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Hand Painted silk scarves

Hand Painted silk scarves from this Magic Sea

A squall line with devil devil clouds slides by off the coast of Fiji. © http://www.thread-of-awareness-in-chaos.com/order.html

BEAT TO THE CENTER OF THE SEA

We are the flower, We are the spawn, Everywhere, all at once.

 

We left Malololailai thursday, sailing out through the reef bound for Suva. It's late in the season and time to get going. The other yachts left last month in the Great Malololailai to Vila Musket Cove Yacht Race. From Vila, the yachts headed off to Australia and New Zealand to escape the hurricane season. Moira, loaded with months of thinking and heaps of color slides, is heading the other direction, East. Bound for American Samoa.

In the South Pacific, West is downwind. East is upwind. Moira is flying against the normal migration routes. Radio Australia says a depression is forming near New Caledonia, the first of the year. Bad news. Walter Cat wants to go outside. He reaches up to the mosquito screen and twangs it with one nail, his head cocked back like he is about to jump. "OK, monster, I'm coming." I slide back the hatch, lift out the screen. Walter stands on the step with his front paws in the cockpit, his nose in the air sniffing the new day. Finally, he goes out into the cockpit and on deck for his morning inspection and pee. I follow him on deck.

Uggg. The sky is miserable again. We left in a tiny patch of blue sky amid a big low pressure trough. But we didn't get very far. At exactly 3:33 in the afternoon the sky fell and the wind blew from the Southeast at a steady 30 knots. We slid into Thevu Harbor to get out of the wind and rain. It's just a tiny nook in the southern coast of Fiji. I can see enormous surf thrashing the reefs only a couple of hundred meters south of us. We are broadside to the wind, anchored fore and aft right in front of the big luxurious Fijian Hotel. Above its white ramparts and green gardens the sky is an ominous, roiling mass of black clouds.

Out to sea, a big Ketch is hammering East, the waves washing over her decks, sails reefed down. She's not making much progress. We'll just stay right here until it abates. I check the lines. It's surprising how comfortable the anchorage is considering all the action just over there. The Fijian is nice, too. Nice pool. Tennis courts. A pretty place and friendly enough to passing Yachts. But the anchorage is small and I wouldn't like to be in here with a bunch of other yachts.

"Nasty out there." Freddy pokes her head out the after hatch."So what are we doing?"

"Nothing. You can go back to sleep if you like. It's too miserable out there. Maybe later on we'll go in and have a swim in the pool."

"In the rain? Cold, miserable, windy? Pool?," she takes another look at the sky. "Gonna sleep another hour."

"OK," I consider joining Freddy for a little dawn exercise but the image of the big ketch smashing into the waves has made me feel depressed. Getting nowhere fast. I feel like the ketch there, bashing into the headwinds of life. I tap the glass on the barometer and the needle falls a bit. 1006. More nastiness to come. A nice day to stay put and do some planning.

The plot is to go to American Samoa where a yachtie named David Irvine works at the TV studio. There I'll put together the slides of This Magic Sea into an animated movie. Afterwards, well, who knows?

I sit at the dinette sipping a cup of coffee from my Garfield the Cat cup, tapping my pen on the log book. Each tap knocks my mood further down into a morass of depression. The weather, I guess. But also the plan. I have stacks of slides but the project needs real movie footage and I don't have a serviceable movie camera. Walter has loaned me a museum piece Kodak 16-mm I can use for animation but it's not much use in the field. Just before we left I talked to Artie's nephew. He runs a video distribution house in California and said he'd be happy to see if he could use my preliminary animation footage to interest someone in backing the project.

We need backing to get cameras, film, and equipment to do the This Magic Sea right. I need aerial shots of Astrolabe Reef or any small, circular atoll. I need lots of scenes to fit the script.

Last night, I had a dream about the point of the whole project. The aim. In the dream I was in an gigantic examination hall. It was mostly empty. The exam was supposed to be an essay type and I was to write my answers in a notebook. It was, in fact, the notebook I'm writing in now. In the dream I tore out the first few pages containing words and their definitions and lots of doodles. I kept those close by so I could use them when the test started. I was worried and nervous, feeling I was not really well enough prepared for the test.

I looked around the room and saw everyone else busy writing away in their books. But there were still no questions on the blackboard, no questions distributed. What were they writing about? I awoke maybe a half hour ago, still sitting there with my pen over the notebook, waiting for the questions. And here I am again, in the same position and I get the distinct feeling it is, indeed, a test.

Suppose the exam includes the construction of the questions? That sounds right. Suppose I could get the answers to any questions I select. The exam consists of selecting the right questions. OK. Since this is a dream-test anyway, I'll think big and assume the course is the search for essential knowledge for the enlightenment and survival of mankind. Why not?

Assume the question and the answer must be comprehensible to the average hominid with at least a high school education. No yes or no answers allowed. No completely open ended questions allowed. No buzz words like God, Freedom, Honor, and so on.

