TAHITI

Travel Tahiti, What's Up?

My dream was to sail a forty-six foot sailboat from San Francisco to Tahiti and back. I kept putting it off until Elizabeth, my astute wife, realized it wasn’t going to happen unless she stepped up and made it happen.  She had little interest in sailing to Tahiti, but she was excited about sailing the Tahitian Islands. Her solution was a surprise  birthday gift of a two-week Tahitian cruise aboard the just launched, small cruise ship, the M/S Paul Gauguin.

In the summer of 1997, we boarded a plane in San Fransisco and flew into Papeete, the capital of the French Polynesian Islands. We took a launch to the small, nearby island of Bora Bora where we spent three days and nights in a unique thatched roof bungalow fifty yards off the beach. There was a hatch on the glass floor of the main room, that when opened, revealed stairs leading down to the water. The experience was mesmerizing and exhilarating. We felt like very special people. The sense of well being was quickly shattered when I got the breakfast bill for over one-hundred dollars, followed by a two-hundred dollars  dinner bill for a modest meal of the local fish and a glass of wine.

About eleven of the third day, we took the resort’s launch back to Papeete. The Paul Gauguin had arrived and the crew was preparing her for her maiden voyage that afternoon. The accommodating purser accepted our luggage, but said, we will not be ready for passenger boarding until two o’clock.” He suggested we visit the open marketplace just down the street, and explore the village while we waited. We headed for the marketplace. The sights, smells and sounds of the bustling, stinky, dirty, fly infested place surprised me. I’d never seen anything quite like it. We did a quick walk through and left. I found a decent, clean cafe a few blocks away overlooking the harbor, where we had lunch.

We were treated like royalty when we boarded our ship. We settled into our spacious stateroom, unpacked, and got comfortable. There were fresh flowers, a chilled bottle of French champagne and a basket of fruit on the salon table. The most enjoyable aspect of the room for me was the small lanai on the other side of the sliding glass door. We took the elevator down to the main deck to join the departure festivities a little before five. As we got off the elevator, a pretty Polynesia wahine draped us in fresh leis and offered us an island drink. We made our way over to the crowded port side rail to watch the last minute hustle and bustle on the dock. The final baggage and provisions were competing for space on the conveyor belt leading into the ship’s side. Vendors and baggage handlers were spontaneous, yelling, singing, laughing and cursing at one another in French. It was exhilarating.

Leaving the port, we were treated like royalty with fresh island leis, Mai Tai’s and tasty pupu’s all around as the Polynesian dancers performed to Island music and the purser snapped all of our pictures.

 The following morning we awoke anchored off of Marlon Brando’s private Island of Tetiaroa. This Island was settled by three of the mutineers from the ship featured in the true story ‘Mutiny on the. Bounty.’ Marlon played Fletcher Christian in the movie. Then it was off to Bora, Bora and the many lessor islands. We snorkeled, swam, jet-skied and toured the islands in three wheel motorbikes.

By the tenth day at sea, the opulent shipboard ambiance, beautiful scenery and attentive service had lulled us into believing we were special folks, possibly even ‘Sea Gods’ safe from any peril. However, as evening approached the sky darkened and a typhoon appeared in the distance. We were in open water when it closed in on us. The seas grew huge and rain came down in buckets. Thunder roared and lightning lit up the sky as we dressed for dinner at the captain’ table. Fifteen minutes into dinner service, the captain excused himself and disappeared. That was when I knew we were in for it. This five hundred foot long ship was starting to roll and pitch badly and Elizabeth was getting seasick. We too excused ourselves, as several other diners did.

We retuned to our stateroom and Elizabeth took to her berth moaning. I was ecstatic to be here. I had experienced a hurricane in Alabama, but this was way better, more dangerous and more exciting.  We were sailing through a typhoon in the South Pacific, Man. It was a dream come true, what a story! I felt the ship make a dramatic course change, which nearly tumbled Elizabeth out of her berth. She grumbled loudly and sent me to sickbay for some pills. When I got there a half-dozen passenger were ahead of me.

I hurried back to our stateroom and tended to my now very seasick wife. While she was in the head, I picked up the phone and ordered a cheeseburger. The kitchen crewman told me that he was sorry, but because of the heavy seas, the galley was closed.

