the paddler on Jon's arm. The guy speaks no English and Jon no French but nevertheless, they discover they share  a common love of paddling. The guy was a champion in Tahiti and Jon once paddled to the arctic ocean...So  there is no getting out of going to the guys house and seeing all the guys trophies, photos of him with the president of France and meeting the guys wife and piles of kids and grandkids.

After a short visit, the guy  kindly drives my exhausted husband, to the airport, where Jon meets the agent handling the visa paperwork, fills out a pile of new forms and then hops the last bus back to Taravao -here- at the other end of the island.

Jon got back just as the sun was getting low in the sky, and exhausted by all we had been through, we called it a day.

While Captain, pulled his beard and mumbled about engine mounts, I contemplated what to make for dinner.
(it was shaping up to be a "kids eat crackers and cheese, while we drink a box of wine and try to drown the blues" meal plan)

Suddenly,  a  "PanPan" call  (maritime code for vessel in distress)  came over the radio.

No response... Jon jumped up to answer it.

"Oh my god. Here we go, again..." I think, listening to Jon talk to the distressed skipper. 

The poor guy was out of diesel, trying to enter the pass, after a three week passage from Nuku Hiva! (Could probably swim it faster in good weather) Sailing through terrible gales, stuck outside, ruined/drowned chartplotter, night coming down and deteriorating sea conditions....And he doesn't know how to bleed his engine...And he has no tools.

Jon agreed to meet the vessel, bring him a jerry can of diesel, bleed his engine to get him started again and lead him through the pass.

"Honey, it's crazy out there..." I caution, while Jon writes down the boat's last position.

All day, had it been blowing like stink and even up here, a mile and a half away from the reef, 
you could see gysers of spray shooting twenty feet in the air when the waves hit the coral.

'There's no-one else, I gotta go" said Jon, already on deck.

'Bring the VHF and promise you wont go out the pass if its too awful"

"Okay" Jon lies.
I know perfectly well, it will have to be biblical-bad out there for him not to go help the guy.

I was worried because our little 6 hp isn't always reliable and we had just put it though quite a beating, towing in our own boat.
I grabbed the handheld VHF and discovered the batteries are dead.

There was nothing to do but wave helplessly and watch Jon and our dingy, round the dogleg of the channel and disappear.

It was shaping up to be another ringer of an evening.

I give myself a time limit in these situations, estimating how long any given scenario will take;
spearfishing, freediving, running 15 miles through a desert or an abandoned atoll... undertaking a rescue mission with no radio)...

If Jon's not home by my estimated time, inevitable disaster scenarios will start popping into my head.

I don't admit fear, that would be too overwhelming...
Instead, I get really, really irritated.

Which is exactly, how I'm feeling as the sun is setting and the clock says its an hour and fifteen minutes past the hour I thought it would take for Jon to help this guy.

I peer though binoculars at an empty horizon, curse and mutter under my breath, about how inconsiderate it would be if Jon were to be tangled in a fishing line, or swept out to sea, or any other nightmare that would leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere, on a broken boat, with two kids...

This is entirely unfair, of course. 

Jon's a careful guy, he's smart and at the moment he's just out there trying to help some poor soul, but I've found making up stuff to be pissed off about is an excellent way to control panic.

The key to a happy marriage,  on the other hand, is dropping that malarky when you see them.
(which is exactly what I do the minute I hear our outboard's peculiar little buzz, coming down the channel)

A moment later, Jon rounds the corner, soaking wet ( the swell had been even bigger out there than I feared ) and following him is a very beaten-up, very small sailboat, with two disheveled crew standing on her deck looking at land with weary relief.

Jon climbs aboard and I hand him a coffee. We sit on deck discussing the assist.

The little sailboat was tacking back and forth a ways outside the pass entrance. The swell was huge and the wind was blowing off-shore but Jon figured the guy needed the diesel bad enough to chase him down even if the dingy engine konked out. As he got closer, he started thinking this might have been a big mistake. The boat was in very raggedy shape and so were the crew. 

