In 2009, I met my friend Moorea. She completed her summer clerkship at the same firm I worked for, then continued on through the years as one of the sharpest attorneys with whom I have had the chance to work. Not only is her name Moorea, but she is actually named after an island in the South Pacific her parents once visited. Fate had connected me with a daily reminder of where I was headed. As a result, our Moorea landfall has lived in my imagination more than any other landfall we have planned. As we arrived, I was immersed in the soul-buzz one feels when ten years of planning, patience and striving culminate in the achievement of your objective. The feeling is a mix of memory, hope and satisfaction.
Even better, Moorea did not disappoint. Opanuah Bay is marked down as one of our favorite locations in the world so far. We enjoyed the company of our Norwegian friends, beautiful sunsets (we even witnessed a second Green Flash!), clear warm water for swimming/snorkeling, a white and beach, an easy row to the Hilton for a Maitai and amazing island vistas.
….wait, Leslie. Did you say “row”?
Yes, I said “row.”
….didn’t you say Andrew was going to fix the outboard motor “once and for all?”
Yes, I said “once and for all.”
On our second morning in Moorea, Andrew hopped into Grin to take him for a spin. Overjoyed that the motor was finally fired up, Andrew zipped to and fro planed out and throwing a wake large enough to waterski behind. He covered miles and miles, exploring the nearby bay to determine the best landing spot to start a recommended hike and the best landing spot to find groceries. The buzz of the outboard echoed against Moorea’s steep cliffs.
After breakfast, Andrew gathered Sonrisa’s crew and we traversed the mile to a trailhead to hike to a marae where human sacrifices were made, see the sentinels of the ancestors, and hike through a pineapple plantation. Did you know that a pineapple is a really beautiful flower?
We drink a coconut at the top of Belvedere point. Crackers, salty salami and a soft French cheese pair well with the view.
We end our hike at a little shop where we buy pineapple vanilla jam and sample freshly made Tahitian vanilla ice cream. I’m here to confirm, Tahitian vanilla is different than any other vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted. It is good. In addition, I am developing a taste for ice cream along side espresso. The warm bitter espresso is a perfect palate cleanser to make sure you can taste every bite of the ice cream.
After this long day of hiking, we were tired but we needed a few things from the grocery store to round out Crystal’s dinner plans. Andrew hustled us out of Tahiti so fast that we did not get our second round of grocery shopping accomplished. So, we fire up the dinghy and head to the other side of the bay to fill up with the items we need. We grab a box of fresh veggies, some canned goods, and some new baguettes. We load up Grin and head in the direction of home. A Tahitian man in a Va’a (the missile shaped canoe) spies us zooming across the bay and falls behind us to surf our wake. Now, THIS is what a dinghy outboard motor is supposed to do!
We are all happily bouncing along when suddenly, the RPMs of the motor rev and Grin falls flat in the water. The motor is screaming like we are about to take off on a drag race, but we are going nowhere. The gentleman in the Va’a almost skewers Grin in the hind end, but steers to port just in time. A look of confusion is pasted on his face and ours. What the hell?
Andrew fusses with the motor for a second or two, then learns a grim fact. The drive shaft has bit the dust. Mind you, the drive shaft was not the problem we were wrestling with in Nuka Hiva through Tahiti. That problem was the shifting cables. This is an entirely new (and rather major) problem. Andrew is pretty stoic about it, though. The only external response is a calm request that we take up oar (again), and begin the long row to Sonrisa. We can see her in the distance, but just barely. We are going to have to row a mile-plus across the channel to get back to the anchorage, loaded with four people a 75+ inoperable outboard motor, and all these groceries. We’ve got this, though; all these months, we have been training for this one moment.
We are the Rowersons.
Crystal and Kevin are good sports, and they take up oar first. The row, row and row until they hit the next red channel marker. We switch, and Andrew and I row, row, row. In the distance Crystal sees a dinghy preparing to head back into the bay. “Hey! Is that the Norweigans? Maybe they will give us a tow?” Crystal waves and flags them down. Three men in a dinghy (with an operable 15 horsepower Mercury outboard) approach; not the Norwegians. We explain our plight, and they agree to tow us anyway….for a beer. Luckily, we just bought a six pack.
Back at Sonrisa, Andrew takes to fussing with the motor while Crystal, Kevin and I snorkel with spotted eagle rays.
Over dinner that night, Andrew declares that he must skip our planned activity for the next day: canyoneering. Crystal and Kevin found a guide on the internet offering a canyoneering experience with waterfalls, slides and jumps. What better way to experience the Moorea jungle? Now, Andrew felt he had to bail out in favor of trying to acquire parts for the outboard (again).
This is getting out of hand. Andrew is a very stubborn and patient person. He is the zen buddha of boat maintenance, I know. But he is missing out while trying to fuss with this stupid thing, and it is dangerously unreliable. When is it going to take a crap on us in a place where we really need it? One of the First Mate’s primary responsibilities is to talk some sense into the Captain when the Captain needs it.
Go, go gadget First Mate.
I analyze Andrew’s key motivators, and then set to work. “How many times have we had to snorkel without you while you fuss around with that motor? I hate it! You missed the sharks in Fakarava and eagle rays here. This problem will never end. We don’t know how old the outboard is. It came with Sonrisa, but there are no owners manuals or other information indicating when it was purchased. It is very possibly purchased in 1995 or maybe even earlier, making it over 20 years old. Every time you get one problem fixed, a new one crops up. Besides, it’s not the best motor for us anyway. It is heavier than Grin’s maximum limit and when we try to lift it up and down from Sonrisa, it turns into a 75 pound wrecking ball. Every time we try to take it down Sonrisa gets nervous. The shiny 5 horsepower Yamaha would be easier to put on and safer for everyone.
With this argument, Andrew relented. It's a good thing I'm here.