QUESTION 1: What is the most vital question I should ask and why is it important?

ANSWER: What is the underlying logic system of the cosmos? If you understand this logic system, the why of a great multitude of phenomena becomes easily perceived. Without a basic realization of the nature of reality the most simple processes are and will always remain mysterious.

QUESTION 2. What is the underlying logic system of the cosmos?

ANSWER: The cosmos is a behavioral interaction based on an interlocked web of discrete focal points (to be) changing in a direction. The primary concepts relate to other existing logic systems according to the grid:

The interaction of To Be, To Change, To Have Direction takes place as illustrated in the following diagram. Each illustrated stage represents a quantum jump of interlocked behavioral interaction; the expanding cosmos becoming more and more complex, more aware, in the process called learning.

MEASUREMENT SYSTEM

PERCEIVED EVENT

BASIC FACETS

X,Y,Z COORDINATES

OBJECT IN SPACE

TO BE

TIME

INTERVAL OF AWARENESS

TO CHANGE

FITNESS

MEANING

TO HAVE DIRECTION

SYSTEMS THEORY

PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR

ONE INTERCOMMUNICATION

VIEWPOINT

THE OBSERVER

REFERENT

 

Beings appear as we learn To Be, To Change, To Have Direction is one interaction within This Magic Sea.

The cosmos is a layered interaction of mind focused into a web of myriad interacting selves.

QUESTION 3: What am I supposed to do with this information?

ANSWER:

No idea. Whatever it is giving me the examination and the answers cheats terribly and fails to give me the answer to this question.

I get up and pace back and forth in the main cabin, partly to annoy Walter cat who sits under the dinette and thrashes his tail as I thump back and forth. I could go on with the test but it seems pointless.

Exasperated, I make another circuit on deck eyeing the ragged black clouds hurrying by out to sea. It's calm right now, like old Neptune is out there saying, "Come on little Moira, come on out now." But he's dishing out a ration of misery later today and little Moira is just going to sit right here and wait.

A squall line at sea is always an unwelcome sight.© http://www.thread-of-awareness-in-chaos.com/order.htmlBeep beep beep beep

"Your little Japanese is screaming," Freddy moans in my ear. I turn over and fumble for the watch for endless beeps until I find the right button to shut it off. 5 AM.

"It's still dark!" Freddy complains.

"Not for long," I bounce out of bed and move forward through the companionway, Walter stretching along in front of me. I slide open the hatch and look out at a red seascape of clouds. "Damn."

"What?" Freddy's voice sounds a bit self conscious and sleepy as if I'm bitching about her still being in bed.

"Red sky in the morning," I grumble.

"Sailor take warning!" Freddy finishes the old sailor's saying and pokes her head out of the after hatch. "Well, not really too bad, not very red."

"Very red," I snap and decide to go anyway. There is only about 6 knots of wind in the anchorage. By 5:30 we are clear of the small harbor, headed right into a 10 to 15 knot wind.

We motorsail close to the wind until we finish breakfast. Freddy fixes scrambled eggs and raisin toast; very appropriate as we are now being tossed up and down by some big seas. Walter Cat has vanished.

"He's in your shirt locker," Freddy always seems to know where the cat is.

After we eat I pull out the staysail and, with a double reef in the main, fall off on a port tack.

Metaphoric Waves

Waves are fascinating things. I watch them build as the wind gusts smack Sea, spanking tiny little wavelets into a bigger chop. The wavelets and chop bounce around on the hills and valleys of the southeasterly ocean swells. The tiny waves have a skin of even smaller waves, technically called microwaves, created by the friction of air molecules against the surface tension of the sea water.

"Interesting. Very interesting." I peer into the sea.

"What?" Freddy kneels next to me, looking in the water as it rushes by. "What? I don't see anything."

"The waves. See, look closely and you can see little tiny waves, small waves, medium waves, big waves and - when you look upwind on a big scale - the swells."

"Oh, yeah, that chop is murder." Freddy sits back down in the cockpit, checks the wind gauges. A wave smacks Moira's bow and she shudders and almost stops dead in the water.

"We'll tack every hour. On the port tack Moira is bashing right into the seas. On the starboard tack, headed toward the reef, we'll be in the trough of the waves and will go much faster." The wind is now 25 knots and building.

Only waves from one to two meters high make any real difference to our speed as these are just the wrong size. Moira buries her nose in them and throws the water back over herself, spraying Freddy and I with salt water. The tiny ones and the long ocean swells are not on Moira's wavelength. She builds up speed to about 5 knots and wham! another wave of just the wrong height and slope smacks her in the nose.

These waves move pretty fast over the surface of Sea. If we were headed west, like sensible yachts, Moira's speed would be just a little slower than the swells and much faster than the microwaves and small chop. The smaller the wave, the slower it goes. The bigger the wave, the faster it goes. Tsunami's, caused by earthquakes, rip-snort along at almost 700 miles an hour in the open sea. But they are so big and have such a long wave length we would not even notice one going by if one did.

