I started perusing Facebook while Andrew and Leslie are ashore (ssshhhh, don’t tell them that is where all their precious Gigabytes have gone), and I’ve discovered two things. First, being born in 1982, I am not a “Millennial” but a “Xennial” after all. I have all the optimism of a Millennial and all of the cynicism of a Gen Xer. What does this make me? Moody. I guess. I never really thought of myself as moody, but that is what Facebook says. The other thing I learned is that I am an“introverted extrovert” … (or is it an “extroverted introvert”?); until today, I didn’t know such a thing existed. An introverted extrovert is someone who likes people, but has a hard time with initial introductions, hates small talk, and needs a bit of quiet time to recover every now and then.
After meeting all our friends at the village, hosting them for lunch and dinner, trading my ship’s stores of Oreos for coconuts, I needed some quiet time! So, we upped anchor and set out on an overnight sail to Luganville, on Espirtu Santo. The waves were calm, the wind was perfect, and the night was lit with a half moon and stars. Finally, I could feel the vacuum of quiet equalizing the noise that built up in my mind over the last few days.
We reach Luganville at 8 a.m., snag the last mooring ball on the calm side of the bay and relax. Grin, Andrew, and I take a nap, Leslie writes a bit and starts processing pictures. It’s a perfect pause in the action.
Soon, though, Andrew is awake; pacing and twittering something about “the best wreck dive in the world.” Grin hears the word “dive” and starts caterwauling about being hoisted into the water. Soon, all my jitterbugs are off and headed to shore. I’m left to simmer with my irritation.
This started back in Tonga last year. Andrew and Leslie dove the Clan Mac, and returned with sparkles in their eyes. “So eerie!” Leslie says, relating the story of the bubbles rising from deep in the ships holds, a result of the ongoing argument between the Captain and the Engineer who went down with the ship. (Remember that day at www.oddgodfrey.com/theclanmac) Andrew and Leslie liked it so much they dove it four or five times. “Huh.” I thought, and turned up my nose.
Then, we reached Port Villa. We moored in a bay with a nice little town on one side and several shipwrecks lining the beach on the other. As we tie up to the mooring, I get a tingle straight up my mast. I can’t even look at them. You know that feeling you get when someone is staring at you? The wind is blowing from town, so I line my bow into the gusts and try not to look over my stern. The graveyard full of ghosts whispers behind my back.
A few days later, Andrew is looking over the diving recommendations for the area and he discovers the Star of Russia. I shudder. The Star of Russia is the sister ship of the Star of India, a regal and beautiful tall ship who lived nearby me in San Diego. India’s sister was docked here one season when a cyclone blew through. Apparently, her Captain did not want to set out to sea in the blow, so he remained tied up to a wharf. She was bashed against the concrete over and over again until she suffered a hole and went down. She was a beautiful old boat. India would tell all the sailboats in San Diego harbor about her sister’s duel with one of the first steam ships. Legend has it that when steamer ships first came to be, they were talking a big game. They told Russia that they could sail faster and better than she could. Russia wasn’t to take these insults lying down! So, she challenged one steamer ship to a race. The steamer laughed in her face and chugged away, heading across the sea. Russia hoisted all her sails, sailors dangling from her ratlines, and headed to the Southern Ocean to cross in the stormy but powerful wind and current. Boy, was that steamer surprised to find Russia sitting in port on the other side waiting peacefully at anchor! And now, Andrew and Leslie are going to go diving to see her? For fun? Ugh. I can’t see her through the green water of the bay, but I can feel her there.
They dove the Semele Federson, a little fishing boat also sunk in the Port Vila bay. They return to my decks marveling about the water clarity, laughing about Andrew feeling a little drunk from the nitrogen in his blood at depth. I purse my lips and simmer with rage. I cannot tell you how happy I was to escape Port Vila.
But, even in our first anchorage on our way north, I came bow to bow with the skeleton of yet another of my kind.
So, as we reach Luganville and I hear that there is “THE WORLDS LARGEST AND BEST SHIPWRECK!” I really begin grinding my teeth.
“Hey, what’s the matter, Sonrisa?” Grin asks. He is all hot and bothered to go on another dive trip. Andrew just finished filling him up with his dive gear and he is pulling me sideways still tethered to my deck. He can feel me seething.
“You’re an idiot.” I respond.