(I think a faint whiff of crazy may have drifted towards him)

He tied up alongside and marveled at the state of things while the skipper hove to and began rummaging around looking for a funnel. Halfway through the process of trying to get the ancient old two cylinder going again, Jon looked up and saw that they were perilously close to the monster breakers. "Uh... Hey Cap'n, think we oughta maybe spin her around and head back out a ways?..."

Somewhere in there I want to say something about all this scaring the crap out of me- but I bite my tongue. 
He's here. He's safe and so is the other guy.
I'm just grateful everyones okay.

In the end, he managed to fill their tank in the crazy swell with our jerry cans of spare diesel, bleed the air out of their engine to get them started, and lead them safely through the (very narrow) pass.


"It's Muktuk!" cry the kids , coming on deck.
We all wave like maniacs.

We had not seen Mutuk, since the Tuamotos. 
They had just checked into Papeete and were on their way to Tonga when I sent Ali an email, 
mentioning we were broken down in Port Phaeton.

Our friends Karl ad Ali and their two kids, are the most excellent kind of people and our whole family just adores them. 

It also doesn't hurt that they have been cruising forever, are total experts at everything, Karl is a professional mechanic and Ali is basically the most talented brilliant person in the world. They had apparently decided to reroute their trip to come give us advice, lend us a hand and share a few more smiles (and glasses of wine!).

Hunter and the boys

Needless, to say, we were thrilled to see them.

Jon and Karl looked over ol' Perkie while Ali and I  got caught up on kids and family, laughing and joking and swapping stories of what we've all been up to since we parted ways.

We tell them about the rescue mission and point at the little boat resting quietly in the corner of the harbor. All her lights are out-the crew apparantly down for some much needed sleep after their long ordeal.

Night falls around us, and we pour wine and sit around, talking.
Karl and Ali tell us of their amazing adventures sailing in far flung corners of the globe...
The stars come out one by one.
We light little tin candles that we bought before leaving Mexico. 
Ten bucks for twenty candles in little holders all with different religious figures and prayers in Spanish on them. 
The cockpit looks like a shrine to Santeria.

We notice a Kayak, cruising silently in the dark water.
Jon stands up to look.
'Did you find any beer?" he yells to the darkness.

"Non!" comes the reply, in a thick French accent.

(this was Sunday and you can't buy alcohol on religious days in French Polynesia)

"Join us! We have wine!" calls Jon to the mystery man.

"I ran into this guy, earlier today.." Jon tells us as the guy paddles towards our boat.
"He sailed here from Ecuador, navigating only by the stars, using a block of wood and a piece of string..."

Everyone gapes. 

Raphael, is a computer programmer from France.
He is a single hander and on a bet with a friend, he sealed his GPS and his compass (!) in bags before leaving Ecuador...
and used no sextant and no almanac (reduction tables)... only the stars, and an ancient method of deciphering Azimuths and using string and the chunk of wood and a lot of very accurate and capable mathematical skills-he made it all the way across the pacific and to the Marquesas!

Ain't that something?

The next day,  Jon is contemplating our engine,
and sending emails all over the globe looking for parts.
I dingy over to Mukutk to take all the kids skurfing 
and our outboard engine stalls.
I cannot get her restarted. Neither can Karl.
I have to get towed me to our boat.
Jon stands on deck, hands on his hips, shaking his head and looking at his feet.
"When it rains, it pours..." I say, feeling badly that all this stuff is on him to fix.

Our carburetor is completely clogged.
Jon takes it off, dismantles it, cleans it , reassembles it and 45 minutes later, the engine purrs back to life.

If this had happened the other day, outside the pass, 
Jon could have been in a truly life threatening situation-
exactly what I had been afraid of!

Once again, we narrowly escaped a much worse situation.
We are reaching deep into our big back of luck and pulling out blessings.
I say a silent prayer of thanks-I think Jon does, too.

The next day, Jon hitchhikes back to Papeete to search the marine stores, haul out yards, workshops and rubbish heaps hope-hope-hoping to find an old tranny that matches ours... There are none.

Ali and I hitchhike with the kids to a nearby botanical garden.