Headed into the waves, like we are, our speed is added to the speed of the waves coming the other direction and the head on collisions with waves about the same height as Moira's bow is devastating.

"Yow!" Freddy ducks as Moira throws a big wave back from her bows over our heads. The wind has perked up to 30 knots.

Freddy swings Moira to port and releases the staysail sheetline. I pull it in on the port side as we assume a starboard tack, headed back towards Fiji. The staysail and double reefed main are both cranked in as tight as they go. Running in the trough of the waves we pick up speed. 6 knots and holding steady.

"Hey, look at that one!" I shout to Freddy over the mounting wind. A big swell mounds up to starboard, high above Moira's deck level. Most land people think of waves as being long rows of humped water speeding along the surface of the sea. But they are not. The big monster swell, just there, for example, is a hill about 3 meters high and maybe 30 or 40 meters long and 18 meters from back to front. It seems to speed under us and on past Moira to port. I watch it recede and - ooops - it's gone. Vanished. It just sort of subsided into the general mix of waves and was gone. Not gone over the horizon. Gone from existence, its energy translated into other uplifted mounds of sea water.

Ahead, up towards the reef, I can see the long parade of ocean waves so familiar to land people. The surf. But ocean waves are much different. Surf does, indeed, line up in long rows because of the interaction of the waves with the bottom. At exactly one half the wave length the wave "feels" the bottom and rears up. The bottom/sea energy interaction forms the long breakers. Since the depth contour is generally parallel to shore and extends for a long distance, the energy of the waves builds into the familiar lines of surf under the frictional moderating influence of the sea floor. But out here, the waves are a confused mass of rolling hills.

Freddy brings up an old rum bottle. For years I have played oceanographer with old bottles. I write a nice, friendly letter, "Dear Friend; This is your lucky day! Imagine finding a note in a bottle washed up on this very beach. Where did it come from? What message does it bring? Well, it came from just south of Fiji where I threw it overboard from the Research Vessel Moira on the 12th of October 1982. We are on our way to Suva and then on to American Samoa. If you find this, please write and tell me where it washed up and who you are and what you do."

Freddy and I sign it, roll it up and seal it in the bottle. Then I throw it over. Right on the crest of a big wave as it speeds by. You would think the bottle would go racing off on the big wave. But it just stays right where I threw it. Moira speeds one way, the waves speed the other.

The bottle, and the sea water around it, just bobs up and down; drifting slowly somewhere with the ocean currents. The waves seem to be speeding along the surface of Sea when you focus on just one of them and, indeed, the waves do move right along. But the sea water doesn't go anywhere; just rolls around in vertical circles.

So there you are. Waves are individual entities speeding along the surface of Sea. They all have individual shapes and sizes and velocities and can smack Moira hard on the nose with unarguable reality. But the water which is the wave isn't going anywhere. The individual ocean waves have very short lifespans. They appear and vanish in a rather short distance, the water heaping up there and dropping down there. We can see waves joining together to heap into very high mounds and can see wave troughs merge to make holes in Sea. Waves on top of waves, blending into each other.

So what is a wave?

It is a geometric pattern distorting the uniform membrane of the sea/air interface. A changing pattern made up of waves ranging in size from little bigger than molecules to giant swells. The small ones join together to generate the larger ones in quantum jumps.

"Time to come about?" Freddy says. I look up and see the reef is still a mile away.

"The wind and sea is slightly less near the reef. Lets go on for a bit." I suggest. The shape of the wave is governed by the physics of water, gravity, surface friction, and, in shallow water, the bottom. There is a formula to describe the relationship of wave length to wave height. But none to determine the width of the waves.

This is the point. Waves are a complex set of behavioral interrelationships. A big, unified, complex series of behavior patterns all layered one on top of the other. Atoms, molecules, ripples, and a progressively larger nesting of waves.

"RICK! The Reefs right There!" We come about and head offshore again. The wind is now a steady 33 knots and the waves are getting enormous.

As we settle down onto the new tack I think about the water not moving but the waves passing through the water. Kind of like the waves visible on windy days on fields of wheat. The waves move over the fields but the wheat stays rooted right where it is. Or sound waves traveling through the air, the air molecules compressing together with the shock wave of a noise but the air itself not moving in the direction or with the speed of the sound waves.

What does light wave? The great mystery. Light waves travel through nothingness. Or so the story goes. It's nothingness I need to think about.

Another wave smashes Moira on the nose and she rears back and stops dead in the water.

The key to all this thinking is the recognition of waves as a pattern of behavior visible in Sea, fields of grass, sound, space, all kinds of places. This "something" we can see, hear, touch, get bashed by, exists. Each wave is indeed an individual entity changing its position in a direction. And the meaning of the wave is embedded in the direction of the wave compared to the direction of my travel.