I found a can of peanuts, an apple, and a bottle of Tahitian rum in the cooler. I grabbed them and went out onto our small private deck to enjoy the storm. It was an incredible experience. The ships powerful floodlights lit up the ocean and bounced light off of the driving rain. The white capped seas reached up towards me and occasionally crashed onto the deck at my feet. The rum, I was sucking down enhanced the experience. I was soaking wet and a little tipsy when a massive lightning bolt lit up the sky, followed by a deafening clap of thunder. It was beautiful and surreal. For a moment I was lieutenant Dan aboard Forrest Gump’s shrimp boat. I shook my fist at the heavens and hollered, “Bring it on, God! I can handle it! Elizabeth must have heard me, because she slid the door open and hollered, “Get back in here, Jake!” I did so, but I shall never forget that night. Jake

I FINALLY GOT MY BOAT

Sea Story, What's Up?

I FINALLY GOT MY BOAT

 

Frisky r

The Winston’s are people of the sea. Back in the eighteen hundred’s, our ancestors built and sailed ships out of Scotland. My grandfather, father,(seen in this photo) and all my brothers and sisters loved the sea and owned boats. From the time I was six, I spent countless hours on boats of all descriptions.

***

We sold our boat in 1999 and moved to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, which is two-thousand-five-hundred-miles from the nearest main body of land. I stepped off the plane in Honolulu with the anticipation of living in what should be a boater’s paradise. Surprisingly, there were relatively few outstanding boating opportunities in Hawaii outside of ocean fishing.

unnamed (1)I would routinely return to the Northwest twice a year to get my boating fix. Sometimes I rented a sixteen-foot kicker boat and took my son and grandkids crabbing on Oregon’s Alsea River. Once I experienced a brief stint as a deckhand aboard a commercial gillnetter in Bristol Bay, Alaska. There were lots of weekends spent aboard leased cruisers in the San Juan Islands and sports fishing off of Vancouver Island, which Elizabeth, my wife, pointed out, worked out to about $62.50 per pound for the fish I usually brought home. These excursions to the mainland were a band-aid, not a solution, and I knew it.

 

IMG_1961I almost realized my dream when I found an older fifty-eight-foot trawler tied up at La Mariana’s Sailing Club and Restaurant, which needed work and was for sale. The price was right, and it came with a moorage right in front of the restaurant/bar. It was perfect. As I was negotiating the deal, a tsunami tidal wave wiped out La Mariana’s marina, and the boat disappeared.

 

Bow up

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After that disappointment, Elizabeth decided to cheer me up with an afternoon of riding the surf in a six-man outrigger canoe off of Waikiki Beach. It was exhilarating, but it reinforced my determined to be out on the ocean.

***

The following summer, I was thrilled when the owners of the local dragon boat, “the Opala,” invited two of my buddies and me to join their regular paddlers in the annual international Dragon Boat races held in Waikiki. My fellow sixteen paddlers, a drummer, and a coxswain practiced for hours and drank beer every evening for six weeks in preparation for the race. On race day, we beat the favored Chinese boat by a full length and won.

IMG_5065-1

***

The following year we were invited back, and we were smoking the competition. As we approached the finish line, the coxswain ordered the paddlers to lean to starboard. The two big locals paddling in front of me misunderstood the order and leaned the wrong way, capsizing our canoe. The Opala slipped across the finish line upside down and without a crew.

***

I was through screwing around with these diversions to my goal of boat ownership. I started searching the newspaper and marinas for a proper boat to purchase. I knew I couldn’t afford the boat I badly wanted, so I lowered my sights to a twenty-four-foot Boston Whaler rigged for ocean fishing. I figured I could eventually trade up. As I expressed my dream to Elizabeth, she told me, “Listen, Jake, I’ve stood by as you bought and sold seven boats over the years. I know how much work and expense is involved in owning and maintaining a boat, and so do you. Please, why don’t you just rent or charter a boat when you get the urge. I could go along with that, but not with owning another boat.”

***

The next evening, there was a copy of an internet advertisement beside my dinner setting. A fishing guide up in Waianae was offering to rent or lease his twenty-four-foot boat to qualified skippers for the day or week for a reasonable price. I called the guy immediately and reserved the boat for Wednesday of next week. I hung up, wrapped my arms around Elizabeth and told her I was lucky to have such a wise woman at my side.