We meet a  two hundred year old Galapagos tortoise who was abandoned here by a whaling ship in the 1800's.

Kai and Jan find a baby Tuamotan crested tern who's fallen from his nest 100 feet in the tree canopy and miraculously survived but will die if left on his own. 

In English and German, four kids beg and plea, four sets of blue eyes implore the Muktuk and Pura Vida Mom's...
we are helpless to resist.

We caution the kids that the bird may not survive the night.
Muktuk takes the little thing aboard and it adapts perfectly, 
eating Ali's home canned Bonita and relishing all the attention. Three days and counting and he is growing like a weed.

Meanwhile Jon has managed to find a used output shaft assembly in upstate NY, new seals and gaskets from a shop in Washington state and has had all sent to a freight forwarding company in California. This info provided by a local guy to help avoid some whopping Customs fees. All we have to do now is wait for the Bits... And then put our old boat back together.

Tomorrow Muktuk will leave to sail for Tonga and beyond.
We are grateful for their experience, advice and friendship...
and we'll keep our fingers crossed that we will meet again,
perhaps in higher latitudes.

They will not be taking the bird, much to Jon's dismay.

Looks like we have a new crew member...

Hunter named her "Pippy" (for her little cousin).


A Kai sized flower

the kids make a VERY old, new friend

I'm too old for this s**t

waiting hours for a city bus...with no bench.
Our joke was that some cruiser must have found the perfect piece of wood to fix his boom!

...and so, it begins.

 “Let us advance on Chaos and the Dark” 

 Jon discovers some seriously, broken s#*t...

" I used to be on TV?"
This is it how it might have looked PLAYING a guy who fixes his engine...

It actually  looks more like this.... 

...and this....


...and TEARS.

These last two are for our  fellow, skipper-buddies out there, who've been helping us over the internet...
(Thanks, Terry, Mike, and Dan!)

Well, Jon was going to add a little post, here, about what he's dealing with- technical specifics and all-but just as he sat down for a break and a bite of lunch, a distress call came over channel 16.
Another boat is in trouble, outside the pass, they were trying to make their way into safety, after being hit by two storms, while on their way here from the Marquesas ( its blowing a near gale now). They have just run out of diesel, apparently need some sort of help bleeding the air out of their system and they are able to sail but have no engine and the pass is in quite a state from the high winds and swell...
No one is around in the boatyard, we seem to be the only people living aboard around here, so Jon is currently racing off on a rescue mission.

To be continued....!

Best laid plans...

At last, we had a plan.

It had been unusually vexing to come up with one this time.
Pros and cons littered every scenario...
it felt like weaving though the jagged coral heads lurking under our boat in the beautiful lagoons we visit.

We do our best to spot these potential dangers, in the shifting light, concentrating, focused on keeping a steady and safe course but every once in awhile, there's a near miss...
and you think 'what if...?"

Long hours were spent pouring over charts, calculating routes and risks, looking at weather gribs and pilot charts.

Our visas would expire in two days.
We had to go-somewhere.

I woke up before dawn and had a long sit on deck in the pale blue light.
Despite my idyllic surroundings, there was something off,
a 'feeling" in my stomach, I couldn't explain. 

For the first time in months, I just wasn't sure.

There's lots of times, when i'm scared or nervous or have the butterflies, especially when we are embarking on something new but the "heart in mouth" stuff, always seems to be balanced by this (totally unfounded) sense of purpose.

Once Jon and I make up our minds to do something, we whole heartedly commit to it.
Idiotic or outrageous as our ideas may be-we're in.

I wasn't feeling that this time.

I jumped in the water and swam around under the boat.
It was clear and beautiful, though all the coral was dead and I hardly saw any fish.
The ones I did see, sulked under rocks and peered suspiciously at me, with haunted, morose little eyes...broken souls hiding in grim alleys.

( okay, so I have a teeny-tiny, tendency towards anthropomorphic thought)

Jon was standing on deck, drinking coffee when I came out of the water.
He handed me the solar shower, which I clipped to its spot on our spreader.
"ready to get out of here?" he asked, as I rinsed my entire body in two tablespoons of fresh water.
(a skill learned living on a boat with no water maker)

I found my designated towel and dried my hair.