A sea wave is not the sea water or the moving atmosphere that energizes the sea water. It is something brand new and different created by the interaction of the sea and atmosphere. I watch the medley of waves and force myself to see them, each individual one, as the interaction of sea and air. They are the response of sea water to the interchange of energy between sea and air. It is an interesting perceptual exercise because breaking my visual illusion of a wave as a marauding mass of cold sticky sea water is almost impossible when one smacks into Moira's bow and soaks us to the skin.

The whole rig shudders as the wind passes 37 knots. Yanutha Island is ahead but there is rain on the horizon. Closing fast. Windspeed 40 knots. Sea is streaked with foam and it hurts the eyes to look into the wind. I examine the chart. The nearest hole is Somo Somo Harbor. But the chart is not very detailed. The pilot book says, "Somo Somo harbour lies six miles eastward of Korolevu. It is the most sheltered small craft harbour on the south coast. A vessel entering the bay should be conned from aloft in good light and care must be exercised to avoid a coral head in the center of the passage."

"How far to the anchorage where we've got a chart?" Freddy screams into the wind.

The wind velocity makes it hard to see to windward. A gray mist rises from the waves as they tear themselves apart on the reef so the coastline is indistinct. "I think it must be around the second point up ahead."

"What?" I see her mouth make the question but 45 knots of wind snatches the word from her lips and gives it to the waves.

"Too far!" I scream. Through the salt mist, I see a small power boat anchored in the harbor on the other side of the reefs. We'll try for it. "Come downwind!" I shout and ease off the sheetline for the Mainsail. Moira bucks in the wind and waves and her nose swings quickly off the wind. There is no way I could roll in the headsail in this wind. But protected by the wing of the main it rolls in easily when I heave on its furling line.

"Back on course!" I dance forward to the ratlines as Moira comes back into the wind. From aloft I can see a small break in the seas. The pass. I can't see any coral head in the middle of it.

"Let's go on!" Freddy's shout is small, almost lost in the moaning wind in the rigging and the thundering waves to port.

I look down at her at the wheel and project my voice, "No! Looks OK."

"We don't have a chart!" comes the faint reply. Her face is screwed up into a squint from the wind and salt spray. This is no time for a debate.

"Starboard!"

"What?"

I clamber down the steps and yell, "Come to windward. We'll drop the main." I dive below, start the diesel, and come back to drop the main and furl it. Moira rolls heavily in the surf just off the dark pass through the white foam. Freddy says nothing but her face is full of worry.

I go up the ratlines again almost to the first spreaders. The mast whips back and forth violently but I can see fine. I hug the mast with my left arm and point with my right. Freddy brings Moira's bow around and we head for the white foam.

One small mistake and it's all over. Everything we own is right here in our hands. A touch on the coral in these seas and this wind and Moira will die. All the photographs, the logs, everything...."Knock that off!" I grumble to myself, gesturing Freddy a little to starboard. Now a little to port. It looks narrow but deep. Moira's bow enters the pass. Still don't see the damned coral head in the center. A current is flowing out. Strong but straight. Gesture hard to starboard then straight, steady, Moira is surrounded by white foam, her tender hull pushing against the current, fighting her way in. I signal for more power and Moira moves in further, further, and we are through. Into calm water behind the reef.

I look back at the long line of reef. The waves are hammering on the coral reefs like wild beasts of prey trying to get to us in this placid cove. Cliffs and mountains, green things and birds accept us gracefully into their arms.

Walter the Cat appears from my shirt locker and wants some fish. We drop the hook and Freddy gives the cat some fish and fixes us some liver pate on toast, salad and orange juice.

Bullets in a Drowned Volcano

Chart of Suva Harbor - not for navigation.Mbengga is covered in an early morning mist as we sail out of its jagged fjord-like, jungle flower perfumed anchorage. It is a drowned volcano and we spent the night in a crack in the crater wall. It was very beautiful in there, with the jungle tumbling right down the vertical slopes into the sea. There was just one little problem.

The crater walls funnel the air through the anchorage in swirling bullets of wind. It was only blowing about 20 knots in the open sea but the gusts of wind inside were 50 knots. A 50 knot gust of wind is a real blast; shaking the whole boat violently, knocking her sideways. The blasts came about one per minute. But it varied. We could hear it coming in the tranquil calm; like some giant sucking in its breath to phoooooofffff at us. It was really irritating and Walter bit Freddy so Freddy whacked him on the head and pissed him off still more and made Freddy contrite.

None of us could get to sleep. Just as we would begin to drift off we'd hear the blast ruffling up, anticipation would build and reach a climax when the wind would smack us good. The cycles shifted erratically between 30 seconds and 50 seconds. Sometimes, just to keep us on our mental toes, Mbengga would toss in a small blast after 15 seconds. Maybe only 30 knots or so.

I lay there thinking about harmonics of air waves reverberating through the canyon walls. What else? I got the cycle worked out and drifted off to sleep about midnight. As soon as my mind was able to predict the next blast the noise did not bring me back to consciousness. The error of expectation was satisfied and I slept soundly.