He looks at me like I’ve lost my marbles for a second, then shrinks away. “Jeeze,” he says, and under his breath he calls me a name. Andrew and Leslie wave as they leave, chipper as ever.
I can’t believe these people. How could they be so callous as to just go “play” on the bones of my dead ancestors? Horrible. Horrible! All day, I shift back and forth on my mooring ball, riding the current. Like a sullen teenager, I sit in my room and fume. I flip on some Black Sabbath and let rage-tunes keep my anger hot. Osmond the Comfort Owl tries keeps help me feel better while Rolly-Polly Tasman lays tipped over on my salon bench. I don’t care. I ignore Osmond’s efforts.
When Andrew and Leslie return, I refuse to speak to them, hoping they notice my irritation. They don’t. They go on and on about their “fun day,” something about a parrot they met named Mollie. Then, they load up and go to drink sundowners on S/V Distracted! OOOOoooooh. GRAAWWWWWHH!
The next morning, Andrew was too sick to dive. He had a tummy bug, so everyone stays aboard all day long. I’d like to say I felt bad for him, but I didn’t. I look over Leslie’s shoulder as she catches up her dive log.
“Depth: 38M; Time: 57 Minutes; Safety Stops: 3 Minutes at 15 Meters, 3 Minutes at 9 Meters, 3 Minutes at 7 Meters, 3 Minutes at 5 Meters, 3 Minutes at 3 Meters….” She writes.
I scowl. “What’s a safety stop?” I ask.
“Oh!” She says, “When we dive really deep and stay for long enough, we build up nitrogen in our blood. We need to come up very slowly to let the nitrogen exit our body/blood back into the ocean a little bit at a time. We visit the ship for about a half hour, and then we have to start slowly coming back to the surface.”
“Hmm.” I say, but the word that caught my attention was “visit”. They “visit” the ship. Visit… That’s nice, I guess. I don’t know what I am picturing. “What is it like?” I ask.
“Well, first, we let all the air out of our vests and sink down. Descent is like someone jumping out of a plane, but in slow motion. We slow our breathing as much as possible, so our tanks will last longer. The only sound on descent is a slow intake of breath to a five count, and the “blurp, blurp, blurp" of bubbles as we exhale to a five count. The water isn’t perfectly clear so at first, you can’t see the ship at all. Then, like a ghost, it materializes and we can see it’s enormous decks stretching out until it disappears in the distance. When we reach the ship, we add just a little bit of air to our vests to be able to float without bouncing up or down. We don’t touch the ship, or we try not to, to disturb her as little as possible. We steer our bodies very carefully, breathing in to float a little up and exhaling to float a little down. It’s all very meditative.”
Leslie fires up her computer and shows me a few pictures of the ship from the outside.
“Do you go inside the ship?” I ask.
“Yes!” Leslie responds, a big smile on her face.
“Today, we entered into two cargo holds. We saw old jeeps, gas tanks, a tommy gun, bullets and bombs all preserved from when she was acting as a military ship. It is eerie. When she sank, she tipped over on her side. So, when we entered the cargo holds, we were going in through the top of the ship, but sideways. It’s a strange perspective. See?” Leslie tips the computer toward me and shows me all her pictures.
"We also went into the medical supply room. We saw bottles still filled with powders of medicine and red iodine!"
“This is a picture of the ship’s barber chair, suspended sideways. Can you imagine all those military troops getting their buzz cuts?”
I’m not sure how I feel about this. “Does she seem miserable down there?” I ask, afraid of what the answer might be.
Leslie hesitates. “Aw, are you feeling sad, Sonrisa?” She pats my bulkhead. “I don’t think she’s miserable. She has all sorts of friends down there. There is an eel who lives on her, and a lot of fish, and coral, even a disco clam! When I was in the holds, at one point, I darkened my flashlight, and I saw a whole school of flashlight fish, sparking and lighting up! Scuba divers go visit her every single day, sometimes twice a day. This ship is lucky, she is never alone.”
Never alone…I think for a minute, and I start to feel much better.
"In fact, there are so many scuba divers visiting all parts of her, the ship breaths bubbles out of her open port holes during the day."
Scuba divers keep the old ships company! I guess that is nice. I still don’t want to think about sinking, but I suppose I would prefer visits to being lonely all the time. “Are you going to visit again?” I ask. Leslie says they will go again as soon as Andrew feels better.
The next morning, they sped off bright and early to dive again.
I apologized to Grin.