A shining, golden-peach sun rose from behind impossibly green mountains and spilled warmth onto our deck.

Surrounded by paradise and i was flooded with  anxiety.

Had we made the "right" choice?
Was our plan, the "one"?

"Sure..." I said, trying to sound convinced.

We sat there staring at the water in silence.

" I feel weird." I said, finally.
"Yeah, me too..." agreed Jon.

But neither of us could put a finger on why.

An hour later, Jon was plotting our course, as we motorsailed away from Moorea.

"Bye Moorea!" we Namaste'd the beautiful island, as she slipped into memory.

The wind was light, so we kept the engine on as we wanted to make it around the Southern tip of Tahiti before night fall-after that, we would shape our course for our next destination. 

I went below decks to secure things, the swell from the South was bigger than expected and our choc-a-bloc, packed boat, was rolling with stray oranges and pamplemousse.

Below deck, I was hit with the creeping feeling again. 
Sometimes, I get the jitters just before a passage -but this felt different. It was like someone was whispering in my head, only, I couldn't quite make out the words.

Up top, life couldn't have been more beautiful and perfect.
Kids reading in the cockpit, Jon at the helm.
We made our way through the tossing channel, with Tahiti to port, thundering surf surging over the fringing reef, plumes of mist rising from the violent chaos.
Another stunning day, in the South Pacific...
and yet I couldn't shake the feeling that something was off..

I willed myself let go of the worries and went below to make lunch.
Giant avocados, stuffed with fresh green salad, mana from heaven, for us long distance cruisers. 

"I'm going to go lie down for awhile" I said, while washing the dishes in sea water and and wiping them with a cloth rinsed in fresh water to take away the taste of left over salt.

"You okay?" Jon cocked an eyebrow at me.
"Fine. Just tired..."

I crawled into our bunk but couldn't sleep.
I stared at the hatch above me, a perfect square of sky blue.
I tried to analyze my emotions.
We had made thoughtful plans, using our heads and our hearts to determine our new course,
but i was still ill at ease.
I couldn't help feeling like we had missed something.

Suddenly, I heard a peculiar, "whooshing" sound.
It sounded like it came from the prop spinning under the boat. 
I detected a slight change, in Perkie's familiar, clunking rhythm.

I sat there for a few seconds, wondering if my bad vibes had gotten the best of me, and now I was imagining things, but one thing we have learned on this trip, is that instinct is a  useful tool, especially at sea.

Jon is Captain and fortunately, his brain ( though not his heart), is governed by logic.

He is master of all things  planned, numbered, wired, processed, formatted, calculated, measured, engineered and evaluated. 

Whereas, my brain is controlled by the moon and the color fuchsia.

Right now, my "instinct", was definitely on high alert.

I went up top and reported to our Captain, what I heard and what I was feeling.

Jon went below. 
I took the helm. 
He was down for a very long time.
I put Kai on watch and went to see what was up.
Jon was standing in our room listening to the engine.
It was subtle but something, was off.
"That doesn't sound right' he said,
a panel on our floor was open, revealing our prop shaft packing nut,
"It's really hot..." he said, holding his hand on it.

We slowed down and turned off the engine.
Jon ran a bunch of tests, each one taking longer than the last as he trouble shot the situation.

He came up top, where we all waited, wringing our hands and trying to stay calm.

Anytime one is headed out to sea, for a voyage of several days, and sun is going down on that first night out, there is always a LITTLE trepidation...having an engine issue, was definitely heightening the thrill.

'Well...I'm not sure what's up" was the word from the Man.
(this is Captain speak, for "Sh*^t...Piss...F@$k")

We reviewed the noise i had heard and agreed that something might have gotten snared on our prop and worked its way up the shaft and that what was causing the issue.

"I should check the cutlass bearing' muttered Jon, as he looked over the side.

 (this involves diving under the boat)

We were outside the reef and the sun was going down.

"You won't see anything, in this light" I offered,
secretly, keeping my fingers crossed that he wouldn't jump over board in the swell and the dark.