Until 2 AM when the gust of wind did not stop blasting for much longer than usual. I came awake feeling Moira respond, hearing the answering tension in the anchor chain.

Freddy puts out a fishing line and strips off her shirt, looking ripe and delicious in the little blue bikini bottom. Like one of those iridescent flashes on the wing of a jungle butterfly against the misty morning volcano. Moira is on a direct tack for Suva.

We clear the last reefs and settle down for the passage. I am writing in the logbook while being lifted up three to four feet in the air and then dropped back down each 3 to 4 seconds. Plus I'm being tilted backwards and forwards at the same time making it difficult to move the pen in a nice neat way. Yet I really don't notice the waves or the motion or the complex interplay of muscles required to compensate from being pitched about on a heaving sea.

This is like trying to sleep in the volcano last night. It has to do with cycles, rhythms, expectations. Pattern recognition. Cycles are, of course, of great biological interest. There are tidal cycles, day-night cycles, cycles of moon phases, seasonal cycles, sun-spot cycles, cycles, cycles everywhere.

My body muscles recognize the cycles of the up and down, back and forth motion of the waves and predict the rhythm and symmetry of the sea will repeat the cycles again and again. They automatically adjust to this and I don't pay any attention to the process. I am not conscious of the sea's motion until the waves torque me in a new, unexpected direction and I have to pause writing to rebalance myself. At these moments I become aware of the waves again. My awareness comes when there is a change in the expected cycles.

Pattern recognition. Waves of ideas. Small ones, big ones. Micro ideas flickering in our heads, a sharp chop of ideas excited by the winds of language, ideas waves blending like sea waves into massive heaving swells of energy, melting into each other. The element of uncertainty gathers within their interaction like an electrical charge building in the churning of great massive clouds. When the pattern of cycles continues as expected, it is recognized and ignored at a lower level of awareness than my consciousness. Repeat patterns, another wave of the same size and shape, are recognized. Re meaning again. cognize meaning know. To know again.

When a new pattern is encountered it is unexpected, unknown, and awareness flares.

Lightning erupts. Awareness awakens.

I am caught off balance and make mistakes.

People fight and argue.

Awareness is the error of expectations.

The logbook already has lots and lots of notes and thoughts about the error of expectations. I keep returning to it from different directions. It's like mentally tacking upwind, finding the same elemental pattern waiting no matter where we sail on this Magic Sea of life.

I think about waves and about the replication involved in double-thinking (di-mensions). Looking at things again and again from different angles and even by different people gives an increasing accuracy to the information model and thus reduces the error of expectations. In each case we create a mental projection of what the real world is like and try it on for size. This is abduction. When the real world does not fit our projection (the new error of expectations) we alter our model accordingly.

The wind has slacked and shifted more to the east. We come about and point directly at Suva. We are moving nicely at 7 knots, all sails flying.

Broken models of reality is what awareness is all about. Perception, at the most elemental neural level, does not happen without disruption of expected cycles. There is a temptation here to see awareness as a thing, an event, a result of disruption of cycles. But it isn't. At its most basic level, awareness IS the interaction of to be changing in a direction. Awareness is not the result of the error of expectations, it is the error of expectations.

Oh Christ. There is a tear in the headsail. About where the sail touches the lower spreader. Damn, damn, damn. I hope it holds until we get in. I poke my head below to tell Freddy about the tear.

"Listen to this," Freddy turns up the sound on the VHF, "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY! I'm on the reef, oh God, I'm on the reef! Help!"

"Can you give us your location," Radio Suva replies.

"On the reef! Just in the pass," I stand up and look towards Suva. In the distance I can see a big ship wreck on the reef and behind it the gray outline of Fiji. Even with the binoculars I cannot see any sailboat. Talk about the error of expectations.

"What a turkey!" Freddy comes out of the companionway to look. Below I hear the VHF dialogue between the stricken boat and Suva Radio. Suva sounds calm and detached. The sailboat sounds angry, panic has set in.

"He has been blabbering on the radio for the past twenty minutes trying to get the weather out of Suva Radio. While he was below yakking on the radio he ran up on the reef, can you believe it?" Freddy takes the binoculars and looks towards the reef.

An hour later we sail close by the stricken vessel. Had he been on deck he would easily have seen the reef. What stupidity to be below asking for a weather report while entering a reef pass. I feel sick looking at the lovely yacht lying on her side in the surf. There is nothing we can do. He is in no immediate danger. With the easterly winds, the reef bordering Suva Harbor's entrance is well protected. There is only the rise and fall of the ocean swell revealed as a long pulsing surf. It has pushed him well up onto the reef.

"Looks like they'll have to drag him over the reef into the lagoon to get him off." Freddy observes.

I go below and, when the radio is quiet I ask, "Can we give you any help?"