***

unnamedI can’t describe how much fun my grandson and I had on the following Wednesday. The ride up to Waianae, where the boat was waiting for us was an adventure in itself. We met the owner, who showed me how things worked and grilled me about my skipper’s qualifications. After he was satisfied, I could safely handle his eighty-thousand-dollar boat he handed me the keys. I politely asked some questions about the electronics and four-hundred horsepower engine, just so he would know I was an experienced mariner. When I ask him about the Fish & Game rules regarding the legal sizes of different fish we could keep, He laughed, “Where you from, Boy? This is Waianae, the wild west. You won’t see any fish and game guys anywhere around here!’

 

IMG_4763 copy 3The owner backed the boat and trailer down the launch ramp with my grandson and me aboard. As he watched my every move, I lowered the outboard, started it, and slowly backed away from the trailer. I slipped it into neutral and let the boat slow to a near stop, and I imperceptibly shifted it into forward and executed a slow, smooth turn towards the channel entrance. He looked satisfied and gave us a friendly wave, which I returned with a curt John Wayne salute.

 

IMG_4801-1Once we were in the ocean and out of sight, I pushed the throttle to the wall, and let out an exuberant blood-curdling victory whoop as we went flying up the north coast at forty-knots. Initially, I was confident and comfortable with this overpowered vessel, but as the day wore on, and we went deeper and deeper into the not so friendly ocean, I wasn’t so sure as the wind and seas rose to a menacing level.

 

 

IMG_4760 (2)When a twenty-foot-plus unidentified fish came alongside and shadowed us for several minutes as we trolled, I was concerned. The big fish was close enough that I could reach down and touch its dorsal fin if I so wished. It was indeed capable of flipping us over. That’s when I thought a twenty-four-footer wasn’t going to cut it.

***

When we returned home that evening, I realized Elizabeth was right. One of the highlights of the trip was getting off the boat, handing the owner $500 and leaving. I didn’t have to wash it down, untangle the fishing tackle around the prop, refuel it, or haul it off to the storage yard. There would be no boat, insurance, storage yard, maintenance and repair costs. I accepted the fact that renting made a lot more sense than owning for us at this point in our lives. Peace settled on our little household.

***

About six a.m. several weeks later, I looking for something on the internet, when I stumbled upon an ad on Craig’s List:

FOR SALE, 20-FT BOAT, AND TRAILER. $1.00

boat & trailer

I couldn’t resist, I bought it on the spot. I was excited and couldn’t wait to share my good fortune with Elizabeth. I waited until a little after eight when she had her coffee and proudly blurted out, “I bought a twenty-foot boat this morning, Dear.” She sputtered, “You did what…?” Ten minutes later, I called the boat owner and said, “Here’s the deal, It’s down to my wife, or the boat. Sorry about the boat, but I’m keeping the wife!”

***

Opportunity was not done knocking at my door. Six weeks later I had a chance to buy a nearly new kayak for a good price from my grandson who was headed up to Alaska for a summer job. I couldn’t stand to see him sell that boat to a stranger for pennies on the dollar. So, I bought it. Elizabeth had no fight left in her, and just let it go.

IMG_5320I was under the impression it weighed about fifty pounds, or about the weight of two cases of beer or pop. I knew I could handle that easily, but as I struggled mightily to get it down from the kayak rack, I realized it weighed close to a hundred and fifty pounds. Once I got it on the ground, I could neither lift it onto the roof of my SUV nor place it back on to its spot high up on the rack.

I was dejected, out of breath and out of ideas, I took a seat in my kayak and staring at the rack trying to figure out how to get the damn thing back up there by myself. Fortunately, a couple of college kids wandered by and asked, “Are you okay, Mister?”

“No, I’m a long way from okay. Can you guys help me get this kayak back into the rack?

“Sure.”

kayak 2They helped me to my feet and out of the kayak. They asked me to stand clear as they struggled to lift it above their heads and squeeze it back in its spot which was a tight fit. I thanked them, and after they left, I chained it up and stood back to take a look and study my options.

It was a nice boat, but I knew I would never go to sea in it. It was just too cumbersome for me to deal with by myself. My situation reminded me of the words to an old Bobby Bare song called. “The Winner.” It ends like this:

 

“…but, I got her boys, and that’s what makes me a winner!”

 

*** THE END ***

 

*Credit to the song “The Winner” by B. Bare