Jon looked at the chart. 
We were only a few miles away from Port Phaeton...

The best plan was to limp through the pass in the reef, 
anchor in the safe harbor and dive the boat in the morning to asses the extent of our problem. 

There was no wind and the engine wasn't sounding too terribly bad, so we kept in on a low RPM and forged on, towards the reef entrance.

( while also hoping the customs boat wouldn't be lurking  there, as we had now also officially checked out and would be breaking the law if we got caught anchoring anywhere in French Polynesia!) 

We headed for the pass entrance, four miles away, the light was fading but we couldn't push the boat.  
No one wants to enter a see pass at night if they can help it, and this one wasn't lit for night.

Things were starting to get a little hairy.

The breakers were HUGE from the swell and they thundered and exploded off our port and starboard side as we headed towards the narrow entrance of the pass.

Jon had everything under control and was cool as ever,
but my heart was racing.

There was nothing I could do on deck, so I decided to go below and clean the boat. 
This is my "go to"  thing, when I get nervous.
Tidy=everything will be fine.
Nothing bad can happen, because I'm a good person-because i make my bed!

This is how a brain governed by fuchsia works.

Either that, or its from being raised by a Scottish mother who always made sure you brushed your teeth and had clean knickers on when you left the house to play-in case you were in an accident,  the ambulance people would know you came from a "good home".

I straightened our sheets and fluffed the pillows while cooing soothing words to ol' Perkie and Pura Vida.

The hatch to the transmission compartment was open and I could see our prop-shaft spinning.
I sure don't know everything in the world about engines, so sometimes when I look at all those ancient, greasy, crusty, parts, spinning and turning and realize how much our lives depend on these grody old nuts and bolts -I feel dizzy.

Which is exactly how I was feeling...
when the part I was looking at exploded into mass of rusted chaos.

The engine stopped dead.

I was on deck in a flash.

Everything suddenly got very surreal as Time bent and warped around our impending calamity.

The beautiful sunset, the boat absolutely silent, except for the sound of the sails slatting, the explosive, crashing  breakers pummeling the reef next to us...

Jon was sitting behind the wheel like  a statue;

hands raised,  frozen in a dramatic flourish, eyes fixed on the wheel, with an affronted, puzzled, expression-

like a magician, who'd intended to pull a rabbit of a hat but found he was holding a lobster, instead.

Shock had immobilized 
his body... he was in a state of, adrenaline-forced calm, his big brain whirling a million miles an hour, trying figure out what had just happened to us.

"The thingy exploded" I whimpered, not at all helpfully and with a specificity typical of me.

Jon was up and below, so fast, I didn't even see him move.

Reality snapped back in a furious rush of images, like an old film reel, free-spinning on its projector.

I grabbed the binoculars and looked towards the crashing reef.
Giant, rolling, ocean swells were gently but insistently pushing us closer and closer to it.

"It's okay... I said to the kids, rising panic made my voice a whisper. 

I hated that I sounded child-like and scared.

"get it together, Kaiser..." I told myself, 
noting, Hunter watching me, her blue eyes growing rounder and wider by the second.

"Im scared, mommy" she said, flooding up with tears.

This is the worst feeling ever.

The absolute, most awful, worst, worst, worst, thing you ever feel as a parent.
A situation is happening, beyond your control and your kids are in jeopardy.
( or your afraid they might be)

This is when you break out the "super-suit" and become the hero of your own movie.

I knew for a fact, Jon was  below, already in his suit, trying to keep his big red cape out of whatever dilemma he was facing down there-so I sure-as-Shirley, better buck up and do the same.

Be cool..." I told myself,
Your a professional actress...."act damnitt...ACT!"

"Sweetie, don't worry..." I patted her leg, reassuring us, even though my mouth had gone completely dry.
Kai backed me up, heroic big brother that he is.
"Don't worry, Hunter, Dad has it under control...right mom?".

Jon came up top.

"the prop shaft is separated from the transmission-we're dead in the water".

This is not a good situation.

However, on a sailboat it is is not so bad because you can just sail...if this happened in the middle of the ocean, it would be inconvenient- but not life threatening. 