"You can get those goddamned assholes out here to drag me off! I've been here for hours and nobody has bothered to show up! What the hell is wrong with them?" The angry voice answers. I wonder what Suva Radio thinks about this guy who runs up on the reef when he is down below bitching over the radio about not being able to get a weather report and then bitches about not being rescued according to his schedule.

"This isn't California," I reply. "I'm sure they are doing their best to help you, but it will take time. We'll keep you posted on progress when we get in." In fact, island people tend to do absolutely nothing at all when yelled at. I suspect the rescue party will be late in coming. The more he yells, the later the rescue team will be.

After we clear customs we motor over to the Tradewinds Hotel and drop the anchor. We have a thousand things to do. Repair the tear in the headsail, laundry, take on food, fuel, water, and shop, shop, shop in Suva.

Suva Surprise

The Fiji fish market. Fishermen sell green sea turtles despite a ban on catching them.© http://www.thread-of-awareness-in-chaos.com/order.htmlWe load the headsail into the Avon and head over the harbor for downtown Suva. According to a woman named Carol on a boat called Black Magic, there is a sailmaker downtown and a small river running right into the center of Suva. We roar past the huge shipping wharf and come upon the green park fronting the big white and pastel buildings of downtown Suva.

The river is small, but easily deep enough for the Avon. We motor slowly under a bridge and edge past a dozen or so fishing boats tied up to the river embankment. A reasonably large crowd of people are gathered on the street to buy fish directly from the fishermen. They have their catches set out on their after decks, laid out in the sun. I see a big sea turtle being butchered and slow to get a better look. It is a Green. Maybe 40 or 50 years old. The fisherman expertly slices out the meat.

Freddy nudges me and points to the next boat. It is a run-down island boat about 9 meters long with colorful, peeling pink paint. A young indian boy is scooping water from the river and pouring it over the fish to keep them wet and fresh looking. But the 'river' has the unmistakable ripe smell of a sewer.

"Yutch," Freddy looks away. We motor under another bridge and as we come out the other side I can see a landing in front of a big department store. A good place to tie up.

"Oh," Freddy says and reaches up to put her hand on the top of her head. "Oh GOD!" She leaps up in the dinghy, looks back up at the bridge and screams, "You filthy rotten son of a bitch!" At the top of her lungs.

"Freddy!" I wince. But she lets off another volley at the faces of people who are now lining up along the bridge. Downtown Suva is crowded, especially right here, and Freddy's voice, amplified by the cement walls of the canal/sewer rings out into the whole area. She explains in ripe, rich metaphors various ways to disassemble the man who hocked a big wad of spit over the side of the bridge and onto her hair.

Now, of course, having a hairful of slimy snot when one is impeccably dressed and about to go shopping is not a pleasant experience. But the person involved probably did not realize we were motoring along under the bridge. Probably never looked before letting go with the glob of nose ooze. But this does not lessen his offence in Freddy's eyes. If she could detect who, of the many people gathering along the bridge and river's edge, was the culprit she might make good her threats to remove various parts of his anatomy.

Carefully, I keep the Avon away from the dock lest she take off into the crowd dispensing vengeance on whoever might be stupid enough not to run. Finally, she runs down and stops. She begins cleaning her hair with some kleenex. I look around at the crowd. There are several policemen watching. I nose over to the wharf hoping the cops are not so dumb as to say anything. As I tie up the crowd suddenly vanishes, cops and all. Things are back to normal in Suva this morning.

Aside from the rude introduction to the culture here, Suva is a nice little city. The landing by the bridge is adjacent to a large and well stocked Morris Hedstrom department store. Stores of all kinds line the avenue. There is a Hot Bread Shop and a Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street and a big hardware store. We find the sailmaker, David Lamb, on a street near the Burns Philip store not far away. David Lamb is the name of a famous sailmaker, but this is not THE David Lamb. This David is a young guy from New Zealand who has set up a loft on the second floor of a duty free store. He comes down to the dinghy with a small truck to help cart off the sail. In the loft we unroll the sail and I show him the tear. "No problem," says David. "I'll have it done tomorrow."

The native Vegetable market is the largest I've ever seen and Freddy dives into the throng and crowded stalls of vegetables with enthusiasm. There are two sections to the market, an outdoor paved area where people set their produce on the ground or on small wooden stands, and a vast indoor area choked with people, produce, and various odds and ends.

There is a whole section dedicated to Fijian Dope; Kava. Kava, the root of the piper pepper plant, is the national drink. I admire the way the indians have set up their Kava selling stalls. There are huge nests of Kava roots woven into intricate shapes, chopped kava roots, ground kava roots, packaged kava roots, drums full of powdered kava roots. All kinds of kava roots. In the same section they sell Hindu type spices and these, especially the curry, mingle their rich smells with the tangy smell of fresh ground kava.

If I didn't know how awful it tasted I'd be tempted to buy some. In the old days, the Kava was chewed by young virgin girls and spit into the communal Kava bowl. Today the kava is ground up by machine or pounded by a mortar and pestle system. The smashed roots are put into the water, then filtered with a cloth and squeezed to get the last drop of juice. The Fijians have an elaborate ceremony to go with the gulping of this foul narcotic brew. Lots of tourists try Kava. Drunk in excess, they say your legs get numb and wobbly and you feel friendly.

On a pillar in the vegetable market, right next to the Kava stalls, there is a poster. It shows the ravaged and crinkled face of a Fijian man. His skin is upholstered in a million tiny cracks, the the mud bottom of a lake after it has dried out completely. The poster explains, in English, Kava is a vaso-constrictor. Long time Kava abuse leads to the constriction of the blood vessels in the skin and the skin dies, splits, crinkles. The health department of Fiji warns against prolonged, excessive use of Kava.

Freddy shows up with her rice-bag shopping basked filled with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cabbage and even a small bag of roasted fresh peanuts. I take one handle of the bag and we amble back to the Avon and leave rapidly, zooming through the bridges while watching carefully for snot balls, then light out at full speed back to the anchorage at the Tradewinds.

Grace Kelly's yacht, The Superyacht Endeavor, is tied up to the wharf at the Tradewinds hotel. Actually, Grace Kelly no longer owns it, having been redimensionalized in a car accident. It is now owned by a doctor, a woman, and her husband. They arrived here from Tahiti. The man, a good looking young guy, catches me admiring the beautiful woodwork and we get to talking about old wood boats. In the end, Freddy and I get invited to dinner.

Dinner aboard the Endeavor is a suit and tie affair. Luckily I have saved a tie and a sport suit jacket. We arrive at sunset, Freddy looking resplendent in a very tight black sheath of silk. Dinner is served in a honest to God dining room complete with crystal and a chandelier.

"Wow, what a beautiful boat," I say as we get the tour.

John, the husband Freddy describes as a playboy tears his eyes away from Freddy's silked bottom to smile and agree. "Princess Grace had her completely rejuvenated. We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time."

Over dinner Freddy says, "We hope to get as far as Tahiti this year. How did you like it? Were you there long?"

"Too long," the lady doctor says softly. "I helped at one of the hospitals there."

"What sort of work?" I ask.

"Cancer."

"Oh?" Freddy looks interested.

"There is a very very high incidence of cancer in Tahiti." Says the doctor. "The French authorities try to keep it quiet but it is appalling."

"Why should the French try to keep it quiet?" I ask.

The dining room is very still. The doctor looks at her plate. John takes a long pull from his glass.

"Many of our patients were from the islands around Mururoa." She comments.

"Mururoa? The nuclear testing site? Cancer?" Freddy is sitting forward, looking alarmed.

"A very high incidence of cancer," the doctor nods. "Even as far away as Tahiti itself."

"While we were there some radioactive material was found on the beach at Moorea. It's there, it's a problem, but the French keep it very quiet." John clearly does not like this conversation.

"So where do you go from here?" I ask and everyone starts eating again.

The ITCZ

The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone.

 

"Don't like the look of the sky," I murmur to Freddy. It is gray and lumpy.

"Oh wow, look at all the waterfalls," she replies. Hundreds of waterfalls leap from the cloud and jungle clad cliffs of Taviuni into Sea, streaking the gray-green vista with luminous white threads.

We are moving nicely at 5.3 knots, headed for the pass through the northern Lau Group into the Tongan Sea. From there it is about a three or four day beat to Samoa. I go below to listen to John on Norfolk Island give the weather forecast. He says we can expect light to moderate SE winds. There is a long tropical interconvergence zone extending from the Solomons right across the Pacific through Wallis, Samoa, all the way to French Polynesia. A great serpent like line formed where the vast circulation systems of the southern hemisphere roll up against the equatorial atmospheric circulation system.

When the winds blow hard on the south side, the ITCZ moves rapidly north. When they blow hard from the north, it moves south, weaving back and forth like some insane serpent. The harder the winds blow the thinner the ITCZ becomes and the nastier the weather in it. With light winds, the ITCZ becomes a fat lazy snake hundreds of miles wide. The doldrums. Widely scattered squalls.

On deck Freddy and I contemplate the rugged beauty of the island now only a few miles to port. I want to go to American Samoa. I also want to get out of the hurricane zone for the season. But the comments of the doctor on Endeavor worry me. I've read a great deal about how radioactive material from nuclear bombs cause cancer. Its major long term danger is from heavy metal poisoning.

Maybe I am just sensitive because of our bout with lead poisoning in PNG. But the idea of lead poisoning with the added horror of the lead being Plutonium or Uranium sparking off hard radiation into my cells is not very appealing. The heavy metal radioactive atoms get bioaccumulated into living systems and if Tahiti has been exposed to fallout (it is just 600 miles downwind of the place where France set off over 100 nuclear bombs in open air tests) there will be radioactive heavy metals in everything from coconuts to the fish. Maybe not much, but any atoms of these man-made sparklers lodged in my system can start a cancer going.