What you DO need, is wind,
which we did not have, at that moment.

What we had, was a reef, 1/2 of a mile away and a current and swell pushing us closer to it, by the second.

Things started to get a little chaotic.

I wanted to get on the radio and alert someone to our situation, right away...
Jon wanted to have a minute to think things through and figure out a self sufficient way of dealing with it.

( the age old, stereotypical, male/female conflict of "asking for directions"-only with higher stakes)

We argued for a few non-constructive minutes before I finally realized I was totally out of line-he's the captain-this is  why there is a pecking order and i needed to just be quiet (obey) and let him think.

Which, fortunately, Jon is really good at.

He had Kai help in lowering the dingy into the water and get the engine on it, so we had some means of pushing the boat.
We had never actually tried to do this, before and weren't sure how effective it would be.

We only have a little 6 hp outboard and in the big ocean swell we weren't so sure if she could even move PV but it was the only option we had, if that reef got any closer...

I tried to hail someone on channel 16.

We are in French Polynesia and I speak baby French when it comes to conversation and ordering or shopping but I do not know a single phrase having to do with marine communications. 

"Any vessel in Port Phaeton, come back to SV Pura Vida..."  I said in English.
No answer.
Jon came and took the mic.
'Any vessel in Port phaeton, this is SV Pura Vida...come back?"
"say we lost power and we're drifting to the reef..." I croaked.

I felt like i was made out of putty

I had to sit on my hands, to keep the kids from seeing them shaking.

"Radio check, radio check...anyone copy SV Pura Vida, over?"
A young voice came though the speaker,
"This is SV Macha, we hear you loud and clear, Pura Vida"
"Hey, Macha, can you go one-seven'

Jon switched channels.

"Hello?" said the young voice.
"Good evening" says our Captain, keeping his cool,
"...we seem to have a bit of a problem, we're currently dead in the water and are outside the pass about a quarter mile..."
Jon gave our exact position in Lat and Long.

I spotted a panga in the distance,
I ran to the bow and climbed onto the bowsprit and waved my arms, like an absolute lunatic.
After what seemed like forever, the little boat finally started to turn towards us.

Oh, thank god.

While Jon talked over our situation with Macha ( a catamaran that was busy entering the pass ahead of us, also trying to beat the failing light), I tried to communicate to the two French fisherman, what our situation was.

They were not comfortable towing us though the pass, as it was getting dark.

Ahhhh, yes....the French.

I gestured at the reef and tried to explain that we couldn't sail away from it and we needed a tow,
My limited French had completely escaped me and I wasn't sure what i was managing to express but the next thing I knew, they were racing AWAY from us.

I ran back to Jon at the helm.

"Where are they going?", asked Jon.
"Um...I think they went to talk to that Navy ship out there..."

There was a massive, warship making its way around the end of the island.

"what did Macha say?" 
"They can't tow us in but they will stand by and they have a sat phone, they'll try and get ahold of the marina and see what they can do".

The reef was a still a 1/4 of mile from us.
That might not seem that close to you at home but it was scaring the pants off me, looking at it.

We had no wind, no power, no one was around and night coming down on us...

Wow, was I missing the good ol' Coast Guard, right about then.

We pushed out our sails, as far as we could and hoped.

I know, I like to give non-human things, human characteristics, but I swear, 
Pura Vida did everything she could to catch any wisp of breeze and get us and herself way from that reef. 

There have been plenty of times when we have sat dead still or going backwards in less wind with a more favorable current than we had at that moment...

Magical thinking or not, 
we started moving in the right direction.

The French fisherman came back to tell us that the French Navy was standing by for us on 16 and and we had a nice discussion with the huge Warship, who offered assistance if we needed it and Mancha got a hold of the marina and relayed our distress to the marina guy ( who had just put a brand new engine on his boat and wasn't comfortable towing us through the channel-not wanting to screw up breaking in his engine-at night).

But we had it under control. 

We were making about 1,2 knots by now in 4 knots of breeze and put a comfy, three miles between us and that reef.

Jon was confident we could keep off shore for the night and try and make the pass in the morning. 

Macha arranged with the guy from the Marina and said they would come out with him int he morning to make sure we could get in okay, and if we needed help, they would be standing by on 16.

Nice to know.
Breathing again. Blood flowing through the extremities...

Jon and I had a big fat kiss and he held me for a long time.
I went below and poured a glass of wine to settle the last of my nerves.

We watched a spectacular sunset ,the sea was unbelievably gentle, even if the swells were up, they were well spaced and liquid smooth.

Here we were, with a broken engine, plans in complete disarray, mountains of paper work,  getting an extension on our visa BS and of course, the financial absess and mechanical havoc that we were bound to endure, once Jon sorted out the extent of our mechanical problems...

I was happy.
Jon felt it, too.

The rest of the night, we spent tacking and gybing back and forth. Jon plotted a way point on our charts that would ensure we never got too close to the reefs but were also not too far away to make the pass entrance at the first slack tide of the day.

It was actually fun, sailing Pura Vida in the light winds, with a specific mark to reach at a certain time-it called into play, skills learned while sailing dingies as a kid and the whole night felt like an enjoyable but epically slow, race.

We managed to hit our mark right on the dot, at first light.
Jon side-tied the dingy to the big boat on her starboard quarter,  and to our surprise, once we had it up to speed, we could tow Pura Vida at almost 3 knots.
Best of all, we had steerage under power again.

Jon was confident we could make it though the pass on our own, towing ourselves but I talked him into calling on the support of the marina guy's boat, just in case we got into trouble. 
It was left over nerves on my part, because we got though totally fine by ourselves.
(although, once we were through, I was happy to accept a tow up to the anchorage all the same!)

Carolyn (the nice lady from Macha and the mother of the young voice on the radio) also came out with the marina guy, and had her handheld VHF with her, so we were well supported on all sides if anything were to happen-which it didn't.

All of these events were new experiences for us,
and we learned a lot in a very short time, like you do, whenever something goes wrong.

Jon's a big believer in self sufficiency, and that having confidence in your own abilities to problem solve, actually helps you deal with scenarios in the safest possible way.

I think thats true and totally great.
It's why I love him and can be out here doing this...

Because, me?  
My tendency is to want to pick up the phone and yell for help when something goes wrong.
( even more so if the kids are involved)
But I hope i'm learning to approach things in new ways,
on this adventure, and every time we go through one of these events and come out the other side-
I realize how much we are capable of.

(especially if your boat is actually magical and loves you :) )

An hour later, we were snugged up on a mooring just off the boat yard in Port Phaeton,
eating omlettes and ready to take a much needed nap.

After everything that went down, despite all the grief that lay ahead, there was calm.

How do you explain a couple of cruisers who have no money, and who just spent the night  drifting aimlessly outside a reef with no power- feeling content?

Are we totally insane?
( certainly an argument could be made, there)

The only thing I can say about it is, when you let go,
and I mean, REALLY let go...

I think you can actually feel, the subtle universe shaping your reality, and it might be possible, that feelings, intuitions and daydreams are as good a way to plan for your future,
as, say, 401K's and college funds...

Maybe I believe this is because I also think fish have senses of humor and I feel the sadness of turtles,
or because I was taught ( along with the importance of making my bed and having clean skivvies) that
God or whatever you want to call the unnamable, shimmering Chi that balances this little patch of galaxy,
has a way of sweeping each of us into it's stream.

Maybe we are not in control-
as much as we like to think we are,
and no matter how much we sweat and strain to come up with the perfect plan...

It's what you make of each moment, that counts.

The dink side tied and pushing PV while Jon steers...we luck out because the morning is perfect, calm 

Nerves through the pass...
Getting a tow up to the anchorage, after the pass

This what Jon will be rebuilding for the next few weeks...
and this...

sheared bolts-never a good sign
Poor, Pura Vida...

The first of many days of ordering parts...

The kindness of strangers...
Carolyn and Tony from Macha, give Jon a ride to town in their rental car...
(Port Phaeton is two hour bus ride from Papeete, where all the parts and paper work gets done)