There is no safe level of plutonium.

The wind is edging more to the East and we fall off slightly. I don't like the look of the sky. I don't know where to go. As Taviuni merges with the gray mist of Sea and we head for the open central Pacific I feel like a juggler trying to keep a long pole balanced on my nose. I move back and forth slightly, quickly, as the pole is nudged by the wind and my movements. As long as the upper end of the pole stays within a certain, small area I'm going to be OK. But if it gets outside the critical zone it starts to fall quickly and nothing I can do will regain the balance.

I juggle the weather map with the advancing season, the prospects of mail and the TV studio in Pago Pago, the desire to get out of the storm area, the rising wind and ominous sky, the surrounding reefs. But there are too many unknowns. I have the uncomfortable feeling the pole is starting to fall.

A rainbow in the ITCZ serpent.© http://www.thread-of-awareness-in-chaos.com/order.html

The weather is idyllic at the moment. ESE 16 knot wind, calm seas. A small rain squall develops a lovely rainbow. Back on the horizon I can see the scruffy cloud bank where Fiji interacts with the trade winds.

We are being headed by the wind and have decided to fall off towards Wallis. From there we'll beat up to Samoa. Right now I'm exhausted from staying up all night working our way out of the islands and reefs of Fiji. The constant motion of the open sea is wearing me down. I'd wake up Freddy but last night I heard her snuffling and sneezing so I've let her sleep.

She hasn't been feeling too good since she got poisoned by ice cream at Morris Hedstrom's soda fountain. We were very hot and very thirsty, having just come from a very bad scene where I almost threw the sailmaker out the second floor window of his loft.

I look up at the repair on the headsail. It is holding fine.

But it wasn't fine when we showed up at Lamb's loft. He had the sail all rolled up and was hot to load it into his truck to bring to our dinghy. He handed me a bill for $300 for the repair. Since it was just a small tear, about three inches long, I thought the bill was excessive and wanted to see what he had actually done. Well, he had some pressing business. The repair was perfectly OK, the sail all rolled up and coiled.

This immediately worried me and I simply cut the lines holding the sail, uncoiled it and unrolled it. He danced around trying to stop me, complaining I was disrupting his workers who had another sail unfurled on the loft floor. Finally I exposed the repair. What had been a neat 3" slice from a cotter pin was now a big triangular hole about a foot on each side with a patch very crudely stitched onto one face.

I stood there looking at the sail in shock. Why had he cut the big hole in it? What idiot had put on the patch? Even the weave of the cloth was in the wrong direction. Lamb walked onto the sail with his shoes and said, "Well, I hope that satisfies you. Now perhaps you will pay the bill and let us get back to work."

I'm normally a very even tempered person. But I decided it was OK, this once, to let the animal out of his cage. I looked up at him and he instantly knew he was in trouble. "Pay you? You are going to be very lucky if you live out the next 30 seconds. It's going to take hours to repair the mess you've made out of our sail. I'm going to quietly roll it up and take it out of here. If you so much as say one more word I will pick your ass up and heave it out that window."

I advanced slowly towards him and spoke with the deadly voice one reserves for moments of utter and complete truth. Freddy came between us and said, "It's OK, Rick, I can fix it, don't do anything serious, it's OK."

Mr. Lamb could see she was really worried. And I was ready, even eager, to pitch him head first through his window. He turned a nice shade of pale gray and staggered backwards off the sail. I rolled it up and hefted it onto my shoulder. Once or twice he began to open his mouth but came to his senses just in time. The sail normally needs two people to carry, but it seemed light as a feather as I stormed out the door and down the stairs.

We put the sail in the dinghy and went into Morris Hedstrom for a soda and some ice cream. I ordered from the girl behind the counter. But after I placed the order a little voice told me it was a big mistake. I said, "Hey, wait a minute." and said quietly to Freddy, "I've got this funny feeling about the ice cream. Maybe we shouldn't have any."

"I'm roasting and dying of thirst. The ice cream looks fine." And she was correct. The place was clean, there were lots of people sitting around drinking and eating goodies. So I told the waitress, "OK, but just one chocolate ice cream soda. I just want a coke. With no ice."

About 8 hours later, just as Freddy was finishing repairing the headsail Lamb had screwed up, she got very very very sick.

"Is it my watch yet?" she looks out the companionway. "You let me sleep through my watch."

"How about some coffee?"

"Mmmmmm." She comes on deck, approves of the sky, and gives me a hug. "I feel like shit," she murmurs in my ear. "When do we get to Wallis?"

"Tomorrow night. Or maybe Sunday morning." One more reason to go to Wallis. It's close and Freddy could use the rest. Also, Madam Schmidt from Point Maa is from Wallis and we can look up some of her relatives. Also, it looks like a nice place on the chart. And we've never been there. So why not?